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A year like no other

Today is a significant marker in my life, the first anniversary of the passing of my mother-in-law. Her death was sudden and I was unprepared for it. While shocked and sad, after the week of mourning was over, I expected life to return to normal quickly. In many ways it did, but in retrospect I'm amazed at how much flux there was throughout the following year.

In hindsight, I now see how depressed I was for several months after her death. It feels silly to say that, since I'm generally a happy person. The idea of me being depressed for a day let alone a month feels very out of character. But I was and it affected the decisions I made and blurred my focus, both personally and professionally. I've been searching during most of the past twelve months and it took a while to find myself again, as my wife has so patiently endured.

My productivity at work took a nose dive for a while, partially because I became extremely disinterested in what I was working on. My disinterest led me to entertain notions of leaving ESPN. As the old cliche goes, I started thinking about what I wanted to do with the rest of my own life. I considered starting my own company and began working to that end. Around the same time I was contacted by Zynga, best known for the Farmville and Mafia Wars games on Facebook. I was flattered but the idea that I'd pickup my family and move seemed a bit crazy, so my thoughts turned to, "well if I'm really considering this, what is exciting in the network of people I already have and commutable?" This led to a string of interviews in the city at some great places like GetGlue and foursquare.

The interesting thing is that these interviews, while they didn't lead to job offers they led to other interviews. My interview at foursquare led to an interview at a stealth-mode startup. And that interview led to another interview where I got an job offer. In the end I didn't accept that offer but it's been a surreal ride to experience how the NYC tech startup scene works and how tightly-knit it is. The connections I've made have been pretty amazing, and I hope they will end up helping me someday when I start my own company. But that's for another year...let me continue.

While all this was going on, I got an interview request from Apple. That ride took me from a clandestine interview hidden away in a New York hotel, to a trip to the Cupertino mothership, all the way to a job offer that nearly turned my family's world upside-down. We were "this" close to uprooting my wife and kids to the Bay Area, a continent away from everything we had ever known. In the end, leaving everyone we had ever known was too great a hardship to accept, and that was one of the biggest lessons I learned this year. I took me quite a few extra months to learn it after I began reflecting on my own mortality, but for me, family and friends are too important to allow ambition to pull me away from them. I would have loved to have worked at Apple, lived in California, and have that notch on my resume, but I love seeing my kids playing with their grandparents more.

So though my path doesn't lead to One Infinite Loop, it doesn't mean my ambition has ended with that journey. I can take an East Coast path to get where I want to go. Amazingly, it looks like that path stays at ESPN. On the exact same day, actually in the same hour that I got my offer from Apple, I got news that ESPN wanted to create the role for me that I had been asking for for years, as a build engineer. I started that new role last week, and I haven't been this happy professionally in a while. It's exactly where I want to be right now, which brings me to my second cliched lesson, everything happens for a reason. If things had played out differently, I would not have been at ESPN to accept the new role.

With all that happened, Joanne hasn't been out of my thoughts for very long. I miss her, and I hope she is at peace. I know that right now, I am too.


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