It felt like I had every reason to be angry at myself. The week had started off on what had seemed like a good foot, only to slowly but surely deteriorate with every day that passed. By Friday morning I had fed and fattened the grey cloud above my head with so much self-pity that it stopped me from moving for the first whole hour of being awake.
I am a morning person, usually. I jump out of bed with the energy of a six year old on Christmas morning… usually.
I should say that this wasn’t just a bad week — it was also a big week. Monday I had a phone call with the CEO of a company I had already passed three rounds of interviews to work for. Tuesday I had a Zoom meeting with quite possibly the most notable individual I’ve ever met; a formal introduction with the possibility of working together in the future.
I had prepped for hours for these opportunities. Writing questions, rehearsing my pitch, revising my powerpoints. I was pumped — only for Wednesday to roll around and bring with it all the bad news.
I had completely flopped it. The job rejection email was kind and the people that had interviewed me were lovely, but they had found someone better. It was better luck next time, but it only felt like tough luck.
And as for the meeting on Tuesday. Well, no more than 3 seconds after it ended did I burst into tears. I was nerve-wracked, intimidated, and utterly out of my depth. Still shaking from the adrenaline of meeting someone new (and very important), I was embarrassed. The same introversion that usually aids my creative process had completely impaired by ability to convey said process with any degree of self-assuredness; I had practically spoken about my accomplishments and capabilities as if they were questions. Safe to say I had sold myself short and the feeling at present was not great.
I cried for a long time. I reminded myself that I was only 21, and that it should feel like an accomplishment in and of itself to get that far in the first place. I knew that it should feel like that, but it didnt. No matter what I told myself, the feeling of defeat wouldn’t budge. Not even an inch.
Fast-forward to Friday morning and the frustration towards myself and my seemingly harder-than-usual life had only just snowballed into something more consuming. As I walked down the street to an appointment I didn’t have the forethought to cancel earlier, feelings of discontent and anxiety bubbled up making my ears hot. The world around me ceased to exist as I allowed my angry mind to consume me with negative thought.
Before I knew it, I was stood in the doorway outside my destination, resenting that I had arrived 10 minutes early. My head was in my phone. My headphones were blaring something loud. I wouldn’t have known a ounce of gratitude if it had hit me in the head.
But then it did.
Not gratitude, but an old blind man. And he didn't hit me in the head — just in the shins — and I suppose that was the first thing I had be grateful for.
Not only did he nearly knock me off of the single leg I had been absentmindedly balancing on, but the encounter made me jump out of my skin in sheer surprise, too. Immediately, I snatched my headphones out of my ears — but only just fast enough to hear the trail-end of his apology.
He was apologizing to me.
In shock, my mouth agape, I assured him it was all fine, and that I was sorry not to have seen him coming. He nodded and continued on his way, presenting a degree of apathy that implied this was not an uncommon occurrence for him. His white cane scanned the street from side to side as my brain raced to make sense of what had just happened.
I watched him carefully as he crossed the street. It was routine for him and he did it with such ease, but I couldn't help but feel utterly unnerved at the idea of doing it without vision, myself. His only guide to safety was the beeping of the crosswalk, and he had no choice but to trust it with his life. He exhibited no hesitation, but I hesitated to imagine the courage that that must take. He was not incapable, he was nothing short of incredible.
The feeling that accompanied the thoughts that followed the interaction is one that’s hard to describe: like guilt, awe, and the feeling of being immensely humbled all in one. Because it hit me, almost as physically as the old man had, that I couldn't have asked for a clearer message.
That I had become so inwardly preoccupied that I had turned into an unnecessary obstacle in the life path of another.
That I had been so focused on all the things I didn’t have, that I completely failed to perceive all that I did.
And that no matter how full of self-pity and ingratitude I might be, that there would always and inevitably be someone who had it better, and someone who had it worse.
That, most of all, I was given this lesson as a gift; an unmistakeable sign to stop being so selfish and to start paying attention.
So dear Universe, and to the blind man who ran into me on Copenhagen St., thank you for snapping me out of it.
I’ll do my very best to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
Alexandra Walker-Jones — March 2021