Ten Years Gone

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?

Torrey Pines Sunset

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.

Aerie Sunet

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.

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54 thoughts on “Ten Years Gone

  1. Steve – great post. I’m honored to be one of those friends that you get to “talk” to everyday – even if it is while you’re playing triple word squares and kicking my tail. Steph and I are married 10 years this year – it’s astounding to think of all that the past decade holds. I’m glad, though, that it included meeting wonderful people (like yourself). Hopefully the next decade will include a trip to San Diego (added bonus would be a trip to Chatt for you and The Beloved). :-)

    • Thanks Jim — it’s amazing the course that 10 years can take and I feel badly for folks that feel intimidated or frightened of “putting themselves out there”. I’ve met so many good, thoughtful and interesting people here that I’d be heartbroken if I lost the relationships I’ve made here. A very Happy New Year to you, Steph and the boys. I know we’ll be crossing paths in the future!

  2. looks like taking a calculated risk worked out for you. That is great. To think, without the move you may have never started blogging.

    Your post makes me wonder if things worked out as well for “she who shall not be named.”

    Here is to the next 10, may they be even better.

    • Thanks Budd — it was hard to sit down and remember the world pre-blog! But you know, I hope that they have been good for SWMNBN and that she was able to find a happiness that we couldn’t together.

  3. Wow, Steve. Great, great post! It’s so interesting to think that while ten years doesn’t really seem like that much time in the grand scheme of things, so much can happen that can really change your life! I, for one, am thrilled to have met you! And I’m also thrilled that you & the Beloved found each other – you seem to be so compatible and truly soulmates.

    (And your photos here are gorgeous!)

    • Thanks Mello! It’s been quite a ride, full of ups and downs, but I don’t think I’d trade it for anything. Happy New Year’s to you and your family up there in the Land of 10000 Lakes! :)

    • Thanks Janie! Now, when we think of traveling up and down the East Coast, we always say we have to make sure we get a chance to stop in the ‘Dorf! Happy New Year to you, Steve and all the P’s!

  4. I liked this a lot. I might have to steal the idea and do my own 10 years! Also I got a littly misty eyed to while I was reading :o).

    • Thanks M-T: the cadence really came out on its own, I’m glad you liked it :) Sometimes life is up and sometimes it’s down… hopefully 2011 will be on the upswing! Happy New Year!

  5. “….take a chance” is right! I can give you a laundry list of chances I’ve taken.

    Easily the best new digs of any place I’ve ever worked at, and that includes brand new academic labs.

  6. I can’t believe it myself, ten years gone. In December 2000 I had just seen my oldest child take off for college in Portland, OR, and I still had two very restless teenagers in the house. I had no idea back then that I would be sitting in my parents’ house in California while the younger two kids would follow their sister’s path to the Northwest.

    Life does call for taking chances. Sometimes they involve heartbreak and saying farewell to comfortable old habits, but I’ve yet to meet anyone who wanted to go back. Good post, Steve. And a happy new year to you, Beloved and Penny.

    • Thanks HG — one thing that writing this made me think is that people that feel like they have their life’s path “figured out” are clueless. It NEVER works out the way you planned — and that’s a great thing. Imagine how let down you’d probably be if everything DID work out “as planned”.

  7. When someone asks me if I regret anything in the past, I usually answer “No, because all that stuff made me who I am today.” Sometimes I wonder if “who I am today” is all that great, but – you know – I could be a lot worse.

    “She Who Must Not Be Named” … I didn’t know you were married to my mother-in-law!

    • GOM — you know, I was just telling a friend that through choices and happenstance we always end up with certain cards in our hand. We can only play the hand we have.

  8. Very nice account, Steve. So much can happen in a decade, good and bad. Vox was one of those good things. (Not so good that it went under, but so it goes.) I guess our paths didn’t cross there, but they’ve crossed now. :-)

  9. I admire your ability to learn to read music. It’s never worked out for me. I came close once, when I thought of it as a foreign language, but I didn’t stick with it.

    I never put together that you were in SD and biopharma.. DOH! I had a bunch of friends at Genentech (or whoever they are now) and interviewed down there a couple times myself.

    Where is your dog’s blog? I think I’d like to read that.

    • L — well, the music thing has been a great way of relaxing that doesn’t include the tv or the computer, or even reading. It’s like exercising part of my brain that I don’t use at other times.

      Penny doesn’t have her own blog (though I’ve thought about it) but you can friend her on Facebook using her first name and my last one.. :)

  10. Your story is such an inspiration to me, Steve. Thanks for writing. My life looks NOTHING like it did a year ago, it’s been difficult in places but I wouldn’t change a thing. My love to Beloved and Penny. And I’ll raise my chocolate martini (thanks for the recipe) to the next ten!

    • Thanks Carmen! I’m not sure that I feel very inspirational but I have learned that even in the “bad” days that the seeds of good ones are often planted. Here’s to good days for you and us in 2011!! :D

    • Like little Morgul shards of Despite* they keep trying to re-appear. Fortunately, every couple of days I wield my trusty blade, Gillette, and keep them at bay.

      *wow, is that ever a mixed metaphor

    • Thanks Jenny! I don’t feel particularly inspiring, but it has been a good time to reflect on where the journey of the last 10 years had gone. Here’s to the next 10!

  11. Great to call you my friend, Steve. I remember when you got the piano – I thought, that is the perfect instrument for him! I still haven’t heard you play, though. I especially enjoy hearing about happenings at the Aerie. Looking forward to more stories in 2011. ;)

  12. What a brilliant post :) The last ten years of your life have made for such a grand tale, and I’m sure the next ten are going to be even more spectacular and happy. Have a wonderful 2011 my friend. Glad to know you, even if it’s in the virtual realm.

  13. Nice!

    My decade saw me break up with the first man I thought I’d marry, take up with the man I’m now married to, quit my first job, move back to San Diego, get laid off, work for an evil defense contractor (and like it!), get married, go on a four month trip around the Pacific and Asia, have a kid, get back into biotech, have another kid, and then get laid off again.

    Phew. No wonder I’m so tired.

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