That's the word of the year. This is the first summer in about seven that has been bereft of fun activities, following a winter and spring that were similarly ... well, blah.
The absence is made more evident by the "Memories" page on Facebook. That's where I see photos from this time last year, when I was mid-roadtrip and soaking up the cool Oregon air and good company on my native coast. Or both of the years prior, when I was completing graduate residencies in the Canadian Maritimes. Or the year before that, when I spent a week exploring Acadia National Park and the surrounding rough edges of Downeast Maine. Or the year before that, when I was skipping around Glasgow and Edinburgh in the lead-up to a stellar World Pipe Band Championship showing. Or the year before that, when I was able to tack on a couple extra days before a work meeting in San Francisco, so I could see cousins and college friends after 15 or 20 years apart.
"But, weren't you just in Albuquerque?" It's true, I was there for the two weeks straddling Memorial Day. But there have been a lot of 60-hour work weeks and missing weekends or holidays since then. It's also worth remembering that I had some free days out west, but I was also working half the time I was there. It wasn't a vacation so much as an investigation of a change of scenery.
And it's a change of scenery I'd like to explore more. In fact, all signs seem to point toward New Mexico, despite daily life pulling against me like a mud wallow on a pair of loose boots.
What do I mean by that?
On a day when I was seriously beginning to question whether I could continue to stretch both ends of my days to meet the needs of a colleague and a client, a car turning into the gas station ahead of me had gleaming yellow New Mexico plates ... in rural, northeastern New York state.
On the day when I learned that a possible opportunity in Albuquerque wasn't as good a fit as I had anticipated, and before I'd said anything to anyone, my phone dinged with an out-of-the-blue text from a friend in New Mexico, just offering a summertime hello.
And this past Saturday, while I was standing in line at the recently opened Blaze pizza shop (a chain I first visited with friends out west) on my single break from two more solid days of working when I didn't think I would be, my phone lit up with another out-of-the-blue message from another friend, offering suggestions for places to plant myself in the high desert.
I should be making decisions about that next move right now. In a measured fashion that I couldn't apply last year. I should be making plans. Knocking on doors. Setting up dominoes and knocking the first few down.
Instead, I'm standing in mud and trying to peer into the future. Will my clients still be onboard with me working that far away? I've certainly been floating it past them for the last year. For a couple, it's fine. We don't need to be in the same place. For a couple of others, it should be fine. I know it's workable because I've worked with distant teams before. But I don't know whether their comfort zones will stretch that far.
One thing I do know is that long-distance moves from the Northeast are inadvisable between December and April. Snow and ice make the process of driving a truck and trailer cross-country hazardous and unpredictable. So it's either go late this fall or stay put until next spring.
Do I really need to stay here to make sure next year's contracts are squared away? The idea of sticking around through another icy winter is soul-crushing. More wasted time. More isolation. More going through motions that never seem to change.
Decisions don't come easy. And right now, I am stuck.