It’s always made me happy when people I know and love have successes and are recognized for the things they do well. Â And it’s fantastic to have been a witness to someone’s “before” — to their humble beginnings or their gawky teenage years or their life on the precipice of something huge. Â And I’ve been fortunate to have met and been friends with all kinds of amazing people who’ve had all manner of success, large and small, in their lives. Â And that’s a cool Â thing.
I’ve never thought of myself as wanting greatness in the macro way, in the “everyone knows who you are” way or the “I can’t walk down the street without being trampled by autograph seekers” way (well, maybe when I was a kid and determined to win a Tony Award by the time I was 12) or in the “I’ve found the cure for cancer” way. Â I’ve mostly been happy with the things I’ve done in my life. Â Especially those things about which I’ve been truly passionate and cared deeply. Â I’ve had my successes and had once in a lifetime experiences that I wouldn’t trade for even five minutes of fame or fortune. Â That said, when you’ve been at a down point for a while (as this prolonged unemployment has been), it’s hard not to compare where you are in your life with where your friends and peers are in theirs.
So, on my way in tonight, I reached in the mail box and out came my alumni magazine with the trendsetting mug of my college friend,Â Jay Adelson, on the cover, with the words “The Next BIG Thing” writ large. Â And for a moment I had a small pang of “I don’t even have a job and here Jay is as the shining example of success for our college.” And then I shut up that voice and started to laugh.
I laughed because it’s an impish picture of Jay that captures him perfectly, and because I’d already seen it in the email that the alumni office sent out last week, but didn’t expect to see staring up at me on a Thursday evening on my way in from running errands. Â I laughed because I remember what we were like in college, how goofy, and geeky and mostly unsure of everything. Â And I still think of us that way (myself mostly). Â Sure, we’re 20+ years older and had to deal with 20 years of life’s ups and downs. Â And Jay’s a husband and a dad, and he’s sort of changed the world in some pretty significant ways, and Time Magazine thinks he’s influential and when I mentioned that we went to college together last year, one of my former colleagues reacted as though I knew The Beatles (even though she’s way too young to really KNOW the Beatles).
But, in the few and far between moments when I’m lucky enough to talk to Jay or share a meal with him, he’s still the same wonderful guy he’s always been. Â He’s smart and funny and kind and passionate and gives a shit about stuff. Â Lots of stuff. Â And so I watched the commencement address Jay gave at our alma mater this past May, where his words no doubt inspired a class of scared 21-22 year olds to do the things that they were passionate about. Â And watching it I was reminded that passion is truly the most important ingredient for finding meaning. Â And that although I’ve been struggling to find a job, the best version of me knows that as long as I’m pursuing the stuff I truly give a shit about, it’s all going to be fine. Â And my gut instinct about the stuff I’m pursuing right now is the right way to go.
So, thanks Jay. Â For being you. Â And for reminding me that being me is the only thing I really need to do well to get to where I want to go. Â And that I can’t get there unless I continue to put one foot in front of the other…