25) for you « Tidepool News

Twenty-three years ago, I sat alone at a lofty window desk in Lehigh’s tech library, looking out at the campus, watching people go about their day with apparently more courage than me.   I was hiding.  I was reeling.

For weeks, I’d been sending a daily email to a group of Lehigh professors, describing my solo work on Gravity & Colony, my ill-fated precursor to the Web and many other things.  Were you to look at my design books from 1992, you’d be surprised by how much I got right.  And now here I was, slowly describing my dream to people who might understand.

“I wish I had time to sift through your messages and filter out the egocentric ramblings so I could attend to that part of your writings that do focus on your supposed topic. Unfortunately I don’t. Please remove me from your mailing list.”

I still remember the pain of that email.  I remember sitting at that window desk for hours, unable to summon the strength to leave the building, let alone continue with my daily emails.  For an authority figure, an expert in his field, to so callously rebuke me … I mean … lack of interest stung enough, but slamming the door on the way out … I was floored.  Little did I know this kind of response would become the Internet norm.

Slowly, numbly, I made my way back to my apartment, walking over the river as the sun set, caught between the faint hope of continuing and the certain relief of giving up.  Bracing myself as I checked my email, expecting another well-crafted time bomb to appear, I instead read this from another:

“I nearly got off this one at the very beginning, but I am glad I didn’t, I’d have missed seeing your honest voice.”

This well-timed kindness, this complete and welcome contrast, taught me more of value than a thousand lectures.  While it’s easy to say of criticism, “That’s just one opinion,” the sting is still there, and likely always will be.  Decades later, I still feel it.   But that day I learned something deeper, something I can draw upon in uncommon hours when continuing seems impossible.

Beyond the clamor of critics lies the heartfelt few. My efforts are for you.

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