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Sunday, March 24, 2002

Christmas Letter
December 9, 1998

Happy Holidays!

Hereís a quick summary to keep those of you who donít see or hear from me too often informed of the happenings in my life in sunny southern CA.

1998 was a pretty good year as years go. I am still living in Newport Beach, just 200 yards from the ocean. I drive a red Eclipse Turbo - my first new car. My family is convinced this car will be the death of me - way too easy to go way too fast. I still work at Wavefunction selling molecular modeling software to scientists around the world.

I still rock climb as much as possible. I have been climbing regularly for more than two years now. I train 3 days a week on a 50 foot artificial rock wall in my health club, and I climb outside as much as I can on the weekends. This has been an especially good year for climbing. Since August, I have gone climbing 15 times. I just spent Thanksgiving week climbing and camping in Joshua Tree National Park - one of my favorite places to climb. Joshua Tree offers spectacular desert climbing with more than 5000 known routes in the park. Truly a world class destination, and thankfully, only two hours away. Two weeks prior, I was climbing in Red Rocks, Nevada, and led a route up a gorgeous 500 foot buttress.

This year, in addition to Red Rocks and Joshua Tree, Iíve visited a number of other popular rock crags including Tahquitz, Big Bear, Williamson Rock, Owens River Gorge, Frustration Creek, Big Rock, and the Mecca for climbers, Yosemite.

Itís really become my passion - to my motherís continued displeasure. The thought of her son climbing to rocks some 500 feet above the ground always seems to make her worry. My father doesnít seem to worry too much, but I still have not been able to talk him into joining me on a climbing trip. Iíve taken my brother climbing a few times (he shows excellent potential), but living in Dallas, his opportunities to climb are a bit limited.

I traveled to Peru in April - my first trip overseas. I was only able to stay for two weeks, but what a vacation! I spent four days hiking the Inca Trail to the ruins of Machu Picchu. Peru was thrilling, and I would go back without hesitation. My trip to Peru really whet my appetite for more international travel. I have a goal to visit all seven continents before I am 30. Iíll likely hit two more in 1999.

Things here are going reasonably well. Work has not been too busy, and I have had some interesting travel experiences. I summited Mt. San Grigornio in snow shoes, (the highest peak in Southern California at approximately 11,500 feet), and water-skied in Laughlin, Nevada (unfortunately, this was my only water-ski trip in 98 - I think I need more friends with boats). I visited an old friend in Seattle, and went to Tucson, sadly, for the funeral of my grandmother. I flew to San Diego for yet another wedding, and in September I hiked to Half Dome in Yosemite. I hiked to the top of Mt. Whitney for my birthday, the tallest peak in the continental US at 14,500 feet. I visited Boston for the first time on a business trip, and, of course there were all the great climbing trips.

I am searching for a new job right now. I have been working at Wavefunction since 1993 - more than 5 years. It's time for a new challenge. Life is too short and too unpredictable to remain complacent.

Needless to say, itís been an interesting year.
1998 had some down moments, to be sure. I witnessed the death of my grandmother, and the departure of one of my closest friends in CA. I got my first speeding ticket in nine years driving to Joshua Tree last week, and I wrecked my infamous car coming home from the same trip. I hydroplaned in the rain at over 60 MPH and bounced off a guardrail, careening across five lanes of highway traffic. Luckily, I didnít hit anyone else. I havenít yet decided if I am terribly unlucky or stunningly blessed. Probably a little of both.

And, of course, 1998 saw a new girlfriend and another broken heart.

Still, these events are evidence of life's relentless rush, and reminders of my own constant evolution. It's been a bit of a roller coaster, and at times it seems that I bought the E-ticket.

Change. Growth. Risk. Loss. It all a crap shoot, all sides of the same cosmic dice. It's easy to feel like a pinball pinging around on a big arcade game, slamming into bumpers left and right. Security may well be a myth. Just a lucky straight shot before the next bumper.

Sometimes itís hard to stand in the darkness and feel the gale force of time rushing by your face. The tighter you close your eyes, the darker it becomes. But I believe the darkness is only of your own making. Just the fear of opening one's eyes and looking out into the unknown. Don't fear the risk; don't fear the change. If you keep your eyes closed, the wind will only erode you where you stand. Pursue love and failure can leave you bleeding and vulnerable. Pursue passion and failure can leave you hollow and cold. Indeed this is the real adversity: The fortitude and courage to trust, to give, to love, and to risk.

Lessons learned in recent months: Life is shorter than you think. Climb as many mountains as you can, regardless of how tall they seem or where you find them. Don't hurt people. Laugh lots. Be brutally honest with everyone. Let someone else worry. Oh yeah, and 75 is too fast to be driving on a highway in the rain.

I wish you a very Merry Christmas, and a spectacular 1999. Itís the end of an era and the advent of another. Make it wonderful.

Smile today.
posted by Halcyon Styn 3:07 PM

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