2005 – A Year In Review

Well, it’s that time of year again – the time when people send out all kinds of cards and letters and the like full of inordinate amounts of detail in an attempt to make up for not being in touch with you throughout the rest of the year. One may be tempted to think that this letter would fall into that category, but it does not.

Instead, this letter is my way of bringing you all up to date on the happenings of 2005. Now, depending on how long you’ve been part of my address book, you may think I have done this before which is true, in part. However the difference this time is that I’m not living someplace which may be deemed worthy of a letter (e.g. Alaska, the UK, etc.) – no, what has instead prompted this Year in Review is the fact that I have had some life-changing events take place in the last few months, and since things have been so crazy, I know I have not had time to keep everyone updated (nor can I always remember who I’ve told what to).

So, rather than making this some sort of lame apology for not keeping in better touch, think of this as more my way of just making sure everyone’s on the same page. I’ll warn you straight off that this may be a little on the lengthy side so you may want to just print it out and read at your leisure if you don’t have the time right now. Furthermore, I will do my best to make it interesting but in case my attempts fail and instead find this piece of prose has coma-inducing qualities that could tire even the most chronic insomniac, I would recommend not operating any heavy machinery while reading.

And with that disclaimer, I bring you…

2005
A Year in Review

January/February.

The year really started out with the BANG that was the end of 2004. A tsunami – the like of which we have never before seen – hit parts of South Asia, including areas of Thailand where I was booked to go to on a sailing trip starting at the end of January. So the first couple of weeks of the year were a bit touch-and-go… What was going on? Were we still going to have the trip? Was it really as bad as CNN was making us believe? If we went, would we contract some sort of dreadful disease and have to be quarantined, never to return home? In the end, the trip was on for those who wanted to “brave” it. I left New York on January 21st on a flight from Newark to Tokyo to Bangkok. The next morning I flew out with a few others for Phuket and sailed around the islands of Thailand and Burma for 10 days. I didn’t return home until February 5th. I can tell you without a doubt that it was one of the most incredible trips of my life and something I don’t think could really ever be duplicated. I could spend pages upon pages trying to describe this singularly amazing time, but I feel I could in no way do it justice. Instead, I am including here a description I wrote of a coffee drink which I aptly named “Thai Island Blend”.

This really stems from something my friend Esther & I have been doing for years, usually as a way to describe something that one of us had seen/experienced. It’s about the closest thing to a short summary of my trip as I can possibly give you without going way overboard (no pun intended):

Thai Island Blend

Serene yet awe-inspiring, just like the land, our Thai Island Blend is a delicate collection of the most mild and sweet roasts we could uncover to bring you the essence of a tropical island getaway.
One sip and you’ll find yourself transported to the deck of a catamaran sailing through clear waters that appear to you to be made of liquid glass. You look around at the islands which shoot up from the sea – tall and round like giant pebbles that almost seem to hover over the water. A kayak awaits and you paddle across coral reefs teeming with life to a deserted cove. Walls of rock covered with vegetation envelop you and you spot entrances to sea caves that beckon to be explored, but you decide to save that for tomorrow.

Back onboard ship, you watch the sunset paint the sky in colors you never knew existed as the moon rises over the peaks behind you. It’s dark enough now that you can see the sparkle of phosphorescent plankton dancing in the water below. You sigh and are comforted by the warm breeze on your face as you settle back and enjoy your mug of Thai Island Blend.

March

Birthday aside, the month of March was really quite busy as well – I went on a ski trip to Killington with some of my friends from Redeemer, spent a weekend in Boston visiting with Esther & Abby, and then my actual birthday was spent in Ireland with the Grahams sandwiched between some time in London visiting old haunts and seeing friends.

April

Filled with 2 church-related retreats and visits from out-of-town friends made this month fly as well.

May

Was spent looking forward to Memorial Day weekend which I spent with my sister, Kristin, in San Francisco. This included a day trip with my friend Nancy (who I met on the Thailand trip) out to the Sonoma Valley. Fun for one and all!

