Why some stay in one place for decades; and, the importance of alternative paths

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P_K
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Why some stay in one place for decades; and, the importance of alternative paths

Post by P_K » Wed Oct 16, 2019 12:52 pm

From the ERE & (professional) human capital thread. I thought it might be best to put this in a new topic, since it is pretty off topic for that thread.
jacob wrote:
Wed Oct 16, 2019 11:39 am
Most people seem to have no problem doing the same thing or have the same one interest for decades of their life. I have yet to figure out why this is. Perhaps they don't have time to develop other interests. Perhaps they have no interest? My problem is the opposite. Too many things I want to do with a tendency to spread myself too thin---the web-of-goals is intended to derive some benefit from this.
It seems to me a probable partial cause of this is that the "middle class" in "developed" nations don't raise children anymore, they raise college graduates; they raise wage earners. Kids are not encouraged, no, not allowed to do things for the fun of it, let alone permitted to do things for the nothing of it. From barely walking to graduating college kids have their schedules booked in full with "resume building" activities and schoolwork. After graduating they do the only thing they know, the thing they've been preparing their entire lives for: they work (gotta pay off that student debt somehow, right?). Or they do the only other activity they've seen their parents do: they consume ("Since I'll be working forever anyway, might as well treat myself."). It's no surprise then that most of them continue doing it for decades upon decades. They don't know anything else (and they might be forced to due to loans and poor knowledge of personal finance). Even switching from one career to another might be seen as too much work to bother with when they are "comfortable" at their current position. The longer they stay in this position the more locked in they become (see the numerous threads/posts about elderly relatives not wanting to quit despite no longer needing the money). For some/many this can be enough/a fulfilling life. That is fine, no judgment here. Whatever it takes to get through this life and be happy and spread happiness is fine by me.

But it also doesn't come as much of a surprise to me when the multitudes finally arrive in the workplace and many find that they are not satisfied, not happy, depressed even. "I did everything I was told," they say, "I checked all the boxes and I got the degree and I got the high paying job. So why am I so unsatisfied? Why am I so depressed?" Their parents failed them. Society failed them (but got what it wanted: perpetual consumers). Time that could have been spent as kids learning the satisfaction that comes with discovering things on their own and/or finding a subject/activity/thing they really enjoy and developing it, getting better at it (doing things for the fun of it) was not allowed. Time that could have been spent meandering and imagining and creating and world building (doing things for the nothing of it) was stolen; their creativity was stolen. They weren't raised to be happy adults; they were raised to "earn a living." The two are not synonymous and no one told them that or explained the difference. I understand the importance and the pressure parents must feel in raising kids to "compete in a modern economy" but I can't help but feel this race to the bottom has been only to peoples' individual detriment. Maybe our GDP is higher but at what cost? To bring this back to the original question, the people dissatisfied still haven't been taught or shown any other path so many stay on it far longer than they would like/would if they knew another route. This is why people who demonstrably live different lives (like Jacob and I'm sure many members of this forum) are so important. These individuals show an alternative path that people have been trained to never see.

Anyway, that was my take on an answer. Curious to hear the thoughts of others.

ETA: Upon further reading I realize I think I sounded overly harsh on parents in the nowadays. Anyone who has the courage/strength/resolve to raise one kid, let alone multiple, has my unconditional support. You're all a bunch of superheroes =). I was merely trying to point something out that I (think I) have seen on a societal level and also a personal one.

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Re: Why some stay in one place for decades; and, the importance of alternative paths

Post by unemployable » Wed Oct 16, 2019 1:51 pm

I've referred to the life treadmill:
Isn't that the behavior I find so unenlightened in others? The whole "go to college, get job, work hard, get promoted, marry, buy house, fill house with shit, breed, be stuck in job because you have all this shit to pay for, raise kids so they can repeat the same stuff as you" list, I mean. I call it the "life treadmill" and see it with most friends and relatives around my age. We do all this work... just so our kids can, so that their kids can? What the actual fuck, as they say on Reddit, is the exit strategy?
And we've had discussions similar to this before. Not that I consider OP's angle redundant. Quite the opposite -- at my age it particularly resonates when I see high school friends buying seven-figure houses in the same kinds of school districts I grew up in 30 years ago, signing their kids up for sports, getting them into weird extracurricular activities partly in the hopes of impressing some Ivy League admissions committee and so on.

