Thursday, December 13, 2007


There's no pulling one over on you guys, is there? I thought that the peach drawings were but a tantilizing clue, but as it turns out, the news was TOTALLY OBVIOUS. Well, as many have guessed, the big news is that Joe matched in an oculoplastics fellowship in Atlanta, and we will be moving there this July. To live. For two years. In Atlanta. Which is in this state called "Georgia." Which is far away. And not New York. At all.

I am feeling somewhat conflicted about all this.

On one hand, it is a good thing. Joe matching in a good program at a very big academic medical center is undeniably great news. He has been in the process of applying for plastics programs for about two years now, so to finally have some payoff on that is a relief. After he didn't match this past spring, we almost immediately started the process of applying for some other 2008 plastics positions outside of the spring match, in addition to starting the ordeal of getting our ducks in a row for the 2009 match proess. This is a not insubstantial amount of work, complicated by the sort of weary cynicism that accompanies any large burden of work for which you are not assured any results at all.

So while matching at this program in Atlanta is great news on one front, I have to be honest that for both of us, receiving this news yesterday that the deal was done evoked an emotion just short of happiness. On one hand--he landed this competitive fellowship! He will get excellent training! Great surgical cases! Good news for his career! Huzzah! But on the other hand, we are basically giving up absolutely everything else. I had a fellowship spot at [Univeristy Hospital] for next year, and I will be giving that up. My family lives in New York, and we will have to move away from them. We have housing, childcare, a network of people up here, and when we move, we will be saying goodbye to it all. From that point of view, the scales look a little...uneven. We always said that because Joe's fellowship was so difficult to get and such a great opportunity for him that wherever he ended up matching, we would just pick up and go, This had better be worth it.

I have to admit in moments of self-pity that I feel a certain 1970s Hillary Clinton-esque martyrdom. I mean, this fellowship that I signed up for would have been good for my career, for my professional development, and my department chairman had discussed with me the idea of staying on at [University Hospital] as faculty afterwards. So why would we automatically move to accomodate Joe's career? Was there a certain latent sexism on both our parts to presume that this should happen? Why move for him and give up everything else, as opposed to staying for me?

Well, it's not so simple, is all it comes down to. Obviously, landing an oculoplastics fellowship is really, impossibly tough, even for the most qualified candidates, so to turn down a good situation when it is offered to you is just short of huberis. And I could always come back and reapply for the Regional fellowship if I so wanted. I could always apply for a faculty position at [University Hospital] after Joe's fellowship is completed. These are reasonable options, and these are opportunities that would be available to me even after some time. But a good oculoplastics fellowship on the other hand is a rare bird indeed. You just don't turn a good position like that down. Another one may never come along.

In addition, despite my initial reflexive reaction to uprooting our entire lives for this fellowship, it's not just about Joe's career. Compared with some of the other fellowships that we've looked at, this one offers (supposedly--this from Joe, who is clearly trying to sell it to me) a better quality of life for its fellows. He will be able to spend more time with me and Cal, have shorter hours, less intense call. And after he's done with his fellowship, he will hopefully also be able to have a better lifestyle overall. Again, better hours, better income, and more importantly, he will be happy doing the kind of surgery and practicing the kind of medicine that he enjoys. I have, several times in the past, told Joe to just forget plastics, do general opthalmology, practice part time and stay home with Cal the rest of the time, leaving it to me to bring home the bacon. I was only partially kidding. But for Joe, it's not so much the income as it is the work. I mean, yes, we need to put food on the table, but in the end, he needs to be doing the kind of work that makes him happy.

In addition, in the big scheme of things, Atlanta is a pretty nice place to live. We applied to worse programs in way more far-flung places. I'd much rather live in Atlanta than a lot of those other "cities" (I use the term loosely), where the corn maze and the world's largest ball of twine are central attractions. My cousins lived in Atlanta (well, Alpharetta, which is one of the suburbs) for a good many years of my childhood. Atlanta is doable. I can handle Atlanta. Of course, you have to understand that I have lived in Manhattan for the past 29 years of my life, so this all will not come without some period of adjustment.

So, we have a lot to do before then. I have rescheduled some vacation time, and in February, we're all going to fly down to Atlanta for a week to try to get some shit done. We have already submitted applications and scheduled five preschool interviews for Cal, we are researching the real estate market, and I will have to start applying for a job. Lots to accomplish in one week. This is where the audience participation part of things play in. Some of you may know Atlanta. Some of you may actually even live there. Some basic questions:

  • Where should we live? I know the traffic in Atlanta is completely unreasonable because everyone drives, because the mass transit system is just not as robust or reliable as the one that I am used to. We want to minimize our commute time, obviously, and we have applied mostly for preschools near where Joe will be working. (Should I say where it will be? Are people going to stalk him? I think it should be obvious to anyone who actually knows Atlanta--it is the big Academic Medical Center. Starts with a E. Yes? OK. Stalkers, ho!) We were thinking of Decatur. Is this a nice area for families? Is the rental market reasonable, or do we have to buy to get anything good?

  • Any dirt on any of the local preschools? We are pretty familiar with the names of most of the ones in the area, but of course, we don't have the benefit of insider knowledge, so all we do is assess whether or not their website looks good before applying. It does not have to be super fancy, we just want a school with good teachers and nice families, and a facility with a minimum of tasty lead pain chips. More towards the preschool end of the spectrum and less towards the daycare end preferably, though I know sometimes those lines are blurry.

  • This is something of a long shot for any of my colleagues down there, but--any good anesthesia practices in the area? I am obviously going to send my CV to the Academic Medical Center, and cold call some of the other places that might use private groups, but any extra info anyone can give me would be much appreciated. You can e-mail me, if you are with an actual group, I will even send you my CV and all that stuff. Finally, the world will know what I got on Step I of my Boards. I know you've been waiting.

  • I'm going to have to drive, aren't I? (This was not a real question, more of a rhetorical "woe, woe" lament.)

  • Recommendations on a good Pediatrics practice would be appreciated. We're going to have to set up some stuff for Cal, obviously. I would prefer if the practice was affiliated with the Academic Medical Center just for ease of access, but if you know someone who's really stellar and in a non-academic private practice, I will take that too. Ditto on a good OB/Gyn or vet for Cooper.

  • What if we don't have any friends? What if no one likes me? (This, again, is not a real question. I also used to ask myself these things before going to summer camp.)

So anyway, obviously a lot of big changes going on around here, mostly good, some traumatic but still good in that growing-stronger-through-change kind of way. Clearly, you will hear way too much about the process of relocating from New York to Atlanta in the upcoming months. I know, it's everything you never wanted to know and wouldn't ever think to ask. You're welcome.

We're moving to Atlanta.