Stillness, Silence, Pipes & Drums

We paused this morning to watch as, after 70 years of service to her country, Queen Elizabeth II was memorialized and will, later today, be laid to rest. I was struck by the silence and the stillness of the honor guard, standing statuesque around the gun carriage as her coffin was transferred from Westminster Hall to Westminster Abbey.

The stillness disturbed only by the honor guard moving the coffin to the carriage, and the silence broken sound of pipes and drums.

I was reminded by the stillness of the last time we saw Her Majesty in a church. Still. Silent. Marking and mourning the death of her husband and companion. Alone.

Today, Westminster Abbey was full of mourners – family, subjects, and – I hope – some friends.

The service ended to the call of trumpets. And stillness. And silence.

And the sound of pipes.

He was a man, take him for all in all,
I shall not look upon his like again.

Hamlet 1:2

Rest in peace.

The Waiting (is the Hardest Part)

I expect it will be a while before this post is published, as it’s generally not a great idea to talk about a conflict until it’s over and the dust has started to settle. Especially when it’s a disagreement with a government. About immigration. And they say you should never publish angry. So, yeah.

When we moved to London in 2019, our visas were attached to my employment. I was sponsored by my employer for a “Tier 2 General” visa (now known as a “Skilled Worker” visa).

A year and a half in, with the pandemic still in full swing, Dawnise and I decided we wanted to remain in the UK long enough to experience living here without a global pandemic restricting travel and activity. And it wasn’t obvious if my employer would support that desire.

So in the fall of 2020, after doing some research, and with the support of an immigration law firm and kind letters of recommendation from some former colleagues, I applied and was endorsed for a “Global Talent” visa – that decoupled my “leave to remain” and work in the UK from the sponsorship of my employer.

Applying for this type of visa is a multi-step process. First you express your intent to apply to the UK Home Office. You tell them what skills category you want to apply under, and they direct you to submit supporting evidence of your qualifications for evaluation to an endorsing body specific to that skill category.

Then you submit your request for endorsement, and the supporting evidence, and you wait for a decision. Oh, and you give the Home Office some money. Of course.

The endorsing body looks at the evidence and tells the Home Office what decision they reach. The Home Office informs you of the decision and, if you’ve been endorsed, invites you to apply for the actual visa. For a(nother) fee, naturally.

So I submitted a dossier, the endorsing body evaluated it, and they informed the Home Office that I had been endorsed, and the Home Office informed my solicitor (lawyer, for those who don’t speak The Queens’ Kings’ English) who forwarded the letter from the Home Office on to me.

Endorsement in hand, I submitted the visa application. A short wait later and the visa was granted, and life went on mostly as it had done. When I decided to part ways with my employer, it was a non-event, at least from an immigration perspective.

…Fast-forward to June 2022… And allow me to introduce a few devils that live in the details…

This sort of visa comes in two flavors; promising applicants without much experience – like post-graduate students for example – can be endorsed as having “promise,” whereas more established applicants with experience can be endorsed as demonstrating “talent.”

On advice from my solicitor, despite my being “established” and having a body of experience, we submitted for endorsement in the promise category.

The theory was that if you if you ask for a talent endorsement but fall short, the endorsing body is likely to say “sorry, no.” On the other hand, if you apply for a promise endorsement and the endorsing body sees more, they can “step up” to a talent endorsement.

And this is exactly what happened in my case – I asked for “promise,” they endorsed for “talent”.

Either endorsement (“promise” or “talent”) is enough to get a “Global Talent” visa. Critically to our story, the specific endorsement changes how long the applicant has to be in the UK before they can apply for “indefinite leave to remain” (ILR). ILR is the transition from having a time-limited visa, with a fixed expiration date, to having the right to live and work in the UK “indefinitely.”

Since I had been endorsed in the “talent” category, I was eligible to apply for ILR after I’d been in the UK for three years and passed a “Life in the UK” test. By late June 2022, both conditions had been satisfied, so I moved forward to apply.

I didn’t urgently need to apply – I had time left on my visa – and the requirement to remain physically in the UK while the application was processed meant I delayed application until we returned from New Zealand.

