The True Purpose Of Great Design
“During my junior year of high school, I received a well-crafted mailer advertising an engineering summer camp at a college I’d never heard of in a different state. My mother really liked the mailer, so my parents sent me to engineering camp that summer. On the first day of camp, I arrived late to the orientation and sat on the only available seat. The guy I sat next to fell in love with me instantly. We started dating at camp, then the next year, we both went to that college so we could be together. 4 years after that, we both graduated with engineering degrees and got married.
If my mother hadn’t liked that mailer, I wouldn’t have met my husband, I wouldn’t have gone to that school, and I probably would have had a different major as well. Also, if I hadn’t sat down next to him at orientation, we probably wouldn’t have started dating.
The Diamond In The Rough
“I was riding my motorcycle years ago to visit a chick in Tallahassee, FL. It was 1:00 AM and I was trying to figure out exactly where she lived (pre GPS days).
I got sand in my eye from the road due to my tinted visor being up and decided to stop at a red light to try and clean them out. The light went green but I sat there a few seconds cleaning my eyes. There was nobody around so I wasn’t worried about blocking traffic.
Right at that moment, an old crap hooptie blew the red light doing almost 100mph.
I am 100% positive I am still here because I got sand in my eyes.”
“In kindergarten, I misunderstood a coloring assignment where you had to color the matching butterflies the same color (so the butterflies with square wings were both blue, circle both red, etc) and I just colored the butterflies however I wanted.
I showed my finished work to the substitute for the class, who was also the school principal. When she saw how much I messed up, she ripped it up in front of me and yelled about how I did the assignment wrong.
Since then, I’ve typically been a ‘to-the-books’ worker who is afraid of trying a new technique or method even if it would be better. I’ve also been a perfectionist and I was clinically diagnosed with OCD for a while after that event.”
The Great Paper Towel Debate
“Just over five years ago in culinary school, my teacher went off on a rant about paper towels being next to useless in a professional kitchen since cloth towels were reusable and better at cleaning up wet or sticky spills without leaving a residue. I didn’t think about it but laughed a bit.
A few days later I was browsing OK Cupid (I’d been alone for a while and was starting to give up) when I passed a profile I’d skipped over a few times. He was only an 86% match but dressed as Ash Ketchum…
I clicked. His profile was obviously a joke, with multiple paragraphs espousing the glorious use of the common paper towel. It was bad Shakespeare. It was three pages long. What was this guy thinking?
As I continued to read I started to remember my teacher’s earlier counterpoints on the superiority of the cloth towel. Out of all the things to take a side on, I couldn’t believe I had the perfectly relevant counterpoint.
I sent him a message detailing why his opinion was erroneous.
We’ve now lived in China, Japan, the US and the UK together, are engaged, have two cats and just adopted our first dog.
We keep both paper and cloth towels in the kitchen.”
That One Phone Call
“I had just given birth to my firstborn and called my adoptive father to tell him he was a grandfather for the first time.
We had a very poor, almost estranged relationship and he was a huge drinker. He lived hundreds of miles away, so letting him know seemed harmless (he wouldn’t actually be part of my kid’s life, it was kinda a ‘forget you’ to a man who’d been rude to me my entire life, and I knew he’d like bragging to his friends.)
It’s 10 am when I call, he’s been drinking and says, ‘you should call ‘Joe’ (my bio father who I’d never met).
Three days later, I found Joe on the internet (AOL days). I called the number and he answered the phone. That’s also super odd. His wife says he NEVER answers the phone and I probably wouldn’t have said anything to a woman, not knowing how she’d feel about him having fathered a kid 30 years earlier.
I said, ‘Joe, where you married to ‘Jane’ in 1967?’
‘Well I wanted to let you know, I’m your daughter and three days ago, you became a grandfather.’
He was quiet (not surprising) and I gave him my website so he could see pix of me and the baby. They didn’t even have internet so went to a friend’s house. Called back an hour later and said, ‘how would you feel if we took a little drive up to see you?’ (From Florida to the Delmarva area).
