Tuesday, January 15, 2019

2018 in Retrospect: settling in and sea changes

So, 2018. What a year. I'm typing this in mid-January because it's taken me this long to even figure out what to say. On a global and political level...yeah, let's not even go there. I don't have much to say that doesn't sound terribly pessimistic, and I don't think pessimism is helpful at all. Instead I'll just keep this a personal recounting, which is a happier tale. 2018 was far kinder to me than to many, and I'm aware of how fortunate I am in that regard.

I do think of 2018 as the Year of the Never-ending Move, because so much time and effort was devoted to completing our transition from Colorado to New Zealand. Obtaining my resident visa, selling one house long distance, buying another one here, ugh, I don't want to talk about all that either. I'm just glad all the stress and work involved with those tasks is over. The final step on the path came in November, when our household goods arrived and I was at last reunited with my book collection (hooray!):

So it turns out I have a lot of books
Unpacking and sorting through all our boxes (and selling/donating what we no longer needed) felt like a second job for a while! The hardest part was figuring out where to put all my books in a house that doesn't have any bookshelves (ack). I'm currently using some tool shelves in the garage, combined with creative stacking in various closets.

Our garage has become my library
Speaking of jobs, another big change for me came just before Christmas, when I said farewell to the company where I've worked for nearly 21 years. That's my whole adult life since leaving grad school! I knew when we decided to stay in NZ that I might need to leave my job--I'd originally assumed I'd be resigning when we visited Colorado back in April. My department thought they had found a way to keep me on as a remote employee, but alas, it couldn't be maintained long term. I can't stay working as a remote but regular employee for reasons related to NZ tax law, and since I'm now a resident of a foreign country, I can't easily be hired as a contractor or incorporated company, thanks to US technology export regulations.

Though I had plenty of time to prepare for my exit, the final day when I delivered my last project and said goodbye to my co-workers brought me a whole tangled mess of emotions. On the one hand, I'm not sure I'll ever work for a better company. The projects were always super cool and challenging, my co-workers were amazing, the work environment was flexible and friendly, and the company treated me well. I mean, heck, not only did they support me working part time ever since the birth of my son, I still had a full pension plus a 401(k). How many US companies even offer pensions anymore?

Yet after so many years spent working in one corner of the aerospace industry, it's also exciting to contemplate seeking out some new horizons. New Zealand has a young but rapidly growing space and technology sector, with some creative applications and approaches. What I'd love best is to contribute to climate change mitigation technologies, since at this point I feel it's our best hope for any kind of reasonable future. That kind of work is happily a lot easier in a country like NZ where the government is 100% on board with the need.

This is the view outside my window as I type. What I'd love most is to ensure sights like this never disappear from our planet
So despite my sadness at leaving a great workplace, I'm excited about what new opportunities I might find. The happy news for those of you who enjoy my books is that I don't intend to jump into another job straight away. As part of moving to NZ, we downsized our spending so we can live on one salary. Since my husband has secured a good full-time job, that gives me a gift of time which I'm terribly grateful to have.

For so long now I've been juggling engineering, parenting, marriage, and writing, and feeling like I'm constantly dropping the ball on one role or the other. In these last few years, the casualty has mostly been writing. As demonstrated by the fact it's been an embarrassing number of years now since I put out Labyrinth of Flame, and I haven't yet finished a new novel, or even the short stories-turned-into-novellas I still owe as a bonus for Kickstarter backers. I wince every time I think about it.

Well, no more. While I take time to consider the future direction of my engineering career, now is my chance to finish the writing projects that have been languishing on my hard drive for so long. Well, okay, first I mean to seize the opportunity to spend the last few weeks of my son's summer vacation focused wholly on having fun with him, without ever having to say, "Sorry, I can't play, I've got to finish this code." If 2018 has made me aware of anything in life, it's how swiftly time slips past, especially as kids grow older. My beloved kiddo isn't little anymore, but he's still young enough to love spending time with me. I don't know how much longer that will last, and my first goal of 2019 is to make the most of it.

Already working on priority #1: silly faces and smiles
But summer breaks, like childhood itself, don't last long. When my son returns to school in a few short weeks, it'll be time for my next goal of 2019: Finishing All The Drafts. Yes, allllllllllll the drafts! In addition to the Shattered Sigil short story collection, and my still-in-progress adult fantasy novel The Dreaming Sea, my son also asked me to write him a middle-grade SFF book that has "both magic and lasers." I've got my work cut out for me, I think!

I suspect that even without a day job to juggle, I'm not and never will be a fast writer. But I'm curious to see what I can do when I have the chance to really buckle down without as much interruption and division of focus. Fingers crossed for a far more interesting list of personal accomplishments by the end of 2019!

In the meantime, I'll leave you with some pics from our recent trip to Australia over the holidays, since one of my favorite ways to herald the new year is by enjoying some of nature's beauty. Best wishes for 2019, everyone. May we all end up in a better place by the year's end.

Sea cliffs and sunlight
Roiling waves

The coastal bush, echoing with the deafening lovesongs of a million cicadas 
Hungry lorikeets

This is my husband's preferred amount of crowd at a beach

I found the sea's stony heart...
Cormorant or sea-dragon? You decide
Sand and fun

A different kind of beauty: Sydney's Darling Harbour on a rainy night