Over the last two weeks, I’ve been offered two dream jobs, two awful jobs, one job that would kill my soul, and one delayed rejection from a job I had already assumed I did not get back in August. Checking my inbox these days, in short, has been a bit weird. I accepted one job with great public gusto, and threw myself into the reality that I was going to move across the country to work for one of my favorite scholars/women. Discussions with my spouse have left me sleepless at night because my new opportunity did not quite align with his career plans. Again.
After putting in my two-week notice at my last job, I passed on responsibilities, nominated replacements for my duties, wrote how-to manuals, cried through many goodbyes, advocated for the promotion of my Instructional Designer, and stumbled through the awkwardness of an exit interview. It’s been an incredibly emotional month filled with big decisions and questions about my little family’s future.
The Monday after #dLRN15, I roamed around SFO looking for a plug to charge my laptop and cell phone. I pulled up a chair to check my correspondence as one does at the airport, and there was an email from Kim Thanos, the CEO of Lumen Learning. This was not entirely odd since she and I were scheduled to present together at NW eLearn in a few days.
I’ve been working with Lumen since the start of the year on the Next Generation Courseware Challenge grant as one of the two liaisons for my beloved SBCTC, and I’ve helped several faculty adopt Lumen’s textbooks. Correspondence with somebody from Lumen Learning has been a regular part of my professional life and I have been an enthusiastic supporter of their company. Unlike many vendors who have hounded my inbox when I was Director of eLearning and Instructional Design, they were the only company who talked about helping first-generation students with OER. The poor. The disadvantaged.
The People who struggle in higher education with what Marcia Devlin brilliantly summarized as “cultural capital” in her #dLRN15 keynote.
These are topics near and dear to my heart because 22 years ago, that was me. Thankfully I had a mother who drove me to the public library book mobile and a father who helped me believe in myself. My parents did everything they could to teach me the value of a college education and continued to love me as I struggled to find my way back to college. Teaching community college students for over a decade made me realize how lucky I was that my home life helped paved the way for me to figure out what cultural and social capital was necessary to make it in higher education.
The open door policy of community colleges is worth fighting for, and open education, I believe, is not a utopian ideal but a real tangible solution for students and teachers during ever increasingly austere times. The very real binary thinking for community college students is that they can either afford their textbook or they cannot. They can either afford college or they cannot.
Hearing people talk about these ideas at #dLRN15 was inspiring and meaningful to me. These were the ideas very much on my mind as I dialed Kim’s number last week.
During our call, Kim and I exchanged pleasantries, and she got right to the point. She told me that she and David Wiley had discussed that they would like to hire me for an Instructional Designer position. My jaw dropped as I listened to her offer. To her ideas. To her plans. To what she and David had discussed about my work. To her invitation to hire me. To hire me for her team at Lumen Learning. To hire me. I don’t think I closed my mouth the whole time she talked, and I’m sure my face went pale.
After gathering my wits enough to ask her for some time to think about it, and I sat there and stared at the people in the Cinnabon line. Took deep breaths only to become nauseous from that sickening sweet smell of cinnamon roll chemistry. People passed by in the usual hurried pace that you only see at airports. I listened to the sound of luggage wheels. I listened to flight cancellations and calls for lost people.
Then I called my husband and said, “You’re never going to believe this, but Kim Thanos just offered me a job as an Instructional Designer.”
He started laughing really hard and said, “Nobody gave a rat’s ass about anything you did for ten years and now look at you. Getting offered two of your dream jobs in one week! Damn, I’m so proud of you.” He continued to laugh really hard.
I asked him to cancel our dinner plans that night with our friends in Seattle and I gave him a list of links to check out and do some research about Kim, David, and the Z Degree so that we could talk about this offer.
Then he said with some glee, “There are so many places I could work in Portland. I’ve been really worried about my future possibilities in rural Vermont. Portland is a place that has always been on my list of cities I think I would love. The cycling scene is awesome.”
With that, we hung up and I got on my plane to Seattle. Flying out of the Bay Area into the clouds gave me time to reflect on how much I disliked living in California back in the late 90s. How much I felt like a fish out of water. The oddball. The weirdo. I then ran through a list of places that I have lived where I have felt like an outsider. Where it’s been hard to make to friends. Where it was a risky move that either left me broke, broken hearted, and/or depressed.
