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My Edamamistake

January 8, 2014 — 6 Comments

I apologize for the recent silence. It is due to a few factors.

  • The holidays were upon me, and I partook in mass amounts of family time, whereby I spent much of it asleep on the couch with my mouth agape in a food-induced coma.
  • I recently started a new job and, not wanting my new employers to think I am a lazy punk, I have actually been working hard for them.
  • I also recently bought a car, a big boy decision whose trepidation I cope with by researching every tiny detail and endlessly parsing numbers and haggling with multiple dealers until they all hate me and sell me a car at a lower price just to make me go away. I will post about this decision soon.
  • Thanks to you, my post about Santa went viral, and I have been unsure how to best follow that.

But I am a blessed man. Some of you have asked me why I have not been blogging. Julia ran into a friend today at Costco who asked her why I’ve gone silent. So she has encouraged me to write tonight. I love her for this.

So being a story teller, I thought it would be most appropriate to begin 2014 with a self-depricating tale of my own foolishness, hence the title of this post.

I started a new job recently. We had a meeting with a client today in downtown Atlanta. People that live inside the I-285 perimeter will tell you that Atlanta has Midtown, Downtown, Buckhead, and I think there might be an Uptown. I’m never sure because from out here in the suburbs, everything inside the perimeter is “downtown” to me. If you find this to be an uncultured perspective on life in Atlanta, you will certainly want to read on, as I am about to prove your theory.

Our meeting finished just after noon, so we decided to go to a nearby Japanese dive for lunch. As we walked in, I leaned over to Brent, one of my employers, and asked, “So what do you get when you guys come here?”

“Bento box,” he said firmly, pointing to the item on the menu. I saw “chicken teriyaki” and my mind was made.

“I’ll have the chicken teriyaki bento box,” I said to the girl behind the counter.

She appeared as though she was two holes away from getting her facial piercing merit badge, and seemed annoyed by the fact that I was in a good mood on this frigidly cold, blustery winter day. For a moment, I felt thankful I was able to watch my food being prepared just on the other side of the sneeze glass. I glanced over at the food inspection certificate on the wall. “100 A,” it read. I relaxed a bit inside.

Once our food was ready, we picked it up and sat down. The bento box had salad (which I did not eat), edamame, fried rice with teriyaki chicken, and four California rolls with wasabi and ginger on the side. Suddenly, I realized how hungry I was, and I reached for the edamame first.

Photo Credit: leff via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: leff via Compfight cc

Now, I should say I know virtually nothing about edamame. I only learned such a thing exists a year or two ago when Julia passed them to me as a snack. “What’s this crap?” I asked, staring at the tiny green peas with my brow furrowed.

“It’s edamame,” Julia replied without looking at me. She was unimpressed with my skepticism, though she knows I do not take to new foods lightly.

“Eda…” I trailed off. “They look like peas,” I said.

“They are peas. Try them.” She had that tone in her voice that hinted subtly at a dare. I like peas, so that day I decided edamame were on the “Hayden approved” list.

So sitting in front of my edamame today over lunch, I reached for them first, thinking Julia would be impressed when I told her I ate edamame today. They were cold. Unexpected, but acceptable. They were also encased in pods with tiny little hairs. Did I eat them like this last time? I wondered. Suddenly, I couldn’t remember.

I looked over at Brent. He had gone straight for the meat first. My kind of guy. I looked over at Adam, who was telling us about how he had gotten an Xbox One for his birthday, but without any games to play on it, his only option was to use it as a $500 voice-controlled channel changer for his cable TV. So he wasn’t much help, either. I was on my own.

Then, I thought about green beans and snap peas and snow peas, all of which are consumed pod and all. Suddenly feeling unusually confident in this, I took a sasquatch-sized bite into the edamame pod, tearing it sideways like a lumberjack might bite off a slab of beef jerky.

Photo Credit: Wesley Chan via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Wesley Chan via Compfight cc

But edamame pods are not to be taken down easily, and as I tore the pod with my teeth, a line of edamame pod strings hung awkwardly between my fist and my mouth. I struggled and tore until enough of them had broken free for me to have a mouthful.

Crunchy, I thought to myself as I continued to chew. And chew. And chew.

As I chewed, I began to wonder why people like edamame. It tasted the way a vegetable garden smells. It was bland, and distinctly earthy. About the time I began to think I would likely not have another bite (due to the amount of work involved), Adam leaned over and politely said to me, “You know, Hayden, you don’t have to eat the pods.”

“Ah,” I said, suddenly remembering that Julia had never given me the pods. I reached for my napkin to dispose of the wad of peas and string in my mouth. In good company but feeling a bit embarrassed, I was reminded of David Spade’s quote from Tommy Boy:

Yes, I am.

So what did I have for lunch today? Edamame with a side of humility. And they were both good for me.

