I’ll answer the obvious question right out of the gate: no, I haven’t always been a dare-devil. I double lock my door when I’m home alone, triple check that I have taken out the nozzle upon every tank fill-up, and have never dyed my hair a non-naturally occurring color. Simply put, I color inside the lines in most areas of life. I wake up, go to work, come home, smash a frozen burrito, watch some garbage, have some sad dreams, and repeat. They say “Variety is the spice of life,” but I find much more value in the lesser cited “Monotony is the antacid of life,” as neither variety nor spices typically agree with my digestive system.
But that all changed this past week. My new iPhone came in the mail three days sooner than anticipated – one of those unexpected treats that keep life worth living. And because I don’t like taking chances, I immediately hopped on Amazon to wrap that shit up. I found the case I wanted, selected that 2-day shipping, and gently laid my head on my pillow knowing I would have the unmatched protection of a new LifeProof swaddling my new prized possession in a mere 48 hours.
The next morning, I silenced the staccato rhythm of the Marimba tone on my new device, noting the newer, cleaner delivery of the sound and wondering if it was a manufacturing improvement, or if it only sounded better in my head. Either way, the observation filled my mind with an uncharacteristically welcome sense of satisfaction in place of my usual morning despair. In hindsight, this should have signaled to me that changes were afoot.
Once I cleared the alert, I noticed an unusually large amount of work emails on my lock screen. I scrolled until my eyes caught one that included my name:
“Sorry to hear you can’t make it. Perhaps Best can go in your place.”
I opened the chain to see a long list of emails exchanged before I made it onto the chain. My colleague who was slated to accompany the partners on the business trip scheduled for that week had back pain and had been advised by her doctor not to fly. As the only available alternate on the travel team, I was advised at 6:30 that morning I needed to drop everything and be on an airplane headed to New York City within 24 hours, not to return until the following Sunday.
My mind began to race, and while Shit, what am I going to do about my phone case? was not my first thought upon receiving the assignment, it was one of the early ones. My case was scheduled to arrive Tuesday, but I would be long gone by then. Since I had made the leap from an iPhone 5s straight to a 7, I didn’t have a case that would fit. I asked my roommates and friends if they had any old 6 cases I could borrow for the week, but to no avail.
My time and options dwindled until I found myself standing before an airport kiosk, staring down the only three options, and grappling with the thought of spending $35 on a shitty piece of plastic adorned with a glittery Hello Kitty to use for only 6 days. It was then I realized my choice was not a choice after all. It was a gauntlet thrown. A shadow that beckoned beyond the warm embrace of my comfort zone, enticing me with the taste of danger. Inviting me to become what I had only ever dreamed of becoming: a dare-devil. I answered the call, turned my back on the kiosk, and boarded the plane walking a little taller, like Bruce Willis walking away from an explosion in slow motion. I had my first glimpse of what life could be, and from this point on, I was no longer merely living. I was thriving.
I touched down at JFK, stepped over a family of rats in front of the public transit ticketing kiosk, bought a 7-day MetroCard, and headed to the hotel. Having never been to New York City before, it took me a couple of tries to navigate the subway. After about an hour of trial and error and a near roundhouse kick to the face by an otherwise delightful train performer, I hustled my luggage to the hotel bar where I met my bosses. My naked phone led the way, catching the eye of the Managing Partner.
“Is that the 7? You should get a case on that thing.”
I smiled to myself, knowing how far my newfound boldness had gotten me. I contemplated telling him the whole truth – that I left my inhibitions in San Diego and was being fueled solely by thrill. I weighed the pros and cons of letting my boss know he was dealing with a new and improved dare-devil of an employee. But I was right in withholding, as I quickly learned. My actions would speak clearly enough to convey the necessary message throughout the week. I exuded confidence with every hand I shook and with every business card I collected. They didn’t even have to see my phone to assume I was living the caseless life.
When I came home Sunday night, I opened my door to the sight of a small box inside the doorway. I tore open the package and snapped the tough plastic on my phone, feeling danger slip through my fingertips with the decisive “click” of the case. In that moment, I felt relaxed for the first time in seven days. My worries escaped my mind as I looked on at my now protected phone, and I felt a satisfying closure.
This experience led me to a realization. While I was capable of being a dare-devil all along, I am not suited to live every day as one. Much like New York City, it is a place I go to answer the call of duty, but not a place I am ready to live right now.
Regardless, the next night I went to the grocery store to restock on food for the week. The now familiar shadow of danger welcomed me to the middle of the frozen food aisle, and I, in homage, picked up a frozen pizza, saag paneer, and some meatballs in lieu of my usual bean and cheese burrito. I had already conquered my trial by fire. It was now time to take baby steps into a more well-rounded existence. It was time to thrive..
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