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Deciding to Move

Once before K and I made a decision to pack our things and move away to Pittsburgh. We even went so far as to put down a deposit on an apartment. Neither of us had a job or even a lead on a job, but we didn’t have that here in IC, either; moreover, our apartment had just been very nearly destroyed by a tornado, so we were desperate for something to happen.

Something did happen, though not what we expected: I got a permanent job here. Deciding a job in the hand was better than nothing in Pittsburgh, we elected to eat the deposit and settled here for a while longer.

That while is almost over. No, I haven’t received an offer yet, nor has K, but we’re both beginning to look in earnest. And though some of the same questions arise this time—Where do we want to move? What will be enough to get us there?—there are different calculations than before. First, we can’t completely discount the salary and benefits I earn now. Likewise K’s, though I know she’d leave her position in an instant if given the chance. Second, circumstances dictate that we really must limit our final destinations to fewer possibilities than before. The variables we know intellectually, but then there’s the reality of it all. Even though we’ll most certainly have at least one job in hand before we begin packing, it’s startling to realize we’re looking to do this again, and I hesitate some to consider it as seriously as I should. I know other places are nice, too, but it will be difficult to abandon IC.

All of that to say: I know several of you are contemplating or have just completed similar changes in your lives. What calculations have gone into your plans? Is your choice of place dictated by your job applications, vice versa, or some combination of the two? How have you allowed other factors (e.g., proximity of family, availability of health care, quality of schools) to dictate your move?




* The arrival of a second child and the desire to simplify our lives (possibly live on one salary).

* The fact that (and here I hate to complain as I have a tenure-track job and it doesn’t pay as low as two of the places where I interviewed) I am paid 30% less that what the MLA says I’m worth, and that doesn’t factor in the cost of living where we are, and barely includes my several years of experience and service to the school.

* The fact that this town is too damn hectic and expensive.

* The fact that our friends are flung to the four winds and seeing any of them entails a 40 minute drive, so one prefers just not to drive.

* The fact that it takes my wife 40-60 minutes to drive 12 miles—sometimes, especially during this festive season 90 minutes.

Reasons to not move

* We both have good jobs (her’s being better paying than mine).

* We are close to her family… and not too far from mine.

* With the economy the way it is… should we give up her salary, which is right around 61% more than what I make

* We have friends here; we have a life; she is not known as the wife of the spanish prof

Questions regarding some of the places where I have interviews.

Three places are tenie-tiny towns. These scare me, as I’ve always been a big city boy, despite being a missionary. In these places, I would certainly make more than here. In fact, at two, I have the very real potential to make close to 30% more than I do… and this in towns of 2K… at very, very good schools, both of which have gothic campuses, one of which has a very famous literary journal associated with it, the other a well-respected UP.

One, I’m really tempted by, and didn’t know how much until the phone interview. I doubt that they will call me, as I probably broke protocol and let them know that I was after money and that we wouldn’t go there unless they made it worth my while (something I should’ve waited another two years to do, once I’ve got 5 well-placed articles and a book coming out)… but even then, T’s not warm to it. Mainly because we’d be so far from family, something that isn’t a real concern for me… but I grew up away from family. Plus, she’s not convinced that life would be any less hectic there… I, on the other hand, see several ways it could be.

Another school really tempts T, because it’s in a decent sized town, close enough to her family, and close to friends.

So, in this, the real considerations to move are salary and life-style. Being close to family is very important to T… as is being in a place where she won’t be the wife of the professor. And, I agree so many can be so very boring.

And, all of this to say, we don’t know what we are going to do. We may not move after all. Though, I must say, I feel that I am being ripped-off, to put it lightly, here.

Curious: I know your primary goal to apply to small, liberal arts institutions, so I obviously the places you applied were limited to those jobs that were available. But were there any jobs open in your field that you rejected out of hand because of where they are?

Career-wise, one of the reasons I know I must leave here is that it’s really a place of diminishing returns, comfortable but challenging less because of the material than because of the fact that marketing drives the deadlines. There’s only so much more I gain from continuing on.

But as I said above, what directs our eyes out-of-state are circumstances beyond our control. It’s a frustrating thing to admit that kind of powerlessness.

yeah, none of the new york, michigan, minnesota, maine schools.

and, though i did apply to two schools in PA, i didn’t apply to any in Iowa or Illinois because they were small, regional liberal arts. and, none of the CA schools except one.

region did play a large role. but size of town originally did not… which is currently making us both very nervous

Not that this will necessarily be of much help, but our decision regarding our next move was made because we want to live in a particular city. We’ve visited this particular city before, and love most everything about it. The incredibly high cost of living is not even enough to deter us!

