No, Really…How DID I Get Here? Again.
And the earth turns and the seasons change and yet, the patterns remain.
This week I attended the same trade show as I attended last year. It’s a landmark in my company’s year.
The progression is something like: Summer. Performance reviews. Attend trade show.
It’s overwhelmingly large and despite this being my third year attending, it never gets any easier or less overwhelming.
Last year was particularly challenging, and I wrote the post you’ll see below. Rereading it, I’m back there in that same time and same place.
In fact, I was reminded of the post when I walked past that exact same mailbox on that exact same street and stopped. “Oh,” I thought to myself. “Yeah. Last year. A very, very sad day.”
I had to stand there a moment and let the sadness in. I had to mark the time. I had to make sure I didn’t forget.
“Then I straightened my spine, threw my shoulders back and walked ahead to meet my boss because he’s in town from London and has terrible jet lag.”
Because over time, some things change and some things don’t.
Happy Friday, ya’ll.
Originally published October 6, 2011
How Did I Get Here?
Yesterday was not what I’d call an ordinary day by any definition.
Let’s roll back a few days to give you the backstory.
On Friday I stood shoulder to shoulder with my best friend inside an auction barn in Las Cruces. We tried to talk over the drone of an auctioneer and watched the local 4H kids walk their animals around a pen while local businessmen bid up the price.
On Tuesday, I stood on the show floor of one of the largest IT conventions in the US, surrounded by the drone of booth workers shouting out to passerby as I tried my very best to be all business.
I have to say, it was a bit disorienting. I guess that 180 degree turn in the span of just five days is the closest example I can get of who I am. Both auction barn and big corporate.
Yesterday was my second day attending the show and I was doing my best to stay grounded in the midst of the chaos that is any trade show.
While waiting for a morning meeting, I idly checked my email on my iPhone. I saw a note from one of my aunts letting me know that a dear uncle of mine had passed away. He had gone through a long and valiant battle with cancer, and for a while he got topside on that demon. Sadly, just yesterday he lost the fight.
I was instantly crushed and heartbroken. I couldn’t begin to imagine how my aunt must be managing. I’d sat with my mom in the days after my dad passed, and I know that for a woman to lose her husband of 40-plus years is a long, sorrowful journey. It is a world turned upside down.
Glancing at the clock, I saw it was time to go, so I put on my game face and got back to work.
Later I had to meet with a Senior VP of the company who demands answers as he fires off questions from a fire hose and I do my best to keep up. He’s brilliant but irascible.
After I finished with Mr VP, it was off to another meeting with a telecom carrier, and then a hardware manufacturer, and then…and then…..
It was a brutal day and I had gotten up extra early to get to San Francisco through morning traffic and suddenly the lack of sleep caught up with me. My legs and back ached.
But I pushed forward.
When the day was mostly over, it was time to go to the big celebration to close the show, a huge event put on over at Treasure Island.
I changed clothes in a dingy bathroom and then set out for the meet-up spot to catch a shuttle bus. I got myself turned around and walked about three blocks in the wrong direction, only to turn and walk back against of tide of city people at the end of their day.
I was tired, sweaty, in pain and generally DONE with the day when my iPhone buzzed. The Good Man conveyed to me the sad news about Steve Jobs.
As I had worked for the man for a decade, I felt a certain affinity for him and at that moment, it was the straw that broke me.
I leaned against a mailbox on New Montgomery street, while cars honked, police officers directed traffic and busses coughed fumes, and I cried.
I cried because after traveling then working at this show, I am worn down to a nub. I cried because I did a terrible job of comforting my godkids last week as I found myself at a loss to explain why their pigs had to die. I cried because my uncle was a good man with a good life but grief never gets easier. I cried because the passing of a legend means the end of a very profound era.
It’s just a little to much death in too short a time frame.
Sometimes when it’s all built up inside you and the pressure cooker is about to blow, and you’ve found the end of your tether, crying is just a real good way to let off some steam.
It only lasted a few minutes. Then I straightened my spine, threw my shoulders back and walked ahead to meet my boss because he’s in town from London and has terrible jet lag. He relied on me to help get him to the right shuttle. And my supplier expected me to “say some words” to the team. And every one expected me to be adult and professional when I felt anything but.
Thankfully I met up with a couple friends out on the island. They handed me beer and gave me nodding, knowing looks.
And today, while still sad, I’m trying to be myself again.
Or in the immortal words of Stevie Ray Vaughan, I’m “walking the tightrope/both day and night”
Image from Agent Faircloth