On April 1st, 2011, I walked out of the doors of The North Michigan Avenue Apple store as an employee for the last time.
My fellow employees were lined up from the glass staircase to the doorway, leaving me no choice but to walk down the middle between them. As I approached, they began to clap and cheer at full intensity. I had been a part of this ritual countless times in my six and a half years with the company, so I knew it was coming. Still, it took every fiber of my being to stay composed. I bolted for the door, and when I finally got there, I turned around, looked back at my friends, and threw my arms in the air to wave goodbye one last time.
Seconds later, I turned the corner. Once I knew I was out of the view of my colleagues, I let loose and full-on wept.
I couldn’t hold it back. Working for Apple was more than a job; Apple was a family. Apple still is my family. I have met some of the most important people in my life through Apple. Mentors, friends, lovers… you name it.
Apple allowed me to put my creative energies to use. It enabled me to move halfway across the country to start over and inspired me to strike out on my own.
I learned more working for Apple than I did through all of college and high school combined. I grew more as a person than I could have possibly imagined. Apple filled me with memories and experiences I will cherish until I die. Those people and memories are a part of me; many of them mean more than anything else ever will. I wouldn’t trade any of it, the good or the bad, for anything.
I woke up in a hostel in Bruges this morning and heard the news. I looked at Twitter, and it was filled with loving, thoughtful comments, and not a single one in poor taste. I then looked through Instagram, and it was flooded with photo tributes. Every news outlet was filled with articles and comments regarding his passing.
And I wept.
I never met the man, I never even saw him in person (though I apparently stood right next to him and didn’t know it), and yet there I was, standing on a picturesque bridge in the middle of Bruges on a dreary, cold day openly weeping.
My friend Nick put up a post on Facebook regarding Steve’s death. He mused how people feel like they know someone in the public eye when they don’t know their internal person. He said that he hoped Jobs was as good in person as we all like to think he was. I want to counter that point.
That man who Nick claims I didn’t know, whom I never met — who probably didn’t even know I existed — profoundly changed my life for the better. For that, I am eternally grateful.
When I heard of his retirement, I did something I swore I would never do as an employee.
I emailed him.
It was just a simple thank you, basically saying many of the things I’m saying here. I have no idea if he read it, and I never will. And that’s okay. I didn’t need anything from him. I didn’t need to know him personally. The Steve I knew, the Apple I knew… it gave me more than enough.
Thank you Steve.