Reinvention

I’m going to tell you my darkest secret. I’ve never told anyone the whole story.

In the summer of 1999, I lost nearly everything. The magazine I worked for went out of business. I lost my job. My only serious romantic relationship ended. I lost all my savings, which were tied up in our house. We sold the house for a loss.

I was jobless, broke, heartbroken, sad, and angry. I was scrambling to keep it together. I was a mess.

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The Jinxed Year

I can’t pinpoint exactly when this year went wrong, but it seems to have started on the night of my birthday during the college football national championship game, when the University of Georgia Bulldogs blew a 13-point halftime lead to lose to Alabama in overtime.

The next night, a friend, an Alabama graduate, teased me about whether I was sad that Georgia had lost the game. I told her it wasn’t a big deal — football isn’t my sport. But maybe it was a warning.

Soon after, my water heater sprung a leak. I went a week taking Japanese-style Furi Kuri baths with a large kitchen pan full of hot water I set up in the shower. That’s all the water I dared run to keep it from spraying out all over the garage.

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Disconnected

It was a sad reunion. We had lost one of our oldest friends. The last time I had seen any of my school friends was at Art’s Memorial Day weekend party several years ago. Art’s kids were in grade school then. Now one of them is graduating from college. Lee is a grandfather. It had been longer since I’d seen Steve — more than twenty years, when I left Atlanta for D.C.

For me, it had been too long. The only time I get to Atlanta is for funerals anymore.

After Mike’s visitation, I caught up with Art and Lee and their wives over dinner. We spoke of their children, our parents, and old friends. It was an all-too-brief encounter before we went our separate ways again.

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My Friend Mike

When I was seventeen, my friends and I went to see The Empire Strikes Back at the Phipps Plaza Mall in Atlanta. That night after the movie, I rode back to Lilburn with my friend Mike Garrett. As he drove down I-85, Mike excitedly recounted the best parts of the movie and speculated about how Luke and Leia would rescue Han Solo in the next episode. It couldn’t come out too soon.

Passing into the late-night darkness of Gwinnett County, Mike glanced over from the driver’s seat. “Use the force,” he said — and closed his eyes. He scared the crap out of me.

Mike loved Star Wars. Luke Skywalker always reminds me of Mike. Mike had a kind heart and innocent soul. Always saw the good. Always gave his best.

I hate writing in the past tense.

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Adriana

The woman in the waiting room is anxious. She leans on her cane and looks across at the friend who drove her to the doctor’s office today. She is around sixty and heavyset, with swollen ankles. She has the kind of coppery hair with gray at the temples that betrays repeated hair coloring that is beginning to fade.

“Your ex-husband had this same operation on his back, didn’t he?” she asks her friend. She speaks with an accent, not Spanish, but possibly Greek, Italian, or Portuguese. Her friend nods but her brow tightens. The reminder seems to be a sore subject with her.

“Was he able to lift things afterward?” the woman asks her friend. “I’m afraid I won’t be able to lift things.”

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Corporate Culture Isn’t Culture

Lately, journalists and business pundits have blamed culture failures for every corporate scandal, whether it’s Uber, Volkswagen, or Wells Fargo. Corporate leaders talk of culture as if it is simply a matter of values, principles, and rules.

The way they talk about corporate culture demeans culture.

It’s as if the president or prime minister of a nation picked a few values, slapped them on everyone’s mouse pads and drink cups, and called it a culture.

Culture is not that simple.

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