The weather was gorgeous today. It truly felt like September. The sun was warm and bright and the air was cool. I love days like today. I love September. I spent most of this particular September day with my knees knocking. I was scheduled to run a presentation in the afternoon at work. It would be my first team meeting. When I say run, I mean, I’d be at the front of a room full of people navigating through slides on the big screen as people spoke to them. To know me is to know that I’m not good in front of people. I get nervous. I typically fumble, my words, my feet, or the ball, whatever I’m in charge of. I’ve always been like this. It’s some form of social anxiety I’m sure and it is one of the things I like the least about myself.
At this new job I sit by the entrance to the department. All day I say hi or goodbye or answer questions. I probably look up at lease one hundred times a day. I always smile and hope that they like me. It’s the new guy syndrome coupled with a desperate need to not feel so awkward. It’s like this at every job and most times I’m lucky enough to have it slowly fade away within the first six months. It usually takes that long though as I’m slow to warm up. I’m so self-conscious in the beginning that it’s any wonder I don’t implode from the nonsense and anxiety I put myself through.
I should probably point out that I still struggle with anxiety after everything that went on last year with my thyroid and coinciding panic attacks and, I’m still finding my way in the gluten free arena. There are days when it seems no matter what I do I’m nervous and my stomach is upset. Most of the time I try to breathe through it and wave it away. When I have something in particular that I’m nervous about though, it feels like it weighs on my shoulders like a building.
Today I was carrying The Mall of America.
Since I’ve started with this company most of the people have been lovely. They have said hello, asked me how I’ve been doing, greeted me with a good morning and have purchased me some gluten free snacks so I’d have something to eat at a weekly work function. All in all, they are a good group of folks. One in particular has quickly become one of my favorites. He has such a warm smile and has stopped on several occasions for a piece of chocolate from the large, full candy dish I keep stocked and at the ready for new friends to stop by. On one afternoon, I had a terrible cold and my eyes started to water. He stopped when he saw me because he thought I was crying and wanted to be sure I was ok. I assured him that I was and after he was certain, he smiled and then walked back to his desk.
Today, as I was in the midst of internally fretting about having to go to the afternoon meeting and how uncomfortable I would feel, I received an email. The subject line was, “Sad News.” When I opened it, I was shocked to discover that this gentleman, this smiling, happy, kind soul, had gone back to the hometown of his parents to donate his kidney to his father. On Wednesday, the day of the operations, his father passed away due to complications from the surgery.
It felt like a punch in the stomach.
I know that people talk all of the time about life being short and doing what you love and being with the ones you love. I know that people talk all of the time about how they never thought something could happen to them or how their life changed on a dime. I know. And yet, every time something like this happens, where it feels like the landscape of someone’s life becomes drastically different, I always pause and ache for what they must be going through. I feel surprised and I feel hurt and I’m never quite sure what to do.
Today, when I went down to that meeting, I sat down and calmly did what was expected while smiling and listening to the presenters. I was uncomfortable but the sadness I felt for my new co-worker eclipsed that. It also seemed so strange to look out the window while the meeting progressed and see the gorgeous blue sky knowing that someone’s life had been sadly altered.
I don’t know what to say next.
I think I’ll just go now and try to focus on the good stuff and let the nonsensical stuff go.
Goodbye Mall of America.