Hope and Inspiration

Preparations for moving to the Pacific Northwest have begun in earnest, and stacks of filled boxes reach for the ceiling. All is in a structured disarray, and the cat is not amused.

With no prospects for teaching in the greater Boston region this summer or even fall — colleges are either cutting back on hiring, or hiring only tenure-track faculty with PhD’s instead of adjunct instructors like me — and a wife who hates her toxic job, we have decided to look for work in a more friendly climate. We don’t have jobs waiting for us, although we feel that Seattle has very rich soil, and after we plant ourselves there we will grow very nicely and blossom. Amazon.com, Microsoft, Boeing and other big firms are hiring, so it’s a good time to change fields.

This makes the third time I will be moving to the Northwest without a job waiting for me. I will point out that the first two times I was employed within weeks, which tends to make one optimistic. Adding to the current employment situation is the fact that I am not happy here. If given enough time I could give you a very long list explaining why I don’t like the East Coast; me, I love the West Coast, and in particular the Pacific Northwest, having lived there for some 25 years. The second time I moved there from the Washington DC area it was like going back home, and I needed some kleenex when I passed the ‘Welcome to Washington State’ sign on interstate highway 90. My wife is taking a wait-and-see approach, and all I can do is try to reassure her that it’s going to be OK.

We are both, however, somewhere between apprehensive and terrified, given the less than hearty state of the economy, and must place our trust in our own skills, marketability and devotion to hard work. I myself will not be praying, but will be pounding the pavement and sending out résumés.

Those who know me are aware that I am not religious, and that I see no rational, causal relationship between prayer and receiving that which is prayed for. That does not mean that I am not spiritual, which I am. It’s just that I trust and believe in different things than a Big Guy in the sky watching and interceding when plaintive broadcasts from Earthlings are received.

There is a source that I use for inspiration, a quote from the great German poet pictured above, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. (Don’t even try to pronounce it.) Way back in college, I studied German literature and philosophy, and as you may imagine, we spent quite a lot of time and effort studying Germany’s greatest literary figure.

This quote (see below) really helped me when I began to plan my move to Scotland. That was big. For about half my life I had lived and taught happily in the Puget Sound area, mostly in Bellingham and Seattle, which had been as comfortable as an old sweater. I lived in one of the most beautiful parts of the country, and was lucky enough to have a good teaching job and lots of great friends. Then, in the winter of 2005-2006, I began to formulate a plan to challenge myself and move to Scotland, where I would pursue post-graduate work, and then settle down.

It’s important to shake things up now and then, so my ambition was to go back to grad school, earn a PhD, and get a scholarly position in Scotland. Then I could spend the rest of my days teaching, playing golf, munching on haggis and downing the occasional wee dram of good single malt scotch. Plus there’s that hard to explain sensation of having fresh air swirl around one’s private parts while wearing a kilt

It was a huge undertaking, quitting my job, selling my house and car, and saying goodbye to all my friends. (They threw me a goodbye party, which took the form of a golf tournament and barbecue with 75+ people. At the end, when we were toasting and cutting a cake, Leroy the ringleader stood up, made an uncharacteristically short speech, and announced that a tidy sum of cash had been raised to assist me with moving expenses; it was almost $2000. I could not speak for fully ten minutes, and was so overcome with emotion I had to hide in the bathroom.) This was not a move across town, rather, it meant uprooting myself and moving around the world.

It was damn scary.

But as time went on, and more items were crossed off the list, I began to see that Goethe’s quote, his prognostication, was coming true. Little things began to fall into place, and new friends turned up out of nowhere to help me, as if the cosmos was giving me a friendly little shove in the small of the back. It was amazing.

Maybe his words will come true again, as we make arrangements to pack, and to transport ourselves, our stuff and our cat Hamish to Seattle, where hopefully good jobs and a bright future await us.

It’s time to get back to packing, so I will leave you with his quote, which I hope you will read and reflect upon.

The moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decisions, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.

Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.

Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.

Begin it now.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)


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