That was 20+ years ago. They moved up here shortly after #2 was born. We see them almost every weekend. His wife and my mom are good friends. My kids are their only grandchildren and pretty much are the light of their life.
Never thought that phone call would change my life.
And my adoptive father? Stayed unpleasant and died 7 years ago having never met grandchild #3.
It would not be until later that I find out:
I was the 60s ‘spring fling’ baby while my mom and dad were students at Penn State. They ‘did the right thing’ in the day and got married. They were 20 and 23 years old.
Right after I was born, my lawyer grandfather told my dad to ‘get out of my daughter’s life’. I think there was a whole Catholic/Protestant thing with the families plus my dad was a ‘long-haired hippie who was a conscientious objector to the Vietnam war.’
My grandparents had a ‘nice Protestant boy coming home from war’ lined up for my mom. Very planned. My mom and dad were young and naive.
She married the Vet and he got Joe to sign adoption papers. They were supposed to keep in touch but narcissists lie.
My adoptive father even got primary custody of me when he and my mom divorced.
Turns out that Joe had always talked about me. He and his parents had baby pix of me in their house and often wondered about me.
He said he wanted to look me up, but didn’t want to make waves with my adoptive father.
As for finding him on the Internet pre-google, I knew his full name (and our last name is fairly unique) from my original birth certificate that my mom had kept. There were 3 ‘Joes’ with that full name. The first Joe didn’t answer. The second Joe was actually my grandfather and I spoke with my grandmother first. She said I was very ‘known’ and loved and urged me to hang up and call Joe #3, so I did. Joe #1, who didn’t answer, was some uncle/3rd cousin. It’s all family.
My step mom is very sweet and always wanted grandchildren so she’s thrilled I found them.
My adoptive father did find out I’d found my bio dad and was ticked. I reminded him that he told me to do it.
As for my adoptive father ‘doing the best he could’ and ‘being there when bio dad couldn’t, it’s not that kind of a fairytale.
I do think it’s a very sweet story that I want to make into a novel someday. I never, in a million years expected to gain this wonderful family when I made that phone call.”
Quite The Over Achiever
“One day before homeroom in my junior year of high school, I went to hang out at my friend Marc’s locker, like we all usually did every morning. I came upon our other friend Dave trying to convince Marc to join a club called Junior Achievement at their first meeting later that night. It’s a ‘young business leaders’ sort of extracurricular club. When I asked what they’re talking about, Dave suggested I should give it a try as well.
Later that night, my parents were late getting home from my some event, so I figured it was too late for them to give me a ride to this Junior Achievement thing — but when my dad walked in the door and I reminded him, he hurried me out to the car and I go. Was in the club both junior and senior year of high school with my friends.
Our regional Junior Achievement club offered an annual full-tuition scholarship to a local private university. A top tier school, but one I was not considering. However, Marc, Dave, and our other senior year friends already had their college careers planned out, so they convinced me to apply for the scholarship so that at least someone from our club applied.
In the end, apparently, only me and some other kid from some other local club in our region applied for the scholarship. And I must have wowed the selection committee because I won the scholarship and got a nearly free ride into that university.
Which was good news, since I wasn’t accepted at any of the other colleges I applied at.
So I owe my entire college career, all the friends I made there and probably my current job to that random morning before homeroom.”
Saved His Life
“There was massive drama in my guild in World of Warcraft. Although it didn’t have anything to do with me, it was making the guild atmosphere toxic. One evening, I logged in, clicked Select Server, and randomly choose a new server.
On the new server, I met my partner. Because of her, I moved to a different country, was able to get my Master’s degree, and the move literally saved my life.
For 10 years, I had been going to the doctor in the UK with various ailments. Stress was always the answer, relaxation was always the solution. Turns out it was actually my thyroid. Left untreated for much longer and the irregularity in my heart rhythm would have killed me.
All this because I thought it would be fun to wind up the RPers for an evening.”
