The Places We’ll Go

Tomorrow is our ninth anniversary. Nine years ago, when I was designing our wedding invitations, I wanted them to reflect our commitment to each other, our current home, and the adventure that lay ahead of us. We had no idea then where Hubby’s career might take us, if or how much we’d be able to continue to travel as a family (of hopefully more than two). We had big hopes and dreams for the future.

Where you go, I will go.

Where you go, I will go.

But those dreams rarely unfold as we imagine. Everything seemed to be harder and take longer than we had planned. We spent all our savings on one round of IVF/ICSI that didn’t take. Hubby’s job search dragged on for years, until he was nearly ready to give up on academia all together.

And then–suddenly–things started to work out. First a successful pregnancy, then a job offer that could launch Hubby’s academic career. We were finally fulfilling the promises we’d made to each other on our wedding day, and we were willing to pack up and move to Canada to prove it.

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My high school Spanish teacher gave me a copy of Dr. Seuss’s Oh, The Places You’ll Go! for graduation. It has lived on my bookshelf–first in my dorm room, then in my first apartment, and now here in Montreal–ever since, mostly forgotten about until it was time to pack up and move again. In the past few weeks, Missy discovered it and would pull it off the shelf every chance she got. At first, I took it away from her each time, telling her, “That’s Mama’s book.” Finally, after the umpteenth time she sat down with it, threatening to crumple the dust jacket or shred the pages, I relented. “Come sit with Mommy. Let’s read it.” And we did. And I reflected on how much time Hubby and I had spent in The Waiting Place since the beginning of our relationship and how we’d always managed to come out of it, stronger and with a clearer sense of purpose, and ultimately, with this little girl in my lap. And after I’d read it to her, I left the book on Hubby’s chair for him to read and be reminded, too, that something was almost certain to happen “(98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.)”

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It’s been six years since Hubby completed his PhD, seven since he began applying for academic jobs. After a disastrous, year-long postdoc (half the length it was supposed to be), several phone and Skype interviews, and 198 total applications, it’s about time for something to go our way.

The second-place email was devastating, partly because it was obvious the department head did want to offer Hubby a job, if only there was one to offer. Two days later, I placed that book on his chair, knowing he had another interview that afternoon. When he checked his email that morning, before even glancing at the book, he found some good news in his inbox. The head of the department was going to ask for funding for a second position, identical to the one Hubby had come so close to getting. Would he still be interested?

The answer, obviously, was a resounding “yes!” but the idea was not a given, not even close to an offer. So we spent some more time in The Waiting Place, our second home.

Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or waiting around for a Yes or No
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.

Waiting for the fish to bite
or waiting for wind to fly a kite
or waiting around for Friday night
or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake
or a pot to boil, or a Better Break
or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants
or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.
Everyone is just waiting.

Even as funding was approved and the visa application started, I held my breath, waiting for something to fall apart. He still didn’t have a written offer. Nothing was official. It could all be scattered by a light wind. Hubby, on the other hand, became more and more confident as the days passed. He announced his new position to his former adviser and letter-writers. I tentatively kept my family apprised of the developments, reminding them that nothing had been settled yet.

More than a week after that first email, he got an “official” unofficial offer. The details were not in writing, but Hubby was beginning negotiations. Was there any wiggle room on the salary? How many/which classes would he be expected to teach? Was there any funding for conferences? I remained numb.

And then this week rolled around. Hubby started calling movers. He got an email from the head of the department with ideas of classes he could teach and another one saying how excited the dean was about him coming. And it’s all starting to feel real. I keep thinking and stressing about the many things we have to do for this move and the reality of living across the Atlantic, in a small town* in Wales. In the U.S., we lived in a sprawling city of half a million, and now we’re in a compact city of three million. We have every imaginable convenience. The town we’re moving to is 13,000, doubled by the student population of the university. A totally different world in a totally foreign country.

But then I look at images like this:
wpid-1280px-aberystwyth_shore.jpg

(Source)

And I can almost imagine a kind of fairytale life. There is a castle, after all.

*So small, in fact, that I will not name it here. I don’t want it to be google-able. And if you happen to see or figure out the name of it and mention it in the comments, I will delete it (not your whole comment, just the name of the town).

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25 thoughts on “The Places We’ll Go

  1. I was so close with Ireland! That’s awesome news. I know that it feels insecure not having an official offer–we went through something similar that turned out well, but it sounds like it’s practically a sure thing. This is great–you guys deserve it. And Wales! How exciting.

    • Thank you! Getting there is going to be super stressful, but once we get settled, I hope it will be wonderful, too. It will definitely be an adventure!

      • What could be more stressful than moving to a new country while pregnant?! You did that already.. so I’m guessing you will tackle the stress with the same tenacious spirit 🙂 I’m so excited for you all!! I can speak from experience on moving from huge to small.. and raising my daughters in the small community we live in. It is a far nicer life and sense of community. The quality of life is higher, and kids thrive. Although if you are very city, urban, & cosmopolitan maybe I’m wrong? In any case.. it’s a road in the adventure of life! Congrats to your husband and Happy Anniversay!

      • Thank you! I actually grew up in small towns and rural communities, but I’m afraid I may be spoiled living in cities my whole adult life! 😉 I hope we will have a nice sense of community there, and it will be a place our daughter can thrive.

  2. You must start (if you don’t already) watching Doctor Who! You’ll be right near the time rift in Wales! And the Doctor Who Experience! Oh, and Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next books. That’s it. I want to come visit.

  3. This is very exciting for all of you! Congrats to your husband! For what it’s worth, I moved to a small town with a castle ruin in England (granted, not an isolated one) for my doctorate and had the time of my life. It’s beautiful where you’re going, and I think you’ll find every convenience there too. Tons of GORGEOUS hiking!

  4. So exciting! Although I’m also kind of sad and kicking myself that I never got to Montreal to meet you while you were still here in Canada. Wales…that’s going to be so amazing!

    • I’m thinking the same about not stopping in Toronto! (We do have to go to Ottawa to be fingerprinted at some point, though, so maybe…?) It’s a big, exciting move, but there are so many other emotions that go along with it, too (many, many posts’ worth, I’m sure).

      • I’m totally not ignoring this, we’re just in Maine in vacation right now and wifi access from our cottage is spotty. When are you going to Ottawa? We have tons of friends there who have been hounding us to visit, so we’re overdue to go for sure. We must coordinate! Email me! Infertilesmurf at gmail dot com

      • Will do! I don’t know yet when we’re going. My husband has been dealing with all the visa stuff, and I can’t remember if he said it’s before or after we send the visa application. I think it’ll be at least mid-August, but I’ll email you for sure!

  5. Congrats! That is such great news. My husband and I also spend a lot of time in the waiting place so I know how amazing it is when the wait is finally over.
    Wales is a lovely place, though I have only visited. I hope you find a nice community there. Bonus? your daughter may develop an adorable accent. 🙂

    • That would be pretty cute, huh? I’m just excited to be settling somewhere, at least long enough to decide if that’s where we want to stay.

  6. Oh my gosh! How wonderful. I’m so happy for you guys. What an amazing adventure you are on and what a lovely life (if stressful at times) you have created for yourselves.

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