Monthly Archives: March 2009

making a choice and moving on

(204/365) (049/365)

If you’re older than 3, you’ve probably had your fair share of worries here and there.
You’ve worried about whether you should play marbles or chess, whether you should try out for the basketball team or not, whether you should ask Susie or Phyllis to the prom or whether you should go to State U or State Tech.  Decisions prey upon all of us from an early age, and stress boils up from each one.  We worry if we should do A or B, and project even further – if I choose B, then I’ll need to consider C or D.

Making decisions is not something that comes easily to me. I am not, by nature, decisive – I’m analytical.  When I buy light bulbs, I like to consider environmental impact, current cost of CFLs versus long-term savings due to long lives and the effect of harsher lighting on mood.  I don’t just buy a bulb – I buy a future.  I consider each and every possibility that can occur.

Once in a while, though, I have a glimpse of the future that doesn’t involve careful planning. As Curmudgeon recently noted, I am slightly obsessed with failure.  I agree, although I’d make a slight distinction and say I’m obsessed with crisis more than failure.  I’m obsessed with meeting the moment of decision and making the right decision (and therefore avoiding the wrong decision, which is a fear of failure).  But my nature is to avoid failure – not to seek success.  It’s a small difference, but making a hundred or a thousand decisions like that can drastically change your future.

We already made one huge decision – to move 1000 miles from where we live now. But now I’ve found myself trapped by stupid, small decisions – hire this mover or that one?  Rent this house or that one?  Keep the garden hose or buy a new one after we move?  These decisions are false choices.  I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that if I throw away OR keep the garden hose I will not remember that decision in a year.  I will not even remember that it was a choice in five years, and in ten years I probably won’t even remember where the garden hose I own came from.  I know that these decisions will disappear in time, but I am seized by doubt in the short term.

So today I’ll look at each decision and ask myself a couple of questions:  is it a decision that affects the health of my kids or my wife? Does it harm my own well-being?  If not, I’ll make a decision and move on, because the worst failure is not making the wrong decision, it’s making NO decision.  Nobody can move through life debating each choice endlessly.  Eventually a choice is made – eventually a die is cast.

The choice of a path forward is critical, of course. When I returned from Moscow, I had two good job offers – one near my hometown down South, and one in New York.  I thought about the options, decided that both were equal – and then seized one.  I don’t know what the other route might have meant to me – maybe life would have been better, maybe worse.  But the choice needed to be made, and having made it I have no idea of what the future might have held had I stayed in the South.  My life in its current state would not have existed – no Bubelah, no Little Buddy, no Pumpkin.  It’s an almost incomprehensible difference in retrospect.  But having made the choice, I realize that it was the right choice, because it led me to today, and the past is done.  If you look at your life – or anyone’s – and the choices you have to make in order to live a good life, you’ll realize that living with your choices is never as difficult as making your choices in the first place.

photo credit: kimberlyfaye

giving up on your career

I’ve had this conversation a few times with friends and family:  when do you give up on your career? It’s a terrifying thing.  You’ve invested years of your life and made countless sacrifices to get to a certain point, and suddenly one day you realize that you can’t keep going because:

  1. the job market in your career field has dried up or
  2. you need to move to a different town where your career isn’t in high demand or
  3. you just don’t want to stay in your current career path anymore.

I’ve been dealing with all three, and I have realized that the real issue may not be the economy or the state of my profession but just the fact that I don’t want to work in my field anymore. I’m energized by the idea of doing something different, and so I started sending off inquiries through my network and through company sites inquiring about the possibility of doing other kinds of work.

I’m sure the statistics that show that people will change careers at least three times (or whatever) during their working lives are common knowledge by now. I don’t think it’s strictly accurate.  My sister-in-law – a doctor – will probably not change her career, nor will my other sister-in-law, a nurse.  But I think it’s almost inevitable at this point that I’ll do something else between now and the day when I stop working.  Bubelah will almost certainly do something different when she returns to work.  I think even lifelong adherents to a single career path will dabble in other areas.

