Steve Jobs and What You Didn’t Know
I got to the end of Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs biography during Thanksgiving as I was baking a cake for a friend’s birthday. Josh and I were sitting at the kitchen table — he was reading Murakami’s 1Q84 and I was finishing Steve Jobs — and the cake was baking in the oven. Warm chocolate, with an undertone of coffee.
I obviously knew how the book would end, but I found myself crying as I got to April 2011, essentially reading the looking glass: what was happening on the other side as we exchanged emails. I knew he was sick — the whole world knew he was sick — but I have to admit that I hadn’t given a lot of thought to what was happening in his world. At least, not specifics. I had been touched that he had taken the time to write my son; knew that he was a busy man and a sick man at that, and the fact that he would take the time to change a little boy’s life spoke volumes — to me — about his character.
And now I was reading about spring of 2011, and my heart broke for his family. Any death is impossible to wrap your brain around.
I thought about how often someone has written me, having no clue what is happening in our house mostly because I haven’t said what is happening in our house. I think about the times that I’ve composed a not-very-nice, leave-me-the-fuck-alone email in my head before sending off a terse, “so sorry — I’ll get to this soon” because no one really knows as we bump into each other — interact with one another — what is happening in the other person’s world; day-by-day or minute-by-minute. We reach out to each other at these inopportune times without knowing. And the worst is that we think we know. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said to Josh, “there is no reason why it should be taking this long for X to write back.” And the reality is that I have no idea what else is happening, what I don’t know at all, that affects the other person. And I do this knowing full well how many times I have left things unsaid here and had to deal with the types of emails that come in when someone assumes that nothing is up.
Reading the book drove this point home: that we have no idea as we read someone’s blog, as we exchange emails, as we see each other on the street, as we spend time in each other’s houses, the subplot, the hidden story, the words unsaid, the thoughts locked inside the mind that affect the emotions, affect our ability to process an interaction.
And that is humbling.
This is the end of the book, but in between, there are dozens of places I marked, dozens of stories that I’ve been discussing with the Wolvog. And I hope that you’ll indulge me as I process the book and the talks I’ve been having with the Wolvog about the lessons learned from studying someone else’s life. Because there is something amazing about a person laying themselves bare, even if the book comes too late. What I really wish I could do right now is write Steve an email — and maybe I will send it off into the ether — and let him know that now seeing the conversation in context, it means even more. And just thank him for playing the role for my son that Bill Hewlett played for him. The best lesson I can teach him from the book is to be open with your time, with your ability to reach out, and to do so, even when it is not convenient or easy or even something you want to be doing at all. Because we’re all just humans, and our greatest gift is to crash into each other, to change each other’s lives, and to be grateful for every interaction because every moment of the day changes who we are.
Photo Credit: Acaben.