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Past as Prologue

Once you graduate from post-secondary, your social circle is gradually defined over the years by your places of employment. While you may always keep in touch with your old school friends, new friendships will naturally evolve through work, marking the different chapters of your life. Some of those friendships may last a lifetime, while experiences with some people may leave a lifelong impact.

During and after my college internship, I worked at a neighborhood pub. While it was barely a two-year pit stop on the road of life, I recognize that time as being significant. I am still in touch with a number of friends from those days, and I moved away knowing that I always would be. Distance is not death. Until it is….

Last week, I learned that an old friend from the pub had passed away. His story is a tragic one, but it’s not the story of this post. Instead, his passing has me reflecting on a different experience from 15 years ago.

It was a day of mass protest and I participated in the afternoon’s events. I was excited to get to work early that evening so I’d have time to chat it up with a few of my favorite regulars, one of whom was J.D. Instead, when I got home from the march, there was a sobbing phone message on my answering machine: J.D. had died of a heart attack.

I was stunned. While J.D. was twice my age, he was certainly not old at all at only 46. I had lost grandparents before, but I had never lost a friend – and certainly no one so suddenly.

A large group of us attended the funeral a few days later. There, the priest shared a story that I will never forget. Breaking away from his scripture, he expressed that J.D.’s story struck a personal chord with him. The priest explained how J.D.’s death mirrored that of J.D.’s father who had also died of a heart attack at the age of 46.

Murmurs rippled through the congregation. What a sad coincidence!

The priest added that his own father died of a heart attack at 46 as well.

More murmurs. Wow. That would hit close to home.

After a beat, the priest concluded that he himself had just turned 46.

I’m sure J.D.’s life and death had a profound affect on that priest. It also had a deep impact on me.

Life is short. And time’s a wasting if you’re letting fear stand in the way. That doesn’t mean that you ever stop being afraid of trying some new things, but fear is comforted by knowledge and inspiration from living the life you want to live.

At the time, I had briefly contemplated the idea of moving across the country, but I was cozy in the life and friendships I was cultivating. I had started leaning more towards keeping my next move local. J.D. made me realize I shouldn’t put off new experiences I really want to try because I’m afraid of letting go of what I already have. Friendships that matter will always exist no matter where you are. Only death is permanent.

Or as singer Ani Difranco says, “I’ve been a long time coming, and I’ll be a long time gone. You’ve got your whole life to do something, and that’s not very long.”

Four months later, I left to explore a new life. A businessman at table 20 once told me that a town in the west had gorgeous beaches, so I decided to see for myself.

Even though my experience as a server at that particular pub was a mere blip in time and a potential detour from my writing career, it was integral to who and where I am today. You never know what random moments will shape you, but it’s interesting to reflect on the ones that do.

The Deets

What’s this? Work Life blog, featured in Choices education and career planning software.

Audience: Middle & high school students

Client: Xap Corporation

Fact: Everyone has a story to tell.