The morning after Steve Jobs died, I was sitting at a traffic light, watching cars go by on the Berlin Turnpike.
I had woken up sad, with a feeling of “Oh no… that really happened.” I didn’t know I could feel such emotion over the death of a public figure, but then, it doesn’t seem to happen very often. I wasn’t even a thought in my parents’ minds when President Kennedy was assassinated. I wasn’t alive for Elvis or John Lennon. I thought Michael Jackson’s death was unfortunate, but I wasn’t close enough to his music to be affected in the way millions of others were.
But the morning after Steve Jobs died, I found myself wondering if those people in their cars knew what had happened. “Does that person know? Does that person? Or that person?” I wondered if they felt the way I did, or if they had just frowned and said, “That’s too bad” before going about their lives.
It’s weird when someone dies because everything still looks the same. If someone was looking down on Earth from space, nothing would appear out of the ordinary. They wouldn’t be able to tell that anything had happened. But today, you don’t need to go any further than Google’s homepage to realize that something is wrong. Someone is missing.
I’m a young member of the Apple community in the sense that I’ve only been cognizant of the company’s existence for maybe seven or eight years. I got my first iPod in high school, but I never used a Mac until I got to college. My university had outfitted all of us with Lenovo ThinkPads, so it wasn’t until I applied to Apple’s Campus Rep program that I received a glossy black MacBook and subsequently saw the light. I had to give that machine back when the program ended just a few months later, but I had already been converted. I received my first Mac, a 2009 15” MacBook Pro, as a graduation present, and it’s still my main machine today. Like so many others, I’ll never go back.
If you were to construct a pie chart of my identity, it would be composed of several things. One slice would be for karate. Another would be for music. Another would be for eastern philosophy. And another would be for Apple. Each one was added to the pie chart in a moment of discovery, when it changed my life and shaped who I am today. These moments are the foundation of my identity. The day my parents dragged me into a karate studio, which led to fifteen years in the martial arts as a student and instructor. The day I came home to find a Dave Matthews Band DVD playing through the home entertainment system, which led to an intense passion for good music and nearly ten years of learning how to play the bass guitar. The day my college philosophy professor walked into class and taught me that we aren’t just bags of skin, which began instilling the tenets of Buddhism and Taoism that continue to bring me comfort and inner peace on a daily basis.
Apple, too, changed my life. The day I opened up my first MacBook, I started to care about things I previously had no knowledge of. Things like design, typography, simplicity, and minimalism. Stuff like creating things that are insanely great. Paying attention to detail. How to give a great presentation. Making sure everything in my life contributes positively to it in some way. Eliminating things that don’t, things that have no meaning for me. Without Apple, I wouldn’t have discovered all of my favorite writers who inspire me every day. I wouldn’t know that computing can be a joyful experience. I wouldn’t know that no one needs permission to be awesome.
Steve Jobs’ spirit drives Apple, and it will continue to do so many years into the future. So, to say that Steve Jobs changed my life is not an exaggeration.
I can understand why some people don’t get it. For them, Steve Jobs was just a businessman, a CEO of a technology company. He made consumer electronics. I don’t ask anything of these people other than that they stay quiet for the people who do get it. For millions of nerds and geeks around the world, this is our Kennedy, our Elvis, our Lennon. It’s been said that Steve Jobs didn’t just create a company. He created a culture. For people who wanted to think different, and for people who cared about changing the world.
I use his creations every day. To communicate with friends and family. To make things I’m proud of, like this website. To learn and satisfy my curiosities about new things. To listen to music I’m obsessed with. Every day, Steve’s creations make my life easier, simpler, and more fun. They inspire me every time I pick one up. But most of all, they never fail to bring me joy.
So many great things have been written about Steve since Wednesday. My emotional blathering here is only a drop in the bucket, but I felt the need to say something. I can’t really express how thankful I am to be a part of this community, and I am proud to consider Apple a part of my identity. I have Steve to thank for that. While we never came close to meeting, I am privileged to have lived alongside him, on the same planet, at the same time. I will miss him, and I’ll continue to remember him in my quest to do great things.
Thank you, Steve, for showing us it’s possible to put a ding in the universe.