Returning from a 2 week vacation in Spain and France I landed at SFO on Friday Oct 3rd at 8pm. As we taxied to the gate I turned on my phone to check Twitter for the first time in many days and saw the headline that an infamous Radio Programmer had just died from an apparent heart attack while at the office. An office right across the street from mine. An office at which I used to work.
I didn’t know him personally so I don’t have any insight on the man and his controversial legacy. But having just returned from a beautiful vacation during which I completely shut out every worldly concern of my “normal” routine life I did have one immediate reaction to the news and manner of his passing.
Is that how I want to go? At work, on the phone with corporate, wrangling with all the “super important” but ultimately petty and meaningless minutia of . . .
I was struck by how a routine work day filled with such “important” minutia (a day that closely mimicked the kind of day I was returning to ) suddenly turns “existential” when it becomes your last day.
Of course I could have asked myself – “Is that how I want to go – right smack dab in the middle of doing what I loved – what I built a career and legacy doing?”
But I didn’t have that second thought. I had the first one.
I know that says more about me than it does about a man I didn’t even know. But maybe it also says something about the culture I just came from visiting and what they value (work / life balance tilted in favor of life) – and the one I was returning to and what it values (live to work)
There’s a lot of talk in the Radio press about the man and his work – and that’s understandable. Maybe if I knew him personally I’d have something to say about that too. But since I didn’t – all I can muster is the thoughts his death forced me to have on the broader topics of mortality and work, and taking account of how we spend our limited time.
With so much of our time devoted to work – with so much of our identity bound to our work – how many of us are considering – is that how I want to go?
Answering that question and then adjusting our lives accordingly is probably not a wasteful use of our limited time.