The Fears

The busywork is done. All there is to do now is to wait for ticketing, when they tell me what day I need to get on a plane and go. Some time in late October, maybe the last week, maybe the week before, is the current estimate.

When I’m nervous, I deal with it by keeping busy. Packing, making lists, checking things twice. There’ll be plenty of all that once October rolls around, but at the moment, there’s nothing left to do but sit, and listen to the ghosts and demons brewing in my head.
I’m afraid. Really. Not afraid of the physical things – that I’ll get hurt, that I’ll die out on the ice. No, not an issue. I fly antique airplanes for fun – my physical risk of meeting an untimely end at the Pole is pathetically low. But there are a billion things to be afraid of, and they all loom out of the shadows of my mind in these quiet moments
  1. I’ll hate it, and feel trapped.
  2. I’ll love it, and get whatever the Polar equivalent is of “Post Playa Syndrome”. That when I return, I’ll feel detached from my past life, and see it just as time to be spent preparing to get back to the ice, to my people, to my new, more meaningful life.
  3. I’ll let the team down – I’ll suck at my job, and there will be a drain on the effort.
  4. I won’t fit in. I desperately want to fit in.
  5. I’ll be cold. Really cold. It is cold down there.
  6. I’ll freak out from claustrophobia.
  7. Loneliness.
  8. Kids. Five months is a long time for kids to not see their dad. 

Okay. Not a billion, but I’m sure there are more than I’m getting to here. And some of these (e.g. “I’ll hate it”) seem to have a million little demons hiding under the Halloween bedsheet of a simple phrase. There are so many ways for something to not work out.

I haven’t taken a leap like this since 1986, when I signed on to take a year off in Japan. I was 23 and intent on taking a year off from grad school, when the opportunity to work in Japan popped up. In some ways, it was a beautiful match – the American Electronics Association was looking for American grad students to go work at Japanese electronics companies for a year. I was a second year grad student, and I’d been studying Japanese hard for a couple of years. There was a catch, though: in order to have a pool of students they could match, we had to commit to a ridiculously vague contract: we would go to Japan and work for a year without knowing where we would live, who we would work for, what we would do, and least of all what we would be paid. We were to sign the contract and trust the AEA to do its best for us.
That leap of faith landed me well, a spectacular turn of events that added up to perhaps the best year of my life. It didn’t turn out so well for some of my colleagues, but that’s another story. A whole lot of other stories.
I dunno – as Elizabeth points out, probabilities seem to work strangely in the Pabloverse, so I keep taking these chances.
And if they don’t?  I guess, in theory, I could quit. Section 17(b) of the Terms of Employment specify that the USAP will fly me back to the US and not fret about the door hitting my butt on the the out if I did. So the logistics are, in theory, simple.
But geez – I’ve never quit a job. Well, there was Harlequin, but I told them that I would stay as long as they needed, and at that point, the company was in freefall, and the Technical Director of the company had written me letters of recommendation for my next hop. So I hardly left them in the lurch.
But  what happens on the ice if people don’t work out? Do people quit? I’m sure they’ve got plenty of psychological help down there watching out for people who are feeling the strain.
Okay. J’s up and desperately wanting attention. More silent panic later….

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