Our main reason for wanting to live here is this small church family we’ve gotten to know. A friend from grad school ministers there, and it is one of the coolest churches we’ve ever been in.

Add to that the vibrancy and cosmopolitan nature of the city, the vast immigrant/refugee population (specifically many thousands of Rwandese), the amazing arts/museums/galleries, the public transportation system, and voila!

We’re thinking the educational moves Sara is making will position us well to be able to afford living there (with me working whatever job I can find with my appalling credentials), and we’ll just live within our means (which is much easier with two low-maintenance people who don’t have children or pets!)

I can see why the small town thing would give you pause…When we were down at G’s mom’s place in the Ozarks over Thanksgiving, we had one of those flashes of “we could run away from our stinking jobs right now and get a little place here in the woods and be oh-so-happy!” And then G says “I think we should do it. Except that I don’t want to live or raise kids in this town.” Um, okay.The contradictory feelings don’t help the situation…

Our main problem, not being academics, is that it can be really hard to land a job in another state—especially one that’s far from your own geographical region (unless you’re a hotshot of some kind, which is neither of us).

Ooh, but Laura did it…L, are you a hotshot, or was landing the job in WY a function of the particularities of your profession? Should we become librarians?

I’m having that deja vu feeling…Have we had this conversation before, like, say, 18-20 months ago?

GKB-Is this city of your dreams far from where you’re currently living?

i think it’s dallas!

it’s really hard to get motivated to finish grades, when you’ve got 4 interviews to prep for and an article that you want to finish up before leaving…

5: The other part of that caveat was the fact that, if we moved there, we would likely be buying a business that wouldn’t afford us health care.

Been puzzling this question all morning. The spouse and I have this conversation every few months as we dream of what it would be like to live somewhere (sometimes anywhere) but where we live now.

As a would-be academic who will hold a middle-of-the-road degree, I know that I have almost no control over where I will live if I decide that it’s academia or else. The spouse (a nurse practitioner) can work and make good money almost anywhere, so the financial concerns are not as dramatic as they might be. With a new baby, there is some temptation to be closer to family.

On the other hand, I have a hard time mortgaging my future to a job that will have me teaching a 5-5 load and paying me squat, and while the spouse can work anywhere, why should she when she’s going to make better money no matter what I do? And with a new baby, I’m pretty sure I don’t want to get any closer to family than I have to.

I’ve never found a way of reconsiling this. Sometimes, I like to imagine just succumbing to the overwhelming flow of the job market. Let fate decide because I don’t know how. Other times, I want to throw a dart at the map and call U-haul.


Quite far, geographically and culturally and politically…

Our friend JAW has tried to convince many of us (read “theology grads who don’t want to be ministers”) to make the librarian turn. Apparently there’s always a demand, the job isn’t hard (nor the credentialing, supposedly), and you get to be a part of the profession that is #1 in pornographic novel subject matter (or so I’ve read somewhere…Librarians come in slightly above Nurses in that genre).

shaun, you should move where ever she can get a good job, in a major, even superstar city.

and teach at a private high school… the pay is amazing and, from what I understand, there is quite a bit of freedom and leeway, unlike in public schools.

10: BG sucks all the fun out of “Name That City.”

yeah, but i misspelled pittsburgh…

9: Your spouse’s employability do make the options slightly less drastic, yes? Nevertheless, I hear you. In some ways, especially given job markets in your particular field, specialization can feel like a box rather than a boon. Beyond that, because the job market is that bad, there are enough PhD’s casting about for other professional opportunities (in nonprofits, for example) that it changes the career opportunities for many people seeking professional tracks.

Have you considered building on your editorial work? Last month, for example, the Buffalo Bill Cody archives had an ad out for someone to direct the editing of scholarly editions of the archives. The pay wasn’t insignificant and the job required someone with both editorial and academic expertise. I’m sure there’s other jobs like that worth one’s while to discover.

I’ve thought a lot recently about the private school angle. It does sound like a good gig. With my editorial experience, there may be some other possibilities as well.

The closest thing that I can imagine to a perfect scenario would be convincing the family that Texas is just too hot so that they’ll move, and then quickly packing up the house and moving to Austin. I have no idea what I would do there, but man I love that town.

(Bizarre. The recent comments bar says that 14’s & 15’s publication times were transposed.)


The fact that my wife can work anywhere is mostly a comfort. I am not now, nor will I likely ever be, poor. Even as a graduate student, I live a very comfortable life, one that is more comfortable than the life I lived as a college student or with my parents. Still, aside from the economics, it puts all of pressure for deciding what kind of life middle-class we will have on my job prospects or on the decision to make those secondary. It’s more frustrating than debilitating.