The Trail Less Traveled
“Freshman year of college, I decided to hike the John Muir trail with my dad and a buddy of mine. We spent months getting ready, shaking out our gear, getting in shape, etc. So, when my dad stepped wrong and messed his knee up and had to bail, I was really disappointed but was going to finish without him.
Until my buddies shoes began to fall apart, after only like 40 miles, and he decided to bail too. Well, I didn’t want to do the next 150 miles alone, so I begrudgingly left the trail with them.
When I got home, there was an email from the professor of a drafting class I’d taken asking for people to work as TAs and graders for a machining class he was about to start teaching and to respond by that Friday. I respond, and he’s delighted to have me.
Worked as a TA and his only grader for two years until he retired. Before he retired, he wrote me a glowing letter of recommendation, which I attached to applications when applying for internships. I got an interview, despite my below target GPA, the interviewer for one particular oil company explained, because of my TA experience and the letter of recommendation. I end up getting an internship at that oil company, and eventually a full-time job after graduation. Several years later, the company transfers me to Montana, where I bought a house and met my now-fiancée.
So, if my buddy had bought a little better shoes, and decided to finish the trail past that particular Friday I might be in a totally different place in life…”
A Free Lunch Should Never Be Passed By
“I was a newbie junior sysadmin at my first real job out of college, and rather than running out for lunch one day, I decided to pop down to the cafeteria.
On the way, I had to walk through the building lobby, and while doing so I saw one of the senior admins talking with two guys I didn’t recognize. I walked over and said hi, and it turned out that those two guys were our enterprise storage sales team and they were there to talk about a huge deal.
They were about to duck into a conference room and I saw they had a bunch of Jason’s Deli box lunches. I asked the senior admin if he didn’t mind me sitting in on the meeting, with the goal in mind of me scoring a free lunch.
The meeting was fascinating. I asked a lot of questions. I ended up asking if I could help with the deal, and it turned out that I was both really interested in and really good at what they needed.
A year later, I was the site storage administrator; that paved the way for a transition into being a multi-site enterprise storage architect, which eventually turned into a decade-long career, which then turned into a job directly at EMC, which then catapulted me out of IT and into, weirdly enough, journalism—which is what I do now.
I’m glad I decided to randomly pop by the cafeteria that day—it turned into probably the most important career move I’ve ever made.”
A Real M. Night Shyamalan Story
“I walked into a hot tub on New Years with my phone in my swimsuit pocket. Doofus move.
It resulted in me missing a call from my mother who was worried about my younger sister and didn’t know where she was because she was supposed to be home by 1:00 am. She was nervous and my father had gone to bed. Instead of waiting she decided to drive to the house she knew I was at to figure out the address of where my little sister was. On the way to me, she was hit by a driver who was impaired. I went home the next morning to find a note from my father about how my mother had been in a car accident.
I went to the hospital to visit her immediately and found my father and sister there. She needed physical therapy for the next few months and I drove her there for every appt because it worked well with my schedule. I then met her physical therapist, who was two years older than me.
I got engaged to that therapist and we have been married for five years now, all because I destroyed my phone in a hot tub.”
Bach To Bach
“When I was a kid, the pastor of my parents’ church heard me practicing Bach on the piano.
He asked if I’d like to try the pipe organ – something that had always fascinated me. I took to it like a duck to water, even though my feet could barely reach the pedals.
So right then and there – knowing my parents couldn’t afford it – he offered to pay for my complete music education in preparation for college (including organ, piano, theory, keyboard harmony and ear training).
His act of generosity and kindness brought about my career. And all he asked in return was for me to substitute for the church organist when he was on vacation or away – something I was honored to do.”
A Teacher’s Muse
“When I was in Afghanistan, I saw a young kid (maybe 12yrs) who was crippled from Polio and was begging on a street corner in Kandahar. This was circa 2012 and I have a near certainty that the kid is probably dead now. I was mostly powerless to do anything then. I just thought about how that kid would never get to step inside a school to learn how to read or do math and how even healthy kids lack the same opportunity in some places.
