Moving to Madison

Monday, March 4, 2013

By now this post is less an announcement than an acknowledgement that T.J. and I have moved back to Alabama. If you'd told me six months ago (or even two months ago) we'd be back here, I wouldn't have believed you. But fate has a funny way of backing you into the least expected (yet somehow inevitable) corners.

You might have noticed that the blog went silent during the last third of 2012, in part because right after I said on Aug. 27 that we were hoping to make a permanent move soon, we decided to throw caution to the wind and he turned in his sixty-day notice to the university. In some fields, sixty days is probably plenty of time to find a new job and relocate, but the world of higher education moves much more slowly, so although he spent the next two months applying to more than forty jobs all around the country, we heard very little during that time. Even though we knew we couldn't move until after the semester ended and I was finished teaching, it started looking less and less like he would have a new position by the start of the spring semester. Then, right before Thanksgiving, he started getting daily calls for phone interviews. In a two-week span, he did around 15+ phone interviews with schools from around the country, from private colleges in Boston to prestigious public universities in California. Then, right before Christmas break, the calls for on-campus interviews started coming in. I have no idea why hiring committees wait until the end of the semester--by all accounts one of the most stress times of the academic year--to start moving on these searches and interviewing and bringing candidates on campus, but we were just thankful that there was finally some movement, some hope, that he would have a job soon.

He did three on-campus interviews in the two weeks immediately before Christmas, and he received his first offer when we were in New York for our anniversary. It was a tempting offer in a fantastic metropolitan area, a place where the cost of living wasn't outrageous and we'd have access to museums, live music, parks and festivals, organic grocery stores, international cuisine. But the job wasn't a good fit for him and we worried that taking it would mean another move in a couple of years. We'd agreed that this next move should be good for both of us, should be an opportunity to settle down for at least five years or so while we started our family and he got his doctorate. It was a tough decision, but he turned the job down, trusting that something else would come through.

In January, we returned to Pennsylvania after a couple of weeks in Alabama visiting friends and family, and the position we were in suddenly got very scary. We had to be out of our house by the end of January, and we still had no idea where we were moving. We knew he had two more on-campus interviews in the coming weeks but had no idea if he would receive an offer from either place.

Thankfully, both interviews went extremely well, and when he was at the second interview he actually got an offer from the first place. Because of the nature of these searches, the second place still had another week of interviews before they would be able to make a decision, so even though he was told he was in the top two candidates for that position, he had to accept the first position before hearing the results of the second. Which is how we came to be back in Alabama.

If we'd had another week to give an answer, who knows, we might be living in Washington State right now.

When we started the job search, he applied to jobs around the country, but we specifically targeted the West Coast and Boston area. In the South, we targeted Florida. I believe he applied to around seven schools in Florida. None even called for a phone interview. He applied to two in Alabama and got on-campus interviews at both. How bizarre is that?

So that's how after a nationwide search we came to find ourselves back in our home state, and not even just our home state, but T.J.'s hometown. A part of me will always wonder, what if? What if we'd moved to the West Coast, to Washington, to that beautiful little city on the Puget Sound, just minutes from the Canadian border? It's about as far from Alabama (physically and philosophically) as you can get and still be in the continental U.S. And I know I would have been happy there, would have felt like I belonged in a way that I've never felt in Alabama.

But another part of me is just happy to be back in civilization, minutes from shopping, dining, stadium-seating movie theaters (surprisingly difficult to find in central PA). And the OCD over-planner in me is just happy that at least some uncertainties are coming to an end. After all these months, it feels good that T.J. is now back at work, that I'm working on my dissertation again, that some normalcy is returning to our lives.

No kidding, we got this fortune two days after moving back to Alabama! 


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