The unsteady economy and rising jobless rate have left many local residents anxious about their current careers. But for some, a job isn’t merely about bringing home the bacon — it is about following their heart’s passion.
Audrey Powell, 37, commuted from Colfax to Antelope for seven years to teach science.
“I had originally set out to be a physical therapist, but went into teaching instead. I loved teaching junior high school students,” said Powell. “I went back to work when Austin was 8 months old, but at the end of the year, with mixed emotions I walked into the principal’s office and tearfully resigned. He congratulated me on my decision and said it was only a job. So I stayed home while my babies were babies.”
Last June, Powell was presented with an opportunity she couldn’t resist. She opened Colfax Healing Arts Center, located at 233 S. Auburn Street. Among the services offered are massages, chiropractic services and yoga classes.
“I love being able to work in the same little town I live in and have the flexibility to work around my family’s schedule,” said Powell. “I am thankful to have the choice to get an education, take a break and re-enter the workforce. I’m also thankful that my husband provided the support that allowed me to take that big step.”
When asked what advice she would offer others contemplating a career change, Powell said, “Do it with all your heart. There is risk involved, but there is risk in staying with the same job for 30 years. There is also heartache in not following through with what you really wanted in life.”
For Meadow Vista resident Ted Odell and his wife, Jeanine, changing careers entailed more than switching jobs. It also involved a drastic lifestyle adjustment.
“We were living the suburban dream,” Odell explained. “We had four kids, a beautiful home on four acres in Los Gatos, and I had a really great career with Intel. The week after I graduated with my electrical engineering degree from UC Davis I went to work for Intel and had been there for 26 years.”
He went on to explain he had worked at five different sites, was involved with product manufacturing, chip design, marketing and micro processing design.
“At one time I was in charge of 850 employees scattered all over the world,” he continued. “I was making a lot of money, which helped get my kids through college, but the job lost something for me. It didn’t have a higher purpose. I didn’t feel like it could pass the airplane test.”
The airplane test, he explained is when you sit down next to someone on an airplane and they ask what you do for a living.
“My reply was that I helped manage a business that manufactures computer networking components,” he said. “Then they’d say ‘huh?’ I couldn’t really say I was doing something that helped mankind. It was just work.”
On their 25th wedding anniversary, the couple began to contemplate what the next 25 years would bring.
“We started talking about what we would do if we could start over and have a second career,” he said. “Three years later — the day after my 500th birthday — I walked into Intel and told them I was retiring.”
The outpouring of support from family and friends was surprising.
“Wow, you get it,” said several of Odell’s co-workers. “You are one of the few guys who is willing to take the risk and move on with life.”
Odell acknowledges that any major change can be difficult and won’t happen overnight.
“There were moments of sheer terror,” recalled Odell, who is now in his first year of teaching science and physics at Western Sierra Collegiate Academy in Rocklin. “We sold our 4,100 square foot house in 2006 and moved into a 1,900 square foot rental. The following morning I woke up in a tiny bedroom that smelled like hamsters I wondered what had I done to my family?”
The Odells, who are avid skiers and outdoor enthusiasts, settled in Meadow Vista because of its proximity to Sac State where Ted obtained his teaching credential.
“Everything that reflected who we were and what we had is now gone,” he said. “We exited that previous life and are living lives that focus more on giving back. Jeanine works for the Red Cross and I love teaching the next generation.
“I make five percent of my former income,” he continued with a laugh. “But I have not had a single day or even a second wish that I could go back.”
10/8/09 – by Marci Seither, Colfax Record correspondent