So after I got out I decided I wanted to teach at-risk kids here in America, so I went to school to be a teacher. I should get an official offer today, and hopefully, I start teaching this fall.”
You Should Try Phoning A Friend
“A friend from school was having an engagement party. I’d moved several hours drive away from high school and was having car trouble, so I wasn’t sure I could make it.
My friend gave me the name of one other person living in my new town who was also invited, a friend of her future husband. I got in contact with this guy and introduced myself, then asked if he was planning to go to the party and wanted to split the travel costs. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to make it to the party either because of work commitments.
Tracking him down still turned out to be worthwhile though because we stayed in touch. Next year will be our 20th anniversary together.”
You Must Be Trippin’
“When I was a DJ, I gave out free mix CDs everywhere I went. I forced some coworkers (who were roommates) to take one even though they hated EDM.
Five months later, one of them was really interested in talking to me, and kept asking ‘You made that CD? You’re the DJ?’ I said yeah, and asked why.
He said he started having a really bad trip because he’d privately been depressed for months. Out of sheer desperation, he put my mix CD on. It cheered him up so much that he listened to it four or five times in a row.
We weren’t friends, just coworkers who’d politely say hi when we crossed paths, but after that day he talked to me more. He’s one of my closest friends now, over a decade later, and genuinely one of the most awesome people I’ve ever known…and it all happened because his roommate accepted a CD she knew she’d never listened to.”
The Key To Becoming A Good Reader
“When I was a kid we didn’t have a lot of money, so we often shopped at thrift stores. What I loved about that was that you could get 10 books for a dollar, so I would plant myself in front of the book section and make piles of which one I wanted to get and then decided after I’d gone through them all.
One day an older lady saw me sitting with my piles and asked if I liked to read. I told her I did and showed her a few of the books I found that I liked. She smiled and then pulled a dollar out of her purse, handed it to me and said, ‘Promise me that you’ll keep reading.’ I was so happy and immediately stood up and said that I would. She smiled and walked away and I went back to my piles able to pick out an extra 10 books to take home.
It was just a small act of kindness for her, but for me having a random stranger encourage my love of reading and making me promise to never stop definitely had a lot to do with my continued love of reading. This was over 20 years ago, but I still think of her whenever I buy a new book.”
You’ll Never Know If You Don’t Try
“I was looking for a new job. I had a job but want a change, the work is great but the conditions (salary, hours….) were not that good.
I applied for 30-40 jobs in a ~100km radius, out of those I got called for 4 interviews. I managed to get to the last selection process in 2 of them but didn’t get any of the jobs in the end.
I am Spanish and live in Spain; one friend saw me applying on LinkedIn and suggested that I should apply for a job in another country, just for fun, to see the requirements in other countries and how greater the ‘level’ was outside of Spain. Apart from Basque and Spanish (both useless in other European countries), I only know English, so countries like France, Austria or Germany seemed impossible for me. Still, I applied to 2 in Austria and one in Germany.
Well…Today is my last day working at my current job and I am going to Germany tomorrow and start working next Monday.”
This Has To Be The Key To Success
“One day, I asked my partner what color cardigan I should wear, the yellow one or the green one?
He shrugged, said, ‘it doesn’t matter’.
Later on that day, I was walking through a shopping center. A man struck up a conversation with me, and we got along and talked for quite a while. He offered me a role in a not for profit helping out the community near the end of our conversation.
In the end, he asked, ‘Hey weren’t you wearing a yellow cardigan?’ I said ‘yes’, but I took it off because I got warm. He said, ah, you see, I thought you were my friend in your yellow cardigan, so I took a second look at you and approached you.
If I had worn a different color cardigan, I wouldn’t be in the fulfilling role I am now. I would be slaving away in some job somewhere on a totally different trajectory. The color of your cardigan can matter! Stand out and you will be noticed.”
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