It was April 23, 1995. Less than a week before, Timothy McVeigh and one of his accomplices, Terry Nichols, has set off a bomb in Oklahoma City that kills 168 people, including 8 Federal Marshals and 19 children, at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. Howard Cosell dies at the age of 77, the number one hit is “This is how we do it” by Montell Jordon, and I pack up my Ford Probe and move to the “big city” of Harrisburg to start my life.
It’s been 15 years. Wow.
Why I moved to Harrisburg
I graduated from Lock Haven University in December 1994, and after spending my college years stuck in my hometown, I was more than ready to not be there anymore.
A flashback to 1989-1990 …
As an honor roll student in high school, I’d never imagined NOT going away for college – and my choice institution for higher learning was always Penn State – University Park campus. Hands down – that’s where I wanted, more than anywhere else, to attend college. I received my PSU acceptance letter the day of Senior Night for my girls’ soccer team, and there was nothing more satisfying, at the time, than getting into the university of my choice.
For a long list of reasons, that plan didn’t quite work out. Lack of money along with life throwing a few curve balls my family’s way prevented me from attending Penn State. Instead, I became a “townie” (aka commuter student) and attended LHU full time while working my way through school. I don’t resent that experience anymore (although at the time it was a real pisser); it actually turned out to be a vital thread of making me who I am today. The lack of a traditional-live-on-campus college experience actually gave me a fuller adventure that I would have missed had I gone away to school.
So back to why I moved to Harrisburg.
As you can imagine, after spending an additional four-and-a-half years in my hometown when I didn’t intend (or want) to, I was anxious to go. As soon as I graduated from college, I started looking for opportunities outside the area. I was 22 years old and ready to have the opportunity to experience life. Fall or fly, I wanted that chance.
Because I worked as many as three jobs at once through college, when I graduated, I actually already had a decent job that I could have turned into my career. I worked for a fire sprinkler contractor, and over the years I had worked side-by-side with the owner and done everything from answering the phones, estimating jobs, payroll and even being part of the construction crew that retrofitted an existing building. The job paid good money, and the boss saw my hard work ethic. In fact at one point, he offered to pay for me to attend graduate school. Of course, there was a catch. In exchange of him paying for school, I had to return and work for the company for five years. His vision was to open a satellite office in a new territory, using me as the manager.
However, giving up more years of my life just wasn’t something I was willing to do. I felt as though I’d already sacrificed a lot of myself by staying home, and more than anything else, I wanted the opportunity to figure out my life – who I was and what I was capable of – without owing anyone any more of me.
In early April 1995, I received two job offers. One position was as an executive assistant to the president of an international marketing company. The money and benefits were decent enough, considering I was a new college grad, but as an additional carrot, after a year of working with the president, he would set me up with a mentor in any division of the company I chose – with the promise that when a position opened up, I’d begin my career. The downside was this: the company was located at home.
The other position was as an administrative secretary for a governmental affairs division of a state trade association. The association was located in downtown Harrisburg, one-and-a-half blocks from the Capitol Building. My duties would be typical secretarial ones, but I was also required to go to the Capitol building a few times a week to pick up legislative schedules and other important information (pre-Internet days). The position paid less than the marketing company, and there were no promises of career advancement. But it was in Harrisburg and away from home.
Guess which position I chose?