To kick off the new year, on this episode of the StoryCorps podcast, we’re celebrating change; specifically, job changes.

We’re starting off with Drew Lanham. Growing up, Drew was always fascinated by the birds on and around his family’s farm in South Carolina. After an unfulfilling career in engineering, he decided a change of pace was in order and pivoted to the calling that he always felt inside. Today, Drew is a zoologist and ornithologist, and spends many of his days in the company of birds.

At StoryCorps, he spoke with his friend John Lane about the childhood that helped his career take flight.

Photo: Drew Lanham (right) and John Lane at their StoryCorps interview in Clemson, South Carolina on December 9, 2019.  By Eric Rodgers for StoryCorps.

Next, we hear from Barbara Abelhauser. For 14 years, Barb got up each day and went to work in an office. But she hated her job, and finally, one day she quit, reasoning, “I could get hit by a bus tomorrow. And if that happens, I want to have woken up that day and not thought, I don’t want to go to work.

So Barb decided to become a bridgetender. Sitting in a booth over the Ortega River in Jacksonville, Florida, she opened and closed the bridge to allow boats to pass from one side to the other. Much smaller than her previous office, but with windows surrounding her, she had “the most gorgeous view in the entire city.”

Photo: Barb Ablehauser. Courtesy of Barb Abelhauser

Barb didn’t expect to be a bridgetender for long, but for the next 14 years, she watched the sun rise and set on the river from her new perch. She now documents her observations and experiences on her blog, “The View from a Drawbridge.” In 2014, Barb left Jacksonville and moved to Seattle, Washington, where she continues her work as a bridgetender.

Top photo: Artwork by Lindsay Mound.

Released on January 5, 2021.

Note: In this piece we say that Barb was 51 when she quit her job. She was actually 36.