But the question is really this:  is switching your career giving up? Or is it simply moving on?  If you’ve devoted so much time and effort into obtaining the education and training and credentials and network and experience required for Job X, is dumping it in order to move on to Job Y part of the plan, or just an admission that the career path was hitting a dead end?

I don’t think of humans as static creatures. I am, in no small way, a completely different person today than I was 5, 10, 20, 30 years ago.  The choices 20-year-old Steve made to study accounting seem like sepia-toned photos to 40-year-old Steve.  They echo dimly in my memory, and I remember why I made those choices, but they are not my choices today.  I have changed, and either because of the choices I made 20 years ago or despite them I am ready to move on.

It’s an odd feeling to hit middle age with no real direction professionally. If you’re good at what you do, but hate doing it, the idea of starting over is scary for only one reason – money.  I am enough of an egoist to think that I’ll be successful at a new career, even at this (relatively) late stage in my life.  Check back in a few years and you’ll see if I was or not, but one thing I’ve learned over the years is that I’ll regret not having tried far more than trying and failing.

linklings, other plans edition

Honeymoon: New York

Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.  – John Lennon

If you can’t tell from what I’m writing, things are in a constant state of flux for me right now. I’m increasingly convinced that I’m going to have a very tough time finding employment in my current field, auditing, and I’m likewise convinced that I’m going to have a better (but much scarier) time of it parceling together a mixture of contract consulting, hourly consulting and completely-non-related-to-auditing work.  “Real” jobs just don’t seem to be coming my way so far.  In the meantime, I’m always a-twitterin‘ and worrying about a few other social sites.  Not really productive, but as I mentioned this week, it seems to help more than sending off credentials to for the 76th time.

I’m planning to work on teaching again (if you’re late to the blog, I was a substitute teacher for years and a graduate assistant for a few years, so I do know teaching) but that won’t happen for at least 2 years from – almost exactly – today. That’s my own self-imposed timeline, but until I get back into teaching I am thinking of doing something completely different:  financial planning, being a professional clown (seriously, I’m good with kids and I’m learning to make balloon animals and juggle) or something even weirder.  Why not?  I’m not convinced that my profession has much going for it – read re: The Auditors for a bit and you’ll see what I mean.  I can’t really imagine working as an auditor (at least a full-time employee) at this point – it seems like it wouldn’t (a) make much money compared to the number of hours per week it would require and (b) let me live a sane life, which is more important than point (a).

On to the links…

Poll: Have You or Do Use Peer-to-Peer Lending Like Lending Club? and Lending Club Introduces Self-Directed IRA in Peer-to-Peer Lending:  A couple of articles about one of my favorite P2P lending sites, Lending Club.

Leaving Full-Time Blogging and Changes That Come With It: One of my fellow probloggers gave it a rest and headed back to employee world.  Can’t say I blame him, but I also can’t say I’d be thrilled going back to the 9-to-5 myself.

Tax Deductions for the Self Employed: A few tips for the self-employed… I still consider myself unemployed but I could put a positive spin on it and call myself self-employed, I guess.

All CEO’s are Crooks: What do you think? I don’t think CEOs are crooks – but the boards that determine CEO compensation are.

Hire Me! Will Work For Minimum Wage: From Wall Street To Pizza Delivery: Some clever tips on finding work in a workless economy.

The Purpose of Money: FT opines on the purpose of money. Here’s my take:  money is an instrument to achieving comfort. How’s that for a brief definition?

Self Employed Health Insurance Options:  I’ll tell you one thing:  COBRA may be an option, but it requires huge excess funds.  Mine is staggeringly expensive, and we’ll be switching to new insurance as soon as we move.

From Russia with Drive:  A grim story of a Russian immigrant who achieved the American dream – an up-and-coming career at a premier Wall Street firm, Bear Stearns.  And then: oops.  It’s a heartbreaking story, because I see so much of what’s good about America being pumped through the system that is strangling America.  People are dying to come here, and then when they break their backs to succeed – a crippled, corrupt system drags them down.  It’s like The Firm, only real and without the kindly Hal Holbrook character.

