How long does it take to quit a job? In my case, it's six months and counting (and it depends on when you start the counting). I left my FT job as editor of The Antarctic Sun, an online news publication about the research that takes places on the southernmost continent, back in April.
I was never offcially off the payroll, as I was placed on casual status -- like a sleeper agent in a spy thriller -- and continued to do a bit of work now and again while skipping across the Pacific, from New Zealand to Australia and Tasmania to SE Asia (Indonesia, Thailand and Cambodia). Unforeseen circumstances brought Mel and me back to Denver in July. The Program (you have to use a capital here) was waiting for me. Our photo library, curated with fiece passion by my colleague and friend Elaine Hood, was getting a long overdue makeover but the transition to a new website was a bit like plastic surgery after a car wreck. It takes time and work to make it all beautiful again. So my job in recent months has been to tinker behind the scenes -- a data monkey banging out keywords so the general user can find the cutest penguin photo possible.
In the meantime, I had a slightly more challenging problem: What the hell was I going to do with the rest of my life? So, after 20 years mostly working as an employed journalist, I've decided to make a go at a freelance career. I've always admired the scientists whom I've interviewed and even befriended over the years, not just for their brilliance, but their courage to live off of soft money, mostly in the form of government grants.
I've never been that brave. Until now.