February 4, 2018 wasn’t an average Sunday. It was the Super Bowl and the evening before my first day at Bigwidesky. I was sitting on my couch in my pajamas, wrapped up in a cozy blanket, enjoying the Super Bowl (and by enjoying the Super Bowl, I mean enjoying all the food I was shoving in my face and pretending the calories don’t count) and getting excited to start a new job. It was a wonderful day, until I received the worst phone call of my life, right in the middle of Justin Timberlake’s Half Time Show. Debby, my mom’s best friend, my second mother, was killed in a car accident. I won’t even begin to detail what I was feeling because it could never be summarized, but my heart was completely broken. Shattered. I was a puddle of tears and couldn’t catch my breath.
What do I do? Do I call into work and say I won’t be there for my first day? No, that makes me look weak and flaky. Do I tell people what happened? No, that’s not a good first impression. Do I pretend like nothing happened and just carry on with my week? Well, that’s what I decided to do. If I pretended like everything was fine, I could make it through the day. I’m not saying that’s the RIGHT thing to do, but it was the path I decided to take.
I learned very quickly that you can’t hide things from your family. And when you work at a place like Bigwidesky, these people become your family very quickly.
I made it through my first day, met everyone on the Bigwidesky team, started working on some projects and was doing fine. Debby kept popping up in my mind, of course, but I would push those thoughts back down and smile. I was packing up my bag to head home for the day when Eliot walked into my office, gave me a hug and said, “I love you. I’m so sorry about your friend. What can we do? What do you need?”
In that moment I not only knew I was loved, but I could feel it. Eliot wasn’t just saying the words because it’s what he was supposed to say. He wasn’t suggesting that I go home and take time off because he thought it was best for me. He was showing me that he cared, and he wanted me to do what was right for ME.
The remainder of that week I was shown so much love and compassion from the entire Bigwidesky team. I was asked to tell stories about Debby, what I loved about her, what she meant to me. I never heard, “my condolences.” It never felt automated or forced. I knew these humans, these wonderful, kind and perfectly weird people, cared for me.
That’s what it means to “be human”. It doesn’t mean be nice, or be humane. Human beings are multidimensional, deep, hard to navigate creatures. There’s no road map that will tell you exactly how to interact with every person. You can’t automate interactions with them. You can try, but it doesn’t feel good or authentic. Showing someone, especially people you work so closely with, that you are taking an interest in their well being, goes much farther. You never know what a person might be going through or experiencing.
Through my first week at Bigwidesky, I saw that being human meant being curious. Being human means taking the time and effort to get to know people, ask them questions and take an interest in their lives. It seems simple, but it also seems very missing from a lot of supposedly human interaction.
I’ll never get over losing Debby, there’s a hole in my heart that will never be filled. But the compassion and love I experienced from Bigwidesky my first week has helped me to heal. I lost my second mom, but I’ve gained a new family, and a new understanding of what it means to be human.
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