Unlike the initial visa application – which was reasonably complex and seemed to benefit from having a solicitor – the ILR application was simple and self-service. Even the solicitor said as much. So I gathered the needed information – itemizing all the travel I’d done out of the UK for the past three years (a very short list, thanks to the pandemic), official evidence that I’d earned income in my “specialist” field, and a few other bits and bobs, and submitted the application and fee in the middle of August.

And I paid to get “super premium” expedited service, so my application would be processed in 24 hours instead of the 26 weeks applications were nominally taking. Because one of the other devils in the details is that traveling outside the UK while the application is in process invalidates the application.

Imagine my surprise when I got the official response via email the next day from the Home Office saying: “your application for ILR has been denied. You were endorsed in the exceptional promise category which requires five years of UK residency before being eligible for indefinite leave to remain.”

You might recall that I said I applied in the promise category, was endorsed in the talent category, and had that endorsement decision in writing from the Home Office.

So what, you might ask, the actual fuck?


That was my reaction, too.

I looked to see if there was a way I could reach a human at the Home Office. Impossible. (The jokes just write themselves.)

So I reached out to the solicitor who’d helped with the initial visa application for advice. He was on holiday but I connected with one of his colleagues who agreed that the refusal from the Home Office looked to be made in error, and we started talking about paths forward.

One possibility was to request for an “Administrative Review” and challenge that decision (for another fee, naturally) within two weeks of the decision. But, the solicitor informed me, the timeline for administrative reviews was several months, and just like during the application, travel outside the UK would nullify the review request. And there is no option to pay extra for an “expedited review.” And I had work travel at the beginning of October.

The solicitor argued (to me) that Administrative Review wasn’t necessarily the right course to take. The decision, he said, was egregiously wrong. It wasn’t that I hadn’t neglected to provide some bit of required information, there was no questionable interpretation of evidence, the Home Office had just seemingly made the decision based on the wrong facts. We couldn’t even be sure they’d read my file or if they had confused me with someone else.

So the advice from the lawyer was basically “we can file a legal complaint, and we could ultimately bring a suit in court, but if you want prompt resolution, you may be best off re-applying.” So I started to wrap my head around the idea that I might need to pay the Home Office again – both the application and expedite fees – if I wanted any hope of them fixing their screw-up in reasonable time.

After sleeping on it, I instructed the solicitor to start with the formal complaint – called a “Pre-Action Protocol” – where he would lay out the situation, explain why their decision was wrong, and not-so-subtly say “please fix it, or we’ll be forced to seek redress in the courts.”

The lawyer got to drafting and over the weekend I reached out to my (limited) network of UK contacts to see if I knew anyone with connections in the Home Office that might be able to solve this with less lawyer.

It turned out I didn’t find anyone I knew with contacts at the Home Office, but I knew someone who knew someone. That second-degree someone turned out to be an immigration lawyer who had a scheduled call with their Home Office contact early the following week. They were happy to discuss my case during that call, but I needed to be a client before they could represent me. A quick letter of agreement later and I had not one but two immigration solicitors.

So much for less lawyer.

I decided I might as well play “good cop lawyer, bad cop lawyer.” With one lawyer preparing a “Pre-Action Protocol” and the other lawyer trying to make progress through a side-channel.

In the middle of the next week the “good cop lawyer” got a response basically saying “submit an Administrative Review.” So I did – the day before the review submission deadline. And gave the Home Office a little more money – ’cause that’s clearly how you effectively penalize poor performance.

And the following day the “bad cop lawyer” submitted the Pre-Action Protocol.

And I waited.

The next milestone is the response deadline for the Pre-Action Protocol on Monday the 19th – which of course is massively overshadowed by other events (and a bank holiday).

There was no news as of the close-of-business Friday, so I’ll spend the weekend waiting.

And in the words of my favorite fictional Spaniard,

I hate waiting.

Continue to Part 2

There and Back Again

In which our heroes get COVID, recover, fly halfway around the world, visit Middle Earth, walk through Mirkwood, and spelunk into Moria. Sorta.

It seems both yesterday and an age ago that good friends from Seattle passed through London while moving to New Zealand. They moved before the pandemic got rolling, and their encouragement that we come visit quickly became academic, as countries restricted travel and New Zealand closed its borders.

