Roller Coaster

These past few weeks have been a bit of a roller coaster ride, up with possibilities and then the stomach churning plunge down as they slipped away or ran into obstacles. I drafted posts full of optimism and trashed them in discouragement and finally gave up even thinking about writing anything as it was all too tangled and messy of a story. If it were a novel an editor would have chided the writer about the implausible and much too numerous plot twists!

You may have, being astute readers, gathered that if I am now writing the story it must be resolved in some fashion or another. And I state happily, albeit tentatively, that it is resolved. This summer will bring some interesting and hopefully positive changes to our lives, including a move to town and a new (part-time) job.

I won’t detail all the twists and turns that have brought us to this conclusion, instead I will report on our upcoming plans, with the caveat that, life being what it is, there’s no absolute guarantee that they will work out. My experiences have provided me with a wary cynicism regarding anything hopeful!

We have found a short-term (one-year) housing option. We will be house sitting for someone we know who has an older, small vacant house right downtown. It is in need of some mostly minor (and one major) repairs. We will pay a fairly small and affordable rent and oversee some of this work.

One of the nice things about the downtown location is that it is only about 4 blocks from my new job! Next week I start training to be an Information Assistant at the local public library. It is a 20-hour a week job and will replace my cashier job at the grocery store (and pay $3 more per hour). They understand that I’m an educator so I will have evening and weekend shifts.

The combination of move and new job should improve our quality of life. Although we will have more utility expenses in town (including parking permit, water and sewer bill, trash pickup, etc) driving expenses and time will lessen and I will be making a bit more with the new job. I daresay there will be other challenges to town life – especially in a college town -and to other related changes – a new school for the kids, for instance, but I’m hopeful that the benefits (running water!!) will outweigh them and I believe we, as a family, are reasonably well equipped to meet challenges.

We hope to move by July, providing I can save enough money (my emergency fund having been wiped out by recent car repairs), or by August at the latest. I’ll be posting more as plans solidify and progress.

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The State of Local Real Estate

Still no word on the library job and it will be 3 weeks on Wednesday so I’m feeling less hopeful (in case I haven’t mentioned it in the blog the library job is a part-time job that pays $3 more per hour than the grocery store and would replace that job).  I have been asked if I can work more at the store during the summer so at least I can look forward to adding some hours.

Since our little foray into checking out local real estate I’ve continued to think about the benefits of moving to town. Primarily these include savings in time and money due to less of a commute. I figured it out and I’d save approximately $1,000 in gas (based on $2.50 a gallon so it’s likely even more and I didn’t try to figure in wear and tear on the car) and add 155 non-commuting hours to my life over the course of the year. Of course the money saved would be offset by the expense of town life, namely rent and additional utilities (for example water, which we don’t pay for here except in the labor of hauling it;-). The additional time would be nice.

Other benefits include the experience of town life for my younger kids. They’ve never taken a bus other than the school bus and they don’t really have a feel for what it’s like to live in a town/city. I foresee such a lifestyle in their future and think it would be good for them to have that experience. We would have access to a lot more cultural activities and it would be easier for them to find jobs.

However, once I began looking into rentals it did not take long for the realities of real estate in a college town to become obvious. Housing is at a premium for at least 9- months out of the year and most landlords insist on a year lease so that they are covered for the summer months when a portion of the student population departs.  Here are some examples, starting with what looks like a great deal although a bit small for a family of three. 2 beds/2 baths at $450 a month? That turns out to be actually $450 per bedroom in a 4-bedroom house. Then there’s another house – $2,100 a month – more than I make in my teaching job – and an nice new apartment for the even higher cost of $2,595 a month (for the 3 bedroom, the lower price is for 2-bedrooms).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of course rentals outside of town go for a bit less – but then again that’s where we are now! While we keep looking we are checking out the schools in town – our little rural school district actually holds its own in many ways (diversity not being one of them, however). Our in town choices are super large (for us – ~1600 students) and diverse with a lot of offerings and super small (smaller than our current school), less diverse with focused ‘science and entrepreneurship’ courses that include free tuition at the local community college in the senior year. There are benefits and drawbacks to both.

And in other news, my middle daughter’s senior year is winding down with awards night, final choir concert, and prom. She received several awards at senior awards night including four community scholarships that put us within about $3,000 of the cost of the first year at University of Evansville. She’s going to work 2 jobs this summer to help earn money towards the bill. Still to come is graduation – June 8th! Soon another one will leave the nest.

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Taking the Back Seat

When I was a young mid-career manager I was very engaged with my job. I was competitive, and wanted to be in the middle – or better still, front and center- of projects as they appeared on our horizon. I really wanted to be in the know. Sitting back and waiting to be told what to do did not appeal to me at all. I wanted to be in with the decision makers, and as I rose up in the ranks there were times when I got to do just that.

I worked on a lot of proposals and the constant listing of our team’s credentials and kudos made me internalize the feeling of competency and excellence. I was very self-confident and that’s almost a credential in and of itself in that world. A ‘can-do’ attitude could carry one a long way. I had a voice,  perhaps not at the highest level, but I was listened to.

It has come as something of a shock, if I’m honest, to realize that as I’ve changed careers, and, I sincerely believe this has something to do with it, grown older, I’m not viewed the same way as I was at the height of my career. I should say it’s humbling but it’s really annoying and a bit frightening. The STEM Coordinator position did not go to me, but to a younger, frantically energetic, intermediate school teacher.  And she does not necessarily include me in meetings or decisions. Instead I’m now one of those people who are expected to wait and be told what to do. Although I still speak up and speak confidently in meetings no one automatically turns to me to see what I have to say. My voice has been muted and I’m no longer in the loop.

For instance, a new lucrative opportunity has arisen in relation to a grant for which we are applying and it’s just assumed that this colleague is a shoo-in for it. A decade ago, before the collapse, I would have been doing some heavy lobbying and positioning for it myself. But not now.

I deeply resent what I view as a dismissal of my skills and talents and experience and as a result I feel less engaged and attached to my work. At the same time, though, I don’t always feel I have the level of energy that is required to fight my way back up the ladder. I’m working 2 jobs and still don’t make as much money as my younger colleague (who also has a husband to share financial and parenting resources) and honestly I can see the horizon from where I’m standing. I’m closer in age to the retiring teachers and administrators at our school than I am to my young go-getting colleague. It takes an inordinate amount of energy to stay on top of everything in my life – the myriad and various demands of the education job, the stress and physical demands of the late nights at the grocery store, the various health-related issues that continue to pop up and the joys and trials of parenting teenagers.

In my most reflective, as opposed to knee-jerk, competitive/reactive, moments I try to view this as a changing of the guard. I have had my day in the sun and my ambitious, hard-working colleague does deserve hers. She will find that climbing the ladder comes with sacrifices, such as foregoing family obligations (or dragging your kid along with you to those evening meetings), and burdens along with the improved pay.

Maybe it would be easier to adopt that reflective attitude if I could rest on my laurels and enjoy some relaxing retrospection but that possibility has been washed away and as Dory says, I need to keep on swimming.

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