Apr 10

A big change

Category: Work

I’ve been underground for a while, but I can now share what I’ve been doing.  I’ve decided to make a big change in my life by changing jobs.  I wanted to keep it quiet until it was official.  It is now completely official – I am going to work for Lowell observatory, on a team building this.

It will be an adventure.  This project involves change to almost every facet of my life, and my wife Holly’s too.

I have always loved the process and the machinery of science, and this is right up my alley.  I want to contribute to something meaningful, and to me this is such a thing.  It seems worth the effort.  I grew up admiring astronomers – one of the first books I owned was an elementary college astronomy textbook – so what could be cooler than working on such a project?  And one of the great things about major telescopes – they’re always in beautiful places.  This one is situated in the high forest of northern Arizona; not the desert.

In order to do this, I will have to be in residence in Flagstaff, Arizona much of the year.  We’ll start by moving there for the summer.  We’ll come back to Maryland and for the rest of the year, I’ll spend significant chunks of time working from home in Maryland, periodically traveling to Arizona.  For the long periods, Holly will be coming with me.  Next year we’ll spend more of our time in Arizona.  So we’ll be commuting from Maryland to Arizona, partially living in both places.

So I’ve been looking for apartments in Flagstaff, buying a second car to use in Arizona, becoming a landlord in order to rent out my house in Maryland while I’m gone, and taking care of a lot of other details such as what to do with the cat, the fish, and the dog?  I’ve done some careful and agonizing financial planning.  We have to partially move out of our house to make room for the tenant who will occupy it while we’re gone.  There was a lengthy, steely-eyed poker-game negotiating phase between myself and the observatory, while we each pondered the possibilities of this unique situation.  I had to give up a plum assignment at Johns Hopkins that would have taken me to Kaua’i for months this winter.  I’ve spent every spare minute reading professional textbooks about this new project and its technologies.  And that’s just the beginning of it.

If you think it’s hard to bend one person’s plans around something like this, how about two people?  But the plan we’ve come up with will allow us to preserve Holly’s career on this coast while allowing me to pursue this project.  Holly and I have been working together to make it happen.  Without her encouragement, i would not even have sent in an application.  In fact, a lot of people have been helping.  We convened a jury of friends to help us make this big decision.  Others provided phone and email support during decision times.  I am indebted to my friends for all of their support!

And it doesn’t hurt to know that we’ll be 1.5 hours away from the grand canyon – it will become a day trip for us.  The Flagstaff area is close to many outdoorsy locations of interest – the petrified forest, grand canyon, monument valley, etc. – and within reach of many others.  Flagstaff is like an island; it is forested and cool, but only an hour away the sizzling desert lies in every direction.  Here’s a picture i took when I was there for the job interview (see this post for more):

I’ve just stopped working at Johns Hopkins, and am using a few weeks to get my affairs in order.  Imagine that you drew a line in the sand and said “after this date, I will live with only the possessions that I can pack in the car.”  All of your projects – things that you’ve procrastinated on, put off fixing, reading, buying, selling, completing, whatever – all have to be brought to some sort of closure.

We’ll start our drive across the country in Early May, and have a grand old American driving vacation as we travel to this exciting future.  Along the way we will visit friends, see wonderful things, and have lots of new experiences.  At the end of the journey lies Flagstaff, like Oz at the end of the rainbow.  And once we reach that city, a new exploration begins – a new job, a new location, a new way of living and of working.

Many things about the future are uncertain.  That is both the frightening and the sublime thing about life; but I am surfing that wave for all its worth.

3 comments

3 Comments so far

  1. Buddy April 11th, 2009 12:18 AM

    Alway’s wear a good sized hat . Those damn birds will attack you , walking around up there .
    I had one take off my sun glasses .

    Ah , spring time in Happy jack .

    You guy’s will love it .

    Buddy

  2. Niffer April 11th, 2009 9:57 AM

    I’ve been waiting patiently for this post and I keep waiting patiently for more details that you said you’d share. I know you’re busier than many people can imagine (I’ve been there – plus an infant!), so good luck!

    Oh! A road trip! That sounds great! Are you coming through CO or are you staying further south?

    Give Holly a hug for me!

  3. Michael Berman April 11th, 2009 12:23 PM

    Somehow it seems so appropriate to be announcing this at Passover…

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