In late March, when New Zealand set out a timeline for tourism without quarantine, we started planning a visit; aiming for the New Zealand winter school break. We picked dates, bought tickets, and crossed our fingers that the pandemic didn’t throw another spanner in the works.

We started by sorting out cat care for the two weeks we’d be gone, and learned our very-local cat sitter – who we and the cats really liked – was moving to the other side of London and hence out of consideration. Dawnise hit on the idea of asking my brother if he wanted to come stay at our place, take care of the cats, and explore London and the UK while we were away. It slotted reasonably well into his work schedule, he was able to find flights that worked with our dates, and so we had a plan.

And then I got COVID. I came back from a trip to Seattle two-and-a-bit weeks before our scheduled departure and what I thought (hoped?) were allergies developed into feeling generally crappy and a fever. I initially tested negative, but symptoms persisted and I rolled to disbelieve – sure enough the next test was positive. Dawnise tested positive a couple days after I did and the race was on.

New Zealand had dropped their pre-flight test requirement but still required day zero and day five rapid antigen (lateral flow) tests – with a follow up PCR test and isolation on a positive result. Regardless of the test requirement, flying while positive seemed at best irresponsible, so our tickets were in a game of chicken with the virus.

I started feeling better after a week or so, and tested negative a week before departure. Dawnise cut it a bit closer, but was negative a few days before our flights – though her energy levels were still ramping back toward normal.

My brother had arranged to arrive before we left, planning to spend a week traveling before settling in at our place. He landed in London while we were both still positive, so coming here seemed a questionable choice. Wary of the flight disruptions in and out of the UK, he elected to take the train up to Edinburgh for a few days, rather than risk complications getting to or back from the continent. We got occasional dispatches from him, and he seemed to be enjoying the city as much as I thought and hoped he would.

And then he got COVID. His last morning in Edinburgh what he thought (hoped?) were allergies had expanded to include a sore throat – and the COVID test quickly returned a positive result. He made his way to our place in London – masked-up and as distanced as possible – and basically quarantined in the guest room, only emerging masked and doing everything he could to not share whatever strain he had with us.

On our day of departure we made our way to Heathrow and boarded the first of two flights, heading to Los Angeles to connect to Auckland. Our layover was taken up by a delayed departure from LHR and by sitting on the tarmac in LAX waiting for a parking stand, so we ended up running through the airport – needing to clear customs, claim our bags, recheck our bags, and re-do security (don’t get me started). Fortunately for us there were a dozen of us making the connection, and they held the Auckland flight for us.

After a long but uneventful flight we arrived in Auckland bleary eyed two days after we left. We cleared customs and biosecurity (where they asked a surprising number of questions about my hiking shoes), and picked up our day zero and five lateral flow test kits on our way out of the airport.

Our friends picked us up, and after a quick greeting drove us to their place, just north of the city.

We spent a couple days hanging out, walking on the beach, getting over jet lag and reconnecting before we hired a car (British english for “renting” a car) and formed up a convoy destined to an Air B&B in Rotarua.

We spent a few days in and around Rotarua being tourists. We saw the volcanic mud and geothermal pools and geysers that made the town a tourist destination. Saw kiwis (the bird) and learned a bit about Māori carving and weaving traditions at Te Puia Māori cultural center and art school. Walked around the “buried village,” and read about the 1886 Mt Tarawera eruption, and the now-buried pink and white terraces, walked high in the canopy of a redwood forest, and went back to do it again at night, which was pretty magical.


And of course, if you’re us you don’t go all the way to New Zealand and not tour Hobbiton. The occasional rain burst didn’t stop us having a great time. The setting was literally fantastic and the attention to detail was mind boggling. The place felt real and lived in – and some part of me wouldn’t have been surprised if a door had opened and a Hobbit had poked its head out. We had booked the “Evening Banquet Tour” so our tour group was alone in the set – no group ahead or behind us. The late day lighting added to the magic of the place, and I’m happy to say I was plesantly surprised by the banquet bit. After dinner and several dessert courses (‘urp) we picked up appropriately themed lanterns and headed back into the set, taking a moment as a group to turn off the lights and gaze up at the stars through a cinematically timed break in the evening clouds.

