Yoda, the original founder of Yoda Kenobi Architects, had long since retired to some swampy tropical place. At some point, Obi-Wan had asked Luke to join him so that together they could rule the office. Obi-wan and his partner Lando Calrissian then retired, leaving leadership of the firm to Luke and his partner, C3PO. We all watched Obi-wan disappear from the office, leaving only a pile of clothes on the floor (it was quite the retirement party), yet somehow he still keeps showing up from time to time.
Luke Skywalker and I had worked closely on several projects ever since my summer internship, so when Erin and I started thinking seriously about living abroad for a year, I called Luke. I told him about Erin's crazy idea, explained our financial math, and asked if I could have a part-time remote work arrangement that could keep me engaged in the firm over the year.
He didn't fire me, nor did he just laugh and tell me to get back to work and do my timesheet, which is what I expected. So I thought it went pretty well.
Erin had spoken with her employer about working remotely the same day, and she sent me a thrillingly cryptic email saying only, "It's a go."
After I got off the phone with Luke, an unexpected sense of dread came over me. I didn't know if I was more afraid that the answer would be no, or that it would be yes.
A few days later, the answer was no.
Luke and C3PO had talked and didn't see how they could make it work. The firm had a longstanding policy against remote part-time work for a number of reasons which I understood. Our projects are team based and collaborative, and with team members working all throughout the galaxy it would be difficult to bring balance to the firm.
"We may still take the trip even if I can't work remotely," I told him.
"I understand," said Luke. "I don't know how you're going to break this to Han Solo."
"I'm gonna have to buy him some flowers," I said.
"You're gonna have to buy him a drink. Oh, and Tim?"
"Yes, Luke Skywalker?"
"Don't forget to keep in touch. May the firm be with you."
"And do your timesheet."
Han Solo was the principal on my current project, a new surgery project for Tatooine Hospital.
As we rode the ferry back across Lake Tatooine (are there lakes on Tatooine, or is the whole planet desert? How can a whole planet have only one climate? How do all of these planets have climates that are stable and just slightly warmer or cooler than Earth, with the right mix of atmospheric gases to allow humans to breathe unassisted? How have all of the other creatures from different planets adapted to breathe the same mix of gases as humans? I've never understood these things) on our way back from meetings at the Hospital, I pondered how best to break the news to him. I waited until we got over the lake, so that he didn't throw me in it.
I started with a soft sell, telling him I was planning to be a stay at home dad starting in September.
"Why September?" he asked, knowing that our project schedule extended later into the fall.
"Well, that's the thing, Han Solo." I said. "When I say 'stay at home', 'home' is actually going to be England, France, Spain, maybe Central America or the Caribbean..."
I explained how we needed to rent our house in September based on the Boston rental market, and that the kids' childcare terms also ended in September.
He was personally supportive but professionally concerned about me breaking my relationships with our clients. I hadn't thought about that, at least not at that personal level.
I thought back to what Obi-wan had said in my high-school job shadow, about how the relationships he built with his clients were more important than the buildings he built for them. I suddenly understood this in a much more meaningful way now that I had made the choice to abandon my clients.
I cared about these people and their success, and they trusted and depended on me to make their projects a success. My career would be cryogenically frozen for a year. But my clients would be the ones chained to an overgrown green space alien slug while wearing a metal bikini... Sorry, that analogy got away from me.
As an architect working at Yoda Kenobi Architects I may have been replaceable. But as the architect working on the surgery project at Tatooine Hospital, would I be so easy to replace?
The very next day I got an email from the Hospital's project manager whom I had been working closely with.
I really wanted to thank you for the time and effort you have put in on all our projects that we are working on. I really want to thank you specifically for the expedition of the Light Saber Amputee Unit. I’m excited to continue working with you and learning more and expanding our potential together on developing and managing these projects.
(Apologies for the gender reassignment J., but I'm running out of characters. I even used Lando Calrissian. It was Leia or Chewbacca.)
It was a wonderful note. It made me feel terrible.
It was as if the note was saying, in a purely professional sense, "I love you."
Knowing that I would soon be abruptly ending this relationship, the only response I could muster was, "I know."
Today, August 17, 2015, is the thirteenth anniversary of my employment at Yoda Kenobi Architects.
In two days I will issue Construction Documents for the Tatooine Hospital Surgery project. In five days I will leave Yoda Kenobi Architects and lift off from this planet with no guarantee of a job when I return.
Is there some force in the universe that has been compelling me to work for Yoda Kenobi ever since the stars spun around me in their planetarium twenty-five years ago? Will my leaving cast the firm into darkness?
Perhaps the path that has brought me here and kept me here has been the path of my destiny. Or perhaps it has just been the path of least resistance.
Maybe I have to crash land into a distant planet to discover who I really am and what I'm capable of.
If they'll have me back, a career at Yoda Kenobi Architects may be the best path for the rest of my life. But I have to believe what Han Solo said (Harrison Ford, not my pseudonymous coworker):