Last month I hit my sixth anniversary of being independent. Which is crazy.
Rather than an explicitly reflective post (I think my yearly reviews do enough of that) I thought I’d share something I wrote the day after that journey started. It felt very personal at the time, so like most of my writing, it remained a private markdown file buried in some folder somewhere. More of a diary entry than a blog post.
Upon encouragement from a friend, I’m finally posting it. And what better time than now—when I get to celebrate 6 years down the path I started on that day.
Wednesday July 31, 2013 was a weird day. I had made an appointment at the podiatrist for that morning just 24 hours earlier. I wasn’t expecting them to fit me in, but suddenly it was Wednesday morning and there I was. What I thought was going to be a quick appointment with the doctor confirming that I had an ingrown toenail and scheduling a second appointment suddenly turned into getting four numbing injections in my big toe and the doctor standing at the foot of my chair with what amounted to a small pair of garden shears. “Well I’m glad I didn’t bike here today” I thought.
After leaving the doctor’s office with my toe wrapped in a bulbous mess of tape and gauze, I started the walk back to the office. I hadn’t been in that part of town in a while; right in the center of everything in downtown Chicago. Our company’s first office was right around the corner, so I decided to walk past and pick something up at one of my favorite lunch spots from our time there. I walked past the Einstein Bagels where I often went before work. “Good grains sliced and toasted” was something I used to say most mornings. The clerks there used to seem to have a contest to see who could say “hi” to me first. Whether they were laughing at me, with me, or just playing a game amongst themselves I’ll never know.
After walking past Einsteins I looked up at the building that had started going up next to our old office while we were still working there. It was getting taller, and there were now glass windows on portions of it. It was starting to look like a real building. When I had started my job there was just a decrepit old Enterprise rent-a-car in that spot that was about three stories tall. The new building was going to be about 50 stories tall. The beautiful mural that covered the side of our old office building was now obscured behind the massive concrete of the new building.
Past the new building I walked by the entrance of the building I used to come to every weekday. It had been my first job out of college. My first established routine as an adult. Coming to this building. I looked at the door, and noticed someone who looked familiar. It was someone who worked mornings at Einsteins was walking the opposite way. She looked half surprised, half confused to see me, and I probably did too. She took out one earbud and waved. “Hi Ben.” Just like it had always been. I smiled, waved back, said “hi”, but kept moving.
I walked into the lunch spot. The menu had changed, but I just picked something that sounded half familiar. It could have been my first time having that specific sandwich, or my sixth, I don’t know. Some of the employees there looked the same, others were new. I remembered fondly how gracefully one of the employees had handled an angry customer once. A customer had ordered over the phone and their order wasn’t ready yet when they got to the store. “I’M DOUBLE PARKED! I CALLED AHEAD!” they kept yelling. After listening to this for a while the employee just turned to her and said cooly “next time, please don’t double park.”
I rode the train back to the office. I was listening to a podcast. It was an interview with one of those people that just seemed fearless in the face of failure, whether potential or realized. I thought about my path to where I had gotten. Never before had I needed to be as courageous as the interviewee. But when the chance comes, I will do my best to be, I thought.
I walked into the office as usual, and waved at my coworkers in my room. “We need to talk to you.” My doctor’s appointment this morning had been pretty sudden. I wondered if I had maybe missed an important meeting. I could’ve sworn I had double-checked the calendar. Oh well, you never know. I sit down in their office. It looks serious. Well, I don’t think I’m getting fired, I thought; a sense of confidence that had eluded me until very recently.
And there it was. It was over.
I was reminded of the time I broke my wrist when I was 13. You don’t feel pain, you just know something’s wrong.
Honestly, my shock manifested itself as excitement. I was ready for this! This would be my opportunity to face potential failure, and make the best of it. I texted my girlfriend. She was weirded out by how calm I was.
After more time reality started to temper my excitement. I started guessing how this whole thing might go. I described it to her: “It’s like the beginning of a weekend day and you feel like you have the whole day in front of you to do whatever you want and all of a sudden it’s six o’clock and you haven’t done anything and you get depressed.” I was still in the morning of that weekend day.
So here I am, it’s been about a week and a half. I had a lot of vacation planned for August. Which works out. Right now I’m just thinking. Thinking and planning. There are so many paths in front of me. I just have to pick the one that looks best.