The Big Takeover:  This guy was writing for the local English-language rag when I lived in Moscow, and I’ve always liked his work.  Read this and weep.  America

More Giveaways — Announcing the FMF Newsletter and Reminder: Benefits are a Significant Portion of Your Pay:  A new newsletter from FMF and a good reminder that benefits are nothing to be sneezed at – at least until we have some sort of health care in America that doesn’t involved signing over your kidney to get treated for a bladder problem.

photo credit: stoneflower

internet job boards – wasted effort?

loaded for bear

I have tried, over the years, to post my resume to job boards for both traditional jobs and contract positions.
I’ve also tried to get hourly consulting work through various boards, too.  I have landed jobs through the (now) unlikely source of, for example.  In 2000 I got a job through  But can you find a job through a job board today?

I’ve tried a number of boards recently, for jobs, contract consulting and “pure” consulting.  A short list:


That’s just a sampling.  I left out a few, though, which have provided me with far better leads, more calls and more interviews:


Those sites are “social media” sites and I’ve found that you’re far, far more likely to land a job via LinkedIn than via monster because of the quality of the connection. Someone who can refer you via LinkedIn can actually get your resume in front of an HR manager.  Your reference won’t be a recruiter.  Your contact will be an employee.

When I was in charge of hiring for my audit group a few years ago, I was given the OK to advertise for the position online, more as an experiment than anything. I set up a employer account and used a freshly-created Hotmail account to collect submitted resumes.  After a few days of receiving a few resumes, I started to receive dozens.  Then several dozens.  Wading through the misplaced and poorly written resumes every morning became a tedious (and fruitless) project.

I can’t see how job board submissions can be effective when I recall myself; the harried professional trying to skim 36 resumes before beginning his “real” work that day. I have to suspect that most of the time, the person reading the resumes and cover letters submitted via job boards are skimmed for seconds, not minutes, and the effort of the applicant is wasted.

Social media, on the other hand, connects me quickly with people who are wiling to talk to me because someone they know (and presumably trust) said they knew me and liked my work. I think sites like LinkedIn will be increasingly important in the job search universe, and the idea that a massive searchable database with my inexpertly written resume buried in it will result in a job for me seems quaint.

The future of work will be connectivity – networking, in person and online – and not the traditional advertise-submit-review pattern. It’s another one of those culture shifts that’s happened slowly enough that we won’t notice  it – but it will happen.  Even obtaining contract and hourly work will be more complicated.  But working within the system is a challenge, and probably always will be.

photo credit: striatic

everything will be fine

I remember visiting a small city in Siberia during my time in Russia, and making a one-day visit to a former gulag village to inspect a branch location of the bank we were auditing.
At one point during the trip, we passed a sign that said (roughly) “for the next 10 miles, roll up your windows, drive as fast as you possibly can and do not stop.”  I stared at it, and then checked my watch.

As you can probably imagine, I asked the driver of the car whether I should worry. As he rolled the manual window handle up, he told me – not reassuringly at all – “yes.”  We were driving through an irradiated zone, the site of a ‘secret’ nuclear disaster back in the 70s.  The clear spring day seemed innocent enough, but the driver’s hunched position over the wheel made me sit back and (stupidly enough) hold my breath.

I think we’re all doing that a little bit these days. We’re being told that everything’s going to be alright, in the immortal words of Bob Marley, but at the same time we need to hold our breath and roll up the windows.  It’s not easy to do.   The latest ‘fix’ being proposed is to buy toxic assets and hey-gosh-don’t-ya-know they’ll be worth a lot more than what the government bought them for, if only the pesky doubtin’ types get out of the way.  The nuclear meltdown isn’t the problem, it’s the lollygaggers who don’t drive on through quick enough.

