In less than two months, I will be moving to Kearney, Nebraska, with my wife and child. This is without question the hardest decision I’ve had to make so far. I’ll be moving away from the city I’ve called home for the last eight years, my two brothers and their families, great friends, our beautiful home, and, of course, all that this amazing city has to offer. I will not, however, be leaving my job at Oxide.
I love Omaha.
Since my arrival, I’ve never imagined myself living anywhere but Omaha. When my wife and I visited other cities for her career opportunities, I would say, “I could see myself living here,” but at the same time I was thinking, “until we move back to Omaha.” I loved what these cities (especially Kansas City, Minneapolis, Milwaukee, and Austin) had to offer, but they just didn’t feel like home.
My wife and I grew up in O’Neill, a small northeast Nebraska community of 3,700 people. The small-town experience is special. Everything is within an arm’s reach, you know all of your neighbors, and you really don’t have to lock your doors at night. But, there’s just not a lot going on. After high school, I attended the University of Nebraska at Kearney. At the time, Kearney felt BIG. To a kid from a small town, it was basically a major metropolis. It had everything.
Over the next four years of school, I had spent significant time in Lincoln (where my wife attended college) and Omaha. All of a sudden, Kearney felt small-town. As a 22-year-old, I just wasn’t excited by Kearney anymore. Omaha was where I wanted to be, and it just so happened that my wife got into medical school at UNMC. Our future was set.
We’ve loved living here, but now what we want in life has changed. My wife, and subsequently myself and our daughter, have sacrificed a lot of personal time together on her path to becoming a doctor. Four years of medical school and another four in residency have taken a lot from us. We knew this going in and, of course, it was worth it. But now we have the opportunity to slow things down a bit.
Rural doctors have a much more relaxed lifestyle. Kearney gives us the opportunity to spend more time doing the things we enjoy in a city we are very comfortable with. Kearney is not the small town I thought it was when I left school. For its size, what it has to offer is truly impressive. With great restaurants, a vibrant downtown, beautiful parks, a cool old movie theater, an adult hockey league (pretty important), and an impressive arena, it’s large enough to feel big-city when we want it to. At the same time, it’s small enough to offer all the benefits of small-town living. As an added bonus, it’s less than a three-hour drive to all of our family members and Omaha. Right now, Kearney is where we want to be. And, more so than any other point in my life, I don’t see that changing.
One of the hardest parts of this decision had to do with my understanding that leaving Omaha would undoubtedly mean leaving Oxide. Over the last eight years, Oxide has been the perfect fit for me. I’ve been able to work on an amazing variety of projects, which is something you don’t see at a lot of agencies. The small-team setup gave me the chance to work on everything, making me an incredibly well-rounded designer. I also owe a lot to Drew and his dedication to a great work/life balance. It was pivotal in allowing my wife and me to start a family while she was in residency.
I didn’t approach Drew about staying on the team. I didn’t even consider it as an option. In my mind, keeping me on and basically fundamentally changing the way we work together was too much to ask. Not to mention adding the complication of coordinating work for a remote employee to his life. I had already mentally prepared myself for the fact that I was going to have to either find a job as a designer in the limited Kearney market, start a freelance career, or even pursue other career options.
But then, Drew asked if I had thought about working remotely. He did his research, talked with other employers who had remote employees, and decided it was worth a try. Knowing that this is more work for him, and potentially a strain on the rest of the team, makes me feel like a very valuable piece of Oxide. I don’t want to belittle my accomplishments here. I’m very proud of our work and the recognition we’ve received while I’ve worked here, and I know I’m a very big part of that. However, the reputation of Oxide, for which at this point I’m partially responsible, has put this studio in a spot that hiring a very talented replacement would not be an issue. Instead of taking the easy route, Drew and my wonderful coworkers have agreed to try out this experiment.
While this move will be a major transition personally, I’m extremely grateful that professionally I will still be part of the Oxide team. With the wealth of communication tools available and fairly regularly scheduled return work days, we don’t anticipate this move affecting our process or the quality of our work.
So, goodbye, Omaha. I’ll visit as often as I can!