Last week after dinner, Scott and I paused to watch the sunset by Bellingham Bay and he said, “you know I thought we were going to grow old here together. Going back to New England is something that I thought I’d always do, but you know, I really love the life we have in the Northwest.” We watched the sun slip down and under Lummi Island on the horizon.
It’s been very difficult to imagine leaving my friends, my network, and the only place that has felt like home. The Pacific Northwest is the only place I have ever felt at peace since my parents and I moved to Georgia when I was nine. In some ways, I’ve felt like “the new girl” everyplace I have lived except for the Pacific Northwest.
The plane descended and the giant mound of Mt. Rainier came into view. The plane tipped west towards Seattle and we flew right over the Space Needle and Frank O. Ghery designed Experience Music Project. There were two ferries crossing in the water. Mt. Baker was in the distance, and the Olympic Mountains were out.
That’s my favorite NW saying, by the way, “The mountains are out.” It’s optimistic code for it’s clear enough to see all of the mountainous glory that made me fall in love with this place. This region. These people. These mountains.
It was a picture perfect PNW afternoon. I knew then, I had to stay in the PNW.
Scott greeted me at the airport and launched into an enthusiastic summary of what he had learned about Lumen Learning from the interwebs. What he had thought of their work. Their goals. Their mission. Their leadership. Their scholarship. Their location. He said, “I think you’re a perfect fit for this job, and they are doing some really interesting and cool work. I am really impressed with Lumen. Plus, Portland could be so much better for me.”
He then launched into the nightmarish logistics that were starting to mount about our move to Vermont. Our semi-reliable 1987 VW van wasn’t selling. Nobody was interested in my commuter car because of the VW lawsuit. Danke shon to that liar at VW, my car now books 5k less than what it should be worth.
Finding a place to live on the other side of the country was proving to be a lot harder than we thought. The mister had been hiding how worried he was about his employment opportunities because it was such a great job for me. Like any devoted spouse who is also an academic in the humanities, he put on a good face on to support me.
Moving in five weeks in the winter, in reality, was stressing us out. To complicate things further, I am going to China for two out of the next five weeks to present about American OL education on behalf of the SBCTC with Jess Thompson. I’ve also been gone a lot in the last weeks with the last two conferences, so he has been unfairly left with all of the crappy logistics of moving. [More on China later, readers, I am really over the moon about this opportunity.]
Listening to him objectively list out the positive and negative about both jobs, everything that was once a cracked abstract mosaic swirled into concrete beautiful picture of our future.
When he finally paused, I said, I’m going to take the Lumen job, but it’s going to be very difficult to turn down the opportunity to work with Amy Collier. I regret that I had been so public about my decision, but really, who knew that this would happen? I applied to Lumen Learning back in November 2014, and didn’t hear back from them then. This offer was so completely unexpected and beyond my wildest dreams.
Scott drove us to Capitol Hill to my favorite sushi restaurant Ha Na, and then we got coffee from my favorite barista stand, Caffe Vita. We sat on a bench and people watched. Reminisced about the first time we moved together. How things have changed so much. How it would be easier for him to defend his dissertation if we lived in Portland. How he’s had a recent breakthrough that his advisor supports so his writing has been productive lately. How much easier it would be to move and look for a place to live. How Portland has such an amazing cycling culture. How I’ll still be within train/driving distance of my best friends who feel like the sisters I never had. How it’s so perfect for both us in so many ways. How it will be a big change yet familiar at the same time. How I know I will love working with Lumen Learning.
A few friends gave me advice and talked me through this decision, and I love you all. Amy is going to build an unbelievable vision for the future of her college, and I am deeply sorry for any delay in momentum this decision may have caused. The work that they have already begun will be exciting to watch from afar.
So let me riff of one of the five R’s of Openness, and share with you, dear readers, that I’ve decided to remix my memoir a bit. I am the newest team member for Lumen Learning, and I’m moving to PDX to be their Instructional Designer. Wow!
I am still processing the joy of #dLRN15, the difficulty of giving up one dream job for another dream job, and the homecoming of NW eLearn, so I’m just going to close with one of my favorite Replacement songs. I really need to curl up with a book and take a nap with the dog.