People get and stay on the life treadmill from a convergence of factors. One is security: You have your paycheck as it is right now, and probably next month too. Most of us are disinclined to change this unless we're forced to or find our jobs extremely unpleasant. And the traditional way to "improve" on this -- combing job sites, crafting resumes and cover letters, jumping through multiple job interviews, moving if the new job is somewhere else, whatever the hell "networking" is -- takes a lot of work, isn't particularly pleasant and has no guarantee of success.

There may be an element of hope in some cases. Maybe you'll get the promotion, if not this time then a few years from now if you simply stick it out long enough.

But the other thing that happens is people accrue those high fixed costs over the years: spouses, mortgages, kids, car payments, non-work commitments, peer group expectations. And this gives them less flexibility to sail around the Mediterranean or climb all the Colorado 14ers, due to time as well as money. It narrows your outlook, and thus narrows your mind.

The middle-class lifestyle enforces this behavior. Most conversations among cow orkers at a certain age revolve around what their honor student kids are "accomplishing" or what the house down the street sold for. That's easier to relate to -- contextually more relevant -- than telling people you summited Rainier or finished your van conversion last weekend.

People don't have a better idea. They don't possess the concept of an exit strategy, a goal that rationalizes careerism other than providing their progeny with a permission slip to stay on the same treadmill. For people who do FIRE, I do wonder what typically comes first, the concept of wanting to get out or the act of rapacious saving and investing. For me it was the second, then the first, which gave me a clearer vision relating to the second.

[Edited grammar]
Last edited by unemployable on Wed Oct 16, 2019 3:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Why some stay in one place for decades; and, the importance of alternative paths

Post by jennypenny » Wed Oct 16, 2019 2:21 pm

Tyler Cowen's The Complacent Class deals with this, for those who haven't read it yet.

It might also be cyclical. I've heard both Neil Howe and Tyler Cowen suggest as much in interviews ... that people get kind of stuck in place before there's a big 'disruption'.

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Re: Why some stay in one place for decades; and, the importance of alternative paths

Post by Peanut » Wed Oct 16, 2019 3:11 pm

I agree up to a point. A friend of mine told me she was reading college essays for her alma mater and became frustrated whenever a student wrote about their parents dissuading them from an interest they had as background to why they ultimately chose whatever field they had. That kind of career management can blow up badly.

On the other hand, someone with a strong passion for something cannot be easily dissuaded. And I think it’s passion that keeps people at a singular interest for decades, not lack of imagination. Mastery fuels motivation, also.

On the other other hand, parents sometimes can objectively see that their child may love doing something but will never be good enough at it to make a long-term investment in it worthwhile, both financially and otherwise.

As for having good ideas about what to do with your life, while a van conversion is cool how does someone doing this have a better idea than someone coaching their kid’s baseball team, for instance. People have different passions.

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Re: Why some stay in one place for decades; and, the importance of alternative paths

Post by Frita » Wed Oct 16, 2019 3:19 pm

@unemployable
When my spouse and I graduated from college, we decided to both work so each never had to sell out or give up our integrity. My family is full of frugal savers so I taught him that. He was was in a more lucrative area than me. For the first couple decades, personal integrity cost some titles or perks. Then the cost to just stay employed was to go along. Being FI made it easy for him to walk away. I have struggled more as my career was also a calling; however, not having money worries is certainly liberating.

