Megan Pettibone, 32, at The Waldorf School of Bend

When Summer recommended Megan to me she described her as a “fairy”. Then, the night before the interview, I met another of Megan’s friends who used the word “magic” in her description. So I wasn’t terribly shocked when I stepped out of my car to find a living and breathing smile in human form introduce herself to me. Megan and I met at the Waldorf School where she works as the school counselor. We sat at a low table on mini chairs in a room that had the kind of vibes I wish I had even briefly encountered during my developmental years. And Megan’s the kind of woman every single parent should want their children around. She is so pleasant and exudes joy from every pore. I challenge anyone to try to contain a smile in her presence. 

Who are you? 

I am Megan Pettibone. And I have lived in Bend for two years, actually, to this date. My husband and I moved here two years ago from Boston. 

What brought you to Bend?

Well that is a pretty fun story. Both my husband and I lived in the greater Boston area. I lived there for about eight years and he lived there for a couple years. And I had done the rat race stuff where I took a train commuting in 45 minutes to an hour, commuting out 45 minutes to an hour. Every day. Sat at a computer. I was the executive assistant to several high profile executives. One was like Boston's biggest landlord, another one was for a really awesome educational nonprofit. But my existence was supporting these people and making them show up in their best capacity. And I was just, you know, really cranking it out. So that didn't feel like it was in alignment with where I would feel like I was doing the best work for myself. It was a lot of work - and hard work - but it wasn't fulfilling. It wasn't satisfying. And it was all for someone else in a way that I didn't necessarily feel like it was making the biggest impact. The nonprofit was a good one to work for, but again it wasn't the right capacity for me to be working. 

So, I decided to go back to school. I got my Master's in Education to be a school counselor. And that was in 2010 - I started - and I graduated in 2012. That was after I had worked for the real estate landlord. Assisting him, one 55-year old big child essentially (laughs), I was like How about I spread the wealth and maybe work with several actual children in helping them get themselves to a place that they can be productive, happy, and following a path that was gonna be a good one for them. So that's why I went back to school. I did my practicum internship at a technical high school/vocational school, which was awesome! It was such a neat environment for kids to be able to have their hands experientially learning trades so that they were set up for being able to get a job right out of school if college wasn't gonna be the answer for them. For me as an academic, you of course want for college to work for everyone, but in reality it doesn't. And for those kids who needed to be able to have an alternative, that was the most beautiful, awesome thing that I could imagine. So I was so happy to be there. And then, in practice, working with kids that were not far off from my age - and I have a general childlike approach and wonder to most things. And so that doesn't really land in the same way with high school students where it's just kind of like, Oh god, is this lady for real? (laughsAre you serious?! I just wanted to be Miss Frizzle. That was all I wanted - to provide an experience for kids where they were excited about learning. And it just wasn't really the right spot for me to do that. So when it came time after I graduated to find a job, it was rough. And it was not easy. And I didn't feel compelled to be in the traditional, mainstream education system. That was right when Common Core was getting introduced and all of these expectations of like kindergartners for being able to read thousands of words - no thank you. That didn't set right and well with me. So then I found this educational nonprofit. That was awesome, but that same type of work where I was just looking at calendars all day and sending out thousands of emails and having to think well of funders and all of those kinds of things where I just wanted to be with the kids. And I just wanted to be knowing they were getting access to really good quality experiences that were going to lend to their overall development. Not just whatever these benchmarks are that they hard to hit for test scores and things like that. 

So, we decided - my husband and I - were we like, Let's be intentional about our lives. Right now we are existing in a town, in a place, and in careers that happened upon us because of the way that things unfolded and we don't need to have it be that way. So let's adventure and explore and figure out where we want to be and the United States, where we want to be in our careers, and who we want to be in the world. So we packed all of our stuff up and put it in one of those PODS units - got rid of a ton of things - and then we hit the road in June of 2015. And we spent three months with our dog - we have a little, 13-pound Dachshund/terrier mix and he is the man - his name's Wally. And the three of us car-camped and drove all the way around the United States. We started in Boston and came down south and then across and then up the west and when we came through Bend we were like, This place is awesome. You immediately get a sense that the people here are so glad to be here. And when you see and you spend three months driving around, you see ghost towns. You see places where it's desolate - where it used to be thriving and vibrant and had a community and then it's gone. And you have tumbleweeds and you have empty storefronts and paint chipping all over. And those were not places that I felt compelled to want to stay. And it's not to say that they're not worthy of it, but it wasn't the hook (laughs) to get us in there. And so when we came to Bend we were like, This places is awesome. We have more places to go, so we're gonna keep on, but this is gonna have a flag, you know, on the map. And then we made it all the way to Colorado and had family and friends there that we saw and then we were like, Okay well, we've got to decide. Are you we gonna go left or right? And our choices of our two tops towns were Bend and Asheville, North Carolina. And so it was like, This one has all of our family and friends on the East Coast - we're close to it. This one is new. This is a new frontier. We know nobody here. It would be uprooting everything, but if we don't do it now, when are we gonna do it? If we go back East, then the gravity of our family and life there will probably keep us there. So this is our chance. This is our opportunity. Let's do it! And there was a job posting for the aftercare position here and I was like, Well, I'll just send in my stuff and if we get an interview, then that's where we're going. And I got the interview and I was like, Okay! I guess we're going there! (Laughs) And so we came out here. We lived in the woods for a couple weeks while we were trying to find housing. And then we moved into our house on the 29th of August - maybe that was yesterday, yeah. So we did that yesterday and now we've been here for two full years and I'm operating in the capacity as a school counselor at the school of my dreams! Something that I started seven years ago is now actually coming to fruition in the place that I feel so at home - in the school, in the community here at the school, in Bend, in the community here in Bend. It just is proof positive that when you do decide to live intentionally the things comes together just as you hope. Maybe not in the time that you hope or, you know, it doesn't necessarily pop right up right away, but if you keep working towards it, then the opportunities happen, doors open, and connections are made that are just really beautiful and awesome. So that was how we ended up here. Interviewing a lot of towns that didn't quite fit the bill and then deciding that this was gonna be the place that we were really glad to set our roots down. 

