For nearly as long as he could remember Francis had thought regularly about old age, death, and about finding a way to overcome it. The big difference between Francis and everyone else who had these thoughts was that he actually acted on the thoughts. In his high school Advanced Biology Class he wrote a research paper on “The Genetic Factors in Aging” and he set his mind to learn everything there was to learn about genetics and aging. Francis considered his undergraduate degree in Biology a distraction, but a necessary one. He knew that he would not be taken seriously until he had the degrees: bachelors, masters, and doctorate. Still there were so many courses that he “had to take” that just did not interest him! He spent all of his spare time continuing his personal research in areas that fascinated him. All that effort had paid off. He had his own laboratory, his own company, and the resources to focus completely on the leading edge research he had spent his whole life preparing for and dreaming about.
At times the feelings that drove Francis felt more like obsessions than ambition or determination. The thoughts of his work were always there… and even more persistent were the thoughts of his reasons for the work. Memories of the people who were important to him from a very young age, his grandparents, family friends seemed to be just below a very thin layer of immediate life. When Francis was not working, there were so many triggers that seemed to bring these memories to the surface. Catching sight of the moon would always bring to mind memories of his grandfather and the hours that they would spend talking about astronomy, space, and wondering about what it would be like to be out there. Walking through the produce section at the grocery would bring back memories of eating fresh raspberries or strawberries directly from the plants in his Grandmother’s garden. It was more than mere memories for Francis it evoked the feelings of connection, of joy, and love that he felt for the important people in his life. It also triggered a surge of anxiety, because these very important people were getting older and Francis could not imagine life without them in it. The anxiety would only go away when Francis turned his attention back to his work. That was the only thing that calmed him, gave him peace and hope. He had to find a way to prevent the inevitable.
This drive was the key to Francis’s successes, but it came at a cost. Relationships were the most important thing in his life, but in spite of being a friendly, loving person with intelligence and good looks, his social life was a complete disaster. The constant drive to find answers before it was too late made it hard to stay engaged in most social situations. He was completely lost when it comes to current events, current culture (TV and movies), and really doesn’t “have a life” to share. Only through the connections he made at work, and good old friends did Francis have any opportunities to socialize.
The evening got off to a good start, Evelyn was smiling and talking to Bill and Rose as Francis walked up to the bar area of the restaurant. Although the reservations were for 8:00 everyone had agreed to meet after work for some happy hour socializing before dinner. Francis had found it difficult to disengage from work even though the lab had started to empty out around 5. It was a beautiful summer evening in San Diego and the weather was perfect. Francis finally finished reviewing a report on the ongoing clinical trial when his calendar dinged at him again… so he ran to the dressing room, freshened up and changed into casual attire appropriate for the coming event. As usual, traffic heading south on the 5 on a Friday evening was frustrating! He found the commute even more frustrating because he was still processing the information from the last report he reviewed. The full moon hung low and huge above the horizon, finally drawing Francis away from thoughts of work. He wondered if his Grandfather could see the same moon. He missed his Grandparents! He needed to make time soon to get up to Julian to see them.
The late departure was turning into a very late arrival. Getting into downtown, finding parking, and walking to the restaurant allowed Francis to let go of the tensions of the drive. He had met Evelyn before, she was successful, beautiful, and had a terrific work life balance. He really enjoyed the stories of her adventures and misadventures, and wished he had the time to do more than work, work-out, eat, and sleep. Unfortunately, he wasn’t sure he would even know what he would actually be interested in doing if he did have more time.
Evelyn smiled at Francis as he walked up. She slid off the bar stool and gave Francis a warm hug as he negotiated his way through the crowd to a seat they had saved for him at the bar. She leaned in close to his ear during the hug, “Nice to see you again Francis.” “You too Evelyn, it looks like I’ve been missing some fun.”
Bill’s expression was less understanding… “Hey man, what took so long! You need to get out of that lab more often.” Francis and Bill had been college roommates, and Bill had single-handedly saved Francis’s college years from being a complete social disaster.
“Yeah, Yeah, don’t I know it. Things are really starting to produce results there though.” As much as Francis knew he needed to live his life, he could not hide his enthusiasm for his work. “Hi, Rose… sorry for interrupting the conversation, great to see you.”
Rose smiled and reassured Francis, “Just warming up, glad to see you Francis. We were just listening to Evelyn’s story about her trip to Yosemite last month.”
“Well I hope I didn’t miss all the good parts. I need to live vicariously through someone.”, Francis responding glancing Evelyn’s way.
Evelyn happily went back over the highlights of her backpacking trip to Little Yosemite Valley to catch Francis up before continuing. “We met a family with two teens while we were camping in Little Yosemite. They were having a great time. I’m really looking forward to sharing my love of the beauty and peacefulness of the outdoors with my kids. Camping is a terrific place to bond with friends and family.”, and looking right at Francis she continued, “Of course I need to meet the right guy first.”
As they ordered dinner Rose and Bill talked about their trip to San Francisco that had included some time to explore one of the most historic large cities in the United States, a bike ride across the Golden Gate, and some time in the wine country nearby. Francis enjoyed the conversation, but he started to feel a little pressure to share some of his life. Unfortunately, work was his life.
The best he could do was, “I would love to have better balance in my life, but I love my work and I’m not comfortable when I’m away for more than a day or two. There is some many things that need my attention. I feel like everything will grind to a halt if I don’t keep pushing everyone! I should take some time to get out to Julian to see my grandparents, or up to Seattle to visit my sister soon though. It’s been too long since I’ve seen them.”
Bill didn’t hesitate, “Do it Dude. Take a weekend trip, get out of the lab. I know you man, you need to get out and live a little. We’re going to do the Torrey Pines hike again next week. It’s right out by your lab…”
Francis felt everyone’s eyes turn toward him. He fought off the urge to pull out his Android to check his schedule, and took a deep breath to fight of the anxiety he felt any time he scheduled anything outside of work.
“OK, sounds like fun? I can’t believe I’ve never even been to that beach. It’s only about 3 miles from my work. What time will you be going?” Francis said as he felt the anxiety rising in an attempt to regain control of him.
“Where will we meet?”, and then he blurted out, “Will you be able to make it Evelyn?”
“Of course I can make it.” Evelyn said without a second thought, “I love that hike. We should do it around sunset, then find a place in Del Mar to get a quick bite to eat.”
Bill gave Rose a look and a smile, “We can work out the details and logistics later. How about dessert!”
Francis felt the anxiety recede, he’d work it out. It was his company after all. He could just go in early that day. The rest of the evening was relaxed and Francis barely thought about work until after the good nights. As soon as he was back in the car all he could think about was work. He was glad he had signed up for the hike, but he also knew that he would need to put in some long days the rest of the week to keep up with the pace of the lab.
Francis realized as he drifted off to sleep that balance really was not possible at this point in his life. Yes, he was going on a hike, but that was not “balance”, it was a token event. He wasn’t going to be able to live a normal life, he wasn’t going to be able to have anyone special in his life, not until he was successful, not until he found a way to significantly lengthen human life.