You remember the day you signed the lease on your new office. You were filled with pride, hope, anxiety. You had dreamed of launching a startup since you were in high school and you were shocked that you were pulling it off right out of college. Getting to work with your friends on innovative and ground-breaking projects? This was your dream come true.
You never expected the phrase “I didn’t raise a quitter” to come back and bite you, but like most things, you had to learn it the hard way. You had repeated this doctrine since your daughter could walk. Even when she stumbled, you encouraged her to dust herself off and keep going.
That fabled nametag. That iconic polo shirt. The smell of pretzels wafting in from the mall. You’d done it. You’d landed your first job and could finally support yourself. You were able to move out, even if it was just to a studio apartment. And what was that job?
You never thought it would be fate that your parents named you Jack. Well, they didn’t; they named you Jacques, but since you hardly spoke French, Jack was your true spiritual name. And while you are not exactly a master of none, quarantine had proven that you are definitely a Jack-of-All-Trades.
Growing up in New England, you were never able to have the garden of your dreams. Every year, winter would come along and kill every living thing in sight, including your poor tulips and snapdragons. While you could have moved your garden inside, your father has always been highly allergic to pollen of any kind, and even the one or two succulents you snuck into your room set him off. So, it wasn’t long until you had to give up on your sunny gardening dream.
You remember the dark days. The days of old, when the sun was blackened by piles of ancient treasure. Your home did not know the warmth of the sun nor the gleam of light. It knew only treasure and the shadows they cast over the land. Once, in your youth, treasures were fleeting, and you could walk from room to room as quiet as a mouse, but as your mother’s treasure grew, you were forced to wade through the halls to the rattling of beans.
When Maya was two, she proudly showed you her newest creation; a piece of printer paper covered sloppily in blue and orange paint. You clapped politely, told her how much you loved it, and pretended to be deeply grateful when she shoved the painting in your hand and wandered away to find something to chew on. Your mother always taught you that refusing a gift was rude, so although you weren’t sure what to do with your niece’s finger-painting, you kept it anyway. There was room on your fridge, so why not?
You knew you were not long for this world. You’d always been an adrenaline junkie: even when you were little, you’d skateboard down slides at the playground and somersault through a gauntlet of firecrackers. You were always chasing the next adventure, whether it was hang-gliding in Italy or base jumping in New Zealand. You hardly planned on living into your old age and were fully prepared to live a good life, not a long one.
Grandpa Joe hummed under his breath as he tucked you into bed, the usual twinkle in his eye. He liked to visit every Friday night. “Because Friday is your happiest day. And I wanna be a part of good merriment and fun,” he would always say. He was the kind of grandpa who would be down for anything. A tea party with your favorite stuffed animals? Grandpa Joe was there with wand in hand and crown on head. A game of hide-and-seek that your mom didn’t know she was participating in? You could find Grandpa Joe in his usual hiding spot behind the big tree in the backyard. You wanted to read your favorite bedtime story for the fourth time in a row tonight? Grandpa Joe never failed to come up with the best voices for all of the characters.
Every year, it was the same empty promise. Work out more. Get a six-pack. Join a spin class. Learn to do a backflip. Bench press twice your body weight. Take up pole dancing. Touch your toes. Go to Zumba twice a week. Get swole!