What does community mean to you?

Gosh. Community means a sort of undying and unconditional support and love for the people that you are sharing your space with. There are times that it is a struggle to bring people together and where there are opportunities for being able to work through differences. And understanding that when you do come to recognize those, address them, and then decide together that you want to work together to be a united front, then it can really create a beautiful environment for the people that you share that with. And Bend is really cool in that it has its overall community and then all these sort of micro communities that make that up. And so you can find your way in your self and then in your micro community and then, in that, adding to the greater community to really build something vibrant and beautiful. And that's sort of what this town does well and what we are contributing to and trying to bring more of in, you know, the creative community, the musical community, Makers, the outdoor community. You can find people who share common interests with you in really neat ways and then have them lead you to other things that you didn't even know. So, I think that community is just an interweaving and a webbing of vibrance that we can plug into and add little electrical currents (laughs) of our own to it.

What do you most appreciate about this community?

The friendliness of people. Coming from the East Coast where everybody is heads down and angst and anger and just keeping to yourself - there is a lot of gravity to that. And when that is how everybody is interacting, you just sort of get sucked into it. And I remember coming here and just feeling the sun on my face, you know, and being so much more upright here - physically upright - in a way that I wasn't there. You know, you're slouched and trying to jam yourself into a train and things like that. Here, it's like there is a breath. Not right now because of all the smoke, but the clarity of air, generally speaking, is something that is uplifting. Everything is so uplifted here. So, I was shocked sometimes with how friendly people were and inviting. You know, where I used to come from, that would make you suspicious. (Laughs) Why are you being so nice to me? And it's just because people want to here. I know my neighbors here better than I knew my neighbors anywhere else that I've lived. And that's because they have made the conscious of effort to reach out to me when I walk by with my dog. Hey, what's your name? You walk by here all the time. What's your name? Oh, I'm Megan. You wanna have a glass of wine? Okay! That literally happened last week. There were a couple that are in their 60s and early 70s and I walk by them almost every single day and always say hello. And she was like, You walk by here all the time. I'd like to know you. You're obviously part of the hood. Let's chat. (Laughs) And that was just such a beautiful thing. And now I look forward to walking by their house and if they're outside, then having a few minutes to stop and chat. So that has been just an unbelievable warmth and cool thing about this town, very specifically. And then, you know, all the other fun sparkles and trappings of the festivals, and general offerings of community coming together, and cool things to do, tons of music. I think people are mostly minded to support each other here, which is a really cool thing. So that's seven things that I like about it (laughs). 

Do you thoughts regarding Bend's growth?

It's no secret if I've come in that last two years that I am part of that growth and I'm part of the wave of people that see what Bend is and what they have created here and what we now have created here. And wanted to tap into it and be a part of it and be able to take and give. I think if that is the spirit that people come and create the growth in this town, where it's take and give - What are you going to give back to the community and what are you going to bring to this to continue that vibrance and to continue letting this place be something that people want to be a part of? - then I think it's good. As I said before, driving around the United States and seeing towns that are these ghost towns - desolate, nobody wants to be there, nobody wants to touch it with a 10-foot pole, you just cruise right on through - that's not the place that people want to be anyway. And we don't want our town to be like that, either. So you have to think well of the quality of what we're doing in that growth. And I think to a certain extent, it's an unavoidable thing that people are... they're coming (laughs). And I'm not a fan of setting up something that says, Well, we've reached our capacity and that's the end of that so no, you may not. But I do think it's important that the people that are coming here are coming with a spirit of continuing a vibrant community and not just coming to take from it. If that makes sense. 

What do you wish for the future?

I say growth (laughs) not necessarily in that physical capacity, but I see evolution. For myself, for our town, to continue to seek opportunities for growth and for greater understanding and for coming together and feeling invested in something bigger than myself. And right now, it exists in this capacity of being able to contribute to the education of these wonderful children and showing them how important our community is and what we can do to the greater community. One of the greatest things that this school does is during Valentine's Day, the kids make felt hearts with the nursing home down the street - Fox Hollow - and the kids will work with the residents there. And they make hundreds if not thousands of these little hearts and then, on Valentine's morning, the kids go out at 6:30 in the morning. They meet downtown and they put up - it's a heart bomb - and there are just hearts everywhere downtown. And so to be working with other people in our community that are so usually disconnected - you know, young kids and older folks - to bring them together to have this gift that they give to our greater community - that's what I want for everyone. It's such a beautiful opportunity for our young kids to do this, but that's something that grownups should do, that's something that old folks should do, take your dog and go do it. The spirit of contributing to beauty greater than ourselves is what I'd like to see for myself and for everybody in this town. Yeah. 

Anything else you'd like to put on the record?

Umm, no, I just love living here. (Laughs) And that's really something to say because before our road trip, before deciding intentionally how we wanted to be, I always hoped to be somewhere else. And I always thought about what it would be like to be somewhere else. Oh gosh, I bet it's better there. I bet it's better there. Since I've moved here, I've had no desire other than for fun trips, you know. To be where I am and feel so complete in that choice is like the best thing in the world. So, Bend has been able to give that to me and I'm really grateful for that.