June

Slow month. Spent a long weekend in Boston with Es & Abby again, but otherwise I just spent time trying to relax and gear-up for July…

July

This is where things started to get interesting. I started the month off with spending 4th of July weekend in Miami with my friend, Camerin. It was absolutely swelteringly hot, but we managed to have a good time nonetheless! On the 8th, I took off for San Francisco again, but this time for work. I got to spend a week and a half there including two weekends – one spent with my aunt & uncle who I hadn’t seen in several years, and the other spent again with Nancy who took me down to Monterey where we sea kayaked and laughed as much as possible.

Upon returning home, I had a conference call with someone from a different department (eBusiness) at my work (Merrill Lynch). He had initially contacted me because someone had passed along my resume due to an opening they had which it seemed I might fit the bill for as a project manager in their eBusiness team. We set up for me to come down to Princeton for an interview in August.

August

I had the interview, but decided I didn’t want to pursue the role further as it was Princeton-based. I was happy in my current role and had no desire to leave New York. That was part of it. The rest was that the alternative to leaving my favorite city was to do a reverse-commute to Princeton which is so time-consuming and so costly it potentially would have cancelled out any increase in pay I thought I’d see. Apparently I had underestimated their interest in me – they wanted me to come back for another round of interviews, and although I had said I didn’t think I would take the job for the reasons I listed above, they requested that I finish out the interviews and wait for their offer before making my final decision. I also couldn’t understand why God wasn’t allowing me to just walk away from what I saw as a good opportunity that really just wasn’t for me, but I have to admit I was curious.

So I had the rest of the interviews and spent the last weekend of the month hangin’ with the fam in Atlanta.

September

Labor Day pretty much kicked off September with a Thailand trip reunion which was held out at a cabin belonging to Jean, one of the trip participants, on a beautiful piece of land in Wisconsin. Most of us flew into Chicago and then drove out at varying times to the ranch and spent the weekend relaxing and catching up. Only a couple of the original people from the trip were unable to make it.

Shortly after getting back, I was called in for jury duty and had to sit on a malpractice case for a week and a half (and before you ask, no, it wasn’t exactly like living an episode of Law & Order, but still, serving jury duty in New York City was still an interesting experience!). During this time I was patiently waiting for an offer to come in from the eBusiness group when I was shocked by the news that a complete reorganization of my department was being done effective immediately which meant my whole role and team was going to be changing over. So, depending on the offer from eBiz, if I was going to make a change, it seemed I couldn’t have asked for a better situation in which to do it, and it would seem that perhaps God’s purpose in keeping this door open (despite my own attempts to close it) were becoming more apparent.

Their offer came in at 4:30 in the afternoon on Friday, September 23rd. All I can say about that is that if there was any doubt in my mind as to what I should do, it was completely drowned out by their offer. I have never been so flattered and floored and just flat out surprised in my life. I left after work for a church leadership retreat which was great because I felt I needed a couple of days for it all to sink in. Suffice it to say that when all was said and done, after years of feeling like I wasn’t really being paid what I was worth but sticking it out anyway because of the potential that I could see, I would have now (including the standard merit increase I received at the beginning of ’05) in less than 12 months been giving an overall increase of more than 40%. That in mind, I imagine it will come as no surprise that I called them first thing Monday and said, “OK”.

Now another timing issue I should mention is that, aside from the restructuring that was going on in my current role, I was also coming up to the end of my second year on the lease for my apartment in New York. Having spent the bulk of that time plagued by New York City gang mice, I did not relish the idea of having to go another round with them. Besides, if I was going to do the reverse commute thing to Princeton, it would make more sense for me to live on the West Side as that would put me in closer proximity to Penn Station than the Upper East Side did. The more I thought about that, the more I was drawn to the idea that, if I was going to move anyway, perhaps I should look into moving out of the city altogether. I didn’t really want to leave New York, but I could see where it also might not be the worst thing in the world… After all, if I moved back out to PA, I might actually be able to BUY a house and not have to keep paying for someone else’s investment, but have a little of my own. On top of which, let’s face it, I’m not getting any younger (a concept which has been hitting me increasingly harder with each passing year).

