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Taking a Breather

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A couple of weeks ago a physicist who had been exchanging pleasantries by email with me commented that I seemed down, and I told him it felt as if my life were assembled from someone else’s quarks.

I have spent the equivalent of a long summer job in a highly-visible position a lot of people would love to have. It was an interesting experiment, I worked with great people, I had fascinating challenges… and I have resigned to pursue other interests and spend more time with my family.

It wasn’t so much a question of what I was doing, as what I wasn’t doing; and it wasn’t where I was, as where I wasn’t. About a month ago I wrote some colleagues to ask their opinion, and my dear, dear, dear–and hugely patient–friends wrote back to say, in large part, what I knew deep down: for those of us who have some work choice–and what a privilege it is to have work choice in the first place–work takes up too much of our lives for us not to be doing something we love.

As announced earlier, this year it’s the big five-oh. Genny had commented how much better it is to be 50 than a teenager, and I fully agree. For my 30th birthday, I allowed myself to give up dancing and took myself on a driving trip through the Benalux; for my 40th birthday, Sandy threw a big bash that was as good as having my own wake well in advance of the event that will prompt it; and for 50, though it’s months away, I allowed myself to go, rather than stay, in a position that was not a good fit. (Technical expertise was not the issue; once I sussed out the academic jargon, I realized we weren’t really doing anything I hadn’t done before, and sometimes much earlier.)

I will miss a lot of people, but that’s always the case. In the last several years, I’ve had a number of people pop up from various former lives, and each time what we share are the people stories.

Do I have plans? Of course. I always land on my feet, and I have several things brewing. Am I a little scared? Naturally. Then there’s the guilt of leaving good people. But most of all, I’m resting, writing, and catching up on my life… and even enjoying Tallahassee, in all its sunny, slightly sticky spring glory, as if I had just moved here again for the very first time.

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