What Preceded It

My husband loves Amazon.

Or maybe I should say he is simply a consummate Internet shopper. And he’s right. Why waste our valuable time on going to stores, standing in line, and using up gas when we have Amazon at our finger tips? When Amazon Prime came out (free 2-day shipping for a small annual price to pay), Jon was his typical fast adopter self and signed up. Ergo: every day there is an Amazon package waiting on our doorstep and the kids have started calling him the “Amazon Whore”. The other day he unwrapped one of those packages in front of me and out fell a box of cue tips. Cue tips? Really?

I was a little leery of Amazon myself.

While, I, like everyone, love the amount of content they have, their Kindle platform and their ease of use, I didn’t like the controversy involving Hachette authors, and this summer, I read an article in Harper’s about Amazon’s warehouse workers. Dropping the magazine on our California sun-soaked patio, I turned to Jon and said: “Well, another company I do not need to work for… next time you order cue tips, think of the poor sucker who had to box those up…”

The very next day, I was contacted by an Amazon recruiter, via LinkedIn. And the rest is history. But not so fast…

All in all, I needed to be raked over the customary coals, interview after interview and there was talk about the position being in Bratislava (a miniature Prague, I guess, with lots of opera– as if that would sell me on the city of meat dishes and dumplings), Capetown (cool, cool, but what about those townships?) and then Cork (phew– green hills, Guinness and more Guinness). And then came the yes, as I was touching down in Amsterdam as we were traveling through Europe, to share a sense of European roots with Will before he went off to college. Or let me backpedal, I had my last interview in Dublin, heard the good news in Amsterdam, negotiated about the offer in London and received the final offer at home. And then I had to decide.

Would I leave my academic career behind (this sounds more grandiose than it sounds, as I was on the lecturer track and although I had obtained a continuing appointment and published 3 books, it was clear the lecturer track was a dead end in terms of rewards or promotion while, on the other hand, mediocrity and scandal were awarded with tenure: there is a campus novel here, don’t get me started), and abandon my passion for teaching and the great students I had met at Berkeley over the years?

But the bigger question of course was:

How could I leave my husband and nearly 16-year-old daughter? Caroline had two more years in highschool to go and Jon could not move because of his job here. My son was flying the nest anyway, so he was already oblivious to this bit of family drama. My close friends know about the discussions we have had as a family, and many friends, career women with kids, counseled me with all sorts of advice.

The fact that there were questions in re the sanity of my professional trajectory abroad, let alone the health of my marriage or my common sense as a mother were interesting: if a man was offered the same opportunity, would similar questions have been raised?

But the feminist movement did seem to have made a dent somewhere because the majority of my female friends told me to go for it. Or maybe they were just glad I was going to be out of their lives (lol) and drink myself to death in some swampy Irish glen. Oi.

So I said yes.

And right after I finished the e-mail to tell the Amazon folks I was going to take their offer, I should have felt relieved, right? If heart palpitations and a pit in my stomach so heavy are the new relief, I’ll buy that if I’m high, but honestly, it felt more like fear. Like fear of the abyss. Like fear of death. Fear of the unknown. Fear of what the hell am I thinking and if this is menopausal madness, I ain’t liking it and need estrogen replacement therapy.

While I haven’t started work yet but was told to fly to Ireland pronto, as in right after Labor Day, I had about a week to resign, wrap up (clean out my Berkeley office), say goodbye to friends, and drop Will off in Boston. This still leaves for plenty of worrywart time, and I have been lying awake at night, and drifted off into so many what if’s that I could probably could start a scenario planning business and make a mint.

I am not going to tell you about how much I am going to miss Jon and Caroline. I will miss Will, too, but the kid was rearing to go and not ready to look back. Case in point: although he admitted to feeling nostalgic as he was cleaning out his room for his sister who’s been in panther pose, ready to jump and snatch up that nice big bedroom of his (“provided it gets disinfected first” she hinted), he was his usual poker face self as we walked out the door to drive to SFO this afternoon (Caroline and I will follow tomorrow). “Bye, house…” he said. Was that a little crack in his voice, or was that mommy melodrama, just wanting to hear, “yes, this was the house, this was the little boy you once were and look how you have grown and are ready to take on the world. How cool, but how sad to leave those little footsteps behind, or that little hand print you made in the wet concrete of the driveway when you were no older than six”.

On the way to the airport, Jon was blaring on a conference call in the back seat and William was quiet. He did make a lot of selfies as yes, they are the generation of self-documentation and self-absorption. I sometimes regret that some great-great-great-grandparent didn’t journal, even if it were for a year or a month, but this generation will have a whole fucking databank sitting somewhere with selfies so many that a field of dandelions might actually be more interesting for the generations coming after. But I digress.

All I am saying is that even though people have praised me for my boldness, I am a little mouse and I am filled with dread. I love my life in California, my daughter is an awesome, and at times, hilarious human being and Jon is my soul mate, best buddy and closest friend. I could have chosen not to go. I could have chosen them rather than some job at Amazon in the Emerald Isle. But I was at a point in my life where I needed to embrace change to grow, learn new things and get out of my comfort zone to feel miserably alive. When we stop pushing ourselves and the boundaries around us, we become disengaged and muted (I didn’t want to say “dead”, because then everyone was going to fall over me and tell me this is indeed midlife crisis silliness and I should stop it right now and for years to come). But that’s no way to live. If there is one single thing that this country, like no other country in the world, has taught me, it is that living, true living, is taking risks, following your heart and confound the naysayers.

Nice rhetoric, but did I tell you that I will miss the dogs?

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5 Responses to What Preceded It

  1. Jacqueline says:

    Hoi Inez
    Heel veel succes. Ik bewonder je moed. Heb je altijd al gehad. Als je ff een break wilt kom gerust naar Brussel. Ik ben Commissie af en bezig met een dyslexie en IT project. John’s zus woont in Cork. Ze is alleenstaand en werkt voor foundation. Als je wilt breng ik je met haar in contact. Misschien kunnen we ns skypen. Geef me je adres.
    Tot gauw brave new woman!

  2. Dank je Jac, ik laat mijn info wel even achter op je FB.

  3. Susan says:

    So inspiring Inez. And if you weren’t afraid and didn’t have mixed feeling about leaving your husband and daughter, I would think you were weird. What an adventure.

  4. Inez, You didn’t reject your DNA as this goal oriented wanderlust sits in your blood for generations. Don’t be afraid because no one knows what the future holds. Have no regrets and accept the consequences of your decision. That’s happiness. In 1998 i was sure that the Tolerance Park would be politically accepted within six months as it was about a profound principle and laid at the founding history of two republics – the Dutch one and the American one. How can one go wrong with national, state, city and Dutch history? Sixteen years later not one reply of interest! Whatever is the result of your move, embrace it because all experiences are about growth. XX Joep

  5. J says:

    Just remember, this is not a life sentence of incarceration like in “Orange is the New Black” or the army. You have the wonderful freedom to quit anytime and return. But what awaits you is a new chapter in your life, filled with mystery, challenges, heartache, high fives, new friends, new enemies, wonderful airport reunions and teary farewells, welcome home sex, will miss you very much sex, new stories, exploring a new culture and landscape, and change, which we all need in our lives. Travel safe…

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