My Dutch residence / work visa renewal came through today: I'm good to go for another year and a half, through November 2009. That's cause for celebration: it's a chance to continue a wonderful independent life here, with opportunities to learn a language, to sample cultures, travel the region, and do some exciting work with good people. I still need to achieve a better Dutch-style work/life balance, taking adequate time for friendships, and for indulging passions apart from the research and management that annoyingly seems to always spill over into the evenings.
Still, the situation stimulates uncertainty and insecurities.
My project is going well, but we're approaching a crucial phase where we are preparing for our first human implant, and where we need to make a compelling case for how to build a business. These steps of proving technical and business feasibility are tested in June when we present a project summary to a committee of peers to secure funding to start the hospital study. No matter how many simulations, analyses, animal experiments, and market surveys are done, there's a "left or right" decision, as the Dutch say, coming in the next month. Missing the mark could mean a recall.
Similarly in my personal life, there are hard conversations coming. It's been three years since I moved to Europe and the family stayed in Seattle; I think I've been back only a month or two a year since. We supported the kids as they finished school, but that's ending as Will enters the service and Laura goes to college later this summer. We've reached the time to set new paths forward.
I've been moving to a new apartment, a new job, a new country, every year. I've lived in a series of hotel rooms, dormitories, and apartments, each time making new friends, each time saying good-bye to old colleagues. Sometimes it feels like the only constants are the small set of possessions that trail along with me, and the daily rhythms of work, exercise, keeping up with distant friends by e-mail, and travel. It worries me when I look to shopkeepers for friendly interactions: it's getting time to nest again.
I've begun to dream of a cottage with a studio, overlooking a green field with a few pictures of my own on the walls. I wake at 4:30 am, with the summer birds greeting the dawn to come, but the worries crowd in until I give up and make some coffee. I watch the street life pass below my window, gather papers and thoughts, and head out the door. Winter seems to have lingered this year: I always pull the coat a bit closer as I hit the morning air, and I still see my breath condensing in the sunlight. For all the good news at the moment, I'm afraid that the omens don't feel promising at the moment.