@P_K
Now, I grew up without TV on a farm and have the ability to entertain myself. Without my education work, I feel like something is missing. (Even now volunteering at this cluster fuck of a Honduran bilingual school—with the undisclosed safety issues including our volunteer home invasion the month before I arrived and an escalation in such activities the past couple years, the out-of-control worse than inner city students I have taught students, having to work more than double what I agreed to and actually more than full-time—I feel more complete.) I am now wondering if I need to radically stop being so busy pursuing all my interests and be okay with pausing. Since I am locked in a guarded compound when not at school, I can practice for the next 2.5 weeks until I go home. I am not going to return and automatically resume what I’d been doing either.

Anyway, what so am saying is that even when not on the societal treadmill, I have my own private treadmill. The first was easy not to get on, not the second. I am curious if others have struggled with this.

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Re: Why some stay in one place for decades; and, the importance of alternative paths

Post by 7Wannabe5 » Wed Oct 16, 2019 3:53 pm

I find it interesting that you chose to use the word "place' rather than profession. When Jacob brought up the topic on the other thread, the thought I had, and not for the first time, is that sticking with the same profession is not all that different than sticking with the same spouse/partner, social circle, or spot on the planetary sphere for decades of adult life. Many or most people might believe that never leaving the county in which you were born, 50 years with partner you started dating in 6th grade, and working at the same business/profession as your father and grandfather would be on the stodgy side. OTOH, having no pin in the map or long-term commitments to right livelihood, family/partner or local community/ecology would likely eventually seem disorienting or shallow/meaningless to many or most people.

My observation has been that people can wonder at one person's ability (disability) at staying stuck(committed) in one realm while simultaneously promoting the great and overwhelming benefits of not having the disability (ability) of staying stuck(committed) in other realms. Of course, the overall tendency to crave change will vary with temperament, but I think there is also a good deal of luck or contingency involved. The place where you were born has remained lovely and economically vital. Your first very brief marriage was a now-almost-forgotten disaster, but the guy who was supposed to be your rebound has proven solid for 20 years now! The small business you started while laid off from career you tolerated is flourishing... etc. etc. etc. There are a lot of good things in life that you can't comprehend until you experience them or know how to value, not take for granted, until slowly or suddenly they are gone. The older you get, the more you realize this is true, and even of experiences you have not had yourself.

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Re: Why some stay in one place for decades; and, the importance of alternative paths

Post by daylen » Wed Oct 16, 2019 9:22 pm

Inversely, it makes sense to frame individual differences in a way that keeps change/re-association constant overall. The differences are patterns of behavior that may appear simple or complex to an observer, but in principle, everyone has similar hardware with a similar ability think about alternatives.

I do not see what the problem is in this thread. An agent with stable associations (place, career, hobby etc.) would have developed an assortment of unstable associations in their local frame of reference allowing this. An observer does not see their reality through this local frame but instead reduces it to a point (if that) in their own frame. I could draw a picture but just imagine each mind as a tree where a large, stable branch is supported with many small, unstable branches

In other words, we all attend to a similar number of points (sensory, intuitive, social, money, etc.). Importance/priority of points depends on the frame being used since all frames magnify and distort (i.e. integrate and differentiate).

This is the "people after age 25 are dead" thread in disguise. :|
Last edited by daylen on Wed Oct 16, 2019 10:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Why some stay in one place for decades; and, the importance of alternative paths

Post by Mister Imperceptible » Wed Oct 16, 2019 10:11 pm

Don’t worry, the disruption is coming.

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Re: Why some stay in one place for decades; and, the importance of alternative paths

Post by 7Wannabe5 » Thu Oct 17, 2019 6:53 am

daylen wrote:An agent with stable associations (place, career, hobby etc.) would have developed an assortment of unstable associations in their local frame of reference allowing this. An observer does not see their reality through this local frame but instead reduces it to a point (if that) in their own frame. I could draw a picture but just imagine each mind as a tree where a large, stable branch is supported with many small, unstable branches
I agree, simple example being an individual who has great familiarity with the species, geology, and history of the county where he has always resided which could readily be "attached" to new locale if need be vs. an individual who only knows about the best restaurants in the 600 cities she has visited, and so is instantly bored when stranded in Cement City for 3 days. Another example might be the relationship "player" who must keep his own living space and daily routine in rigid order.

