The Promise…

A long, long time ago…well thirty years ago to be precise…I was at University studying for my PhD. It’s hard to imagine that this was really thirty years ago, but that’s what the calendar says. My PhD was sponsored by a Big Pharma company. Not that I – or anyone else – understood the concept of big Pharma back then. Part of my sponsorship was the opportunity to spend three months in the Big Pharma laboratories working on my PhD.

Sounds great. They would take care of my accommodation and my travel and even my food. I just had to take advantage of the opportunity and do good work. I know my work went very well. I can just about remember my rented room…some of the travel…and nothing about the food.

The hardest thing was travelling to Big Pharma on a Sunday. It wasn’t so much the trains (which were poor) or the roads (which were awful). It was having to leave home. My wife and I rented an apartment near the University. On Sundays I left. And she stayed. She was working locally. We didn’t have text message or emails. I had to stand in line to use a public telephone to call her when I arrived. And again during the week. Three months was a very long time. Thirty years ago. Even now I can feel how much I missed her.

After three months I made a promise. I promised I would never leave her like that again. Ever. I made the promise to her and I made the promise to myself.

I thought about my promise last Sunday when I set off to drive to my rented apartment near our UK Laboratories. I think about that promise every Sunday… whether I set off to my rented apartment or to Heathrow airport.

As I turn out of the driveway, my mind is a mix of the rational and the emotional. Everything I see, hear, feel and think is telling me to stay at home. My wife and family only ever ask me to drive carefully and to text them when I stop…or to call them on the way if I want to chat. But everything says don’t go. Stay here. With her. With them. It’s the hardest thing ever. Every week.

And when I force myself to move from the emotional, my first logical thought is always the same question…have I broken my promise from thirty years ago? Not just any promise. That promise. To myself and to my wife.

I have got better at moving my mind onto other things. I listen to the radio. Plan my route. I listen to music. I drive. But whatever I do I always think…

I realise now my promise to my wife was not specific. I never defined ‘like that’. When I left on Sundays thirty years ago my wife was alone in our apartment. She is not alone now. She has our son, and – over the holidays – our daughter with her. I come home every Friday. I always come home. But have I kept my promise to her?

I know I have broken my promise to myself. I know it when I arrive at my apartment late on Sunday. I know it when I get back to the apartment after a day at work.

I am often asked how I cope with travelling so much. But travelling is easy – it is being away from home that is hard. Breaking promises is hard.

I am at home next week and the week after. I am looking forward to being with my family. With my wife.




About Steve Street

I have worked in R&D within the Pharmaceutical industry for over 30 years. Up until April 2012 all of my career had been with one company, but that has now changed. I left that company and took up a new role on May 1, 2012 - still very much within the Pharmaceutical industry and again based in the UK. I have been blogging every week now for over 10 years but only on an external site since January 2012. Email updates of the blogs can be requested using the ‘follow’ option within Wordpress. The blogs are only ever my personal view of what I see, think and feel. I am delighted if you agree and find value; happy if you disagree with my views and overjoyed if you feel motivated to comment. Most of all I am simply grateful that you read. Cheers Steve
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8 Responses to The Promise…

  1. I can certainly empathise with that Steve. I lose a whole weekend once or twice a month due to the distance to the client and hence expectation that I will stay for a fortnight. Apart from being away from home, which I hate as much as you clearly do, it’s the feeling that this is becoming ‘normal’ that distresses me. We can increase out productivity at work so that we get the same amount done in a shorter space of time than before, but we can’t increase the ‘productivity’ of time with our families.

  2. Earl Major says:


    Enjoy your well-deserved time off with family and friends. You have certainly earned it. A very Happy Holidays to you and yours. Take care, My Friend!

  3. Romu says:

    Mery Christmas and New Year to you Steve!
    Enjoy your time home.


  4. di Tommaso, Matteo says:

    Best Wishes to you and family for a joyful 2014,

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