"I never want to be a part of the herd," my college-age self insisted as my peers prepped for their Wall Street and State Street careers back in the late 1990s. I knew what I didn't want to be, but not necessarily what I wanted to be "when I grow up."
By Christmas of my senior year at Providence College, I decided I was moving to San Diego to figure it all out after graduation. I hated winter, too, so the city with the finest climate in the U.S. was the place for me, sight unseen. And on February 2, 2002, I was headed west in my old Ford Explorer with my cousin Anne Marie, my clothes and a plan to simply show up, find housing, find work, and have fun in the sun.
Shocker: The California dream wasn't all I thought it would be. I didn't figure life out. I slept in my car. I lived in a shady hotel. I lived in someone's garage. I worked 6-7 days per week. I had my heart broken. Twice. I never made it to Cabo for the weekend or did a drive up the coast to Sonoma County. I missed my family. I missed my friends. It was time to go home and grow up.
I lasted 10 months in San Diego, and while I never really "found" myself out there, the city and my experiment in independence have always been dear to me. Each time I've gone back to visit, I get emotional. San Diego tested my emotional limits and helped define me, but it didn't help me figure out what I wanted to do with my career.
I went home and joined the herd, taking the subway (I even blogged about my disdain for the MBTA Red Line) and train into the city and walking en masse to various high rises. I betrayed my younger self and that sucked. I sucked. But I got "good" jobs at good firms so I must have been doing something "right."
13 years flew by as I climbed the corporate ladder and kept my head down in the herd.
In 2015 I became a medical marijuana patient to treat piriformis syndrome, migraines and anxiety.
In 2015 I became a marijuana activist.
In 2016 I thought, maybe someday I can have a little business where I work on exciting projects with a few really cool companies doing good things in the cannabis industry.
In 2017 I was able to quit my full-time writing job at a leading Boston law firm and focus entirely on serving my cannabis industry clients.
In 2018 I launched ELEVATE Northeast with my friends and colleagues, Cara Crabb Burnham, TaShonda Vincent-Lee, Heather Parsons, Scott Moskol, Laura Beohner and Tito Jackson.
In 2019 I returned to San Diego to speak at an event planners conference about how to legally integrate cannabis into events. As I was preparing for the trip and scheduling some time to make sure I could stop by my old workplaces, favorite hang outs, and even that old garage I lived in, it occurred to me that instead of going to San Diego to "find myself" or discover the meaning of life, this time I was there because I had found myself. Not only had I found myself, people found me and wanted to learn from me.
I arrived in San Diego on January 8. As I watched the sun setting over the Pacific for the first time in several years, it occurred to me for the first time in my life that I had indeed found myself.
And, while this great city was no longer my home, I had never felt more content or confident to be there. I was free from the herd, blazing my own trail -- and some Sunset Sherbet prerolls.