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One of my bucket list goals is to visit all 50 states. Not original, I grant you, but still a good goal. This is an amazingly diverse country with a lot of neat places to see. Last March (2012), I marked Utah off the list. Then this June, I got to mark four more off the list – Iowa, South Dakota, Montana and Idaho. How did I accomplish such a feat? Well, that has to do with punching fear in the face.

As I mentioned in the previous fear punching post, I graduated law school in 2010. May 2011, I was honored to begin a 2-year clerkship for a fabulous state trial judge in south central Pennsylvania. My clerkship was a wonderful experience and I learned a lot, from observing every manner of legal proceeding, daily writing and researching, and most importantly, from my Judge. My Judge is an incredible woman. Intelligent, fair, dedicated, conscientious, humble, gracious – all the things and more you want in a judge. However, like most good things, clerkships must come to an end.

But knowing it was time limited, I didn’t hesitate on job searching for what should have been the job after my clerkship. Being a non-traditional student, I have fairly specific career goals, and I am not willing to compromise those goals. I admit that I did apply for plenty of jobs outside of my ultimate goal, but all had some kind of connection (no tax law for me!). Ultimately, I figured I’d end up in D.C., which is where I pretty much where I thought wanted to be.

Sadly, the economy had different ideas. Thanks to the great 2013 sequester, D.C. was not hiring. So, with that kink in my plans, I turned elsewhere. Sadly, the job market is over-saturated with attorneys. I spoke with hiring folks who said they were getting 4x to 10x the amount of applications, and many of those were well over-qualified for the position. That’s how bad the market is.

So what’s a mid-career-change, newer attorney to do. Keep on, keeping on.

I didn’t stop applying, but at the 22 month mark, I started developing Plan B. Since I wasn’t going to be moving someplace for a job, I took it as an opportunity to move someplace I actually wanted to live. Previously, I always moved for a reason – job or school. But this time, I realized, I could move anywhere in the world. Thus, Plan B was basically choosing a place to live, moving there, and starting on the ground with job hunting. Instead of being upset and depressed at not having a job when my clerkship finished, I looked at it as an opportunity to have a great adventure in moving someplace new.

Despite my flippant dart-at-the-map answer, how did I go really about this?

First, I made a list of all the places I thought I might like to live. Since I hate cold, snowy winter weather, I immediately eliminated those states/cities with such weather. This also eliminated where I had been living (central Pennsylvania). I also like being near water, so I focused on those near bodies of water, particularly the ocean, which eliminated a lot of states in the middle. With nearly 2/3 of the states eliminated, the list narrowed quite easily.

From the narrowed list, I came up with a list of 10 cities based on the above qualifications (warm + water). Then I started researching – weather patterns, populations, unemployment statistics, cost of living, potential employment opportunities, potential employers, potential network opportunities, etc. With this research, I ranked the cities. Austin, Texas and Sacramento, California ended up being tied for #1. Each had something the other didn’t and the cons all balanced out. Austin had better networking opportunities. Sacramento had some organizations I really, really want to work for. After some tough thinking, I ultimately chose Sacramento.

Yep, you read that right – I chose the place on the exact opposite side of the country from where I had been living.

When my clerkship ended, I still had no job offer. So, instead of giving into fear, I packed my stuff, loaded my car with my cat & dog, and off I went. I had previously moved from Tennessee to Texas (about a 13 hour move, about 940 miles), but this move was more than triple that (42 hours, over 2,700 miles). No worries though. I took it as an opportunity to see some of the country I hadn’t seen before. Taking the northern route, I headed west into Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa. Then I detoured north into South Dakota, where I took an extra day and went to see Mount Rushmore and Custer State Park – well worth the extra time and detour.

Mt. Rushmore Buffalo in the Park Custer State Park

Then, since it was right there, I went on into Montana (after slicing through a bit of north-east Wyoming) and visited the Little Big Horn Battlefield National Monument – a tragic chapter of American history.

Little Big Horn Monument

Then on through the bulk of Montana, during which time I completely got why it’s called Big Sky Country. I *almost* stayed in Bozeman, such a neat town set in a picturesque setting. But then I remembered their idea of winter, and quickly got back into my car, headed down through Idaho and then Nevada.

Big Sky Country

I learned why Montana is Big Sky Country

After 5.5 days on the road, I entered California, and have since quickly settled into California life.

Welcome to California!

Welcome to California!

While I’m still looking for a job, I have to say I made the right decision. The weather, the culture, the atmosphere all suit me to a tee. Many people ask me how I could just pack up and leave everything I knew. Well, it wouldn’t be an adventure if I didn’t. Besides, sometimes you need to shake things up and get out of your comfort zone to really find yourself.

And the bonus is now I’m down to an even dozen. Yep, only 12 more states to go!