However, I would note that there does seem to be a division between people who are usually looking for multiplicity of problems and seeking stability vs. people who are usually looking for new solutions and seeking change. Maybe preference for robust vs. resilient? It is important to be self aware about the fact that you are likely already semi-consciously doing both.

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Re: Why some stay in one place for decades; and, the importance of alternative paths

Post by oldbeyond » Thu Oct 17, 2019 7:16 am

Well, there's a reason that "I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately" works as a quote, and isn't dismissed as a meaningless statement. People generally don't live deliberately, but rather try to navigate themselves to as high a place as possible in the hierarchy they find themselves in. A hierarchy, even if it has a time component where priorities change, isn't discontinuous. So people stay in their paths. Then there are a few people who get itchy and want to try new things. It seems wholly reasonable to me that people at large would not desire drastic change. Apart from general complacency, you have people fighting to simply stay in place, due to challenges with health, money or other people. And then you have people who've just been through some situation like that. Asking yourself questions about how you really would like to live your life is way up there on Maslow's hierarchy.

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Re: Why some stay in one place for decades; and, the importance of alternative paths

Post by fiby41 » Thu Oct 17, 2019 7:24 am

I'm going nowhere fast.

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Re: Why some stay in one place for decades; and, the importance of alternative paths

Post by daylen » Thu Oct 17, 2019 7:49 am

7Wannabe5 wrote:
Thu Oct 17, 2019 6:53 am
However, I would note that there does seem to be a division between people who are usually looking for multiplicity of problems and seeking stability vs. people who are usually looking for new solutions and seeking change. Maybe preference for robust vs. resilient? It is important to be self aware about the fact that you are likely already semi-consciously doing both.
My current frame tends to think that this division is dependent on what counts as a problem/solution, but that could just mean that my problem/solution space is not integrated at the moment.

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Re: Why some stay in one place for decades; and, the importance of alternative paths

Post by unemployable » Thu Oct 17, 2019 10:50 am

Some will sell their dreams for small desires
Or lose their race to rats
Get caught in ticking traps
And start to dream of somewhere to relax their restless flight

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Re: Why some stay in one place for decades; and, the importance of alternative paths

Post by 7Wannabe5 » Thu Oct 17, 2019 12:55 pm

oldbeyond wrote:Then there are a few people who get itchy and want to try new things.
Has to be more than a few else inbreeding disorders.
daylen wrote:My current frame tends to think that this division is dependent on what counts as a problem/solution, but that could just mean that my problem/solution space is not integrated at the moment.
Maintenance of systems boundaries through influx/integration of equivalent total net complexity less waste. That's a problem. OTOH, one of the principles of permaculture is that every problem holds its own solution. Nothing to eat in the fridge? That's why the Goddess gave you legs and a brain.

@unemployable:

Truth. If it weren't for a rat I refer to as J.Bozo, I would likely not now find myself trapped back in the suburbs for the first time since 1982.

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Re: Why some stay in one place for decades; and, the importance of alternative paths

Post by Lemur » Thu Oct 17, 2019 1:16 pm

With regards to the whole parent raising kids thing...I think what a lot of people are missing is that raising your kids to be independent thinkers is a good thing but can run the risk of making them an outsider in their peer group. What happens to kids that are outsiders? Well they get bullied, picked-on, singled out. Human nature sucks in this regards. I actually think this is getting a lot better then when I was a kid. For example being a nerd/geek used to be 'derogatory' but now its much more accepted. I wouldn't deliberately teach conformity but kids do this themselves (e.g. they want clothes and the latest gadgets that their peers have to fit in).

For parents like myself...it can be tough. We want the best for our kids but we don't have all the answers so its easy to resort to raising kids in a way that you were raised - some of this being unconscious as well. Now I will say this I'm in the full camp of letting my kids experiment. I wouldn't want to pigeon hole them into a STEM or something (my Asian spouse disagrees - he shall become a doctor or engineer!) but I would certainly encourage these avenues as opposed to basket weaving arts.... In any case, I think we're just trying our best.

