Saturday, June 04, 2005

Travel, Priorities, and a Brewing Storm

I decided not to go to the June 10-12 conference in Madison, WI. (Although, technically I could still change my mind if I decided to drive there.) The deciding factors were sort of split between not wanting to spend the money (I have no travel money, so it would be entirely out-of-pocket) and not having any peers (math-friends) who would also be going. It seemed too much of a gamble to spend hundreds of dollars of my own money to go to a conference where I didn't know anyone. That latter part is not 100% true: I do know at least one big-shot who is going, but he has already mentioned that he would be extremely busy at this conference and might not have time to talk. I'd have a much better chance of talking to him with a strategically-timed visit to the city where he lives. And while, yes, I certainly won't be meeting anyone by not going, I'm not convinced that the chances would be much better if I went (as evidenced by the outcomes of previous conferences I've attended).

Looking at the balance in my checkbook, you would think that I could afford to go. This is true even after taking into account that some of that money has to be set aside for my estimated taxes (yikes, those are due in a little over a week). It becomes less true when you then add in my plan to become debt-free within the next 18 months (and ideally within the next 12 months -- which is possible but pretty much the lower bound). And then there's the plan to have the vinyl siding taken off the house and to have the rotted clapboards (and any rotten studs) replaced and the house insulated (right now there is no insulation in the walls and only R-18 in the ceiling), and something really does need to be done about the kitchen. It would be nice to be able to save enough money that I will be able to retire at some point. And you have to consider the choices that brought me here: I only go out to eat very rarely, I never go on vacation, I had a 14-hour load (12 of teaching and 2 of compensated service) this semester, I buy most things on sale, and I avoid subsidizing my research out of my own pocket unless the short-term benefits are clear. While I do have some liquiditiy, it's been at a price, and most of the money has already been budgeted based on my own priorities and choices.

Which brings me to the issue of my cousin's wedding. Today my mother informed me that my cousin is getting married on June 3, 2006 in New York City and that I will be there. My mother has already picked out the dress that she wants me to wear. Given a choice, math conference would win over cousin by a landslide. No contest. I can think of a lot of things that I'd rather do than go to my cousin's wedding. Lots and lots and lots of things. Now I need to find a way to explain to my mother that there is no way that I am sacrificing things that are important to me just so that I can go to the wedding of a cousin who I don't know very well and don't particularly like. Unfortunately, my mother does not take no for an answer. She has such a force of will that I started sleeping through the night at the age of 3 months because she wanted me to. I grew up with a zillion unreasonable rules (I was not allowed to comb my own hair until I was 13 years old!) and with her not allowing me to make any of my own choices. And why do I have to go? Because "we have a small family" and if I don't go, we will be even more out-numbered by my cousin's fiance's family.

Maybe one of you already has plans to be in NYC that weekend and can pretend to be me at my cousin's wedding? Or maybe someone can plan a math conference for June 3, 2006?