In a familiar refrain, I have been exclaiming that I have way too busy to get any writing done, due to new job, new schedules, new adjustments, new newness. And although there is more than a seed of truth to this point, it is being wildly distracted by the blossoms of exasperation, because they are so much more attractive than the roots of discipline. But also, hello, I am a human being. Totally allowed to be overwhelmed.
Skipping past the point that I intend to write about the incredible awesomeness and fun that was the Tough Mudder 2011, I am going to instead wax on about life and death and Steve Jobs and Andy Rooney. Yes, in fact, these two seemingly disparate men have much in common, if only to me.
Today, at the end of the day, right when I was about to meet my now former boss and now former colleagues for drinks overdue by two weeks, yet also, exactly on time, I read on my iPhone that Steve Jobs had passed away. I was overcome with a small chill, evident by the goosebumps all over my arms. Here was a personal, visceral reaction to hearing about the death of a man I did not know, yet by merely holding a device in my hands that he had designed and had so altered my life by enabling me to communicate with my piece of the world, I felt I did know, and as a result, felt a pang of grief at the loss. I realized that he was only 56 years old, only two years older than my ex-husband, who I have only recently really paid attention to the 14 year age difference between us as being something of a challenge (among many other things) between us. When I looked at Jobs’ death in terms of the age perspective to that of my ex, it was a dose of mortality that I have not experienced since my friend Jake died when I was 25. And when you’re 25, you still don’t believe death is real. At 40, I am totally accepting of the fact that not one of us gets out alive.
As I rode home on the ferry tonight, with a warm whisky buzz, I remembered that I had started to pull a bunch of Jobs’ quotes right after he announced he was stepping down from his post as Apple CEO in late August. (As a reminder, that was only on August 24th). I had a lot on my mind as I was just back from a trip to San Diego where I spent much lovely, fun and at times, intense quality time with some favorite people, ran a half marathon, all while fielding the job offer which has now become my dream job. I was inspired and grounded by the Jobs’ wisdom, much of it from the now famous 2005 Stanford commencement speech, and also, wanted to share it with friends finding themselves at their own personal crossroads. Quite obviously, in the intervening seven weeks, I have not done a lot of writing and so have not shared the quotes. As I looked over them tonight, the goosebumps came back. Here’s a goodie:
No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.
I got home, hugged the doggies, changed into p-jams, and heated some green chile stew. I ate in front of the TV remembering that I had DVR’d the Andy Rooney farewell from 60 Minutes this past Sunday night and now seemed the perfect time to bask in some cranky, curmudgeonly, old man Rooney-isms. Within moments however, I was tearing up, realizing that Rooney, at age 92 was very near death himself. Even though at his awesomely superlative age and it seemed more normal that Death would be hanging around trying to catch a late train, I realized I felt angry and sad that Death comes earlier for some and later for others. Jobs was only 56; that was right around the same age Rooney was when he got hired by 60 Minutes to do his now famous segments, which he has been doing for the last THIRTY THREE YEARS. What might Jobs have designed for us with 33 more years? At least, according to his own estimation, death brings new life and his passing has now made room for that very invention we cannot yet imagine.
I am going to leave you with Andy’s final sign off. From a middle aged iconoclast to an elderly one, these two men have given us to the tools to express, in person or by proxy, how we feel about life. And finally, because within the first 10 seconds he mentions his high school English teacher for noting he was a good writer and so he had the confidence to become one, it warms my heart and inspires my soul and validates all of my career choices and my constant, near incessant badgering of my friends that all of us can and should be what we dream the biggest dream of ourselves to be, so, I remind all of my loved ones, go do it now.