Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Decisions, decisions...

What are you doing right now? When are you coming back to the UK? Do you think you'll stay in Texas permanently? How long does Graham's contract last?

Sometimes you come to a crossroads in life. Sometimes you come to a mass of decisions which feels more like Swindon's magic roundabout.

Believe it or not, our initial three-year stay in Texas (two for me) will be up in August, and the pressure's on to decide what to do next. There's more than a possibility we can stay longer, and the idea is not unattractive. Fort Worth certainly has its good points:

  • That legendary Southern hospitality. People say hello when you're walking down the street. Families you barely know invite you for Thanksgiving. Shop assistants give you advice on making babies (OK, that was a bit over the top!)

  • Sunshine. Lots of it.

  • Spa-a-a-a-ce. Did you know England has a population density of about 990 people per square mile? It's the most crowded country in Europe, according to the Telegraph. By comparison, Texas has an average density of 87 people per square mile. Less than a tenth. In practical terms, that means a half-decent salary buys you the UK equivalent of a mansion, but you definitely need a car to get to the shops.

  • Restaurants that happily split the bill. Nine people and six separate checks? No problem! None of that tedious haggling over who had a starter and how much did the wine cost that you have to endure in a British establishment. Why do they find it so difficult?
In general, the quality of life is probably better. You can get more for your money and it's all that bit more relaxed. Besides, it's nice to see a new part of the world.

On the other hand, it's tough being so far from family and friends. And no place is without its disadvantages:
  • HEAT. Anything over about 95F is way too hot in my opinion, and here it stays like that for three months or more. Give me a nice temperate climate any day.

  • Lack of care for the environment. The USA is gradually catching up to Europe in this respect, but they still think 30 mpg is good fuel efficiency and recycling is something hippies do. Texas has one of the worst pollution records in the States, and is only just waking up to the fact that drilling gas wells in the middle of cities may not be a good idea.

  • No public footpaths. We've explored most of the state parks in the area, but it's just not the same as being let loose with an OS map and the entire countryside at your disposal. You get told how to walk, where to walk and exactly how long it will take you. Where's the fun in that?

  • Communications companies. This is the weird part - in most things customer service is much better over here. But anything to do with telephone or internet is expensive, inept and takes hours to resolve. Guaranteed to get you foaming at the mouth.

And I can think of a few more, like the drivers and the health care system and simply feeling like a foreigner, but I don't wish my pros/cons lists to get too skewed. At any rate, this is the BIG decision right now. Which itself is partly dependent on a few other factors. And then influences other major decisions, of which one of the largest is my next career move. So do I:
  • start my own cake business?
  • keep working low-paid baking-type jobs?
  • resurrect my chemistry degree?
  • re-train for a different career?
Any of these may be a possibility, yet it's not worth starting any of them if we're moving to the UK in August, and only some of them if we're only staying a couple more years. I seem to be over-qualified in some ways, but under-experienced in others. I feel like I'm driving round and round that magic roundabout, peering down each road and still not knowing which one to take. All I know is that I have to exit soon.

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