I’d like to see a history of this era written at some point that blames the right people for the mess we’re in. The people who bought houses on speculation of insanely increasing prices; the people who voted for insane and corrupt congressmen who deregulated industries; and the administration, reelected in 2004,  that dithered and did nothing while the financial system collapsed.  Who’s to blame?  We are.  I am. Investors in AIG, Bear Stearns, Citigroup.  Voters for … well, almost anyone.

If a small child’s frightened, human instinct is to tell them that everything will be fine. One of the worst lessons a child can ever learn is that this is a lie.  Sometimes things will not be fine.  Things will go topsy-turvy.  The media and government seem to think most of us are children, and that repeating “everything will be fine” will be enough of an answer.  It won’t be enough, soon.  Everything is not alright – and everything is not fine.  At some point, I’d like to hear someone admit that some things are fundamentally broken, and it’s no longer a question of repair – it’s a question of rebuilding.  Everything will NOT be fine until someone admits it won’t.

photo credit: brndnprkns

five crises, part 2

This post is part of my “five crises” series.  You can read part 1 here.

Second: Dropping out of graduate school

The second crisis was more profound than my first one. I received a degree in mathematics and did well enough to be accepted directly into a PhD program at another state university.  The program I was accepted into was not world-class, but it was a solid mid-range PhD mathematics program.  I was studying complex theoretical mathematics and thought I had an aptitude for both math and teaching.  I thought I would coast through the PhD program and launch a brilliant career as a math professor studying esoteric theoretical hoohah.

I was wrong. Badly.  The PhD program hit me like a brick in the head almost from the moment I arrived.  I was unprepared to go from my undergraduate math major to a PhD program.  Even while majoring in the subject as an undergrad, I took maybe 2-3 math courses per semester while continuing my other courses – Russian, psychology, English, etc.  I had no real job although I did substitute teach from time to time at the local public schools.  I had plenty of free time for sports, social life and pursuing my other interests.

All of that changed in a heartbeat. My life was math, all math, all the time.  I was teaching undergraduate courses.  My fellow students were all just as good and, for the most part, better at math than I was.  I had no time to develop a social life in a new city.  I was overwhelmed.  I struggled for two semesters, and then sat back and did an assessment of my life.

I was passing my courses, but not by much. I was teaching my classes, but struggling to grade papers and keep up with my own homework.  The single-mindedness of the focus on math bored me to tears.  I had spent half of the season on the lacrosse team before dropping that, so my only social activity was my work with a political campaign.  All of this to pursue a degree that might take another five years to achieve, and then face what appeared to be a long recession when I emerged into the job market (this was the early 90s).

I had never met academic or personal failure to this point in my life. Admitting that I had failed was something I almost could not do.  I was ready to soldier on, fading further and further, just to avoid failing.  But in the end, I did.  I dropped out of school, packed all my belongings into a U Haul trailer attached to my 4-cylinder car, and drove back to my hometown.  I rented a small apartment  with two roommates and started taking accounting courses to build up the prerequisites for entry into the master’s program.

I’ll continue this series intermittently over the next week.  I am traveling, so no roundup until at least Sunday.

five crises, part 1

Great Depression

The definition of a crisis varies from person to person. One person’s crisis might be a near-fatal accident or illness; another person’s crisis might be the cancellation of My Own Worst Enemy.  I have often said to my friends and families that while my own personal troubles might be small in the scope of the world’s problems, they are mine, and that means they matter more to me – if I am honest with myself – than war in the Congo or smog in Los Angeles or Madoff’s Ponzi scheme.  I know that these events come to touch me in ways I can’t imagine, but I can only look so far into the past or future to figure out those links.  The collapse of the Soviet Union resulted in the birth of my two children, for example, since the resulting collapse of the Soviet Republic where my wife’s family lived caused a rise in anti-Semitism that drove them away, eventually landing in New York where Bubelah and I met.