I have thought about editting and such. Through the editorial board at my journal, I have a few connections at research institutes that I might pursue, and I’m in no way opposed to good editorial work.
First things first, is to finish my degree into which I have sunk too much time and money to abandon now. And the idea of the tenure track teaching is still an enticement that I can’t quite give up, yet.

go on the market next year, then, it won’t hurt to see what’s out there and to see if you can get a job. you might even be surprised and land a decent place. otherwise, do a post-doc and then go on the market.

if you have time, and you still think you want this gig… do it. it’s wonderfully flexible, though it pays peanuts—unless, of course, you land a 5/5, only composition 1 school

the only real downside to not going out and getting a job now is family considerations and whether you guys want kids (that is, if you don’t have any and want some). but, your wife as a health care worker, probably has really good benefits and can find a flexible post-partum work schedule…

That’s more less my plan, though I’m not sure I want to move for a one year post-doc. The catch here is that K***ville is a good base point from which to do a job search, even for a few years. My wife has a good job, we rent a nice home, we have good daycare, and my job with a couple of classes as a lecturer tacked on would bring in a decent salary. But, we’re immensely unhappy. The town is nice, but we’re yoked to a church we can’t stomach and most of our friends come from that church.

So that’s the choice, suffer several years of unhappiness in order to search for a job with relative security, or shake the dust off our boots and move one way or another. We’ll probably tolerate one more year, but I don’t see us staying longer than that, at which point it will be find whatever we can.

Shaun’s already a pater familias, BG.

I sense it’s time to write my “how to” post about leaving the a church.

yes, i see that he has sown his seed…

and i hear the unhappy with church thing… even though i’m the sunday school teacher!

but that is a story much too complex and sticky to tell at the moment.

you know,

i think that the the shouldn’t‘ve been crossed out, unless, of course, you are attending somewhere else besides the wallace stevens church of the brocaded arm-chair, coffee, and sunday paper!

Yes, a step by step how-to-leave would be nice. It’s not that I’m not bitter enough. Or even that we’re not bitter enough. Not that bitterness is the only requisite. It’s just hard to leave the few friends you have in a town without the prospect of finding others.

Or perhaps, I’m still harboring dreams of joining JAW on the beach.

And I, too, have been a Sunday school teacher for much of my time here.

for us it was easy… we hadn’t established any real relationships with persons in the CoC we were at…

the real difficulty was the conversations with our parents…

Oh, and there’s that.

Hmph. I have no brocaded armchair, nor do I receive a Sunday paper, thank you very much.

Nor have you conversed with your parent(s).



luuuuuuucyyy somebody’s got some splainin’ to do!

Answer: Unhappiness abounds, especially among the academic set. I’m curious to know more about how JH and B have this conversation when they have it—because surely they do. He’s said before that she wants to move to the States, but he resists; how long can he hold out, and what would cause him to change his mind?

And does anybody leave home who hasn’t in the past pursued, isn’t currently pursuing, or presently in possession of a humanities PhD?

Unhappiness abounds everywhere…

And to answer your last question: Frodo.


To follow up on GKB’s comment, I do wish all of you would just say to heck with it and become librarians. Nothing gets my evangelical juices going like talking about my profession. Very decent pay, low stress, good job prospects, the academic life without the academic stressors. Library school is easy, too, and with your previous academic endeavors you all would be quite marketable, friends. Ok, enough of that.

One thing to think about regarding potential places to live is relative wealth. The nice thing about midwestern college towns and places of their ilk is that the cultural system is geared towards academics and not wealthier professionals. For example, in places like B’ton or AA or IC it’s easy to live a pretty nice life and take part of local events without having the salary of a law partner. In superstar cities academics are constantly reminded of how poor they are relative to their surroundings. In Bton I could go hear world-class chamber concerts for rarely more than $10; in LA those tickets go for over $100 and there’s no way I can afford them on a regular basis. In other words, romanticizing places like NY or Boston or SF or LA is fun, but if you aren’t an industry mogul you’ll feel like you’re on the outside staring in quite a bit. I’m not sure which is worse—a boring place where you can easily afford the few luxuries around you, or an exciting place where you can afford few relative to your community. Either path dooms you to post-materialist angst.

Pittsburgh is nice. So is Indianapolis. And one day maybe C and I can move into Shaun’s guest house in Austin.

So, assuming P didn’t hire you to live out every librarian’s wet dream—jet-setting to Germany, taking extension courses in the finer points of the LC system, and so forth—how would you & C. decide where you would go? Come back to the Midwest—to Bloomington, perhaps? (Allowing that the Midwest is a tough job market for librarians.)

