First forgive me for the fact this question is really similar to a relationship question posted about a month ago. The only reason I am starting a new thread is that I suspect my situation is sufficiently different to warrant a new topic.
I am a first year graduate student in physics at a top ten physics program in the U.S. I've also found that while this institution very well deserves its rank for physics, I'm not super happy with my choice. A number of personal things have happened: I am in a long distance relationship with my significant other, who is still attending my alma mater (half-way across the country). We were originally under the impression she would be done by the end of this year, and we would go from there, but she switched track and it's going to take her at least a couple years to finish, and she plans to have extra schooling beyond her undergrad at a near by school in the same state now. I think we're sufficiently far along to warrant making some career adjustments, but I don't want to derail my career altogether. Also, my father is in poor health, lives in the same aforementioned state, and I suspect he won't make it to see me graduate a full PhD program.
Finally and most importantly, I'm sort of disillusioned with physics in general. I made a strong push to finish my undergraduate degree in physics in less time than I would have like, and cut short a degree in EE. I have realized that in picking research groups, I'm way more interested in whats happening in over in mechanical and electrical engineering. I've found that doing a dissertation with one of these groups I'm interested in would be too far afield to be able to provide a physics PhD. I have found that I am a person that has a hard time solving problems without application in mind, which may put me at odds with my current educational direction.
My current plan is to try to make it to the end of year two and walk with a masters degree. I was accepted early on to every single graduate physics program I had applied to, including all of the "number one" schools. I would like to go beyond a masters degree in physics (perhaps a PhD in EE or Applied Physics, or perhaps physics if I can find something to be passionate about), and there exists a top-25 physics school not too far from my alma mater that I was accepted to and fellowshipped, but I ended up turning down to come here. What are the odds of switching schools and tracks next year if I get a couple of decent LoRs from here? I suspect that above school might be a much much better fit for my current life direction, but it looks like transferring schools/starting over as a graduate student isn't nearly as easy as an undergraduate. Would it be possible to take some time off after finishing a masters degree to figure out what it is I want from life, and have realistic chances of coming back to a different (probably lesser) engineering or physics program to finish up down the line? I am willing to accept the career consequences of my choice to walk away from here with a masters if it boils down to it (I have absolutely no intention of staying in academia past a PhD anyway), but would like any input you all could provide. Thank you all for taking the time to read this, and I hope this doesn't sound like whining.