I’ve very happy you found another life thread to follow – one that seems to have been custom built just for you. We’ll miss you across the border, but know you’ll be looking out for our students’ welfare (and pocketbooks!). Happy travels. I’m sure we’ll cross paths again.
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JJ, you were a champion of mine from the start. Plus, I know that if you are in the audience for any preso I’m doing I can depend on you to get my bad joke. Or one up me with the punny thoughts;)
What a ride! I’m really looking forward to working alongside you at Lumen!
I hope you register how much you’ve earned the opportunities that are coming your way with your own hard work and smarts…
Let me know how I can help your transition to PDX.
A major ride, indeed. You really *are* The Doorman, Nate! Thanks so much for that thought; I really appreciate it. I’m beyond thrilled to work with you guys:)
Vermont. Portland. Whatevs. The office next to mine at EvCC is still sad and dark. And no one is there to hear to the anguished sobs as I fill out paperwork and wonder when I’m actually suppose to teach.
Seriously, though, congrats again. You’re effin’ brilliant and I look forward to chances to collaborate again in the future. And, in Portland, there’s no way you get to be a stranger.
P.S. The Spawn misses Auntie Alyson.
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This comment has an edge to it. Let me guess, you’ve spent your entire Sunday reading student work and you’re still behind. Sigh. I’ll keep the faith that they get you an assistant, and he/she can have my office. Let’s face it, you helped me waaaaay more than I helped you. You’re effin’ awesome, and we’ll dork out in PDX.
It’s been a personal goal of mine to prove to The Spawn that women my age can be cool, so I really miss her too. She’s got the coolest dad in the north Sound, for sure. That first high school was totally full of crap, so yet another reason to support the CCs, Amirite?
Just started the Y: The Last Man series and I’m digging it. Still think there is a heady article to be written about the Saga series collaboration. You have converted me to the graphic novel, T. Andrew Wahl. Respect!
I’m waiting for the post on how Bill Gates wants to hire you to help him spend money for community colleges. Still in PNW. You are on a roll!
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Well, I’d advocate for a lot of changes! Are you there, Bill G.? It’s me, Alyson.
Thanks for the well wishes, Mr. CogDog:)
@cogdog wins the comment round!
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You. Are. Amazing. 🙂 I am grinning for you here, so happy for you, Alyson! AND so happy that we met (in that auspicious location) at dlRN. I look forward to following your new adventures in Portland and Lumen – best of luck with it all and keep spreading the joy. x
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From one Oregonian to another (future) OR…welcome and we’re delighted to have you!
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Beautifully written and very well played, Alyson. 🙂 Say “hi’ to Alexis McMillan 🙂
Oh joy to see you here, Jo:) I will be sure to say hello. Hope to see you sooner than later–what an autumn this has been.
….So THIS is how I find out you are married???!!!!!! Congratulations, Alyson. I was born and raised in Portland, and all it has done is get cooler and cooler.
LOL, Liz:) We’ve been together for almost 12 years, married for five. If you come back to your PDX homeland, please look me up. I also suspect my new job will (hopefully) bring me to WA regularly.
A best friend, like a sister: A Memoir. I already miss you!
I may actually see you more, kitten, now that I won’t be commuting so much on a daily basis. And dammit, I’m going to AK with you. That was actually one of the bits of sadness for me was that I never made it to AK with you. 2016?
I also have a feeling G’s inner city girl will love PDX. Let me know when you’re back on the mainland and I’ll come to your cottage.
CBT and Beer: A Memoir
Wow fat thumbed that one! PCT and Beer: A Memoir….and no CBT…friggin A
I was thinking Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?! Totally!
PCT only down to where it turns into desert. I hate carrying water. I turn into the biggest whiner without water (and beer, truth be told). PDX does put me closer to Wallyworld, so that’s cool.
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Is it too late to entice you back to the ‘Ham?
Just posted today: https://jobs.wwu.edu/JobPosting.aspx?JPID=6695
Seriously, I’m sure you are going to love it in Portland.
LOL, John:) I signed a lease in PDX today, so I’ll just have to live with the dream that I will maybe one day retire in ‘Ham.