At the end of the day what is most important is getting your child to a point of independence - they can navigate the world on their own, pay bills, budget. They follow the rule of law, don't be mean to other people, just the basics. I would not even expect my own kid to be financially savvy to the point of ERE/FIRE; he may or may not pick up my traits in the matter. But if I can get him to a point of independence where he doesn't need money from Dad/Mom one day and he can mostly handle what the world throws at him - then I have succeeded in that regard. There is also the whole great parents can end up with shitty kids phenomenon. In the nature vs nurture, I'm trying to do my best in the latter but can't do too much about the former other then choosing specific living locations...

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Re: Why some stay in one place for decades; and, the importance of alternative paths

Post by daylen » Thu Oct 17, 2019 8:23 pm

7Wannabe5 wrote:
Thu Oct 17, 2019 12:55 pm
Maintenance of systems boundaries through influx/integration of equivalent total net complexity less waste. That's a problem. OTOH, one of the principles of permaculture is that every problem holds its own solution. Nothing to eat in the fridge? That's why the Goddess gave you legs and a brain.
I'm thinking that homeostasis is near the core of a hierarchy that extends to more peripheral problems without obvious solutions. I typically see a disconnect between this core (sleep, eat, cook, clean) and the gradient of different categorical resolutions (4 temperaments/quadras or 16 personalities). Perhaps it is just too much computational effort to trace political/economical decisions to their biological origins, so these clusters are like alternative practice-problem sets for the core problem (homeostasis) without obvious solutions (the act of solving itself is practice for the core problem).

Similar with complexity. I tend to see different types of coding devices with different definitions of complexity. How these definitions are connected to basic biological mechanisms is an ongoing area of thought for me.

Also reminds me of the disconnect between normative and real statements (ought and is). You can describe biological mechanisms in as much detail as you want but this description will never tell an agent what they should do. If the agent understood their own programming then they would not be an agent in it.

What was this thread about again? .... oh yeah, uh, the importance of alternative paths .... I'll give you a path: Find the path between brain topology and your decision to make this thread. :P

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Re: Why some stay in one place for decades; and, the importance of alternative paths

Post by Campitor » Thu Oct 17, 2019 9:26 pm

There are some hobbies, occupations, interests that on the surface look monotone or shallow but in reality contains so many peaks and valleys which can only be discovered by intense interest and observation. Take ERE for example. On the surface it seems simple but in reality its deeper; the Wheaton level you're on determines the breadth of discovery.

Some people see a butterfly and briefly appreciate its beauty and keep walking but a lepidopterist sees so much more and spends hours studying a single specimen. Perhaps those doing the "same" thing are really enjoying the peaks and valleys of discovery in their own world. There's a saying that there are no bad tools only bad carpenters. Perhaps the same can be said of boredom - there are no boring <insert job or topic here> only people who lack imagination for the subject. Anything can be made interesting with imagination, focus, and the ability to still the mind - it's a skill that can be cultivated but few try.

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Re: Why some stay in one place for decades; and, the importance of alternative paths

Post by P_K » Thu Oct 17, 2019 10:45 pm

First, thanks for all the replies.

