During the last week of December 2000, I stood watching the sunset on the cliffs of Torrey Pines State Park and wondered about a few things: what I was getting myself into? How could I be standing somewhere in December in a t-shirt? Should I get one of those new cell phone things?
That week, I was preparing to move to San Diego. She Who Must Not Be Named and I were packing up our big-pharma house on the prairie and heading for the biotech land of milk-and-honey in southern California. I mean, we both knew our relationship was in trouble, so why not take the chance and pack everything up, move across the country where we didn’t know anyone, and start new jobs for companies that might not be in business within a year? That would help, right?
Of course it helped. It helped us realize we shouldn’t be together no matter where we lived. And by the time anyone had uttered the phrase “9/11”, I was on my own. And it was okay. In the wake of 9/11, the biotech economy dried up, our company went down, and I found another place to work. America invaded Iraq. I didn’t know anyone that went. I grew a goatee. They were “in” then.
Later, I started spending time with a friend that had recently moved to New Mexico. It seemed crazy to think that our age (almost 40) that something might come of a long-distance relationship. But we took the chance and she became my Beloved. And I’ve never been so happy about all the stupid relationship choices I’d made in my life, because it got me to there. It still amazes me. While that was happening a massive earthquake caused a tsunami that killed hundreds of thousands of people. I didn’t know anyone there, either. We watched in on tv. We donated some money.
I lost some weight. I exercised. I ran. Our company moved into shiny new buildings that were the nicest I’d ever worked in. Our product hadn’t yet been approved by the FDA, but we were sure it was going to be. Katrina ravaged New Orleans and Mississippi, but I was more concerned about my mom who was dying of cancer. She died in October. The drug didn’t get approved. Whoops.
A friend suggested that I should start a blog. Seemed sort of weird, but I did. It was fun, and people that I didn’t know started commenting. These people seemed smart, funny and interested in what I wrote. Over time, some of them became friends in a way that I had never made a friend before, and getting to “talk” with them everyday became a real pleasure that makes me glad that I took the chance on writing one. I learned how to read music. That was pretty cool, too.
A couple of years ago, The Beloved got a job in San Diego and we were able to bring three-plus years of flying back and forth to New Mexico to a wonderful end. We saw a house we loved, we bought it right as housing prices here began to slide. It became The Aerie. I started making some cocktails. Housing prices kept sliding right into a recession. I bought a piano, and the Beloved’s old faithful dog Eutaw died. Still, life like the piano, was grand.
The FDA was still being fickle with my company and most of us were laid-off. While I was off, we got a pointer and named her Penny. She has been nothing but a joy in our lives. And like us, she has her own Facebook page. A couple of colleagues and I decided to take a chance and start a new company. A year in and we’re still going and sometimes I let myself get a little optimistic for its success. The shade of my goatee migrated from red to mostly white, so it’s gone.
And so, I stand in The Aerie’s backyard, and can see the rise of Torrey Pines State Park and think about standing there – a few miles distant and 10 years gone and about the only thing that is the same is my cell phone number. But if there’s anything that I’ve learned over this decade, that even though you can’t see the path ahead, take the chance.