New Direction

January 03, 2005

After weeks of uncertainty and indecision I finally have settled on a direction for my professional future. Instead of returning to Illinois and the known situation there I am going to take a leap of faith and pursue a new direction in my professional life here in Kansas.

Returning to Illinois was very real and possible. I successfully completed the interview process with the consulting firm and the government client; the contract was mine for the taking. For the cost of another move we could have returned to the life we had until March 2004. The same pay, the same house, everything back to the way it was before. Only the past six months have given us enough distance to see some of the ongoing costs of that life, and to see the damage those costs were inflicting upon us. I think the final piece in the decision for me was our trip to Illinois for Christmas. All of the tension and turmoil from unexpressed emotion there overwhelmed both of us. I felt awkward and strange with my own family. The callus I had developed over the past four years was worn away, and I was exposed to their true impact. Returning there to live again would exact a terrible price in terms of my emotional well-being, and from my relationship with my wife.

Staying here in Kansas and making a go of this new opportunity has costs as well. Losing our house and the investment it represents is a bitter pill to swallow, but it is offset by the long-term nature of the engagement here. I'll be 44 on my next birthday, and I have already worked 21 years. Another 21 will see me to age 65. It is time to start putting some pieces of my retirement firmly into place. Working for myself seemed like a way to accelerate the process of being able to retire, in actuality it may have set me back ten or more years. If the definition of insanity is repeating actions hoping for a different outcome, then returning to Illinois hoping it'll be different this time is insane.

Giving up on the contract in Illinois was not easy. Knowing that it only represented six months of employment before hoping for a renewal made it easier to pass. The engagement here has a firm contract for the next year, and projected work for the next seven to ten years. The opportunity to work for a major national player, with all the benefits and perks, feels good in the short-term. And ultimately will prove to be good for me in the long-term.

In the end staying here and following the path that starts here is saying to the world that I assume responsibility for myself and my life. Yes, there is risk here; there is also reward here. There is, I feel, a greater risk now and in the future in Illinois. So I am taking responsibility for myself and my family, and staking a claim on the path here.

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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.