Years from now, when I look back at the last few months, I wonder what I will see. 2014 has already had its fair share of ups and downs, and I admit I've been focused on the downs. Herein is a summary of the good, the bad, and the surprising.
I will begin with the number one fun thing: snow days.
There were a bunch this season and I didn't mind them in the slightest. They offered a reprieve from the busyness, and a chance to revel in mountains of snow. I even broke out the snowshoes one day. Bliss!
Jon's office was closed on a few occasions, which added to the sense of holiday. The only difficult aspect was reestablishing routine on the non-snow days, but no matter. We had a "real" winter which will add to our enjoyment of the spring. A few buds are beginning to poke out, and the crocuses and daffodils are up.
Other positives: Anna's reading is starting to take off. In fact, on March 8th she decided that she could read. I didn't notice much change in her ability, but rather her attitude. Reading is still not her favorite activity, but I'm not pushing it. This is something she's going to have to figure out, and hopefully learn to love, on her own. Nothing crushes enthusiasm faster than being told you have to do something.
Meanwhile, Isaac is learning sight words, and is trying to sound out words on his own. His preschool is more academically challenging than Anna's ever was, and the results show. Nevertheless, I can't believe he'll be in kindergarten next year. He seems so small and young. Age-wise, size-wise, and academic-wise I predict he'll be in the middle of the pack, but since he'll always be younger than Anna I think I will always feel he's "young."
Negatives: As described a couple of months ago, Jon's academic job applications were not fruitful. Not that we heard anything back from the vast majority of schools. Such lack of communication, while status quo, is still extremely annoying. Good-bye academia. In many ways, you are a black hole anyway.
Of course, this still left us with the black hole containing our future. Jon's contract is three years long, and then what? Attempt to continue this work as a contractor? Search for industry jobs? Perhaps explore the parallel universe of engineering faculty positions (they tend to appreciate actual work experience)?
After praying, and fretting, and wondering we developed a plan about three weeks ago: Jon would selectively look at engineering faculty positions in the summer/fall, and then industry jobs around January. Target markets: North Carolina, Denver, New Mexico, Calgary, Salt Lake City.
I liked this plan. It provided some hope to my Maryland-weary heart. People, I just do not like it here. It's not particularly pretty, it's not particularly interesting, it's very expensive, far from family and friends, and the humidity kills me in the summer. Furthermore, it continues to be very hard to make connections with people. On the whole we continue to feel like foreigners in a foreign land.
Back to a positive: This last challenge may be mitigated by our new church. It's relatively young, which means that it is not filled with generations of families, and thus has some skill at integrating newcomers. Furthermore, the preaching and theology seems solid. You would think finding a church that meets those criteria wouldn't be hard to find but, it was an arduous search. I am relieved it is over, and hopeful that we may begin to build a solid community.
The question of community is critical since our future took a surprising turn about two weeks ago. As Jon was leaving work one evening, he received word that he had 24 hours to decide whether he wanted to apply for a permanent position. The process of being approved for a permanent position is generally a long and painstaking process. But none of that applied in this case. Occasionally, such bolts of lightning do emerge from the Mt. Olympus that is the upper echelons of management, but not often. This situation, along with a few other details and a fair amount of prayer, led Jon to apply for the position. We are now awaiting the slow wheels of bureaucracy to process the paperwork and finalize the appointment. A "hurry up and wait" situation.
My feeling, when Jon first told me the news, was one of relief that all questions were now answered, followed closely by annoyance that I felt relief, and then grief that my hope of moving back west was not to be. I still can't believe that this is it. And yes, I am well aware that other left turns may be awaiting us in the future - turns leading back west. Such turns may be awaiting you, too. But we tend not to plan on them, because we need to live where we are at. Therein lies my struggle. Perhaps others could continue to live in one place while hoping to move elsewhere, but I cannot hold two realities in my head - my emotional struggles in the past 1.5 years testify to that. I need to be here, now. So, I am once again grieving the loss of the life that I had and wanted to have again, and trying to process the implications of what being here means. Jon and I have talked about those implications a bit, but concrete details are lacking. The wheels of bureaucracy are indeed slow, so while everything has changed, nothing has yet changed.
I don't doubt our choice to stay. And over the next few weeks and months I'm sure I'll be able to see more clearly the positives and benefits of our situation. But not yet. Right now I'm allowing myself to be sad, and that's okay.