the time a life-changing decision was made at a questionable sushi restaurant
Promptly after we got married, my then-new-husband left for 4 months on a let’s-see-what-this-is-like guest teaching gig for a university in Nowhere, KY. The story of that offer is another. But were it not for the fact that he was in KY, close enough to the OH border that a drive into to OH was not only doable but pretty quick and easy, our lives may not have been changed in a questionable sushi restaurant. But then - these things are always connected, aren’t they?
Husburrito is an independent games designer and was working as a guest teaching artist at Eastern Kentucky University in the spring of 2016 when, while at his yearly pilgrimage to San Francisco for Game Developers Conference (GDC), he met a professor from a major Ohio university through a friend of a friend. And said prof mentioned there was an opening in the fledgling gaming major, and was Husburrito interested in academics since he was a guest teaching artist at the moment? Husburrito said maybe. Because Husburrito will ALWAYS answer in the affirmative if there is the slightest interest.
[sidenote: husburrito and I share a similar weakness - a deep curiosity that leads to many a rabbit hole]
There was an application. A statement on his ‘Philosophy of Teaching.’ An on-campus interview. A phone call post-on-campus interview about how much they loved him (a heavy eye-roll and round of applause for those interview charmers - I am most certainly not one of them). And many reassurances to me that it all seemed really cool, and he was glad that he did the interview process, but academia just wasn’t for him.
UNTIL. (of course there’s an until, you read the title of this story, right?)
Until a games conference on the EKU campus about a week later. In a gaggle of games professionals chatting about what they were up to, what was up next, one such developer asked Husburrito what was next for him after Kentucky - was he a prof, did he have a ‘home’ university, was he going back to Minneapolis to work in the growing indie game scene there, etc. Husburrito mentioned the gangbusters interview and folks at this University and it seemed really cool but academics were probably not his scene.
Why not, prodded the gaggle. You’ve done this guest teaching artist thing and really seemed to have a positive influence on the seniors.
Plus think of the time you’d have for your own projects! And a hand in developing a games major! And a supportive games community! There’s really no downside.
[sidenote: HA! There was a clusterfuck looming we knew nothing about, but that’s for another story…]
All in all, it got to a point that Husburrito got thinking. It could be a really cool opportunity. And it would be a steady salary, something not readily available to an indie games developer. And we’d have HEALTHCARE (unfortunately, a major factor in any career decision here in the States). And maybe a new city would be a new adventure for married life…
I had moved out to KY for the last six weeks of the guest teaching residency, so we went to a sushi restaurant recommended by one of the students as the only sushi within 50 miles worth having to sit and hash it all over.
You know that tingly feeling you get when you know something big is happening but you’re not entirely sure what it is or how it’s happening but you know you’re living it so you better pay attention? A sushi restaurant in a strip mall in suburban Lexington KY is a really weird place to have that feeling. And I was flooded with this feeling that no matter what we decided, it was going to be a turning point. It was going to be big.
We sat in a booth, only 3 or 4 other couples populating the space - clearly Wednesday nights were not the hoppin’ time for sushi - and settled in for what we knew was going to be a doozy. Waters were brought, sushi orders placed, and we sat in heavy silence for a few moments, not even knowing where to begin. As the refrain of my childhood from my folks was “make a list!” when faced with virtually any decision, and being partial to the tactile response of physically writing my thoughts down, I popped a notebook out of my purse and broke the silence.
We started with the pros:
Steady work that would allow for the personal projects. And maybe even finance some (whaaaaaa???)
Away from all family and friends.
Job searching for Megan.
The cons were pretty big. But so were the pros. List-making was helpful in organizing our thoughts. But super not helpful in making the ultimate decision. So we turned to our guts and the question I stick by whenever faced with what seems like a life-changing decision: there is likely no right or wrong answer to this, it’s only up to the type of person I want to be. And in our case, as we were newly navigating, what type of married couple do we want to be?
To be perfectly honest, I don’t even remember the specifics of this part of the meal. I remember the feelings - the tingles, a deep knowing in my bones, and an inexplicable pull to try something new. Between the pros and this gut feeling, I told the husburrito that from my end, it seemed like a good idea. We could do with something new, and this opportunity really seemed to good to pass up - so the question was, what did HE think about all of it.
He really liked it.
He really, really liked it.
He doesn’t have an advanced degree (only a B.A.) and the fact that they were willing to hire him as is was huge - and probably wouldn’t happen again. So if he wanted to try academia, now was the time.
So the decision was made. And tears were had. And excitement and trepidation and curiosity and a deep sense of adventure all swirled throughout the rest of the evening. And soon enough we were back in the car, headed home to the university townhome to watch a nice calming episode of House of Cards to take our minds off this huge, life-changing choice.