Wednesday, June 5, 2013

How Much Was Mine to Keep?

"And I asked myself about the present: how wide it was, how deep it was, how much was mine to keep." ― Kurt Vonnegut

Last week, the editor-in-chief at my job called all of us in for an announcement. As I walked toward the cafeteria with my friend Logan, we joked that this was it. They must be announcing layoffs. I lined up against the wall with a pit in my stomach as I looked at the managers, and waited for them to start talking. I told myself I was being negative, but from the looks on everyone’s faces, I knew it had to be grim.

What we learned that morning was far worse than that. My coworker, 26-year-old Bobby Cann, had been killed the previous evening riding his bicycle home from work. As others cried—some quietly, some loudly and openly—I felt like I was folding into myself as I bit the inside of my cheek and forced myself not to do the same. As we all walked out of the cafeteria, the collective stunned silence was unbearable. People who had walked in late had bewildered looks on their faces. “What is it?” they asked.

I tried to answer, but could barely get the words out, the tears coming as soon as I spoke.

"Were you close with him?" someone asked, and I shook my head no.

[Memorial for Bobby, via here]

When I got back to my desk I felt sick. Someone—an oblivious coworker, I could only hope—was laughing. Everything just kept going on. But yet it didn’t. Everything felt off.

Meetings were canceled. Emails were sent. But there were still things to write, things to do. We all just kept going on.

Finally, work was over for the day. I got on the bus, surrounded by so many others, just trying to get home from work like I was. Just like Bobby had been the evening before. I felt deeply sad. Because I did not know Bobby well—no more than smiling at him as we passed each other in the hallway, or making small talk in the office kitchen—I doubted my own feelings. Why did I feel so angry? So sad? So sick about the whole thing?

As soon as I got home, I flopped on my bed and stared at the ceiling. I stared at the ceiling until I couldn’t bear it any longer, and then I grabbed my yoga mat and unrolled it. To be able to concentrate on breathing, exhales and inhales, felt like such a gift. Once it was over, I laid motionless on the mat, sweating and breathing heavily. I didn’t realize I had been crying until I stood up, several minutes later.

Finally, I allowed myself to feel all of the emotions of the day. A young man had been killed by a drunk driver, and it was tragic. I might not have known him well, but many did. So I felt sorrow for his family and friends. I felt pissed off at the drunk driver, another person close to my age who, with one horribly stupid and selfish mistake, had stolen a life and in turn ruined his own.

I felt glad to be alive. I felt selfish at the thought. I felt.

I felt.

In honor and memory of Bobby Cann, Groupon is running a campaign with Active Transportation Alliance to raise funds for more protected bike lanes in the city.

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