• Carol Hansen Grey

Bravest Decision I've Ever Made (Part 2)


My friend and I flew to San Francisco and I rented a car to drive to Santa Rosa. The first shock to my system: California freeways and traffic! Yikes!! I need to give a little background here about my avoidance of driving on freeways in Wisconsin.


For whatever reason (to this day I'm not sure why) I've never felt comfortable driving on freeways. I had a dear friend who lived in Milwaukee (30 miles north of Kenosha) and I never drove to visit her because I was afraid to get on the freeway. When I told her I was moving to California she was incredulous. "You mean to tell me that you won't travel 30 miles to Milwaukee, but you are actually planning to move 2,000 miles across the country as a single mom with three kids?" I couldn't really explain it, but somehow I knew that the time was right and if I didn't do it now, I'd never do it.


So now I found myself in a rented car driving from San Francisco to Santa Rosa on the busiest freeway I'd ever seen, not really knowing where I was going (no navigation systems back in those days). If my friend had not been with me, I don't know what I would have done! She had a AAA map and acted as the navigator while I drove with the steering wheel in a death grip. Somehow we made it to Santa Rosa in one piece and found her mother's condo. She had an extra bedroom that she made up for us with two twin beds. I was so exhausted from the trip, I just went to bed without dinner.


The next morning I rose early and went outside. The air was fresh and the green hills were beautiful. I loved the energy of the place. I called to confirm my first job interview for the next day and figured out how to get there. My friend's mom then took us on a tour of Santa Rosa that afternoon. It was delightful.


My first interview was with an insurance firm. They were still using typewriters -- no computers yet. They needed someone who could be the front office person as well as typing up and filing insurance forms and claims. They were offering a starting salary of $6.25/hour. This definitely was not the job for me, but I had two more interviews lined up so I did not get discouraged.


The second interview was with a medical office. They were thinking about installing computers but had not made the commitment yet. They wanted someone to be an intake person and wanted to pay $5.75/hour! I was shocked at the low wages. In Wisconsin (which had a much lower cost-of-living) I was making $10.50/hour! I was getting a little discouraged. However, I still had another interview lined up with a construction firm, so I hadn't yet given up hope of finding a job I'd like that paid a living wage.


I met with a woman in a construction trailer for my third interview. She said she loved my resume and wanted to hire someone who could manage the office, pay all the invoices, keep track of everyone's hours, do the payroll and type up contracts. They were in the process of computerizing the company so they were particularly interested in someone who could set up the computer system and train all the employees in its use. It sounded like a job I could handle. Then she said they'd start me at $6.25/hour! I was incredulous and I let it show. I said to her, "How in the world do you expect someone to support 3 kids on $6.25/hour?"


I'll never forget her answer... "Honey, it's your husband's job to support the family!" I really could not believe my ears! I said,"Well, I don't have a husband and I need a job that will pay me, a single mom, a decent wage." I got up and walked out.


I decided to call a Wisconsin friend, Betsy, who had relocated to Walnut Creek about a year before. We had stayed in touch and she knew I was planning to move to Santa Rosa. Over the phone I cried on her shoulder telling her of my discouragement. She said to me, "You know, Carol, if you lived in the Walnut Creek area, you could take BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) to San Francisco and I am absolutely positive you could find a job there that would pay highly for your experience. Why don't you and your friend drive down here to visit me before you leave and take a look around. I think you will like it just as much as Santa Rosa!"


So, on the last day of our California adventure we drove to Walnut Creek. My friend took us on a tour of the area and then we stopped at a quaint downtown coffee shop and sat outside people watching! I immediately fell in love with everything about the town. The next day we caught our flight back to Wisconsin and I was greeted with two huge surprises: First: my house had sold for the asking price and they were willing to pay cash! Second: I also had a job offer from a large bio-tech firm based northern Illinois about 10 miles from my home. They wanted to hire me as an office administrator with an excellent starting salary and amazing benefits! What to do...?? Play it safe, turn down the offer on the house and take the Illinois job (and suffer through the winters) or risk everything and move to California without a job! It was a scary decision for me to make. But something within me gave me the courage to take a chance and make the move.


After a series of garage sales, hiring a moving company and quitting my job, on June 23, 1985, I boarded a plane with my three kids and flew to San Francisco. My friend, Betsy, met us at the airport and drove us to Walnut Creek where she had helped me arrange to sublet a home for two months. I know that if I hadn't had the courage to make the move when I did, that I would never have done it. I've never regretted my decision!


© 2020 by Carol Hansen Grey

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