It was not an unusual Sunday morning--initially. I remember opening my eyes and seeing sunlight filtering through the leaves outside my window. It was a perfect early spring day, and I was happy to be waking up in my little house in the East Bay. I loved that little house. But the first thought that popped into my head that morning was a little odd. I felt an urgency to quit my job as a lawyer like I had never felt before. There's no way I can live with myself if I turn 40 and I'm still doing this, I thought. I wanted to teach dressage and train full time. Some impulsive alter ego inside me made a split-second decision to act immediately--with no safety net at all.
What I did next was very odd. The rest of the morning felt like an out-of-body experience. I calmly watched myself dress for the barn. (Sundays were trail-hacking days.) I watched myself as I traveled to the coffee shop with calm deliberation. Then, fortified and fully caffeinated, I walked next door. I pounded on the locked door of a realtor's office until the janitor stopped vacuuming and reluctantly let me in.
"I need to sell my house," I heard myself demand. "I need a real estate agent now!" Somehow, I convinced the janitor to get me the phone number of a realtor at 8 a.m. on that Sunday morning. I calmly watched myself dial, heard the groggy agent answer and then insisted that she sell my beautiful little bungalow in the East Bay.
I was 32 years old. I was making money as an associate attorney in San Francisco. I was also making a little money teaching dressage after work and on Saturdays. But I was not making nearly enough with my teaching to live on or to pay a new mortgage. And there was no position for a full-time trainer where I was currently teaching. I had a beautiful horse, nice clothes and a nice car. But I despised my job and my profession. Lawyering had never been for me. I had no one to answer to but myself and my horse. (I reasoned I could take care of both of us even if I had to sling coffee at Starbucks for a while.)
Most of my "horsey" contacts were in Marin County, so I knew I'd have better luck finding a full-time training position there. On my way to the barn that Sunday morning, after intimidating the sleepy real estate agent, I called a friend in Marin County and asked if I could rent her spare bedroom. I explained that I was quitting my job and money could be scarce for a while. I told her that I did not have another job waiting for me, but I was going to teach dressage and train full time. How or where, I didn't know. My friend laughed at my impulsiveness and told me she'd start cleaning out her spare room right away.
The trail ride felt different that Sunday. As my horse and I walked along the ridgeline in the East Bay hills, I looked across the water to San Francisco. I could see the Bay Bridge and fog blanketing the Golden Gate. I looked at the emerald-green hills of southern Marin County, and the enormity of the decision I had just made began to sink in. My decision was as large as the view of the hills and the bay in front of me. I began to feel small and scared. What if I failed? It felt comforting to be with my mare at that moment.
The next day was Monday, and I took my boss to lunch. "I'm not happy working in this law firm," I informed him. "I'm going to work for myself." He asked me if I was going to save the lunch receipt for my records since I was self-employed and could "expense" business lunches. He was a wonderful guy but he didn't quite get it.
Over the next few days, I made contact with people I knew through my part-time dressage teaching: current and former students, barn owners and trainers. I looked for a facility in Marin County to keep my horse. One barn manager with whom I was acquainted knew a lot of people in the business and also possibly had a spot for my mare. I took him to lunch.
Over Reuben sandwiches, I told him about my rash decision to quit my safe job and sell my comfortable house. I began to tell him of my decision to work in the horse business full time. He interrupted my diatribe. His ranch needed someone like me--someone who could teach lower-level dressage and keep a few weekenders' horses tuned up. I could start working for him in a few weeks. I did just that.