had no intention of writing an article about myself until I traded some e-mails with
Annette about adding a synopsis (link) of my new venture to the Allen High Class of 1983
business pages It always seemed a bit self-serving or egotistical to write about oneself.
Who would want to read about me anyway? I actually have a purpose for writing this beyond
the self-promotional aspects. I want to convince you to adopt my motto: Never look
before you leap (hereafter, NLBYL). If this was the last line you read, Ill
Indulge me while I set
the stage with some preliminary stuff. After Allen, I attended Lehigh University and
received a B.S. and M.S. in Chemical Engineering. I had visions of working for a small
chemical company somewhere in the Northeast. Heres where "the plan" fell
apart and, to my surprise, the fun began. My first employer was Rhone-Poulenc, a French
government-owned chemical company based in Princeton, NJ. I never thought that I would
work for a French company, and New Jersey was the last place that I thought I would ever
live. Ironically, the job was also the lowest paying option in the bunch of offers I had.
But, the experience promised to be the most valuable, so I took it.
As soon as I started at RP, I knew I had
made the right choice. The work was challenging and very rewarding. I quickly made up the
pay inequities through promotions and bonuses. Further, I actually liked living near
Princeton. About a year into my tenure with RP, my boss asked me if I wanted to take an
assignment in France for about a year or so. "Sure," I said, "Why
not?" Never mind the fact that I studied German and didnt speak a word of
French. Unimportant details I thought (NLBYL # 1).
Before I left for France I asked Staci, my
girlfriend of several years, to marry me, and she said yes! Even more surprising, she
still said yes on our wedding day even though I did not return to the U.S. until a few
weeks before the wedding. Oh, and I left her with both of our mothers to plan the wedding
The year in France was challenging and at
times frustrating, but I will always remember it as a great experience. I learned four
important lessons during this year overseas:
- You can learn a foreign language in less
than three months if you have to. Mind you, my first 45 minutes "in country" at
the Paris train station trying to decipher the instructions for obliterating your train
ticket prior to boarding the train made me question if I would ever understand French. Why
would you obliterate anything as important as a train ticket before you get ON the train?
Fortunately, a very nice Parisian helped me understand that you must merely punch a hole
in it using these funny orange boxes called obliterateurs. Whatever. Did I mention that he
didnt speak English? I guess we looked pretty foolish waving our hands and passing
my French/English dictionary, soon to be known as my best friend, back and forth.
- You can eat all sorts of stuff and not get
sick, as long as you do not know what youre eating. A good example is
"andouillette". Andouillette is basically an intestine sausage. Mmmm. I had no
idea what it was when I ordered it, and the waiters attempts to explain it to me
were not helping. Good thing, it is now one of my favorite dishes (NLBYL #3).
- The golden arches are the epitome of haute
cuisine if you have spent more than 3 months outside of the US.
- You can live anywhere in the world for a
year (as you will see, I have had plenty of chances to test this one).
The next few years were a series of quick
moves from state to state as my company offered, and I accepted, one relocation after
another. I think that people who knew us thought Staci and I were in the witness
protection program or running from bill collectors. One of my close friends finally told
us that we couldnt move anymore, since he had run out of space in his address book.
I never thought that bouncing from place to place every six months would be fun, but it.
Staci and I have already traveled more and
experienced more cultures than many people will in a lifetime. The toughest move had to be
to West Virginia. We spent almost a year in the Kanawha Valley without a divorce. If
youve been there, you know what I mean. Heres a taste:
- Not one deer crossing sign in the whole
state is intact. They all have at least one bullet hole in Bambis head.
- If you stare at any native West Virginian
long enough they will spit (women, children, and pets included).
- Every truck has a confederate flag on it
somewhere. But thats not the funny part. West Virginia split from Virginia during
the Civil War to fight FOR the NORTH.
These little oddities aside, Staci and I
made some great friends and have fond memories of our time in the Kanawha Valley.
Well, about 1994, it looked as if things
might actually settle down. We bought our first house in Yardley, PA, and prepared to do
the suburb thing. Not three months into our new house, my boss again asked me to take an
assignment in France. This time, he wanted me to go that same week. I still do not know
why I am still alive. Without asking my wife I said, "Sure, no problem." (NLBYL
# 5) Then I thought, "How am I going to make this happen." Fortunately, my wife
was pretty enthusiastic about moving to France. It hurt to leave our first house behind,
but it hurt even more to give our dog to my parents for the year. Again, the assignment
was unforgettable. Staci and I polished up our French and saw more of Europe than we could
have seen in a year of week-long vacations. One of our favorite experiences was aimlessly
wandering through the French countryside looking for vineyards (and, of course, wines to
Well, the assignment ended and so did my
enthusiasm for Rhone-Poulenc. I saw that the company had little new to offer me, so I
jumped ship to return home to Allentown to work for Air Products. I never thought that I
would return here to live for any period of time. Yet here it is four years later, and we
have no immediate intentions of leaving the area. (NLBYL #6)
Although we are physically stationary, we
cant stand predictability. To spice things up, I have decided to leave Air Products
and form my own company (you can see the ad on the Allen High Class of 1983 Business page)
Heres where the motto comes into play in a strange way.
Staci and I agonized over this decision for
months. The business premise is sound, but how do you walk away from a good job, a sure
thing, and dive into something that might not pan out? We concluded that Staci has a
successful consulting business and that weve saved a little money for a rainy day,
so why not try something a bit risky now? We are healthy, young, and dont have
any kids. The time is ripe
JUMP! (NLBYL # 7 and its a biggy!)
True to form, no plan ever survives contact
with the enemy. I guess someone thought that starting my business would be too easy under
these circumstances. Shortly after I informed my employer of my intention to leave, Staci
informed me of my new title, Dad. For those of you who know us, you know that this was
definitely not "the plan". We were to be DINKs (double income, no kids) for
life. As in the past, I am sure this NLBYL will be worth it.
Anyway, I guess what I am saying here is
"Dont worry so much about the future. And definitely dont look before you
leap." It might stop you from doing something really interesting.