35 comments! You people are ridiculous!

B is starting to come around to a life in England. We’re looking in to paths to citizenship here. If we do that, we’ll be able to live and work anywhere in Europe.

In the short term, she’s weighing staying with her current research team after she finishes her PhD, against going to another university, hopefully Cam/brid/ge. It’d be nice if we could live together again, rather than this only seeing each other on weekends crap.



Yes, if it weren’t for our jobs here I doubt seriously we’d be living in this part of the country. Now that we’ve gotten to know the region, I know of several places out here that are nice and would be great places to live: Flagstaff, AZ, for one, or San Luis Obispo, CA. But I think at our core we are Midwesterners (I think I morphed from a Southerner to a Midwesterner; it’s not a big jump but correlates more to introversion). I doubt we’d take a systematic approach to determining where we’d live if we were independently wealthy (speaking of which, job prospects are a huge variable for those who aren’t). I think you must intuitively ask: who are you, Greg? Are you Boston? Some are; I’m for sure not. I’m probably Minneapolis or St. Paul. I think that’s where we’re headed in our next life.

like i said, JH i’m avoiding grading… though i will now repent in sack cloth and ashes, as i will have a late night….

and, JAW, superstar cities

they are only for the rich and famous

Ok, enough hijacking your blog to air my own angst. If E and I were to be able to choose a place to live without the considerable constraints that simultaneously make it easier and more difficult to make a decision (jobs, family…), I think we would choose to live in Austin. It’s a relatively affordable city. Not as cheap as K—-ville, but a lot cheaper than most cities with its amenities. The last time we were there I remember feeling so comfortable with the cowboys, the hippies, the suburbanites, the cosmopolitan wannabes, it all felt just right. It is a wonderful meld of what I still love about the way I grew up and what I’ve come to love since I’ve been away and changed. I’ve said to E that I wish that I could live in an Old 97’s song, and if such a place exists, it is somewhere in/around Austin. I guess I’m looking for some kind of alt-country paradise. Asheville, NC may be my next best bet.

if you moved to asheville, we might actually meet, as that is where the in-loves live and we go back at least 3 to 4 times a year.

So I see that while I was, ahem, working at my job, the whole librarian question has been covered, but I’ll beat the dead horse a little bit more.

Library school is ridiculously easy (some programs are I think a little harder than mine was, but not much), but once you get through that you can do a lot of very different interesting kinds of work—public, academic, special library, archives, etc., etc.—and there are different sorts of jobs even within those broad categories. It’s probably easier to find jobs if you want to move—there are relatively few library sschools, and there are huge areas where there are none that are looking for librarians. And you get to feel that even if you’re not directly doing good for the world, you are at the very least doing no harm. And you get to have profession that’s based on all these various noble ideas about intellectual freedom and so on.

I’m a failed academic, too, really—I applied for a PhD program and didn’t get in. Once in awhile I fantasize about applying to some other program, but I think that’s mostly my academic insecurity talking: my parents, as I may have mentioned, hold 7 degrees betwen them, 3 of them doctorates.

I knew a long time ago—certainly by 2002, and possibly earlier than that—that I wanted to live in a small town in the west. I just took me awhile to figure out how to do that. Librarianship could, I suppose, be seen as the profession of the rejects, but whatever. It lets me live where I can see the Milky Way.

Shaun, until you start your own blog, you might as well let out your angst here. Living in an Old ’97s song seems to me like a nice thing to do. From all I’ve heard of Austin, it’s like a larger, more glamorous IC, but without the presidential candidates every 4 years.

42: Seeing the Milky Way was a definite attraction to dropping everything and moving to the Ozarks.


Please say you meant “evangelistic” juices, and not “evangelical” juices. If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s an evangelical librarian.

And, I don’t know if you were talking to me when you asked about Boston, but I’ll answer anyway: I think so. Who knows? We’ll move there and see. One thing’s for sure- we sure as hell aren’t Abilene!

BG, I just looked at your reasons TO move in 1 above, and it sounds like money and commute. So my question is, how are you going to solve the $ problem on one salary, even in a small town? Scaling back to one salary while doubling your children is certainly not simplifying your life, nor is (for T) becoming a full-time parent, which is, frankly, very hard on the ego & temperament as well as the wallet. I am guessing T has already looked into flex-time at her current job and found it lacking? I speak out of concern as a former full-time stay-at-home parent (and “professor’s wife”), a role I respect highly but had a really hard time filling happily.

