Thu 23 Oct 08

Autumn in central Washington is ridiculously nice. The colors here aren’t as dramatic as they were back in Michigan (more yellows and browns than flaming reds and oranges), but the constant sunny weather easily makes up for that. Every day it seems like it’s in the 60s with blue skies. Sometimes rain is forecasted and it gets cloudy for a few hours, but then the sun pops right back out. I planted grass in some large bare spots in the back yard about a month ago figuring we’d get some fall rain to help the process along. Nope. Still running the sprinkler. If you look closely in the picture on the left you can see that we have the slider door open and the thermometer reads 60 degrees in the shade yesterday evening.

All that said, there is some possibility that this will be our last autumn in Washington. No real plans yet, just some possible rumblings. The project that I’m working on ($545M interstate redesign) for work will be kicking off construction in the spring of 2010, which means that much of the environmental planning work (my work) will be completed by late 2009. There is environmental work that will continue throughout construction, but that will be handled by the state workers. Our office in Yakima was created solely to work on this project, so when the planning work slows up, no more office and no more environmental planner job for me. There are a couple of possibilities that would extend the life of the office:

    1. Funding comes through for a second phase of work on the interstate. This funding would have to be at least on an order of magnitude of what we’re currently working with. It seems unlikely though that given the current economic situation that legislators would push through approval for a tax to raise $1B for a wildlife-friendly highway. Our project director has already predicted that this won’t happen.

    2. Our company is able to rustle up enough work (smaller projects) in/around Yakima to justify keeping the office afloat. This also might include support work for the Seattle and Portland offices. I don’t see that one happening either, given the size of this city and the specificity (transportation) of most resumes in our office. The original plan had been for employees to transfer to other offices once the work in Yakima was completed and I think that’s how things will play out.

The possible disbanding of the Yakima office doesn’t bother me at all though. It’d be an excuse to do something new, whether that’s a new job in Yakima or somewhere else. But recently I have been ruminating on the prospect a little more. I should have plenty of warning, but even a full year’s warning is not that long when you consider the time to make new plans, find new work, get organized, and sell a house. Realistically we should figure out some sort of game plan in the next six months or so. As I see it, there are a few prevailing options for us if my office closes next fall/winter:

    1. Stay in Yakima.
    Mary keeps working and I would find a new job. We could stay in the house that we put so much work into in a neighborhood that we love. I could keep running around the mountains and our weather would stay ridiculously nice. I might have to take a pay cut and the job market in the fields I’m qualified in are not exactly booming in a city of 75,000. But all in all not much would change.

    2. Move back to Michigan. I’d transfer to the Grand Rapids office.
    We have offices everywhere (60,000 employees) and GR is no exception (that huge triangle building on the corner of Sparks and East Paris. This option is very much dependent on there being a specific job opening for me in GR. I would think another company branch shutting down would work in my favor, but definitely not guaranteed. Mary would find a new job (or maybe an old one). Pros: Most likely 100% of our moving costs would be covered by my work. I would probably keep my Washington salary and a cheap housing market means more disposable income. Mary could re-enroll in the Counseling Psychology Masters program that she was all set to begin before we left for Washington. We would be close to family. Cons: I passionately hate Michigan’s weather and lack of elevation. Hate. I might lose my mind drifting into wanderlust. And I would still be sitting in an office all day with no sunshine-filled weekend mountain outlet.

    3. Move back to Michigan. We both would find new jobs.
    Pretty much meaning that I would end up working with at-risk kids again in an experiential setting (probably at St. J’s again), running around constantly all day and getting paid for it. A job that more and more I realize may end up being my career. Moving costs would not be covered. My salary would potentially half of my current salary. I wouldn’t be locked behind cubicle walls all day.

    4. Move somewhere else. I’d transfer to another city that has a job opening in my field.
    This solves one issue with option #2 and last I checked there were at least thirty openings in various cities that I would be qualified for. We’d have income from day one. It’d be exciting to live somewhere new and we could pick an interesting locale. I’d still be at a desk and we’d have neither the comfort of the house we’ve developed over the last two years or the familiarity and convenience GR.

I was driving to the gym tonight and as I pulled up to a traffic light I felt myself start to get annoyed. There were four cars in each lane in front of me. Eight cars at one stop! I felt like I was suffocating in a traffic jam! I get so used to traffic-free drives that this was genuinely a frustrating feeling for me. Until I thought about it and started laughing. I love where we live. There are no traffic jams. It’s gorgeous here. We’re within a two hour drive from dozens of classic peak climbs. We have four seasons and huge amounts of sun (it was a big snow year last year and I barely shoveled the driveway). We can walk to a perfect park for running our dogs. There’s no state income tax. People are friendly. Granted crime is atrocious in some parts of the city, but I don’t ever have to go to those sections.

But I don’t feel good sitting in an office all day. I don’t feel purposeful in my work. I’m just working for a pay check. I honestly felt healthier and more energetic in my old routine in Michigan than I do now. And there are few other realistic work options around here (I’ve looked). Mary tolerates her job much more than I do, but I think she misses working with kids too. She misses home and having family close by more than I do. I know she really likes where we live now though too, so I guess we’ll just have to see how it all plays out.

Really all I want is to be able to stay here, get a new job as a wilderness counselor, make the same amount of money I’m currently making, and have Mary be able to start a Master’s program she loves. And the dogs are happy as long as they have a tree branch to chew on.

8 thoughts on “Thu 23 Oct 08

  1. ZDad

    Sounds like an interesting time ahead. I’ll be watching with interest and hope it all works out for the best.

  2. JOZ

    Wow. I didn’t see that coming so soon.So many decisions to make, factors to consider. It’s not too early to start job hunting in a number of possible places. You and Mary have got some tough things to think through and explore. Hate to think of you having to sell that house you’ve put so much work into and made so nice after such a short time there. And giving up the beauty and pleasures of the area. And being uprooted again and facing moving again doesn’t sound great. Sounds like returning to Michigan could work out really well for Mary, but your own “passionate hatred” of the place could cause lots of conflict and unhappiness. Do lots of brainstorming and keep us informed. I’ll be praying that an option good for both of you individually and as a couple becomes available to you.

  3. Josh Post author

    It’s definitely not a matter of having to sell our house here. We could definitely make it work one way or another. Getting another job wouldn’t be an issue other than maybe taking a pay cut. It’s more a chance to reevaluate what we want to do for the next few years. It could be an excuse to do something new or it could be a confirmation of how much we like living here.

  4. Josh Post author

    And (after tracking down a few more opinions over the past few days) it looks like we probably have until at least March of 2010. But again, that still leaves this upcoming spring ’09 as the only prime selling time in that period.

  5. Josh Post author

    Probably depends on the dog. If your dog life is at the point where all your other needs are met and chewing on a twig keeps you happy, it would be nice indeed.

  6. Gregg Pohll

    I was recently cut, and made many of the same choices. The biggest factor in that being that my kids wanted to saty and graduate where we are. Instead of a regular job, I make ends meet by subbing (I was a full-time teacher for 17 years) and writing for a newspaper. We are living on the pverty line, but ends are meeting and I am happy doing what I am doing, albeit, working for a half dozen small paychecks. I refuse to leave the northwest no matter how difficult and expensive it is to live here. Bottom line…low expenses, you can do what you want. I feel very fortunate! Afterall, one day a week, I get paid to explore the backcountry!

    Good luck with your choices, but be flexible!

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