October

Took on a life of its own. This is what ended up being my last month in New York and was spent packing and packing and packing and did I mention packing? The only other thing I did as much as pack was go to U2 concerts. I’m not kidding – I went to 4 of them. All at Madison Square Garden which is by FAR one of, if not THE best venues in the world. My sister, Jo, came up from Atlanta to do both with me – pack AND attend one of the concerts.

I was also doing other things to prepare for my move. First, I bought a new car. Next, I got pre-approved for a mortgage and began house-hunting. I started the new job on the 17th and found my new home by the 24th with the settlement date set for December 2nd.

November

What should have been a relatively uneventful month ended up being anything but. I didn’t really have much going on…all of my things were moved out of the city already since my lease was up at the end of October. I was temporarily staying with my aunt & uncle as my closing date wasn’t until early December so that meant that all I had to do for November was chill out, get used to my new job, and look forward to Thanksgiving.

Well, the weekend before Thanksgiving I was slotted to go up to Killington, Vermont with some friends of mine from New York who are taking part in a ski haus with me for the season. The 18th was our first weekend of the season. Within 20 minutes of arriving, I succeeded in being frightened to death by a dog who I mistook for Cujo in the dark which in turn made me bolt for the car, trip on some rocks, and break my foot! So the rest of the weekend was spent taking me to the ER at the closest medical center and then driving back to PA which my friends had to handle since I was unable to drive my stick-shift car with only one good foot. I had to cancel my trip to Atlanta to see the fam for Thanksgiving as had been the plan, and I was pretty much out of work for the next few weeks seeing as I was to “stay off” the foot and, as previously established, I could not drive. (As a side note, I have since come into contact with people who know the dog personally and naturally the dog is completely harmless, but alas I couldn’t tell this in the dark – if only he’d spoken better English…)

December

The crutches and cast also made it difficult to do things like go to a house settlement and move. As a result, my mom flew up to help me out. She chauffeured me around to the stores and did some other necessary errands for me…including taking me to the closing on my house.

Yep, that’s right – I am now a homeowner! I’m pretty excited, but still relatively freaked out by the idea that I actually own this place… That I’m responsible for it in a way that I’ve never really been responsible for anything, except maybe my cars over the years, but that’s not really quite the same thing.

Just so you know a little about it, it’s a 2-story, 2 bedroom, 1.5 bath townhouse complete with both a front yard and a fenced-in back yard. It’s a great place, and really perfect for me. It needs a decent amount of work, however, so if you’re wondering why I haven’t invited you over yet, don’t take it personally. :) It needs a little TLC (not to mention a new color scheme). But now that I’m back walking around, I’m making some progress.

What is amazing to me is how much space I have now… Coming from a barely-400 sq. ft. NYC apartment (with probably about 350 sq. ft. of actual living space) to a place that tops 1100 sq. ft., I don’t know what to do with myself or how to fill it all. I think it may be awhile before I really feel like I’m truly “set up” properly here. I’m also missing New York more than I can say and consoling myself only with the thoughts that the city is only an hour and a half away (an hour from work), and it will always be there (Lord willing) if I want to move back in the future. That said, I also want to make sure that my friends in NYC know that they have an open invitation to come on down any time!

Christmas was spent doing a whirlwind tour of Atlanta from which I returned on the 26th. New Year’s plans included trying to get additional painting done (thrilling, I know) and spending some time with my friend Jennifer who came for a visit before taking off to Indonesia where she’s going as a career missionary. (Unfortunately I ended up sick and spent most of the weekend in bed!)

And so we arrive at the end of 2005. I have some fun plans lined up for 2006 as well, but if I was going to tell you about them, I’d have to write a separate section and entitle it “2006 – A Look Ahead” but you can relax – I’m not going to subject you to that…I think I’ve given you all plenty to absorb for now.

Happy New Year and may God bless you all in 2006!