To answer G’s original question: We have never commuted, and that preference played a big factor in where we decided to live & have continued living. Also, we are just about the right distance from family, though I would like to be even closer to my parents; it’s surprising how much better we get along with them now that we’ve produced offspring.
However, one BIG problem with where we live & with our moderate salaries relates to BG’s great passion: food. We have very few restaurant choices, and if we want certain pantry items, we have to import them or grow them ourselves, which can become expensive (shipping) & time-consuming. If you consider moving to a smaller/less cosmopolitan place, do serious research into the grocery stores and restaurants of your new town. You don’t want to be the only vegetarians or epicures you know, b/c this means the ingredients you need will not be available. It’s a giant pain to have to drive an hour just to get to a natural foods store or non-Mexican restaurant—in fact, this was a factor in my decision to test the out-of-town job waters after having been here a couple of years.

What you mention about food options, Mary, is frankly what would worry me the most about our potential Ozark paradise, even more than the prospect of a life without medical coverage…These are not the most vegetarian- or organic-lovin’-friendly places (though the Ozark Cafe in Jasper, AR does serve veggie burgers!)…I would think it would be hard to be a cook there as well, especially considering that you can’t grow much in the rock they call topsoil…But I do think it would make a nice “winter place,” if we were the kind of people who could ever have more than one place, which of course, we’re not.

All that said, we’ve been told by a source very close to us that the county in question produces the best weed. You’ve got to weigh the pros and cons.

All that said, we’ve been told by a source two sources very close to us that the county in question produces the best weed.

Also, moonshine!

GKB—No no, I was encouraging everyone to develop a personal relationship with Ranganathan. And the Boston quip wasn’t targeted at anyone in particular. When I graduated from library school and we were thinking of places for C to dissertate the two final options were Detroit and Fort Lauderdale. At the time I wasn’t sure I was Detroit (but grew into really liking the area), but I knew I wasn’t South Florida.

RE:46 that is why you need to learn to cook and cook well… to become cordon bleus people.

here in the place where we live it’s to frickin’ expensive to eat out—plus, it’s always a disappointment. the middle of the road places are boring and never as good as what we get at home. the high-end places are only good for the experience and the fact that i’ve never been a good plater—well, i’ve never cared, by that point i’m sooo hungry. certainly, there are things they do much better than i (in part because i don’t have a deep-fier, say and so we don’t do tempura (but i wouldn’t want to, not even in the dutch oven because it’s too much grease)… but, for the most part, i can’t pretty close to approximate a dish at even pricey places. (again, certain types of meat i don’t try… mainly because we don’t eat much, though we aren’t veggies, and too they can be pricey).

now, mary’s point about ingredients is very well taken. not everybody sells saffron… or even brie.

Our issue with eating out has more to do with laziness and poor time management skills (yeah, that’s me) than lack of Mad Cooking Skillz (or just regular cooking skills, I guess is more like it)…We’ve tried to reform ourselves so many times, but…We go in waves…But! New Dutch Oven is a finalist for the What Do We Get Ourselves for Xmas? Contest…As is New Soup Pot! They’re both hoping not to be beat out by The Entire Buffy the Vampire Slayer Series in a Box!

We’re excited. Only one will win.

Somehow every single post seems to come down to food in the end…


E and I used to hit Asheville at least a few times a year. If you don’t mind driving fast through the mountains, it’s only a little more than an hour-and-a-half drive. Love the town and the mountains; can do without any more trips to the Biltmore. It’s great to have in-laws that live in a good place to visit. You may not be surprised to know that mine are in Austin.

Asheville made that “Smartest Places to Live” list last year…number 2 or 3, I think…Sounds really nice.

Smartest Places. Many of the places we’ve discussed are on this list – and I know some of you are already living in a smartest city….so what’s your complaint? Kidding, of course. Maybe.

Alas, there are some things our particular smart city does not provide—not easily, anyway.

Yes, and I just realized that Kiplinger’s is crap: Abilene, TX (#41) is listed as a smarter city than Bloomington, Indiana (#44).

I dare anyone who has been to both places to agree with this survey.

We have a crap load of colleges and stuff, dude. Like 3 universities and a ton of jucos. And a lot of primary schools and middle schools and high schools.

Our Smart Place is too damn smart for us—that’s the problem! You have to have a PhD to live here, and then you still might end up tending bar…not enough of a job market to support everyone.

Yes, there’s that too.

and, we might not have as great a health care once this place shuts its doors

A kink in the Austin as paradise plans —

While sitting in a central Texas CofC, E leaned over to me and said, “I don’t have enough hairspray to move back to Texas.”

Oh, come now! You give up too soon! I’m sure you can buy cases of that stuff at your local Sam’s Club.