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Last night's absurdley long thread about how I ended up raising a family in Hamilton ended with a promise.
Now, I'm going to tread a little carefully here. Especially towards the end. And at the start. Not so much in the middle.
So let's go back to 2017, just before the Big Move Back Home. I had what was, in retrospect, a pretty dumb idea. I was working for myself in a quite minor way (1 day a week), and wanted to turn that into my only job.
It doesn't sound that dumb yet, but hang on.
Regular readers (lol, it's only my 2nd day here) will recall that we had a new baby and a kid under 2. This makes working from home kinda tough. You might also recall that we were selling our house and leaving town.
Already, these aren't the decisions of a business genius. Add in that the move is away from Auckland, our nation's commercial capital and home of all my clients (I do web content stuff, btw), to Hamilton, which isn't exactly Silicon Valley.
Something you should probably know: Whenever I tell stories about my life, it's really obvious that two things play a larger role than anything I bring to the table. Those two things are Dumb Luck and Smart Wife.
Smart Wife is busy mumming the newborn, helping manage the house sale, job hunting for herself, travelling down SH1 to look at houses recommended to her by her in-laws...
And Dumb Luck is just waiting in the wings.
There's another character to introduce at this point, but I don't really want to drag too many unwitting participants into this whole thing. This introduction starts with a little subplot. So: Back to 1996 we go!
The mid-late '90s were great for a lot of reasons. One of the best things I have to look back on is a crop of really good, fun friends in the last few years of high school. Great folk, even if not many of them stood out at the time for all-round competence and level-headedness.
But the character we're introducing here - let's call her Wise Friend - was all of those things. Really good and fun, possessing all-round adult-like competence even as a teen, and remarkably level-headed in whatever stupid situations the rest of us put her in.
It goes without saying that with all those qualities to her credit, she bailed from our little town as soon as she could. I'd hear news over the years of the fascinating corners of the globe she made her way to and the inspiring stuff she did there. Made me proud to know her.
It was almost unbelievable when Wise Friend eventually returned not just to NZ, but to Hamilton. We got her back! A little while before my own move home, she got a job at the university here.
Okay, now we're back in 2017 and Smart Wife comes back into things. Because as well as all this...
...Smart Wife is quietly keeping an eye out for various versions of Plan B, just in case my idea of running my own business while upheaving our entire family life and putting distance between myself and my clients didn't work out.
And Smart Wife just happens to notice that Waikato Uni are advertising a job. The ad basically boils down to: "Do you do what Max does, and do you live in Hamilton? Because that's pretty much exactly what we need."

I had not noticed this ad. Smart Wife had set up email alerts.
But this is Hamilton, so you can't just apply for a job like a normal person. You have to work out who you know, or who your friends know, in the area first. There are no strangers in this town, as far as we know, so don't act like one.
"Ah ha!" I think, "Wise Friend will help me find someone to talk to about this Job For Max that her employer is advertising."

So I call her.

"Hey, do you know anything about the people who are trying to hire a Max?"

And this is where my favourite character re-enters the story.
Wise Friend says, "Oh that Job For Max? Yeah, as of yesterday that job reports directly to me."

Ok, time for some careful treading and disclaimers and stuff.

Wise Friend totally tapped out of the actual recruiting here. I was interviewed and appointed by other people, okay? Okay.

But I didn't apply before a quick coffee nd a chat with Wise Friend.
The coffee started with her pulling into my parents' driveway (still the same house where I grew up) and saying, "Well, add this to the list of fuckin' weird memory throwbacks since I got back to town."
But mainly I wanted to know about working at the uni - what they're trying to get done, and how, and what it's like day-to-day. What she describes sounds fine. Not mindblowing, but absolutely survivable. Together we figure we could probably do some good there too.
One of the good things about having a friend as a possible new boss is that you can say things you wouldn't say to other possible new bosses. Things like, "ok, so if I get the job I reckon you could get two years out me before I get bored."
Meanwhile, I'm thinking that two years as a salaried desk-jockey sound like a much easier start to Hamilton life than some sort of frenzied attempt to build a business out of an office that doubles as a nursery. And, even better...
...I'd get to have one of my absolute favourite people as a boss. You know those friends who you like as a buddy and respect as a Real Grown-Up and would trust with everything you own? Yeah, one of them.
I've said this a lot, and it's true: I wasn't even looking for a job, but when the chance to work for Wise Friend came up, I couldn't resist applying.

You know, for a two-year stint.
So I do the interview (at 9pm, via video and mobile phone, from a hotel room in Minneapolis, while half-drunk on booze that Facebook paid for...but that's another story) and get the job.
I didn't tell the panel about the two-year thing, but I did tell them that back when I'd been squarely in their university's target market, I didn't even consider them and moved straight to the other end of the country.

Somehow, I turned that into a positive.
So by the time we move to Hamilton (into the house that Dumb Luck helped us find), I have a really good job (that Smart Wife found).
So, what was working at the uni like? Well, it had interesting, surprising windows...
...the occasional public lecture, some from actual world-changing geniuses...
...day-long events that celebrated Women in Leadership but still somehow found ways to put me, a non-leadership guy, behind the podium (I was one of two men who spoke that day - the other one was the Vice-Chancellor)…
...little moments of Hamilton history...
...workmates who were fun to spend time with, and bloody good at what they do...
...generous, inspiring academics...
...things like whatever this was...
...a union that needed a new poster designer...
...and, in amongst all of that, the chance for me to nerd out by doing whatever it is I do when I work.
And that's just the stuff I tweeted.
The stuff I didn't tweet was all the regular large organisation stuff. Boring meetings. Office politics. Slow progress. Coffee. Whiteboards. Emails.
One other thing that you can't get away from in big organisations: restructures.

This is another good time for ol' story-tellin' Max to calm down a bit.
Here's the flavour of the whole thing though: stuff.co.nz/national/educa…
Restrucutres have never really worried me. I mean, c'mon, I work with digital stuff. Everyone needs better digital stuff, right? Right?

Nek minnit*, I'm a newsworthy statistic.

So the whole team has had some bad days lately. Ever had a bad day? When Dumb Luck decided not to ride to my rescue and left me on my own, I rode into a pole.
Okay, enough gloom. Let's fast-forward to now. My wounds are healed (that chin plaster was sexy, though), my left arm works again, and my old employer offered redundancy rather than just kicking us out.
The leafy hill tweet was the day I took the deal on offer. It was a good walk home.
Remember those two years I pledged Wise Friend?

I got to 23 months.
And THAT is why I'm a suburban househusband now.


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