The Shire

On the morning we left the Air B&B we took separate paths. Dawnise and I headed off to visit the Waitomo limestone and glow worm caves taking the long way back to Auckland.


The following day we dropped off the hire car back in the city and wandered around Auckland a bit. We found very respectable Mexican food, good coffee and possibly the most pretentious ice cream ever before catching the bus back to their place.

And then Dawnise got… a cold. Nothing horrible, just some sinus congestion and fatigue, but most unwelcome.

We spent the last couple days hanging out with our friends – playing games, chatting, sharing meals. The day we left we played games basically right up to when we needed to leave for the airport.

Our flight from Auckland to San Francisco was slightly delayed, but a longer stop in SFO meant we just spent a bit more time waiting in AKL and a bit less time waiting in SFO. We departed for London on schedule – a couple hours before we’d left Auckland (timezones are weird).

The flights were long but basically uneventful, aside from the turbulence that seems nearly guaranteed to happen just as they’re serving drinks and dinner.

Dawnise even managed to get some sleep in transit.

When we got back to the flat we had missed my brother by an hour or so – he waited to know we were on the final flight home before heading out on an overnight trip to York – and the cats seemed to mostly not notice or care we were back.

We unpacked, showered off 30 hours of travel grime and went to get some groceries. With some help from a re-run of Alan Davies: As Yet Untitled we even managed to stay up to a mostly reasonable hour before surrendering to sleep.

It was our first “real” trip in three years – and all things considered went pretty well.

We spent Monday recovering from jet lag, and Tuesday I went back to work – but that’s a story for another time.

Oh, and with a little nudging my brother pushed out his flight home to spend a bit more time “over here,” and make up for the time he spent isolating and recovering from COVID. He’s off to Barcelona in a couple days. Fingers crossed he makes it back for his flight home.

Chatting about the trip through the haze of jet lag Dawnise poignantly observed that our time there felt completely normal.

It was probably the first time she’d said that in three years, and was a sharp and present reminder to us both of how much we miss having these people close, and in our lives.

To Boldly Go…

I woke up ridiculously early this morning (thanks, jet lag!) and learned of the passing of Nichelle Nichols.

I remembered hearing Nichols describing her early experiences on Star Trek, talking about planning to leave the show and being convinced to stay on by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. [*]

It brought to mind a picture, taken years ago at a Star Trek exhibit at the Seattle Science Fiction Museum, of the epigram “Spock told me it was okay to be smart.”

As a young fan – watching Star Trek long after its initial debut – Uhura’s presence on the bridge, and on away teams, didn’t seem extraordinary. It seemed totally normal. The “diversity” of the crew was just … the way it was.

Before “you can’t be what you can’t see” entered the zeitgeist, Nichols (and Roddenberry) were showing.

Nichelle showed young women of color, and young women broadly, that it was okay to be them. That they could be a critical part of a crew, and be treated as equals.

That they could boldly go … just about anywhere.

Godspeed, Ms. Nichols.

Thank a Teacher Who Changed Your Life

Kevin Kelly – co-founder of Wired – has offered collections of “unsolicited advice” on his last few birthdays. He turned 70 this year, and while reading this year’s list over breakfast this morning one of his suggestions brought me up short.

Thank a teacher who changed your life.

I sat for a moment, reflecting on how incredibly fortunate I’ve been.

Mrs. Tanizawa and Mrs. Hurtado (née Yoon), who taught me – through the lens of hindsight – that there’s more than one way to hold students to high standards and great expectations.

Mrs. Kemp, who was living proof that “playing with computers” could be a living. I can still see that 7th grade class room in my mind’s eye – desks on one side, Apple computers on the other. Her choice to “retire” from industry and teach is one I will be forever grateful for.

Mr. Barron, who accepted a freshman into an elective course for 3rd and 4th year students, making it clear that if I stayed my work would be held to that standard. And who showed a bunch of over-confident teens that when arguing a case in front of a judge, confidence only gets you so far. And that teams can go further than they realize. I think of him anytime I see a red marker pen, or someone mentiones Chester A. Arthur.