So despite understanding that the risk of a nation’s collapse is a REAL crisis, I decided to write a few articles about the greatest crises I’ve had in my life. I have been lucky not to face anything insurmountable so far.  I have had crises that I won’t cover here – deeply personal, for example.  But these five crises have affected me in one way or another, and I wonder how much they shaped – or did NOT – shape my life.

First:  The decision to reject great expectations

I was a star performer in my small, Southern high school.  I loaded myself up with every academic honor available.  I was a varsity athlete.  I won a scholarship to be an exchange student in Germany, I was valedictorian, I was a National Merit Finalist, and on and on.  Many people – teachers, friends, relatives – had high hopes for me.  I was recruited heavily by colleges all over the country.  I was accepted to every college I applied to, and received full tuition scholarships to every one, as well.  I wrote at length about this in another post.

One college was Harvard, and another was a prestigious southern private university. I think the assumption was that even though Harvard might be a stretch – based on my father’s experience with the Ivies I wasn’t ever serious about attending – most of my classmates, teachers and even relatives seemed surprised when I turned down all offers to attend my local state university.  I was told by classmates and teachers that I was “wasting my life.”  I was accused of being afraid to leave home.  Ironically, that accusation came from my classmates and teachers who had never left the state, considering I had already lived in Germany and traveled all over the country for academic contests and events.

The crisis was my self-doubt. Was I somehow cheating myself of a glorious destiny?  Was attending a state school some sort of lowering of expectations?  I worried about this a lot for a short time.  But this crisis was the easiest of the five to overcome.  I loved the school, I discovered that my supposed interest in political science and law completely disappeared once I took advanced mathematics and Russian courses, and I had a lot of fun with my social life and even worked my way into being a varsity athlete in a new sport (lacrosse).  Since I made that decision, I have never looked back; of the many things I may have regretted in my life, my choice of a college has not been one of them.

Stay tuned…

photo credit: Koshyk

reducing salaries in hard times

El obrero
In discussing contract consulting rates with two recruiters recently, I was forced to face an interesting question – is a recession the time we should be willing to accept reduced rates (or salaries)? Can you justify making 75% of what you once made, just to keep making money?  Or is it better to grit your teeth and keep searching for – at least – pay equal to your previous position?

This question first of all depends on whether you’re in a position to weather a long downturn. If you’re living paycheck-to-paycheck, this question is answered with a resounding “yes.”  If you have some money set aside, you may be able to hold out longer for a better rate.

But what about taking that lower rate when you move on to the next job? Do you think the excuse that “it was just a filler” will work?  Do you think the next company will bump you back up?

And what about titles, or responsibilities? Does it appeal to you to work your way back up the line?  For most people it is not desirable if avoidable.  Nobody wants to be the 40-year old supervised by a 23-year old.

It’s not always easy. I know plenty of people who, for one reason or another, have had to make the decision to scale back in their careers, either salary-wise or responsibility-wise (or both).  People do it out of fear or desperation or sometimes simply out of a desire to work, no matter what the level.

Many people may see this as an analytical question:  should you accept an X% reduction in pay during economic hard times? I think this is a question that can only be answered by the individual in each case – what is your balance of pride versus need to work versus will to work?  Can you be effective knowing you’re working as hard (or harder) for less?  Can you make do? In the end, it’s not something a career blog or a coach can help you with; you need to know whether you can handle the reduction, and live with the consequences.

photo credit: Libertinus

preparing for snap decisions

Last week I was spending at least a couple of hours every day on the phone and on the internet trying to identify a job or consulting opportunities for our hoped-for destination in Florida. It wasn’t easy; if you’ve ever thought about moving to an area where you have only a tiny handful of connections you’ll know that it’s nowhere near as easy as searching in your home market. But it can be done.

So one company that’s been intermittently in touch with me called me up late Thursday and asked if I could fly out Sunday to meet with them first thing Monday morning. A little background – they had been slow to respond to me previously and I had seen no real signs that they were interested until they put my resume in front of a different department head. Suddenly they wanted me to fly out within 36 hours.

