Markovian Parallax Denigrate

I’ve written about the tyranny of ‘or’ before. Turns out, in your mid (to-late) 30s, one of the toughest “ors” is work vs. family.

Don’t get me wrong, it should be an “and” not an “or” — but that doesn’t hold up well in reality. When a sales guy schedules a 4:30pm on a Friday, directly over-lapping the planned family skiing outing, and becomes or. When you travel internationally, and calling the kids before school means stepping out of a room full of VPs and their high-powered meeting, its an or. But those are fairly manageable ors.

If career growth requires re-location, it means taking your kids out of their environment and trying to re-plant them somewhere new, and that’s a little harder to choose. On one side of the picture, its the job that provides the environment, and when only one parent is working, the job needs to take priority. The job provides the home, so it doesn’t matter how comfortable things are right now — that comfort goes away without a job. On the other side of things, there’s a difference between job having, and job growing. Its probably possible to just have the same job for a long time (an entire childhood?) and not progress at all. If that’s true, then comfort is only at risk if the employer goes away.

Unfortunately, I don’t know what that latter scenario looks like. How do you decide, in your career, that you’ve reached the point of “enough” growth? At what point does someone say to themselves, “this is what I want to do forever?” Because if its possible to hold the same relative position for 20 years, while your kids grow up and launch out on their own, I’m quite sure its impossible to resume your previous velocity when that time period is up. At some point, it must become clear to all who observe you that you are no longer capable of anything else. So the bargain you find you’ve struck is that you can stay comfortable for 20 years, as long as you’re willing to stay there for 45.

And I have a pretty big data sample to back-up this theory. I’ve met many colleagues over the years who’ve been doing the same job most of their lives, and are just hanging on until retirement. Of those people, the post-retirement dreams I’ve heard reflect the stagnation they’ve come to accept. One guy I met, near his last day, thought he might go to dog shows in his retirement. Another was going to join a gardening club. If someone had told those people when they were 20 that thing they were working toward for the next 4.5 decades, the culmination of their career, the pinnacle of their achievement, and reward for their years of steady labor… was dog shows or gardening… would they not have run away screaming?

And isn’t escaping that worth some discomfort for the family? After-all, our kids learn from our example. For all they may resent the discomfort of change, would their adult selves not more intensely resent having a pattern of blandness instilled in them? Ben asked me the other day why grown-ups don’t have the same imagination that kids do. Maybe its because we’ve traded imagination for stability and comfort. Once you’ve put on the harness of a 30-year mortgage, and found a good school for your kids, maybe you can’t tolerate anything so scary as change, so you accept that things you imagined as a child were fiction, and that this is all you’ll ever be…

How do you balance what your kids need now, with what you’ll both need in the future? What if settling for something that seems good enough now, means you miss the opportunity to give them something great tomorrow?

Don’t read into this that we’re moving anywhere. We have no plans to, and we’re trying to avoid anything that might cause such a plan to emerge. But the corner I’ve found myself painted into is starting to feel pretty constrained, and if I can’t find a window to crawl out of, we may eventually have to entertain some ors again…

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So I Tied An Onion To My Belt – 2017 Edition

So we’ve begun our third year in Ohio, and it looks like we’re sticking around. 2017 was a little more expensive than we had initially planned, but we managed to pull it all off and end the year in the black.

After springing for an over-due trip to Europe for Nic and I in 2016, we got the opportunity to do it again early in 2017 — this time exploring Swiss Alps, piggy-backing on a work trip. Definitely an advantage to having Nana and Papa within driving distance!

The summer was the culmination of my professional efforts here in Ohio, with the launch of my very first product. Not my first product launch, but the first time that the product being launched was mine. As Product Owner for a pretty awesome team, it was exciting to see it coming to life — and get a pretty positive reception from customers and partners alike. It would have been a good time for an exit, something we opted to skip this time — but others did not. There may yet be a second act to Shelby, so we’ll see how that shapes up in 2018. Plus it gave us an excuse to take a family trip to Disney World in Florida, which was great for the kids — especially because Grandma was able to join us!

The kids continue to thrive in school. Ben’s done much better in the gifted program, Abi’s never had any academic challenges but the social adjustment was toughest on her — but she’s got that figured out now, and Eli pretty much runs her first grade class. Nic remains very involved at the school, taking on the role of treasurer of the PTO this year — experiencing all the drama and workload of a workplace, but without any sort of financial compensation for her effort. It does keep her close to the kids, and gives her a voice in school matters. Our county will go through some budget reductions next year, so knowing what’s coming as far as school closings and re-arrangements helps us think ahead.

We’re also on our third attempt at finding a church home. Volunteering every other weekend at a downtown church has been our most consistent church life experience. Finding something close to home to make our regular weekly commitment to has been an exercise in frustration, so hopefully this one works. We did get an invite to join in to a denominational family camp this past summer, which made for some wonderful memories for the kids — and maybe a new annual tradition.

We celebrated Christmas not in snow, but basking in the sun in Grand Cayman, which is a much better place to be than Ohio in the winter. The transition back to the cold and snow was pretty brutal, but it was a great visit with my parents, and definitely another trip we’d like to repeat.

In 2018 we hope to make it west-ward to see my family all in one place, and visit some friends and scenery we miss. Otherwise, more home maintenance/improvement projects, and keeping our older (but much loved) cars on the road should about consume our spare money and time budgets. Some changes will probably be necessary at work, to continue to grow, but we’ll try to keep those limited to ones that won’t change home life too much…