Thursday, May 13, 2010

Full Speed Ahead

It’s not that I have nothing to say, merely that I haven’t the time to say it. In the last two years, I’ve been laid off, tried to start a company, got hired, met my wife, proposed to my wife, planned a wedding, got laid off again, got married, moved countries, and drove 3,000 miles to a new city. I’ve held four different jobs in the last two years, and my wife and I explored fourteen cities in fifteen states and once Canadian province over a period of two months.

After rolling into Houston, a city of friendly Jews, a low cost of living, and even a few jobs, we decided to weigh anchor. We rented an apartment on a month-to-month basis, furnished down to the beds and linens, which was perfect since all we had was the clothing, laptops, and cup o’ noodles we could fit into our car. After dropping $170 at the dollar store on bowls, an ironing board, paper towels, and all the other necessities of apartment living, it was time to hit the job market.

Economists tell us we’re in the worst recession since the sixth day of creation, so it’s no longer good enough to just post a resume here and there and expect a job to magically come and find you. I started pounding the ground, shaking every hand and meeting everyone who would sit down with me for a conversation. I probably spent eight or nine hours a day visiting job fairs, making cold calls to potential contacts, meeting in networking groups, visiting professional organization gatherings, and practicing my elevator pitch. Eventually, it paid off, and I managed to get the job I was looking for. I’m now working for an environmental-oriented ESCO (energy services company.) We work on energy generation and conservation, as well as green technology projects. We show large municipalities and companies how to retrofit their existing facilities to save power, or generate power locally and sell it back to the grid, or any other number of engineering projects that come through the door. On the down side, the salary is low and I'm working 10-hour days, and a few hours on Sundays too. On the plus side, it’s a small firm with only four engineers, but it has great potential, and I’m gaining experience in all sorts of new fields of engineering that are expecting rapid growth over the coming years. The company is very growth-oriented (the CEO is an Enron survivor and has managed multimillion dollar projects in the past) and if the growth curve for energy conservation and renewable technology continues as it has over the last five years, it's a good thing to be getting in on the ground floor.

Meanwhile, my wife continued searching, and found her dream job working in Kiruv, Jewish outreach, a couple of weeks ago. She's still learning the ropes there, but we hope to be able to take everything we learned in Jerusalem and spread the knowledge here where it's most needed.

If I could sum up my feelings about life in Israel toward the last few months I was there, I'd say I felt like I had reached a personal dead end. Not that the spiritual magnetism or the feeling of living with purpose had gone away, but I had a sense I personally wasn't having an effect. The settlements and hilltops are turning people away, the army didn’t want anyone over twenty five, and all of Israel’s green technology firms, despairing of working with the Israeli government, found themselves building projects abroad. I had the feeling of having, through great effort and sacrifice, transformed myself into a cog in a machine that had already been retired. The lack of ability to get out of my one-bedroom closet-sized apartment, or even pay the rent without digging into savings, was the clincher.

I still have that flame in me though. I miss learning Tanach while standing on the spot where it happened, I miss seeing that same soul in a million faces of every color, and most of all I miss my friends and family. My aliyah engine may be on idle but the pilot light is still lit, and I’ve got enough fuel to make the long haul back one more time. I have big plans and great ambition, and I’m looking forward to what the future has to bring, and what I can bring to the future.

At the seashore in Kemah, Texas