When I got the call, I froze. It was short notice, I hadn’t even considered mentioning it to Bubelah and it was Little Buddy’s third birthday. I stuttered out my first response – “Monday’s no good” – without thinking. The person I was supposed to interview with was leaving the country Tuesday morning. I had blown a great opportunity.

After a bit of reflection, I realized I’d made a serious mistake. Little Buddy might miss me on his birthday – but we also had planned a second birthday celebration for next weekend for people who couldn’t make it on a weekday (my parents, Bubelah’s parents and a few friends). His birthday would be a party attended by neighborhood kids only. I would be missed, I’m sure, but I realized that I had botched an attempt at securing a good job in a strange market; a job that would help me lay the foundations for a future consulting practice in my new home town.

Everything ended up alright in the end. I’m still flying down later this week. But I did learn a lesson: when you have a goal, and it’s important – not just to you, but to your family – seize it when it’s offered. I was lucky to get a second chance but I just as easily could have been unlucky. Life is full of second chances, but it’s better to assume you won’t get one.

photo credit: Joshua Davis (

happy pi day

Happy Pi Day (to the 36th digit)!

Even though it’s a bit late in the evening, I’ll jump out of my usual posting schedule and wish everyone a happy Pi Day today. I was always a piker in the Pi category – I never made it past memorizing 10 digits (I rounded the third 5 off to a 6 and left it at that).  Depending on where you fall on the math geek scale that either makes me a person with better things to do in my life, or someone who could have knuckled down a bit more.

Pi (the symbol is π)  is a fascinating number.

π is an irrational number, which means that its value cannot be expressed exactly as a fraction m/n, where m and n are integers. Consequently, its decimal representation never ends or repeats. It is also a transcendental number, which means that no finite sequence of algebraic operations on integers (powers, roots, sums, etc.) can be equal to its value; proving this was a late achievement in mathematical history and a significant result of 19th century German mathematics. Throughout the history of mathematics, there has been much effort to determine π more accurately and to understand its nature; fascination with the number has even carried over into non-mathematical culture.

As an ex-mathematician, I can’t claim any real understanding of the basic, primal mysteries of mathematics like pi. It’s one of those scary concepts like black holes that just lingered at the edge of understanding for me.  Nonetheless, the idea of a number that never repeats and cannot be represented in any other way serves as a nice stretch of the mental muscles on a weekend.

photo credit: Mykl Roventine

linklings, the stimulus effect on the job market edition

World Class Traffic Jam

An unscientific observation here:  it seems to me that the job market is perking up.
I don’t know if the activity is picking up because I’m trying harder (doubt it), the seeds I planted months ago are finally sprouting or whether external factors (like the stimulus) are kicking in.  I am getting more calls and more leads and finally starting to talk directly to some companies, rather than just headhunters (and recruiters are starting to call me rather than the other way around).  Signing up for TheLadders may have helped a lot.

One of the things that I’ve hoped for that hasn’t seemed to materialize is a pickup in the consulting market. I’m resigned to the fact that if we want to move to Florida and buy a home I’m going to have a far easier time securing a mortgage and building our somewhat-depleted cash reserves back up with regular job.  In addition, finding consulting work is tough in a new town.  Taking a job would be a lifestyle shift, but since my alternative income remains stuck at about 10-15% of my “real income” I think it may be necessary.  Of course, in a lower cost of living town my alternative income (which will travel with me, being mostly web- or investment-based) might be more like 20% of my necessary level of income.  It will be interesting to see.

Save Money on Television:  Bubelah has started rolling her eyes when I mention this, but between Netflix’s Watch Instantly feature (and the Roku Digital Video Player, the nifty device that plays both Netflix videos and Video On Demand), hulu, youtube, and digital TV (get a coupon if you don’t have one already) I am wondering how much longer we need cable or satellite at all.

Investing in Your Most Valuable Asset – Invest in Yourself:  At this point it seems to me that money “invested” (i.e. spent) on anything other than improving yourself is a risky venture.  Education and health will always be good bets, though.

