I am going to a 30th birthday party for my friend Sienna this evening. Normally on a Friday I would choose to avoid the Pacific Beach/La Jolla area at all costs, but this is Sienna. Her mother sent the invites out about a month ago; the party is being held at West End, a dive bar that borders PB & La Jolla.
I first met Sienna when she was a single 23-year-old intern at Channel 933, one of the alternative stations for Clear Channel, the company where I used to work. She ran a board and did other tasks, while I did their traffic. Not only did Sienna possess one of those great voices with a bit of a rasp, she was very talented, creative and fun. Somewhat feisty, but with a big heart, she also worked part-time as a nanny.
Sienna and her boyfriend Todd came to one of my holiday parties and she was such fun; she was so full of life, gracious, sociable and engaging. She seemed so much like an old soul; in fact, Todd was 16 years older than her. There was something about Sienna that reminded you of what a good family she came from.
Sienna never got as far as she would have liked over at Clear Channel, but other high-profile people in the building got wind of her talent, and before long, one of the DJs left the company and took her with him to start a brand new morning show across town — an opportunity that aspiring radio people would kill for. Although I was very glad for her and extremely proud, it was also bittersweet as it felt like, at age 49, I had hit a wall where I was at; going nowhere, working around toxic people, and having no end in sight.
Before jumping ship, Sienna found out she was pregnant, but I was one of only two people at Clear Channel who she told. Soon after she started the new job she and Todd had a beautiful wedding orchestrated by her mother (who was 2 years younger than me), who happened to be a wedding planner. Todd’s 7-year-old daughter from a previous marriage was there, and after the rings were exchanged, Sienna put a beautiful necklace on the little girl to symbolize the joining of this new family — a beautiful gesture that was so very Sienna.
The reception was at a country club in La Jolla, and although extremely elegant and grand, it was still very non-pretentious and fun. One other Clear Channel employee and I were the only ones from her old job that were there, and I felt honored by that. The rest was family, friends, and the people from her new morning show. On the way out, guests were each handed a cookie shaped like a little car, with a little sign on it that read, “Baby on board.” I loved it.
Sienna and Todd moved into Sienna’s grandmother’s old house in La Jolla, and soon after, their daughter Sage was born. Although she and I saw each other on Facebook, we never had much opportunity to see each other in person.
A couple years later Sienna was let go from the morning show due to budget cuts, so although a bit devastated, she didn’t mind sleeping in and staying home with Sage. I did go and visit her after that, and it was great to catch up with her and see how well she had settled into married life and motherhood. She still possessed her usual warmth and humor, and although she wasn’t sure if she wanted to get back into radio, she still had many good memories and stories from her short, successful career.
A new baby boy graced Sienna’s life 18 months ago, and I went to visit her and again, it was great to see her in her environment. She spoke of her parents’ art gallery and how she was thinking about opening up a daycare.
I got into radio later in life, at age 37; that was 17 years ago. It was one of the best choices I ever made, and I often wonder where I would be now, had I gotten into it back in my early 20’s, as Sienna did. Would I still be in the game, and more importantly, would I still be enjoying it? Would I be jaded and thinking/talking about “the good old days of radio,” as so many veterans (still employed and non-employed) are prone to do?
The great thing about life is that there really is no template; you can have a gameplan, but as John Lennon said, “Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.” Another great thing about life is that you get to watch other people as they make their way. You can learn from them, be inspired by them, or just simply observe and smile. With Sienna, I find myself partaking in the latter. Smart, talented, lovely, from a good family — and now working on her own good family, in a sweet cottage-type home in the quaint, yet upscale beach town of La Jolla; there are many that would believe she is living the dream. I believe for now that she is, and perhaps always will, as long as she listens to her heart.
So I will go tonight to honor Sienna on her 30th birthday. I will be one of many friends there. I will raise a glass, look her in the eys and tell her yet again, how very proud I am of her.
Happy Birthday, Sienna! I can’t wait to see what you do next.