Some years are just continuations of what was before – an extension of the norm. Even though I enjoy the comfort that comes with that sort of thing (a boring Tuesday to me is a wonderful thing), in a broader sense, I can’t stand it. So, when I got promotions at work, new titles, a nice new house, shiny new cars … these were just a means of tweaking the same ‘permanence’. I’m not ungrateful for anything I was given – I just realized that what I wanted something more than that, and yet, at the same time, less than all of that.
I just wanted freedom. Not laziness. Not a chance to do nothing. Freedom.
And sometimes that freedom comes at you in a way that seems foreign. Unreal. Maybe even bizarre. My initial reaction to change, classically, is to resist it. Yet, to prove the dynamic breadth of my personality (no bragging here – it is a trait that I believe most people have), I also desire change. I just have to convince myself that the change is not going to kill me.
On April 25th of last year, my wife presented me with a possible change to our lives, one that would break barriers in our life and spring us towards that ‘freedom’ we wanted. Before leaving for work, she mentioned to me something about her teaching in Alaska. I probably rolled my eyes in secret. Maybe even muttered a scoff that I was certain she would never be able to hear. “Alaska?” I thought the same thing everyone else thinks. “It’s cold and dark up there!”
Around this same time last year, I was applying to jobs in Northern Ohio. Anything that remotely involved electrical engineering piqued my interest and I was reading up on it. South Carolina wasn’t doing it for us and Charlotte might be the worst city on Earth (I say that having only visited .001% of the cities on Earth). All I know is that I grew to hate the area, hated the changes taking place at my job (for good reason – fifty percent turnover and increasing goes to show it wasn’t just me feeling this way), and hated our situation, in general. A nice Test Engineer job in Huron, Ohio, near my family and friends would be just the ticket.
Seriously. I had to have known that deep down inside, I’d just be changing my title and starting over again in Ohio … literally. I applied to the same crash test dummy manufacturer that I also applied to in 2004, when I WAS starting off. I even inquired about an open position back at my old stomping grounds in Delaware, Ohio. Did I forget why I left there in the first place? It wasn’t because I was having so much fun that I thought it criminal. In either event, I wouldn’t actually be changing my outlook or finding that happiness for which I was searching. Another thirty-five years at some company that threatened layoffs every few years and then I could retire a week before I croak.
But Alaska? It’s cold and dark up there!!!
A few hours passed while at work that day when I received the following text from my wife:
Well, I thought, I guess she’s serious. I’m fairly certain I complained to a coworker about her newest idea and brushed it off at first, but my wonderful wife continued texting me about it. At lunch I finally scarfed down some chips and called her to talk about it. With a barrage of information from her end, and copious amounts of uncertainty on my end, I finally said “just make me a PowerPoint about it.” Sure enough, she did … and what a presentation it was. No lie, it convinced me. Most doubts I had were erased. The remaining ‘cons’ were not big enough to worry about. It would be an opportunity to make a difference in this world. A chance to do something bigger than make products that would be obsolete within four years. A path to freedom beyond anything that any corporation could offer. By the next morning, it was all I could think about:
Kristina had her interview with the school district on May 2. One hour afterwards, she texted me that they wanted to move forward with her and asked for references. Again, seriously. She knocked it so far out of the park that the school district moved forward with her instantly and the rest is history. Holding my tongue at work for two months was difficult … but only half as difficult as staying motivated whilst knowing that one foot was already out the door. Actually, both feet. Maybe my entire lower body. Luckily July was just around the corner.
I guess I’ll toss in the minor detail that a company in San Diego approached me about a job opportunity at this same time, also. Sunny San Diego. I didn’t entertain it, not in the slightest. Were they going to give me summers off? Were they going to give me more time with my wife and kids? Were they going to provide me with the opportunity to travel and see the country? Were they going to ensure that my wife and I can be retired by the age of 55? Were they going to offer me the ability to see and experience a new way of living? Were they going to present to me the chance to better this world?
No. Because they made coffee mugs with thermometers built into them. The same thing that I did (though, poorly constructed and aesthetically repulsive) for a college project. Again, going back to where I was in 2004. Not for this guy.