Mr. Klevos, who imagined my surname might be french, and found ways to blend literature and the arts in ways that deepened my appreciation for both.

Mrs. Wilkoff, who made European history about more than the wars. And who reminded me, in a moment of candor in the classroom, that teachers are first and foremost “just people.” I thought of her on my first visit to Prague, standing at the window of the famed defenestrations. If learning is what you remember years later… I learned.

Mr. Cullinane, who was a teacher, a scientist, and a coach. He couldn’t help but be all of those things all of the time, and his students reaped the benefits.

Mr. Douglass, who always graciously accepted the lead roles in our in-class Shakespeare readings – and who insisted that plays were meant to be heard if they couldn’t be seen.

Randy Hyde, and Dr.’s Molle and Payne, each of whom had disproportionate impact on my undergraduate studies.

And while I don’t think I was ever her student in a classroom setting, this list would be woefully incomplete if it didn’t include my mom. You may have retired, but you’ll never stop being a teacher.

The words “thank you” are not near enough.

Time Flies When You’re Faffing About

It’s been two months since leaving gainful employment, and Dawnise says I’ve been much less grumpy.

On the other hand, I’ve found myself – for the first time in decades – thinking seriously about the rising risk of nuclear conflict. Unlike during the height of the Cold War, this time the nuclear powers are commanding aging arsenals, subject to decades of partial neglect, and one side gains significant advantage in convincing the rest of the world “he really would.”

And there’s a no shortage of grumpy down that well.

I’ve watched the Biden administrations’ choice to broadly share intelligence about Putin’s observed and anticipated actions with interest, and found the level of projected unity in the west’s response to Putin’s actions surprising.

And like many I’m inspired by the determination and poise of the Ukranian people and their leadership.

Organizations you already support may well be providing aid to those affected by the growing crisis – please help if you can. If you’re unsure how to help, Médecins Sans Frontières, International Medical Corps, International Rescue Committee, Unicef, World Central Kitchen, and many others would welcome your support.

Our trip back to Seattle to see my sister, and on to Florida to visit my parents and brother, at the end of January went well. We got to meet our nieces, spent some time with good friends, and managed it all without getting COVID.

And while COVID has continued to remind us that it’s still in the drivers seat – with case counts in the UK bouncing around like a Super Ball – my personal risk analysis has led me to treat the current variant like the Flu. I certainly don’t want it, but I don’t see a need to rearrange life around it either.

So over the past couple months we’ve been doing more things “around town.” Some theater, dinner with friends, occasional meet-ups at the pub, and Dawnise has snagged us tickets to a few QI tapings. We’ve even met a couple of our neighbors. All in all it’s been starting to feel like we actually live in London. And that’s a very welcome change indeed.

The news that New Zealand is accelerating reopening the border to visitors means we’ll be planning a trip to visit very dear friends we’ve not seen since they stopped over in London in late 2019, while emigrating from Seattle to Auckland. It’s at least months out, and there are still a million things that could go wrong, but I’m allowing myself a bit of hope and optimism.

I had breakfast with a former colleague some weeks back, and he pitched me on joining him at his new thing, and that catalyzed some thinking, and a handful of preliminary conversations, about what I might do next.

No news yet that fit to print, further bulletins as events warrant.

We Have a Guest Bed (Again)

Yesterday afternoon Dawnise helped me assemble the guest bed, which had been disassembled and stowed up against the wall since before we moved in to this flat 14 months ago.

I was surprised at how much seeing a bed in that bedroom made me smile.

Yesterday was my last day in the office, and assuming our pre-flight COVID tests tomorrow don’t surprise us (incredibly unlikely, since we’ve basically self-isolated for the past week), Tuesday morning we head to Heathrow to catch a flight to Seattle. We planned the trip before the Omicron wave, and after much consideration and debate, we decided to stick to the plan.

We’ve dialed down our social planning a bunch, so as not to catch anything and become super spreaders, so if you’re reading this in Seattle and would like to catch up while we’re there – we’d love to, but “not this time,” I’m sorry to say.

The bed building that started this all is for a friend of ours who’s coming to stay at the flat for the time we’re gone. It’s a change of scenery for her and care and company for the cats, who’ve not been separated from us for the better part of two years. She might even get to spend some time wandering around London, weather permitting.

