Will be heading off to WikiMania on Tuesday. The nice thing about blogs is that you can mix the personal and the professional. I’m a very nervous about going off to WikiMania because I’m in the middle of a life transition, something similar to graduating from college. I’m going to start travelling a lot more in the future than I have in the past, and things like my career, my family, and basically who I am are going to change radically in the next few months. As with all life transitions, I’ve been very, very nervous and stressed. I’ll survive, but it is uncomfortable. On the other hand, growing up always is.
The basic plan is that I’m going to be travelling to Taiwan in the summer when school is out for the kids, and I’ll be travelling either to NYC or Boston one week each month. One week each month should give me enough time and energy to network and start publishing papers. Part of the reason this is uncomfortable is that I’m not used to travelling so much. I’m also not used to spending money quite this freely. I’ve always been taught to save up money for the future, but the future has arrived, and if I don’t cash in my chips now, I don’t know when I ever will. If I don’t travel, I can’t network, if I can’t network, then I’m stuck in Austin for the rest of my life, and the thought of being 50 and doing what I’m doing now is both depressing and scary. I don’t want that to happen to me, and if I want to avoid that, I have to do something about it now.
A lot of this becoming a “global nomad” has to do with changes in technology and the way that the world works. Phone calls and telecommunications have made working remotely extremely cheap. Jet planes and discount tickets have also changed the economics of flight. One final thing that has also changed. In 1949, my family ended up on different sides of the Taiwan straits, and because of this separation, I’ve always had somewhat of a psychological resistance to anything that “splits the family.” One thing that is the case is that I’m now growing more confident that there won’t be a repeat of the Chinese Civil War, and this has freed up a lot of psychological energy, and made me less afraid of flying to and fro, and having my wife and kids physically in a different location than I am in.
I’m anxiously awaiting direct flights between Shanghai and Taipei in 2008, and that will just be the beginning. What will really change things is when you have direct flights between 2nd tier cities like between Jia-yi and Taizhou, Zhejiang or Hefei, Anhui which should start happening in the decade or so after the start of direct flights, at which point I really become a nomad. That opens up a whole other set of issues. My relatives in mainland China are blood, but they are still largely blood strangers, and either connecting or reconnecting is going to be stressful and create huge new constellations of relationships.
And with all of the changes and stresses in my life, it’s not surprising that I’ve been thinking a lot about my alter ego Professor W and his wife Professor L (see the sidebar). Professor W (aka the person I would have been if some things had changed) is more or less satisfied with his professional life, whereas it wasn’t until my nervous breakdown about three weeks ago, which was triggered by an article about the “real” Professor L, that I was willing to admit to myself (or more accurately forced to admit to myself) how totally dissatisfied I was with my professional life. The fortunate thing, however, is that to change this part of my life, I don’t need to break any fundamental laws of physics.