Quandary

August 22, 2004

Remember the posters that show some cute animal, usually a polar bear with a paw over its eyes, that have a caption that reads, "Just when I figured out the answers, someone changes the questions."? That poster pretty much sums up my life this weekend.

A Brief History In April 1998, Michele and I moved from Springfield Illinois to Vancouver Washington so I could pursue my career in the Pacific Northwest. Living in that region was a dream we both held, and my skill set provided a means to relocate. Thirteen months later the bottom dropped out of the semiconductor wafer industry and I lost my contract.

Fearing the unknown of abandoning my speciality of Forte, I chose a job at a pre-IPO company in Charleston South Carolina next. Moving cross-country, buying a house, enduring flooding, lighting strikes, and three hurricanes; all within the first 90 days there should have been a clue. Nine months after arriving the IPO failed and I scrambled to find local work. Our dissatisfaction with the whole "deep south" thing drove us to secure a contract in Illinois.

Returning to Illinois as an independent consultant, working for myself, seemed like the way to go. The next three and a half years would be ones of constant cash flow difficulties as the State took its time paying their accounts. It was also a time of diminishing returns, as the budget crisis caused a nearly 45% cut in my rate. In the end they cancelled my contract.

After 99 days of searching, sweating, worrying, and nearly giving up, I found work in Kansas City. Once again I am an employee. The transition to this new place hasn't been awful, but following on the heels of this spring's trauma, it hasn't been easy either.

The Set Up Last week I got an email from a recruiter looking for java development people in Springfield Illinois. My first thought was, where were you three months ago? I responded, more out of curiosity than anything else. Our initial phone conversation was good, and after seeing my current resume, he was excited about my chances with his client. The position is a 6-month contract to hire for a private company. I must admit I was very intrigued.

Meanwhile, Michele has secured and is loving a position as adjunct instructor for a local community college. The part-time nature of the position, combined with teaching and working with interested adults appeals greatly to her. She is signed up for training in administering and leading online courses, which would allow her to work from home.

Then on Friday, as I was leaving for the day, I had a conversation with Tom and Doug, two of my fellow consultants who started just days before I did here in KC. They had been given their two-week notice. September 3rd will be their last day on the project. My stomach dropped in the now familiar free-fall that comes with impending employment disaster.

The Quandary I haven't received any phone calls, good or bad, about my current position. The sub-phase of the project I am coordinating is very active and I am quite busy these days. In talking to Tom and Doug I got the feeling that mismanagement of the project, that is causing delays in getting needed requirements artifacts to the design team, is what drove the decision to let go of resources. The thread that is keeping me employed this weekend is the fact that my assignment isn't dependent upon the requirements delivery. However, I am rapidly approaching the completion of this task.

So, we moved and moved and moved in the last few years. Each time as a result of economic forces beyond our control. Each time we thought we'd found a better situation, one that would insulate us from outside forces. Each time we have been proven wrong. This summer we moved once again, we were willing to start over again, in an apartment, with little or no savings, in order to survive. The project seemed long-term and secure. We felt that over time we'd regain what we'd lost, and that we could move on.

Now we have an interesting confluence of events. Our house in Illinois hasn't sold. My job here in Kansas City may not be secure much longer. I have a potential job in Springfield. Most of our belongings are packed away. A week's work with a 28-foot U-Haul would see us back in our house. Michele might be able to teach online classes at a college here, regardless of where she currently lives.

We honestly don't know what to think or do at this point. The anxiety of the past few months had finally started to subside. Now my insides are all knotted up again.

I know that the only constant in all these events is me. And it is very hard not to wonder if I am somehow causing all of this drama and turmoil in our lives.

Author's profile picture

Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.