This summer I experienced the second seven-year itch of my career. It was a sign that is was time to move back to Western New York. I grew up in Williamsville and Clarence. Upon graduating from Cornell University, I embarked on a career that took me to Durham, N.H., Chicago, Seattle and Phoenix.
On Labor Day weekend, I took a one-way red-eye from Phoenix to Buffalo. After 16 years, it was a weird feeling to not have a return ticket. It also felt liberating. I was going home, and happy about the prospect of a new career.
My family moved here in 1979 and I always visited three times a year, but I wondered when I would return for good. Buffalo tugged at my heart strings. I grew to dread red-eyes and lengthy layovers for summer vacation and family holidays.
For several years I worked in public relations for the Chicago Bulls, Seattle SuperSonics and Seattle Storm basketball franchises. It was an interesting journey working with the Bulls during their sixth NBA Championship in 1998, and the Sonics, coordinating media relations with an intriguing medley of NBA stars such as Gary Payton, Patrick Ewing and Ray Allen. I was part of an expansion Storm team that grew to win the 2004 WNBA title.
After the basketball seasons were over, I realized I didn’t have a work-life balance due to the long hours at arenas and traveling with the teams. It was great to see the country, but it was never for sightseeing and came at the expense of maintaining a social life.
When I wanted a change in 2005, I ventured to the desert for career expansion with an advertising agency and a municipality parks and recreation department.
There were highlights that kept me “sentimentally engaged” with Western New York. I saw the Bills play the Bears at Solider Field in 1998, beat the Seahawks in Seattle in the 2004 finale and fall to the Arizona Cardinals in 2008. I saw the Sabres play the Phoenix Coyotes four consecutive years. It was inspiring to see many transplants, retirees and visitors congregate on enemy turf. It was nice to have lunch at the Ted’s Hot Dogs near Arizona State University once in a while for a taste of home.
During the early years of my career, I had no worries, vision or the benefits of experience that I have acquired since then. I am a townie and gave it a shot in a few big cities. Now I am at a personal and career crossroads, having to develop a new professional and social network. It was a voluntary decision to resign from my public-sector position in Arizona, sell my house and move back. I have faith in this market and look forward to diving into my next position very soon.
I am just as excited and optimistic as I was in 1997 when I was green, enthusiastic and working nights and weekends because I loved sports.
I embrace change, though it always brings risk and challenges. Starting over in different cities was difficult. I missed family, friends, experiencing the change of seasons and the cultural offerings. It is great to be back in a familiar environment, and I am glad I took the plunge.
I’ve had a couple of interviews and if all goes well, I am hopeful that my shuffling days outside of Buffalo are over. I already know it was the best decision for my future, and I won’t be stuck at an O’Hare terminal on Christmas Eve.