Somewhere in my early working career, I worked as a Printed Circuit Board Designer–a highly technical and occasionally boring job where I lived in a cubicle five days a week, eight-plus hours a day. As interesting as the job was, monotony sometimes crept in, so my coworkers and I used various forms of entertainment and distraction to spice things up. That included, at one extreme, rubber band wars. This, our favorite pastime, required we aim, shoot, and ricochet rubber bands off the ceiling to target fellow employees. My coworkers and I loved rubber band wars and played them often, that is, until the day I nailed my boss in the eye. Sadly, thereafter, we had to move on to gentler pursuits, like removing the soundpiece from the handset of a coworker’s phone. We’d call them afterwards and laugh our butts off while peering over the cubicle wall when he or she couldn’t figure out why they weren’t being heard. Inevitably, a more important person–a customer–would call before we did, resulting in a red-faced coworker, a frustrated customer, and the end to that pastime, too. When all other inside-entertainment rights had been stripped from us, we resorted to simply decorating our cubicles with whatever tickled our imaginations. Rubber chickens, posters of hot medieval chicks, and Rubick’s Cubes abounded.
My cubicle had its share of fun stuff, too, but it also included hints of who I was or who I wanted to be. It included a picture torn from a travel magazine of a ring of emerald islands in a Tahitian turquoise sea that I hoped one day to visit. I never did. It also included an advertisement from another mag that pictured Rocky Marciano decked out in his boxing gear and posing in a rock-solid boxing stance–hands up, ready to deliver a blow. I was fond of the picture because the caption under it started off with the following words: “The name of Rocky Marciano’s devastating right-hand hook was the Suzie-Q.” Suzie-Q was one of my nicknames, so it struck me as pretty darn cool that I should share a name with something so powerful. I strongly associated with the level of tough depicted in the photo and the words and thought myself to be as devastating as the Suzie-Q right hook–able to take on anything the world threw at me.
I was in my 20s then and didn’t know yet what challenges life would bring. As it turns out, life delivered quite a few black eyes along the way. I’ve bounced right back up through much of it, but I was nearly a TKO with the events of a recent, particularly difficult decade. I recall laying on the boxing ring floor, beaten to a pulp, and vaguely hearing the count of ten over the constant ringing in my ears.
Certain things jump out at you in life and stick with you. When I was a kid, I immediately gravitated to my namesake flower, the Black-Eyed Susan. When I would visit my cousins in upstate New York as a child, we would take long walks down a country road where weathered white fences were adorned with bright yellow-orange flowers with black centers: Black-Eyed Susans. The color contrast was fascinating to me. Contrast commands our attention, sometimes without our even knowing why.
Life is all about contrast. In the midst of bright yellow possibilities, there can always be a devastating right-hand hook. Life is beautiful and dangerous all at once. When it delivers a blow, it commands our attention and can knock us off our feet. We have to accept that, but we don’t have to be afraid of it. We just need to get back up before the count of 10 and get ready to hit right back. I’ve been down for the count before. Perhaps some day I will be again. Right now, though, I’m feeling strong. I am confident in my ability to face adversity. Whatever life throws at me, I’m ready for it.
At the ready,