How time flies when you’re having fun. It was four years ago that I left Apple after 17 years to go do something else. I announced my decision in July, and spent eight weeks transitioning, and in September 2006 walked out of Apple for the last time and into — well, at the time, I had no idea what I was going to do. Something different. I redid my blog into Chuqui 3.0, and four years later, again for my birthday, redid it again into its current form.

I tried my damndest to get hired by Yahoo! at the time. It’s still a company that looks to me to have huge potential — but right now, it’s just not clicking, and it looks like AOL is seriously gearing up to make a run at doing what Yahoo ought to be doing and isn’t (and some really interesting yahoo! talent keeps sneaking off to AOL land) . Not really sure why a Yahoo job never happened, there was plenty of interest in both directions, just never quite the right match (and in one case, an internal transfer that tooks a slot I was waiting for an offer from). Having lived through all of the bad years at Apple, not being hired by Yahoo turned out to be a blessing in disguise, and the best things are the things that don’t happen.

I wrote a series of blog entries about all of this, the Apple Post-Mortem series:

  • Part 1: Why I left: and more on this in a bit..
  • Part 2: Jobs I Wish I could Have Taken: most of which are jobs I STILL wish I could have taken, and ones that I still think a company like Apple (or most companies) should create for some one…
  • Part 3: no longer online (and I don’t even remember what it was, or why it’s offline. Doesn’t really matter)
  • Part 4: Why Apple doesn’t have a blogging policy (and it ain’t what you think); by far, the piece that created the biggest kerfluffle, way back when.  And of course, there was great hue and cry about how Apple had to blog, or it was going to fail and the universe was going to shun and scorn it. We see just how badly faltered by failing to understand this basic requirement of the universe… This is the one where folks called bullshit on me without in some cases seeming to notice I’d actually left Apple.
  • Leaving Apple after 17+ years was both an easy and tough decision. Part of me really wanted to stay, wanted to, as I put it a few times, get carried out on my XServe.  Not exactly, looking back on it from today, a ringing endorsement. Most of me understood that I needed to make some fundamental changes to my life or they would in fact carry me out on my XServe, and that would have been bad.  I was physically exhausted, I was emotionally exhausted, I’d gained close to 60 pounds in the previous year. I worked myself into pneumonia,  and then hid from my doctor and bosses that I worked through treatment for it.

I was a wreck. I’d spent a good part of a year trying to find ways to fix the job situation with the help of my bosses — and failed. In many ways I blamed Apple for this; in reality, there was nothing that happened that I didn’t volunteer for and jump into with both feet and great enthusiasm. I was physically and emotionally bankrupt, and I had no idea how to resolve the problem; I honestly wondered if I was simply too old to keep up with silicon valley. I didn’t know. What I did know was that the current situation was pretty literally killing me, and I was doing myself no good, my project no good, Apple no good and the people around me no good.

So I jumped, deciding that some time off would help me recharge and give me some time to reflect and decide on what to do next and how to fix my life. At the time, I was somewhat bitter that Apple didn’t do more to convince me to stay. In reality, it did me a great favor by not trying, and in reality, I didn’t work too hard to find a place to land, either. That was just exhaustion speaking, and now, I see that and I feel that Apple — and my bosses all those years — worked their butts off to try to make things happen. It was just a situation where nothing Apple could do could fix it.

Because what I didn’t know at the time, wouldn’t find out for another six months, was that I was really sick.

When I did finally haul myself off to my doctor and talked, he sent me off to the sleep clinic to be tested. They wired me up — and the results were stunning.

I had sleep apnea. I didn’t just have sleep apnea, I was seeing an average of 50 “incidents” an hour. An incident, by the way, is when your breathing passage blocks and you start to suffocate, at which point your body has to react (i.e “wake up”) and do something to allow you to breathe again. I was — pretty literally — snoring myself to death.

I started wearing a CPAP that night, something I’ve been wearing every night since. it’s basically the inspiration for the Darth Vader mask. I’ve talked about this in the past, but now that some time has passed, I have a better perspective on all of this. It’s now clear, for instance, that I was suffering from Apnea for at least a decade prior to my diagnosis. The more I look at that time of my life, the more I realize how much it was impacted by this.

In the year prior to deciding to leave Apple, I gained about 60 pounds. At the time, I blamed work and the stress of the project I was on. I strained friendships (and lost a couple I still regret). I had no energy, I was always worn out and exhausted. I was starting to suffer from high blood pressure. I was not a lot of fun to be around, and I didn’t particularly want to be around anyone.

In the two weeks after putting on the CPAP, my blood pressure dropped 20 points and I went off blood pressure medicine. I slept well for the first time in years — and so did Laurie, because she wasn’t having to deal with sleeping with a fog horn. She stopped wearing earplugs to bed, and her sleeping improved, too. After about six weeks, my energy levels started coming back, and so did my attitude.

At that time I realized I had to get serious about lifestyle changes. I decided to try to adopt a new attitude. The easy way to sum it up is:

I’ve given up denial for Lent.

And that’s been the foundation for what turned into a major effort to rethink every aspect of my life, how I lived it, and how I needed to live it moving forward if I wanted to be around for a while and actually have a quality of life that made being around worth it. I feel for the first time in decades comfortable in my own skin and satisified with how I’m living. For the first time in decades — warts and all — I like myself.

And here’s why I’ve decided it’s finally time to talk about this.

Your health is like a credit card; you keep putting purchases on it and making minimum payments against the balance, eventually it’s going to hit the credit limit, and if you go over, bad things happen. Lifestyle choices I made in my 20’s and 30’s came back to bite me in the ass in my 40’s when the bill came due, and here I am now in my 50’s, “restructuring the debt” and realizing that there are things I’m going to have to live with the rest of my life.

Things that were completely avoidable if I’d made different choices and taken a different path.

If we’re ever together in person talking about this, one thing you’ll hear me say is that if I could do one thing, it’d be invent a time machine and go back to my younger self — and bitchslap the living daylights out  of my younger self for not taking better care of my body and my soul. I needed someone to beat some common sense into me.

I can’t go back and do that, but I’ve decided this is my time machine, and hopefully I can help someone else who is just starting to move down a path to understand the options and maybe make a better choice than I did.

It’s probably not as much fun as geeking out over HTML5 transforms or complaining about the ref’s call in last night’s hockey game — but it might save someone’s life. I promise not to lecture and not to whine or play “poor me” games. I have no intention of telling you how to live your life. But if I can help some people better understand the implications of some of the decisions they need to make, then this will be worth doing.

We’ll try it and see what happens.