In September of 2009, I had just been promoted to a special position within the company where I’d worked for the previous six years. I enjoyed the work, and felt like the promotion meant that a lot of hard work had payed off. Best of all, it allowed my wife, who had worked in the same department with me during that time, to quit her job to stay home with our eight month old baby.

Her being a stay-at-home mom was a dream come true for us both.

But two weeks after she quit, I was called into the conference room for a rare, impromptu meeting with the Vice President. After seeing the economic downturn affect our company the previous few years and cause round after round of layoffs, I suddenly had that ominous feeling of a cow being led to the slaughterhouse. My senses were confirmed when I arrived at the conference room to find the room full of three managers and two other employees that I’d never worked with before.

This was no layoff. This was a firing squad.

The Vice President proceeded to tell me and the two redshirts on my flank that the company was changing in a way he didn’t like, and that he was sorry…blah, blah, blah…and he had to let us go. I was completely shocked, but before I could even summon a reaction, he slid an envelope across the table that, he explained, contained my severance package.

He continued to explain to the three of us that today would be our last day. We weren’t allowed to return to our computers. We had to pack our things right now and one of the other managers in the room would be glad to help me with that. (Translation: we’re also going to escort you from the building just in case you decide to flip out and start breaking things or peeing on them.)

I felt stunned. I felt panic. My mind immediately went to thoughts of my wife and baby at home. My gut reaction was to try to change their mind and remind them of the promotion I had just received and of how much value I was bringing to them with my current projects, but I immediately realized we were beyond that. Then, I felt a rush of desperate anger––but I immediately realized that would be no help, either. All of those emotions and thoughts came and passed in less than two seconds.

As the two other schlubs painfully filed out of the room with their tails tucked between their legs, I did the only dignified thing I could think to do. I stood up, looked the Vice President directly in the eyes, reached out my hand to him and said as sincerely as I could, “Bill, it’s been a great working for you, and I appreciate you hiring me six years ago and for the opportunities I’ve had working here. Thanks.”

I later realized this must have taken him off guard. He was probably preparing for something less cordial. The image of Han Solo in the Mos Eisley cantina later came to mind––his hand secretly grasping his blaster under the table, pointing at Greedo with his finger on the trigger, in case things went south.

Whatever Bill was ready for, he wasn’t ready for a sincere thanks from someone he’d just sent packing. The look on his face made that clear. But he quickly gathered himself, stood, and shook my hand while mumbling something about me landing on my feet.

As I left the parking lot that day, amid the rush of “what now?” thoughts, I felt an undeniable and overwhelming sense of relief. It felt strange, and as I began to question why I felt relief, I realized how much I disliked that job. The politics, the gossip, the commute, the mundane, factory floor-style nature of the work itself–it was a rock in my shoe that I had, in time, developed a callous for. With it suddenly yanked from me, I couldn’t deny the relieved feeling of “ahhhhhh!” that I felt.

And that was when I felt a sense of great comfort wash over me like a gentle, giant wave. “God is up to something big,” I thought, “and this is just the beginning.”

When I got home, my wife asked why I was home so early. I explained to her what happened. She cried. I told her about what I had been thinking about on my way home, trying to reassure her that we wouldn’t soon be out on the street, eating garbage.

One week later, we found out we were pregnant with baby #2. I just laughed. I laughed from joy, but I also laughed because I didn’t want to panic again. “These are only the kinds of stories you can write,” I told Jesus. I’m sure he laughed, too. If he could have text messaged me a response, I like to think it would have said, “Yep. I know! LOLZ. Best parts are still coming.”

He would have been right.

With a severance package that lasted for six weeks, I found work in five. And the new job paid more and was half the commute of the job I’d lost. Baby #2 was born very healthy (at nearly 10lbs). I’ve had a couple of different jobs since that time, and each one has been better than the last.

So how did I survive that first job layoff?

There’s a scene in Matrix Revolutions where Neo speaks with the antagonist who built the matrix. They’re in a room surrounded by walls made of hundreds of small TV screens. When the Architect speaks to Neo, each TV screen plays a different reaction Neo could choose as a response. The responses range from anger, to weeping, to fear, but in the end, Neo chooses one reaction to actually display. From a range of emotions and reactions, he chose to give the best one.

There’s also a place in the Bible where Jesus gives a hard teaching, and most of His disciples choose to abandon Him. Jesus turns to the core Twelve who remained and asked if they wanted to abandon Him, too. Peter speaks up in John 6:68 and confesses that there’s nowhere else to go when Jesus is the only thing they need. He says:

I survived that trying time in my life by doing the only thing I knew to do: trusting God and choosing the response I thought He would have given. That doesn’t make me special or holy. It just makes me thankful that God has trained me to weather life’s storms by looking to Him for strength instead of looking to myself.

So in every storm, I can always claim His promises to me and know that the best parts are still to come.