If you try sometimes, you get what you need

Try this for a dream sequence ...
Kates and I were hiking through an unfamiliar wooded area and there was a wolf with a beautiful gray and brown coat walking alongside us. The wolf acted sort of like a pet; it wasn't hostile toward us and we never felt like we were in any danger by walking with it. But there was something about this wolf that just bugged me. I was telling Kates that we had to get rid of it; somehow we needed to lose it ... Then, suddenly, we came to a stream in the middle of the woods, and our only option was to cross it -- we just had to figure out how.
Then I woke up.

I had that dream in early October, on the night I learned about what I considered to be an enormous career opportunity at my college stomping grounds in Missouri. The job opening presented a new media role for me, working at an institution I love. It presented new challenges I was eager to take on and an opportunity to earn a masters degree.

The opening appeared as I've been feeling as though I've done everything I can here, and that the only way for me to grow is to move on -- even while knowing how tough it will be to leave a place where I've grown so comfortable and become so attached.

For years I'd scanned job opportunities that interested me, and I occasionally brought them home to Kates. Most of the time, she'd shrug her shoulders or shake her head; I'd file them away and forget about them ... But this one was different. Kates' face lit up as she read it and she exclaimed, "This sounds perfect for you!" I just nodded and knew what we had to do ... Seeing so many of my cohorts come and go over the years, I'd developed a rule that said I wouldn't apply for any opening unless I saw it as a significant growth opportunity and I was confident I could do the job well.

This new opportunity was exactly that. I knew I'd regret it if I didn't at least apply for the job. After that, all we could do was wait and let the process run its course. If it wasn't meant to be, we kept saying, it wouldn't happen ... What I didn't anticipate was that that October weekend -- which began with my dream -- would be the start of what turned into one of the wildest emotional roller coasters of our lives.

* * *

As Kates and I discussed my dream over breakfast on that Saturday morning, there was little doubt in our minds that the wolf symbolized the burdens we'd been carrying and the stream represented a major decision in our future.

Later that same day, we were driving around the city, doing errands when we stopped at a traffic light. We noticed the license plate on the car in front of us read: "Itll B OK." ... We both laughed and noted it as another sign. ... Then, at church on Sunday, our pastor preached about "Living Fearlessly in a Fearful World" and leaving our security blankets behind.

To say we agonized about this decision would be the understatement of the century. We discussed all of the scenarios again and again -- and again. It consumed my thoughts at work and our dinner conversations at night. We talked repeatedly about how happy we are with the lives we live right now -- our house, our surroundings, our friends and the close proximity to our families. ... But we also believed it was the right time for a move and that there is much more for us to experience and accomplish. In some ways, this process was somewhat therapeutic because it forced me to gauge where I was in my life and think hard about what I wanted out of it. Sure I'd miss the romance of working for a newspaper, and I enjoy the adrenaline rush of a big story. But I was sure I didn't want to be writing about crime for the rest of my life.

* * *

Just when the first phase of anxiety had subsided in early November and I started to lose hope that I would be invited to an interview, I got the first phone call ... So two weeks ago, I boarded an early morning flight and flew to a snowy Kansas City. I spent a day checking out the real estate, took a toll of the business makeup and got peppered with questions from two interview panels. That same night -- exhausted and whirling with questions about my future -- I boarded a plane and flew home to Milwaukee.

More agonizing ensued, and in the days after that interview it seemed as though the winds changed. During that first phase, Kates and I could barely contain our excitement for the change, but a flood of doubts began filling our minds after the interview. Is this really the right move for us? Is it worth uprooting our family? Can we really sell our house in this economic climate? How is all of this going to affect Phoebe? Is Kates going to be able to find a new teaching job?

Kates summed up the changing tide perfectly: The dream had suddenly become a reality. And it scared us.

It seemed every place I drove past or person I conversed with here triggered a positive memory. Realizing all the places and people we would be leaving behind made our decision so much more difficult. Our church family. Phoebe's day care. Our house. The library. My baseball league. Lake Michigan. Frank's Diner. The Chinese place we always go to for our Asian fix. The train. Milwaukee and Chicago. The Brewers, Cubs and Packers. Summerfest and the concert venues. The museums ... The list goes on and on, and we could include everything from our dentist to our car repairmen. We've really enjoyed the big city perks.

But Kates and I also had been looking forward to the charms of life in a small college town. Going to the football and basketball games. Taking in the entertainment and cultural events on campus. The recreation. A new church. The locally-based restaurants and businesses. Trips to Kansas City. New friends, and reconnecting with old ones. A simpler lifestyle.

* * *

Phase three began Nov. 24, when I got another phone call during which I was offered the position. The agonizing continued as we discussed all of the scenarios with our families over Thanksgiving dinners and sought advice from our closest friends ... Knowing our futures were at stake, the decision kept us up at night, made our stomachs churn and ruined our appetites for a couple days. Tears were shed, and on the eve of my deadline to make a decision, Kates and I went to bed thinking our future involved staying put.

But on Tuesday morning, the winds reversed again. Something clicked, and Kates called me at work. "We have to do this!" she said.

"Yeah!?" I confirmed.

"Yeah. We have to do this," she said. I sensed an urgency in her voice.

"Ok!" I said.

"Ok," Kates said. Both of us burst into laughter, completely comfortable with the decision and feeling the weight of the world lifted from our shoulders.

On Tuesday night, I gratefully accepted the new job. On Wednesday morning, I resigned my position at the News. And I will begin 2010 working a new job in Missouri.

* * *

All along, everything in me and around me was saying that we had to go after this opportunity. I'm a man who strongly believes everything happens for a reason, that there's a grand plan for all of us. I was finding the signs in everything from the songs playing on the radio or in my head, to the conversations I was having with friends and coworkers.

Kates and I had been counting on the Olympics in Chicago, but that fell through; Chicago's had a rough year ... Joel and Stephanie just moved to Missouri, and my father's looking for a job. Perhaps he and Mom can join us ... Even Big Bird decided to leave Sesame Street -- although he changed his mind ... And then there was this recent column from Joe Posnanski.

Throughout the process, I prayed for signs to lead me in one direction or another, and all of those prayers were answered.

We know the months ahead won't be easy, but we are prepared to do what we have to do to make the best of it. We've started referring to it as "a new adventure."

So I'll end this post with another dream sequence ...
It was night time and I was walking across a campus. I opened a door and stepped into a large building. It was pitch black inside, but I knew exactly where I was -- I was within the halls of my future employer. I walked up the staircase to the second floor and headed to my office. Once I got there, I flipped on the light switch, took my seat at a desk and began working.
Then I woke up.

I had that dream on the morning I was offered the job. It was then that I knew where I needed to be.


E and K said...

Wow! You are a talented writer, friend. This post is very encouraging to me as Eric is still looking for a job. There are two possibilities on the horizon (although neither of them are official yet), and they are very different from each other. We are also feeling conflict over which direction to head, and we are praying for clear signs and guidance. So, again, this is encouraging. Praying for a smooth transition for your family as you prepare to start a new adventure!

Horns! said...

Thanks Kylene! I think about you, Eric and your situation often. I will continue to pray for you guys and hope that something comes your way!