Memories of the dot-com days

I got an email from a former colleague of mine whom I haven’t seen in five years. She mentioned the desperate state of affairs in once-almighty Silicon Valley, where we worked together in the mid-90s. Here is my response to her, which pretty well sums up my state of mind:

Dear —-,

Thanks so much for writing back; your email really touched me. I’m sorry about your mother, of course, and wonder how I will deal with such inevitabilities as my father approaches 80 and my mother 75. I guess I got some good practice when I lost my brother back in 1996, but I still haven’t gotten over that event, and I am far closer to my parents than I ever was to him.

I can especially relate to your husband’s plight. Our lives were about limitless opportunity and wealth, calls from frantic headhunters, obscenely bloated salaries and endless perquisites, overpriced dinners and lavish vacations. And we took it all for granted. Today my significant other gave me a frantic call — if I can’t wire some money soon, I could lose my house in Arizona. I can take care of it and I won’t lose the house, but it’s such a different world, and at times I really wonder whether I can survive. This overnight transformation from boundless success to agonizing limitations (if not downright poverty) can really make one wonder about his very life, its purpose, whether every decision made was a wrong one — and then there’s the accompanying sense of desperation and dread: this is my LIFE, and it appears wholly invalidated. This can make for a powerful mid-life crisis indeed, and I have thought of running away myself. We thought we had it all figured out, that we were invulnerable….

As for returning, my life is at the moment a huge question mark. I believe I will stick it out in Beijing for another 9 months or so and leave before winter sets in (and in Beijing, winter starts in mid-October). There are people I miss so much, and when I think of them I just want to run home, forever. I stay for one reason: I am in a good job with a good company, and this is the smartest move I can think of for my future. As you know too well, there aren’t alternatives growing on trees anymore. When I do go back, it will have to be to Phoenix, to my cats and to my house and my family. We won’t be too far apart, and maybe we can find a way to meet. (Who would have known that day when I met you at your home that it would be so many years before we saw one another again?)

Okay, enough sentimentalizing. Have a wonderful trip to Europe, and if the plane stops at Beijing to refuel please give me a call. Take care.

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