Wednesday, July 22, 2009

M.I.T.

“No one from M.I.T. would come to this God-forsaken place.”

I was bagging a few groceries when I heard myself being addressed by a large, sweating man across from me. I smiled and said it happens all the time. I was wearing my “I haven’t showered or even combed my hair today but at least I look smart” shirt. What he said felt true, especially during this relentless heat wave but it’s not. It really does happen all the time.

I could relate to what the man was saying. There’s a lot to love about this area but the stuff that’s bad can be hard to reconcile. Right now it’s the heat. There are times it’s the wind and dust. Other times it feels like the only way to get any culture or even fun is to drive hours and hours to the larger cities. Like you can’t get there from here but there’s nowhere else to go. We can’t even build ourselves a nice (or even adequate) aquatic center.

As much as this was never a place I saw us putting down roots, it’s was a very large relief when we headed in this direction.

When Michael was accepted to M.I.T. for graduate school, we weren’t yet married but would be a few weeks before the start of school. I remember being excited about it; I’d never been to Boston and it seemed like with a graduate degree from M.I.T., we could write our own ticket. We could move almost anywhere when he graduated and he’d be paid handsomely.

After four years he was set to graduate with two master’s degrees. Sweet, right? But the reality of the situation was that there was only one company offering a job to him. Oyster Creek, a nuclear power plant, in Forked River, NJ. Truth be told, he probably could have landed the same job with just his undergraduate degree from M.I.T. and his nuclear submarine experience. And did I mention it was in New Jersey? I was very pregnant at the time and just so done with the East Coast’s heat and humidity. But that was the job. Michael liked it and he made a lot of friends but I always had my heart set on the West Coast. After two years there was a job offer at Energy Northwest out in the Hanford Reservation (which he initially turned down for a job at a dotcom in Boston which subsequently fell prey to that bursting bubble, leaving him jobless just 3 ½ months later; 6 weeks after we purchased a house, two weeks before family invaded for Christmas, and exactly on my birthday. Praise the Lord that job was still open and waiting for him that same day).

I don’t know what made me think there wouldn’t be struggles. That we’d be just where we wanted to be. We don’t even both want to be in the same place (his ideal is the California coast and mine is the San Juan Islands) so truly that will never happen. And money? Like The Valentine Brothers (and later Simply Red) said, “Money’s too tight to mention.” These days it doesn’t seem to matter where you got your degree, you’ve got to be thankful you actually have a job.
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