One of the hardest bits of planning this trip – or any trip – was sorting out care for Oscar. A cat sitter willing to appear twice a day to feed and inject a cat has proven to be tricky.

I’m happy to report that our cat care needs got significantly easier a few days ago, when Oscar’s latest blood work showed continued normal fructosamie levels and glucose control. When his vet called to chat about the results, she said “it’s up to you, but if it were my cat, I’d stop giving the insulin; the risk of overdose at this point is higher than being underdosed.”

You don’t need to tell me twice.

Along with the need for daily insulin, so goes the need for a strict 12 hour feeding schedule. His (very low carbohydrate) wet-food diet, and needing to ensure Oscar doesn’t eat Ivan’s food, still pose challenges for once-daily pet care vists.

We bought Ivan a fancy feeder that only opens for him when we found one on significant reduction (who knew having the cat microchipped would be useful beyond reuniting us if we wandered off?), and a lower tech dual timed feeder for Oscar. We’ve been working on figuring out how to do all the days feeding at night. We haven’t quite cracked it, but it feels like we’re close.

So no insulin while we’re gone, and a week or so after we return we’ll bring him in for another test. Assuming the blood work continues to look good he’ll go to a six-month recheck schedule, and after that TBD.

Tuesday evening we’ll land at SEATAC, pick up the rental car, and switch back to driving on the right (hand) side of the road.

We’ll sort through a couple years of mail and clean out the pantry of stuff that’s two years out of date. Dawnise has an appointment at the Department of Licensing to get her driving licence renewed, and we’ll finally get to meet our nieces. After about a week in Seattle we head to visit my parents on the east coast for a few days before heading back to London.

I wish I could say I’m looking forward to the trip, but mostly I’m just trepidacious.

Oh, that guest bed? Once COVID sees fit to give us our lives back, reservations will be available…

I’ve forgotten how to travel…

As I type I’m sitting on a LNER train to York, Dawnise and our traveling companions scattered through the carriage behind me.

It’s the farthest I’ve been from Central London in nearly two years. It’s just for a few days – were back in London on Monday – but it feels..significant.


A feeling I remember from the before time.

The anticipation of a new place. The uncertainty of what we’ll find.

“I hope the hotel is as nice as it looked.”

“I hope there’s a place that makes drinkable coffee.”

Getting this far took a surprising amount of work – mostly to find someone to care for our diabetic and hence high maintenance cat(s). After several false starts we’ve left the boys and a set of keys to our flat in the hands of someone we’ve only just met, but who seems lovely.

Packing used to be a rote routine. I’m clearly out of practice. I’m pretty sure I packed only what I need, and didn’t forget anything. At least not anything I can’t obtain or do without for a couple days.

Fingers crossed.

It also reminds me that I really like train travel. Watching the scenery blurring past. The quiet of a not-crammed-full train carriage, people reading, chatting quietly.

And it reminds me of work trips from a past life.

Wandering around the UK and Europe visiting business partners with colleagues who were good travel companions and friends. The sinking feeling when a colleague realized she’d left her handbag on a train. The incredulity when the train operator confirmed that they had her bag and it would be back where we were via the first train the next morning. The utter shock when it actually appeared as promised, contents intact.

We’re approaching our penultimate stop.

Soon I’ll be somewhere I wasn’t this morning. That I’ve never been before.

I miss this.

When The Juice Isn’t Worth the Squeeze

I generally avoid writing about “work stuff.” This is an exception.

It’s early November as I type this, but it’ll sit unpublished for at least a couple weeks. A couple weeks ago, in late October, I “gave notice” that I intend to resign my role and part ways with my employer.

In the US it’d be all done and dusted by now. Not so in the UK.

Per my employment agreement (contract, even!) I owed the company (and the company owed me) three months notice if either side wanted to end the relationship. So notice in October translated to leaving in January. At the time of this writing, only a handful of my colleagues and leadership are aware of my decision. Communicating broadly this early seemed unnecessary and likely counter-productive, hence the delay in publication. As you’re reading this, it means the proverbial cat’s been let out of its bag.

