Farewell 2021

December 30, 2021

I’m thinking of my final Christmas in San Francisco, Christmas 2019, now a week away from two years ago. December that year had been a month of farewells. Josh and Peggy’s poignant dinner party, my close friends Ray and Michael, Greg and Ross, Zina and Al, there to say goodbye, Ray not well that night, barely hanging on. Christmas was with Adam and Rachel and Rachel’s family, Adam still enduring chemotherapy. 2019 had been a bad year by so many measures: Brenda’s abrupt decision to end our marriage, Adam’s lymphoma, Ray’s cancer. The world had not yet succumbed to a global pandemic—who would have guessed that fate was only a few months away, maybe even percolating as we sat around Josh’s dinner table in Mill Valley. I wore a beaded bracelet that evening that said Love.

Two years.

Ray is gone; he died in April 2020 as the pandemic was just beginning to grip the city. He was so fearful of contracting the virus but died alone in his apartment in still what’s unknown circumstances.  It wasn’t Covid-19.

Adam recovered, graduated from medical school, and began his residency at Highland Hospital. In May 2021 he and Rachel had a baby boy, Oliver Elliott Schwemberger Mortimer. They are prospering.

Josh and Peggy sold their house in Strawberry, organizing their exit while I visited last August, and moved to a rental in Corte Madera.

And I have been in Boston, two years on January 7th, two years—and counting—of living under the cloud of a virus that still keeps us masked and out of casual circulation.

All of us have moved on. For me, Boston has been a godsend. Close to Sam and family, work blossoming at Hult and Northeastern and for a year at Fletcher, an apartment I like across from an East Boston swimming beach, Walden Pond, a few new friends. My close friends in San Francisco have remained close. Josh, Josh and Peggy, Fran, Mark, Don, Robin, Travis. My hopes of being bi-coastal with frequent cross-country trips spoiled by Covid. I miss swimming in the Bay.

I think about those twelve years in San Francisco, the significance of those years in my life, what they gave me, what I lost. What I found as a result of loss. The unexpected passion of love, for the first—and perhaps only—time. The shattering disappointment of that love gone. The tranquility and eventual sadness of a kind of love regained. And lost again. I realize now I was the lucky one, the one who could leave, to start again. I should be, and am, grateful.

Do I want any of those old relationships again? Not with those same women—three strikes, over so many years, and I’m more than out. The times have changed, too. Not with any women. I don’t want any of that possible drama. I’m willing to be surprised, and willing to be open to something different, too. And willing to be free of any relationship. It’s a good place to stand.

For Christmas this year Travis sent me a book titled Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life. Apart from moving to Okinawa the key is keeping busy, being focused, having purpose. Some people I meet ask if I’m retired. I can’t imagine that. I love teaching and have come to see teaching as the purpose I’ve always wanted.

This fall in my strategy class, as a final assignment I asked the students to write a five-year strategic plan for themselves, focused on career goals, their commitments beyond prestige and monetary gain, and their definition of career happiness. I was unprepared to be as moved as I was reading what they wrote, these strong yet still fragile young men and women. As I read their plans, their worries, their hopes, their dreams, I teared up. I want them all to realize these plans, to achieve their goals. That I could be, in some small way, a catalyst on their journeys is a purpose I couldn’t have conceived when I started my own career adventure in teaching. Now I do.

Professor Niland, this is off topic, but I feel I need to address this. I want to say thank you. Thank
you for being an amazing professor for my last semester at Hult and for continuing to further my
understanding of marketing. I appreciate you and the care and passion you have for teaching. Thank you so much. Professor. I hope to see you again!

In such a serendipitous, even mysterious way, this is the gift Brenda gave me by ending our marriage. From that rupture a new life has evolved.

Welcome 2022.