Sara Dulaney, of Cold Spring, is an addiction recovery coach. She spoke with Alison Rooney.

Sara Dulaney
Sara Dulaney, recently (Photo by Maggie Benmour)

When I was living in New York City, I would sometimes spend a weekend afternoon doing what I called “going with the green.” I’d walk through town and at every intersection proceed in the direction of the green light.

I had some remarkable adventures (and, even with a paucity of green lights in Cold Spring, I’m still having them). In retrospect, my life and careers look like a random collection of events, but they are connected by hidden knots, most of which I didn’t tie. You have to say, “Yes,” or you have to say, “No,” to get to the next intersection.

I was married at age 19. My parents met while both were journalists at The Washington Post, and I thought that’s what I’d be doing. There was a plan: my husband would finish law school, and I would work until I got pregnant, then we would move to the suburbs. Luckily, that didn’t happen.

I landed a secretarial job at the new Washington bureau of ABC News — that’s how it worked then. It was 1963, six weeks before President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Another summer I got a job as a “floater” at Condé Nast in New York City, working with an editor who was writing a book. She was not splashy — she wore a hat in the office, gloves on, elegant. She would dictate, and I would type. 

Sara dulaney
Dulaney in 1975 (Photo by Ian Gilbert)

After graduating from Barnard, I started a job at Cowles Education at Madison and 52nd. They produced the Volume Library encyclopedia and always hired six or seven graduates from the Seven Sisters [women’s colleges in the Northeast] to edit awful articles that theoretical professionals sent in. I thought, “If these people got paid to write this, I can do it, too.” At the time, my boss said he wasn’t able to get me a raise but I could take Fridays off and he’d say I was at the library. 

At the time, my husband and I were living in a rent-controlled apartment around the corner from the New-York Historical Society. I started going there. I turned some of my research into an article, and a magazine published it and paid me $50.

After we adopted a baby, I was jonesing to get back to my typewriter. I had done brochures for Parents that I wanted to expand into books. Eventually, I wrote 30.

Then the trail started winding: I got divorced. I remember thinking, “What does a writer do to earn money?” You go into public relations. I had clients like Columbia University and the New York Public Library. I landed a job at New York University. I wound up with great housing, excellent benefits and a master’s degree in therapeutic recreation and leisure counseling, all free. I walked to work through a garden. Eventually, I was able to retire, but I wasn’t ready. 

I moved to Cold Spring in 1994. I kept writing. My last books were in the category of “useful” topics, such as How to Succeed at Online Learning — things that you’d just Google now. Meanwhile, a friend was working at the Turning Point in Beacon [a substance abuse rehabilitation center affiliated with St. Francis Hospital]. I started doing recreational programs with alcoholics and addicts. I was encouraged to get a credential as an alcohol-and-substance-abuse counselor. 

When I think about that boss who told me to take Fridays off, I think what an influence he had on the rest of my non-linear life.

My son had a friend during high school, a bright and interesting boy, Ravi. He came to my door one day with a notebook, looking a bit down. “You write books,” he said. “Can you tell me how to plan my life?” I tried to reassure him that it was all an amazing adventure, but I could have just said, “Go with the green.”

Behind The Story

Type: News

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Rooney was the arts editor for The Current since its founding in 2010 through April 2024. A playwright, she has lived in Cold Spring since 1999. She is a graduate of Binghamton University, where she majored in history. Location: Cold Spring. Languages: English. Area of Expertise: Arts