Unemployed. Yeah!

In June I left Stanford and joined Simply Hired. It was a great move for me.  I was going to be leading three teams: big data, service/ops engineering, and IT.  Two of these areas I know well, the third, big data I had some background, but I was going to need to work at getting up to speed.  It’s always great when your employer is paying you to learn, especially if it is in an interesting area. This was a great opportunity for me.

I really liked what I saw in the company. Coworkers that were easy to work with. No bureaucracy… a huge improvement from Stanford. Several times I made suggestions about things I had no responsibility for. The response was always “Oh, that’s a good idea.  We will give that a try before the week ends.”  Simply Hired had been running for a number of years, but in many ways it was like a one year start-up.  I think this is because several months before I was hired the company’s exec staff started the process to reboot the company, improving focus and realign staff which included bring in some senior folks to help mentor and direct a fairly young team.

When I joined Simply Hired, we hoped Libby has several more years of life.  The plan/hope was to work a couple of years, and then stop working to be with and care for Libby. Over the summer Libby’s health failed much more quickly than expected. I found myself frequently needing to dash out to check on Libby at home, trips to the doctors office, or the ER.  I found my coworkers supportive and understanding. When it was clear that we were looking at months (turned out weeks) not years, they granted me a leave of absence, even though I had been out of the office more than in, and they were very flexible about bring me back to work.  But after careful consideration, we all thought rather than waiting for me to return (which might not happen), it would be best for a clean separation.

The only problem now is when people ask the question “Who are you, what do you do?”, I don’t have a clean answer. I think for many of us, a big part of identity comes through our job. I was talking with some people I just met at church a couple of weeks ago.  I was asked about myself. My immediate answer went to work, and it sounded awkward.  “Well, ah, I am trying to quit my job, but it hasn’t happened yet.”  Well, I have succeeded, so now what do I put on my “card”? Unemployed?  Stay-at-Home Dad?  In Transition?  Middle-Life Crisis Dude?  Grieving Windower?  Seeker?  Nothing really captures the full picture.  For the time being, I think “Stay-at-Home Dad” is the easiest for people to grasp and is the single biggest focus, but that is just one piece of the next year.

Many people have asked me about my plans.  The short summary is that I am going to avoid “work” until 2013. We are blessed to be in a situation where doing this is not a financial strain.  In 2012 I am going to focus on taking care of Helen, taking care of myself, figuring out how to do all the things Libby used to do, and spend some time really exploring what I want to do in the second half of my life. Twice in the last eight years I tried to leave the high tech start-up world to do something radically different. Both times I found myself right back doing the same sorts of things I have been doing for years.  In 2013 what will I be doing?  Not sure yet.  I have a year to dream, explore, experiment. Could be I discover (as I have in the past) that I am made to do the work I have been doing all along and I find myself right back in the world of high tech start-ups with a new energy and renewed vision.  Then again, maybe it’s time for a change: maybe doing something with an NGO, some sort of full time ministry, or  back in school preparing for a completely different career. It’s a bit scary, but also exciting. Losing Libby has been very hard, but it’s also been an encouragement to spend the rest of my days doing things that I deeply love and believe in.  Kevin Kelly’s interview about living as if you only had six months has been a real challenge to me. I have been asking the question what if I knew I would only live 6 month, 1 year, 2 years.  What would I do?  How would it change my life?  I don’t have any definitive answers yet… but I am pretty sure at least a few things will change.

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