I just got a notification from WordPress telling me it had been 3 months since I last posted. I feel like my last 10 posts have all started with some apology as to why I haven’t been posting more and the real, honest reason is that I got busy with work, but once you get out of a rhythm it is very hard to get back in. I felt like the #MWWC23 was a perfect opportunity to make my Ali-like return to the ring of blogging and the theme of “New” I think can be spun into something that I have wanted to share with you all for quite some time.
I have a new life. No, I am not going through some weird religious experience. I quit my job as a lettuce breeder. Back in October actually. I realized after almost 5 years of doing that job that I was tired, worn out, physically and emotionally depleted. Also, I was traveling about 50% of the time. I would come home on a Friday night just in time to tell my fiancé that I had to leave again on Monday.
It was, and still is to some extent, scary. I had my whole life wrapped up in my job. Company car, company phone, the whole shooting match. When I quit I was literally left on a street corner with no car or phone in a city I didn’t live in. It was an entirely unfamiliar feeling to interact with the world so directly without my shield of technology or my own personal bubble to drive down the road in. What do I do now? I have put 7 years of education and 5 years of work into plant breeding just to decide I don’t want to do it anymore. Who am I if not this? What’s next?
Wine. Wine is next.
As soon as I got over the new found joy of sitting around and doing nothing for the first time since undergrad, I immediately wanted to see where pursuing my love for wine would take me. I didn’t know where it would lead but I knew that this was the perfect time to do it. I am still young enough for people to shake their head and shrug their shoulders at my youthful irresponsibility, but I know that I am old enough to have made a good run at a career in science and have hated my life for the last 2 years.
I’ve been working in a tasting room and it is strange to have a job where I interact with humans again. I haven’t had a job where I spoke to people in about 10 years. Plants aren’t big conversationalists. I love every second of it. I’ve also been helping out at the winery not only to expand my knowledge about wine, but also to see if a cellar job might be something I would be interested in. It is fun and interesting and I do like it but it has been a long while since I was “The New Guy.” I forgot what that feels like. Something new.
I try not to be in the way. That is my goal, mostly. Be useful and learn as much as I can. Working in a cellar is interesting because you are always either fixing something or prepping for something. The last couple weeks we had to pump everything out of barrels into tanks so that when we filter the wine everything is all in one big tank and it runs smoothly and that, in turn, makes bottling run smoothly. It’s a pretty tedious process but there are enough clamps, and things to couple, and hoses to run, and valves to open that it keeps my brain focused. All the hardware is fun in the same way an erector set is fun for a kid. There is something strangely satisfying about clamping metal joints together and being able to look at a system and follow the path of the wine in your mind (or with your finger in my case) and see the course it will take as it is pumped around the winery.
But it’s certainly new to me. I was a geneticist. I always dealt with the unseen; the microscopic. There was never a time someone could look over my shoulder and basically point out the exact moment that I fucked everything up. Somehow this new experience is awakening primal feelings buried deep in me that I didn’t know I had. Moving around metal tanks and attaching valves and hoses and pumps and filters makes me use my hands and my strength. Something I rarely had to do as a scientist. My brain was active, sure, but I’ve found that if my hands are working, my brain actually is more creative and awake. Also, the fear that somewhere you didn’t close a valve you should have, or didn’t get the gasket set quite right between those two hoses and wine is going to leak everywhere, provides just enough fear to make me laser-focused. The lack of trust I have in my own skills is a new experience.
I am a young man and I realize that I had only been a plant breeder for 5 years. I certainly wasn’t as good at it as I was ever going to be, but I pretty much had it nailed. Lettuce is an easy crop to work on and fortunately that is the one I fell into. I always had a confidence that I knew what I was doing and I was good at it. Working in a new industry has completely thrown that feeling out the window. It’s freeing in a way that a measured, calculated person like me never thought I could enjoy.
Birth always looks like death from the other side. You leave your safe, comfortable womb and go through this painful experience and on the other side is a whole life. Maybe I have a new life starting now. I still have yet to find a permanent gig in the wine industry but maybe I will make one for myself and finally open up that wine shop I have always talked about. I don’t know what is happening or what the future holds, but new is good enough for now.