Yep. That’s me leading a team of teenage oxen around while wearing olde time-y garb…
Like so many people, the last two years turned my world upside-down. Sure, there’s been a pandemic but I also turned 50 and my oldest kid started college. All of the change forced me to reckon with a big part of my life that no longer sparked joy. No, I didn’t stop running. Instead, I quit my day job as the editor and writer of the SUNY Oneonta alumni magazine.
The pragmatist in me wants to claim that I had something else lined up. Who walks away from a steady gig when so much is uncertain? But to be honest — that uncertainty made the choice a million times easier. I could be dead tomorrow. Might as well be a little bit happier before I go.
Which isn’t to say that I had nothing to do. I was and remain an elected official on my county’s board. From March 2020 through, like, last week, that office grew into an all-encompassing, never-ending, little-Dutch-boy-and-the-dike deal. Unlike my legit employment, government work feels meaningful. Frustrating and maddening, too, but in a satisfying way.
My middle class white lady privilege gives me the space to do this. As a family, we had enough of a financial cushion to coast for a little bit until something else came along. I threw out some feelers. I polished up a book proposal and hoped for the best. The book still hasn’t sold — if you think the supply chain is a mess, you should take a look at traditional publishing — but my dream job did come along. I’ve been a historic interpreter at the Farmers’ Museum in nearby Cooperstown.
Yeah. I didn’t know what a historic interpreter was, either.
In short: I spend time with cows and sheep and piglets. I tell visitors about rural life in the mid-19th century and how challenging it was. I demonstrate all kinds of textile work, from spinning wool into yarn to weaving kitchen towels on a 1800s loom to knitting lace collars from 200 year old patterns. If you are the right kind of nerd, which I most certainly am, it is your dream job.
I’ve found only two downsides so far: 1) the pay is terrible and 2) I am always too hot or half-frozen, because A/C and central heating had not yet been invented.
There’s one more wrinkle. My time on the farm cuts into my running time. My next 13.1 is in Missoula at the end of June and my training is, at best, haphazard. This isn’t my first half, however. I have no illusions about a PR. It’ll be what it is.
On the upside, sometimes I can work running into an explanation. Over the weekend, I explained to a dude wearing a Garmin how there can be moments of flow in the most repetitive weaving patterns. “It’s like running,” I said. “Most of the time you just kind of do it. Sometimes, your reward is legs that feel like wings.”
My time on the 19th century farm feels like a reward right now. I’m sure that will change eventually. Everything does, if you just wait long enough. Until that day comes, I’ll be out here with my looms and my livestock, rediscovering some joy.
Adrienne Martini’s book, Somebody’s Gotta Do It: Why Cursing at the News Won’t Save the Nation but Your Name on a Local Ballot Can, is available where ever books, ebooks, and audiobooks are sold. It also received a rave review in the New York Times.