Left At Albuquerque

In about 10 miles at Albuquerque, go north on I-25.”

“You mean I should take a left at Albuquerque?”

I looked over at my husband Bob. From the driver’s seat, he flashed that witty grin I’ve come to know over 20 years. I understood both his and Bugs Bunny cartoon humor.

It was Memorial Day weekend and we left the San Francisco Bay Area with our French Bulldog, a plastic cooler, and a shared luggage bag. For the last eight hours, we’d been driving from Bakersfield, heading East on the I-40 following the ubiquitous U.S. Route 66.

It felt freeing, even a little rebellious. Just as a road trip should.

Sydney (French Bulldog) on Route 66

We had a destination in mind–Santa Fe. The state capital of New Mexico, I was surprised it was a city of less than 100,000 people, only the fourth largest city in a state of two million. 

These were good basics to know when considering living there.

That was the real reason for our road trip. We were ready to leave San Francisco. The reasons won’t surprise you–rising cost of living, increasing crime, and homelessness–issues we couldn’t see improving but only worsening. We were tiptoeing around difficult neighbors, unhealthy tensions which seemed to only increase during COVID. It got to the point where we didn’t feel safe or respected in our own home.

It was time to leave the city we’d fallen in love with more than two decades ago. It felt like a decision made for us. But where would we live if not San Francisco? We didn’t have any good potential solutions until my friend Julia told me she was moving to Santa Fe. 

I begged her to tell me more.

Though neither Bob nor I had spent time in New Mexico, we were intrigued. We spent late nights on Zillow, talking through our individual wants in a future home. We committed to making a Santa Fe visit. A new COVID reality pushed back our plan a few months.

We spent our first full day in Santa Fe touring homes with our friend’s real estate agent. After years of living in pre-war construction in major cities, we yearned for views, space, privacy, and modern contemporary architecture. But we also need urban convenience, culture and to be surrounded by curious-minded people.

On our second day, we fell for a 13-year-old home we nicknamed “The Zen House.” Five weeks later, we were its proud owners.

In the meantime, we suddenly had a major life transition to plan. We decided we’d have a dual-residence–Santa Fe and a rental in Sausalito–and that we’d sell our San Francisco home. Over six weeks, we cleared through 20 years of stuff, found a realtor and storage facility, oversaw renovation projects, hired movers and stagers, and found an apartment in Sausalito. Doing this at any time is hard. Doing this during COVID is really hard. Some things went well; others went horribly wrong. All of it took way longer than we thought.

Along the way, I shared our plan with friends. A common reaction was shock, mixed with exclamations and questions:

  • But you love San Francisco!
  • How did you settle on Santa Fe?
  • Have you spent any time there?
  • How do you know this is the right step?

My answer to the last question sounds almost flippant. We just know. 

We knew it was time to take a left at Albuquerque.

Bugs Bunny checking the map

In the iconic cartoon series, Bugs Bunny is often seen burrowing his way through the desert, eventually poking his head above ground, brushing himself off and looking at his surroundings. Realizing he’s not where he should be, he checks his map and says aloud with mild irritation:

“I knew I should’ve taken that left turn at Albuquerque.”  

While children are the primary viewers of Bugs Bunny cartoons, Bugs reminds children and adults alike that good decision making is not only based on planning. It includes knowing.

I wasn’t taught this as a child. As a girl, I was taught to be careful, to plan, to think things through. And believe me, I’m really good at these things. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to trust my gut–in other words, my feelings, instincts and intuition.

Now with over three decades of adult decision making under my belt, I can analyze it. Every six or seven years, I make a major life transition. These biggest and happiest of decisions–moving to a new city, taking a job, quitting a job, taking a sabbatical, buying a house with my now husband, transitioning careers–don’t always score highest on the spreadsheet. But they are increasingly easy decisions to make.

I know what a right decision feels like.

While I’ve always been pretty good about knowing and keeping to my values, over the last decade I’ve realized that values-based decision making is the secret to achieving success on one’s own terms. I talk about it, write about it, and use a Values Exercise as an initial tool with every coaching client. Here’s why:

  • The more clear I’ve become on my values, the more I act on them
  • The more I see my decisions further my version of success, the more I trust my gut instincts
  • The more confidence I have in these instincts, the quicker I make important decisions

Contrary to what many of us were taught, gut decisions are not necessarily impulsive ones.
According to psychologist Mary Lamia, “people who make gut decisions use an unconsciously scripted database they acquired from emotional responses that enables them to trust their hunches. Emotional memories are responsible for the sensations involved in intuition, and the meaning we give to any gut feeling is a contribution of our cognition. Most people who rely on their gut feelings do not deliberately think about how it works, but they trust the process.”

It’s why it felt almost easy to take that hard left at Albuquerque. 

Exploring Bishop’s Lodge in Santa Fe (2020)

A key factor in our decision was knowing that the values of my friend who moved to Santa Fe were so similar to my own. Hearing her decision process helped fast-track mine. Likewise, my decision process has helped fast-track the decision of other similarly-minded San Francisco friends who followed our move two months later. I expect more might follow.

Trust your head or your gut? We’ll debate this quandary forever. Take a think about your own big decision history. Decide for yourself.

In my latest big values-driven life decision, I’m pretty confident I won’t have the same regret as that mischievous cartoon rabbit. 

When your values are clear to you, making decisions becomes easier. –Roy Disney

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Jodi Morris Written by:

Venture Guide to High-Achieving Seekers. Success Coach. Venture Travel Curator. Impact Investor. Traveler. Writer. Global Connector. When we connect to others' stories it changes our own. Let's Venture!