A Frugal Diet, Or A Frugal Lifestyle:  I never thought of frugality in exactly this way, but it’s a good metaphor:  making little tweaks here and there that can be reversed once times are better is more like dieting.  Deciding to live a more frugal lifestyle is a lifestyle change, not something you do until you have a little bit more free cash flow.

Preparing My Income Tax Return: How I Organize My Tax Documents:  Some good tips for next year, although if you aren’t organized for this year it’s probably too late to get started now.

Credit Karma Free Credit Score Service Can Help You in This Economic Environment: An Interview with CEO Ken Lin:  It’s good to see a new player in the credit score market.  Watch the only movie that ever featured the credit score companies as villains here.

Save Money by Not Flushing the Toilet?:  Our common bathroom is right next to our kids’ rooms, and we got in the habit of not flushing overnight once they are sleeping (at least as long as it’s, ah, #1).  I don’t know how much difference it really makes in terms of savings on the cost of water, but it can’t hurt.  Skipping a flush here and there – as long as it doesn’t stink up the bathroom – is no big deal.

The Great Homeowner Bailout:  A few highlights of what’s coming up in bailout world.  CNBC must be frothing.

Getting Started in Real Estate Investing:   Now is probably the time to do this, but I think people will enter this world much more soberly and cautiously this time around.

Six Places to Spend More Money: Similar to the point about investing in yourself above, there are times – even now – when it’s OK to spend a little bit of money.

And here’s a disturbing article:

…Jefferson Duarte of Rice University in Houston, Texas, and his colleagues are suggesting that one of a person’s most telling moral features, his creditworthiness, can also be seen in his face.

photo credit: joiseyshowaa

middle age is realising you’ll never realise your dreams?: Having just crossed over the halfway hump myself, I certainly don’t think that I’ve given up on my dreams, but I do realize that at some point I’ll have to quit dawdling on some of them. Riding horseback through the Gobi, drinking mare’s milk and sleeping in a yurt is something I would rather do when I’m a bit younger than, say, 75.

how to stick to a decision

What would you do if you were faced with almost total freedom of choice? If most of the barriers to your decision-making process were suddenly and abruptly removed?  I found myself in this position a few months ago.  With no employment, a location-independent side income, a stay-at-home spouse and two children not yet attending school, I was handed the final piece to the puzzle – an offer to buy our home.

I don’t think most people can easily comprehend how disorienting it feels to suddenly have no obligations or commitments to one’s current lifestyle. My wife and I woke up one day to realize that our house was sold, I had no job, she had no job, our kids were still young enough to relocate without any trouble and soon we won’t even have a place to live.  We are as free as we can be (excepting, of course, that we have two children to care for).

I have dreamed for years of living in a semi-tropical climate. I am a fair skinned person, but I feel most comfortable in the heat and sun.  I am not a cold weather person – probably due to growing up in the Deep South –  and despite 13 years of living in Moscow and New York I have never fully adjusted to the cold climate.  Bubelah is a product of a Central Asian climate – again, not nearly as cold as New York.  Since we were married we have flirted with the idea of moving to a warm climate, and again and again the topic turned to Florida (as opposed to a more distant location like Arizona or California or South America).

It is easy, once you have the chance, to get scared of freedom. I wake up in the early hours many mornings wondering what will happen – are we doing the right thing, is it a mistake, should I be more cautious.  But almost every day I think that we’ll never have this chance again.  If I take a new contract in New York, or we buy a place in New York, or do almost anything other than taking our chance to move where we want to move that we’ll always wonder what if.  We will never know what would have happened if we took hold of the opportunity we had to do what we wanted.  Five years from now Little Buddy and Pumpkin will be in school, we’d be more settled and moving would be a nightmare.

Right now we can take a chance, and right or wrong we can make a decision and see how it affects our lives. If you believe in something for years and years and when the time comes to act on that belief you don’t seize it, I think you would regret it.  I don’t want to regret the things I didn’t do, more than I fear the regret I might feel if I do them.

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