Next, I've found the development of this thread interesting insofar as a number of the replies seemed to have been formed not just in response to my original post but rather with seemingly more emphasis on the replies of my original post which for some focus heavily on the (mistaken) assumption that I am looking down upon people's choice to remain in a single place/occupation/whatever. I am not. As evidenced by the (unedited) original post where I said
P_K wrote:
Wed Oct 16, 2019 12:52 pm
For some/many this can be enough/a fulfilling life. That is fine, no judgment here. Whatever it takes to get through this life and be happy and spread happiness is fine by me.
I understand misunderstandings in communication are generally the fault of the speaker, and I'd attribute another large share of the blame on my ambiguous, muddled, writing (and my poor choice of title*); but, even taking that into account I still had to scratch my head a couple of times. At any rate, I want to restate and make it clear that if someone is living a life that brings them happiness and fulfillment and love and let's them share all or any of that with others then I'd absolutely support it. 25, 50, a million years in one small town, doing one thing, married to one person, hanging out with the same people? Awesome, keep on keepin' on. I'm a very live and let live kind of person. Indeed, I would count more than a handful of people as (old) friends who fit many of the above. I also have friends who move around all the time and have not yet (and may never) "settle down." My friends' specific avenue to happiness and fullness is not my concern, only that they are happy and full.

*Upon further thought, I can see now the title seems to imply that alternative life paths are important so that you don't stay in the same place for decades, which itself implies that such a thing is undesirable. That was not my intent; and, even though my post didn't necessarily state that, the title implication combined with my post containing words that very easily could state that, could definitely lead to some misunderstanding on what I wanted to convey. My bad. Writing is hard. This is why I practice.

What I was intending to do was point out one possible cause for sticking with one profession/place and how that cause and the result of that cause could work out well for some/many but might cause accidental harm for others. It is then those others who would benefit from knowing the alternative paths. Hell, everyone would benefit from knowing about other paths (maximizing optionality) but for the people who are unsatisfied and unhappy and confused as to why that is and why the same life choices make their friends happy would benefit a great deal more. I personally know too many excellent humans who fall into this category (and by this I mean I wish happiness for them, not that I regret knowing them).

At any rate, I sincerely appreciate the replies. This forum has always been and continues to be a source of differing perspectives I value highly. So, thanks! And sorry for the confusion (and if I am confusing the confusion, i.e., perhaps I am misinterpreting the responses as a misinterpretation. So many potential pitfalls in text-only communication!)




daylen wrote:
Thu Oct 17, 2019 8:23 pm
What was this thread about again? .... oh yeah, uh, the importance of alternative paths .... I'll give you a path: Find the path between brain topology and your decision to make this thread. :P
And, daylen, a study of the Core Rules of Netiquette and meshing them into your mental frameworks might be worth your time.

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Re: Why some stay in one place for decades; and, the importance of alternative paths

Post by daylen » Thu Oct 17, 2019 11:13 pm

P_K wrote:
Thu Oct 17, 2019 10:45 pm
And, daylen, a study of the Core Rules of Netiquette and meshing them into your mental frameworks might be worth your time.
It is meshed, but the thought that you would take offense did not cross my mind. I was actually serious/curious. There was no question posed or clear purpose so a better understanding of your own intentions with making the thread could help you get more targeted responses. You asked for thoughts on your answer, and I gave you my thoughts without much of a filter.
Last edited by daylen on Thu Oct 17, 2019 11:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Why some stay in one place for decades; and, the importance of alternative paths

Post by unemployable » Thu Oct 17, 2019 11:14 pm

Well, I thought the topic was neither trivial, condescending nor redundant, and did try to address it directly. I still suspect Geddy Lee captured it more succinctly than any of us did.

The Peter Principle might be at work. People eventually reach a professional plateau. That could be a certain level of management, or a specific practice in say medicine or law. Most doctors spend 30 years being the same kind of doctor, often working in the same practice or hospital, but no one would criticize them for that. How many dentists wake up one day at age 43 and decide they'd had enough of picking away at people's teeth, and successfully change careers? I don't know.

You know what the problem is with rebooting your life? You usually have to drop a few rungs, sometimes starting at or near the bottom of a completely different ladder. And you've been an adult long enough to have built up carrying costs you need to pay for -- even if you're single you probably demand a base level of comfort and have a base amount of crap you need to move around and store. It's why Delta pilots don't jump ship to United; they'll lose all their tenure and have to go back to running regional jets between Cincy and Chicago rather than 747s to Tokyo with week-long layovers. It is about the riskiest life decision one can make. I don't blame people for staying put.

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