Steve, Jobs, and everything in between

I’ve been thinking Steve Jobs ever since his abrupt resignation yesterday.

It’s not a good or bad thing, nor is it a happy or sad thought. It’s weighing on my mind because it unravelled a lot of things that I’ve been shoving to the mental back-burner for the past few months.

I reread his resignation letter again and again. Here are the exact words in case you haven’t read it yet:


To the Apple Board of Directors and the Apple Community:

I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple’s CEO, I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come.

I hereby resign as CEO of Apple. I would like to serve, if the Board sees fit, as Chairman of the Board, director and Apple employee.

As far as my successor goes, I strongly recommend that we execute our succession plan and name Tim Cook as CEO of Apple.

I believe Apple’s brightest and most innovative days are ahead of it. And I look forward to watching and contributing to its success in a new role.

I have made some of the best friends of my life at Apple, and I thank you all for the many years of being able to work alongside you.

Steve

The fact that he used the word “unfortunately” has painted a negative tone to the entire letter. As much as I want to idealize the reason for his resignation is so he’s able to take a well-deserving break, I’m secretly afraid that it’s just my wishful thinking.

As an incredibly inward thinking person, someone who’s able to drown himself with his own thoughts, I’m in the pre-emptive stage of grieving. I’m not grieving about his life specifically, however inevitable it may be, but moreso as something important that’s been such a big part of my young adult life.

I didn’t follow — for a lack of a better word — Steve Jobs well until senior year of high school. I had no idea who he even was when I bought my first 333Mhz Blueberry iMac G3. The computer came with the hockey-puck shaped mouse that everyone seemed to hate except for me (the trick is to hold it at an angle.)

Then I started reading and learning more about my iMac, and eventually I stumbled on one of his keynote presentations online. I guess that was the first day to the rest of my life in a way.

Through his presentations, I learned to admire his salesmanship. His keynotes completely changed my thoughts on public speaking and the power of an effective presentation. As an insecure teenager, something that still rings true today, I admired his utter confidence in his products, even though the Macintosh marketshare was less than 3% back in the day. He taught me confidence and self-worth by not seeing his niche products as runner-ups, but as the BMWs and the Mercedes-Benzs among the rest of the crowd.

Over the years, I was there when Steve first unveiled Mac OS 9, the tangerine iBook G3, the original Airport, the 17″ Powerbook G4 with the first backlit keyboard, the future of Mac OS X, the unveil of the MacBooks, the “1,000 songs in your pocket” iPod, the “these three things are in the same device” iPhone and the “magical and revolutionary device at an unbelievable price” iPad. And from Cheetah to Lion, each release of Mac OS X also marked a specific year and experience in my life.

But it’s one thing to reminisce about the past and to make meaning from materialistic, mass-produced products, it’s another to realize the impermanence of something you hold dear and what that may mean in the uncertain future.

Steve’s liver transplant, his battle of pancreatic cancer, and his determination and passion to continue working are mental reminders for me to stay humble and grateful for what I have. I relate these reminders to think of my ongoing unemployment not as a sign of rejection or defeat, but as a rare opportunity to use this time to truly work on myself and to discover the things I’m most passionate about. It’s not easy to be optimistic for me, but I’m grateful to have the support I have from the many friends and family who I incessantly depend on.

Steve’s resignation yesterday, and the implication that it’s something health related, reminded me of all of this, as well as a plethora of once-buried feelings that’s again floating onto the top of my mind. His health inevitably reminded me of the severe health issues a close friend of mine is currently going through.

I don’t want to discuss too much about my friend, but the realization of the fragility of life is the most humble, human experience ever. It’s also absolutely nerve-wrecking. As kids we once thought we were special, invincible even, and as we grow up we learned humbleness and opportunities through successes and failures.

But it’s only this year where I’m slowly learning the meaning of hopelessness. As if watching a car accident at a snail’s pace where there’s nothing I can personally do to help. It’s the first time in my life where I have to witness something where there’s no solution for. Instead of seeing a ray of hope or the light at the end of the tunnel, all you see is a brick wall ahead of you.

I feel that way about my friend, and also about Steve. I guess that’s what I meant when I said I’m in the pre-emptive stage of grieving after all. I’ve learned a lot from Steve, but this is certainly the hardest lesson yet. And as much as I want to say I’m happy for his resignation and wish him the very best in his recovery, it’s still a sad day to see an era that hold such importance for me coming to a end. As much faith as I have in Apple and Tim Cook, Steve’s resignation is yet another nudge in my inevitable road toward adulthood.

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