The frequently asked questions from peers and leaders were “what’s next?” and “why?”

“What’s next?” is the easy one. Nothing, at least for a bit. I’m going to take a break. We’re planning to stay in the UK for a while, and hopefully (all appropriate digits crossed) eventually get the chance to do some of the traveling we moved “over here” to do, before Covid repeatedly dumped cold water on our plans. I figure I’ll start looking around for the next thing in the spring, and we’ll see where that ends us up.

Saying “easy” is maybe glossing over things a bit. That we can stick around, and don’t face a deadline to get ourselves and the cats out of the UK, comes from a healthy dose of good fortune, a bit of good planning, and help from some good friends*.

So that leaves “why?”

When someone decides to leave a group there are three sets of reasons. There are reasons they keep to themselves, reasons they share with the group, and reasons the group hears. To me, making the reasons I share and the reasons that are heard “the same” is important. And can be surprisingly difficult. I figure the best strategy is to pick one message you want to deliver, state the message as simply as you can, and deliver it consistently. Even then people, to a large extent, will hear what they want to hear. They’ll focus on the bits of the story that resonate with their world view, their experience, or their biases. And there’s not much you can do to prevent that.

The message I’m trying to consistently deliver is rougly “it’s not you, it’s me.” Over four years working in three different parts of the company under different leaders on different projects, I’ve proven to myself that I can be effective and impactful in this peculiar environment – something I wasn’t completely confident of, having been in my last role and company for over a decade. In that time I’ve also come to realize that I’m not having as much fun as our tagline suggests I should – especially given the energy and time the role demands.

At the end of the day I’m moving on because, as a friend (and soon-to-be-former colleague) likes to say, it feels like “the juice isn’t worth the squeeze.”

I’ve learned a bunch over these four years. I’ve gained a deeper understanding of how this “really big tech company” does what it does. What it’s good at. What it struggles with. I’m leaving with no regrets and (hopefully) no bridges burned.

I’ve met some great folks who I’m happy to call friends, and who I’d happily choose to work with again. And who I’m definitely going to miss.

That reason is true, by the way. Which to me is really important. But it’s obviously not the whole truth. One could ask “why?” again and again, until there are no new answers. I’m not going to bore you with that exercise, but I did do it. It pointed me at root causes that I don’t have leverage or agency to fix. Indeed, “fixing” some of them would mean changing fundamental tenets the company culture holds close, and has been successful following.

So, it’s time for me to try something new.

All that’s left now is to figure out what that might be.

I Will Not Take These Things for Granted

Europe and the UK are entering another holiday season with COVID hanging menacingly over the festivities like The Sword of Damocles.

Christmas events across the countries in Europe hardest hit by the current wave are being canceled. The trip to Belgium we failed to take in 2019 owing to a French rail strike is this time being scuttled by the near vertical case growth in Belgium and the restrictions that accompany it.

In a shocking first, the government here has taken quick action in response to the new “variant of concern.” England has reinstated mandatory masks on transit and in public indoor spaces (but not restaurants or pubs, the places people tend to gather close and trade exhalations), and as of today will require mandatory self-isolation pending a negative PCR test on (re)entry to the country.

Against this backdrop, Dawnise and I hosted two other expat couples to celebrate American Thanksgiving on Sunday. It was the first time we’d had six people around the table in the year we’ve lived in this flat.

We spent the morning prepping our contributions, and when guests arrived we spent the day cooking, laughing, and quaffing wine before eating good food with good friends.

After dinner, we each took a moment to share some of the things we were thankful for over the past year.

There were a few shared themes. Being healthy. Having friends to share moments of lightness. Of having been incredibly lucky to find a life partner who’s a good partner – even after two years in near constant close quarters.

We played a few games before parceling out the left-overs and saying goodnight. One couple caught a cab home to their place a few miles east, and the other covered the few blocks that separate us on foot.

After putting the ovens into self-clean mode, loading the dishwasher, and washing the handful of things that needed it we adjourned to the sofa and found something funny to watch before turning in for the evening.

It was a poignant reminder of the sort of thing we used to do fairly regularly, and the sort of thing I sincerely hope to do with increasing regularity in the future.

And something I will do my very best to not take for granted.