I have to admit, it still cracks me up to see Ralph on a tractor. When we met in grad school — almost 21 years ago! — his dream was to make it as a sportscaster. You know, wear some fancy suits, sit on the anchor desk in a big city, and pontificate about football.
Six years after we graduated, Ralph was a weekend sports anchor for the NBC affiliate in Fresno, Calif., and I was the food writer for The Fresno Bee. Our jobs were ridiculously fun. But then the Great Recession hit, and a future in journalism looked increasingly uncertain.
At the same time, my mom (Lorie) was here in Hawaii, continuing to grow Rusty's Hawaiian after my dad died. We worked with her behind the scenes, and by 2011, Plan B became Plan A. Fresno gave us a wonderful sendoff, and Ralph and I moved to the Big Island. Now, Ralph’s usually in T-shirts, jeans and a Cafe Imports hat. And instead of taking the wheel of a TV live truck, he drives a couple of old pickup trucks — or this tractor.
And you know what? We wouldn’t have it any other way. During this pandemic, we’ve thanked our coffee farm a million times over. Here, we have fresh air, ocean views and no trouble social distancing. Not to mention ample running space for our dogs (AKA the best lockdown partners ever).
Lately, folks tell us they're considering their own big leaps. They're inspired by my parents, a couple of green-tea drinkers who left New Jersey for Hawaii to grow coffee. They want to know how Ralph and I made the transition from employees to entrepreneurs, or from city life to a super-rural one. We’re not surprised. World upheavals will push you to places you didn’t know you’d go.
The message I give them is one you may need today: You’re more resilient than you think. So trust yourself, even when you're trying something radically different. You may find out, years later, that it's exactly where you needed to be. ~Joan Obra