I’ve never understood widespread mourning for a public figure. Famous people die, and I think it’s sad, but I’ve never felt the loss before of someone I’ve never met, yet who has touched, inspired and enhanced my life in the way that Steve Jobs has.
I may change my skirt length, accent colour, heel shape, belt width or lipstick shade to suit the season, but there’s one thing I’ll never change, and that’s my Mac. I may have put up with a PC when I’ve had to, but its clunkiness, slowness and downright unsexiness has me sprinting back (yes, even in my high heels) to my thing of beauty: my Mac.
I secured my first job as a journalist on one of those square, tiny-screened Macs, which somehow made writing an article as an intern feel soprofessional and meaningful – and impressed my news editor at the time, anyway. Looking at the photos of Steve Jobs launching the turquoise (and other neon coloured) iMacs in 1998, I realise now how lucky I was that the company I worked for at the time chose to upgrade us all to the sexy new model. I currently have a widescreen iMac as my desktop, and I have just bought a Macbook Air, which I can only touch with reverence and the cleanest of hands.
Except there is a dark side to my new Macbook Air: its greyness and sleekness signal the death of my old Macbook. The new one can’t replace the whiteness, beauty and purity of my old one. I still feel love for it, even though its condition and performance have slowly and sadly deteriorated. The mousepad no longer works; it’s slow to respond to wi-fi; and it’s as heavy as a brick in my briefcase. But I have an intimate relationship with my old Mac: it holds so much of my writing, my soul, my life. And I can’t bear anyone else to have it, or to let it go. I feel more myself with my old Mac.
Which is just one of the losses I’m feeling after the death of the Mac’s creator, Steve Jobs. He flashed up on my screen at 6am when I launched a new Safari page – and has continued to gaze at me all day with every new screen I launch. I feel huge sadness at his loss. His quotes about death in his famous commencement address to Stanford in 2005 now feel too poignant, too prophetic: “Death is very likely the single best invention of life. It is life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new,” he said. Yes, technology moves on, and Macs don’t last forever. Neither do their creators. There’s always an upgrade or new version. But, right now, I’m taking too literally the metaphor of death as a reinvention.
A reportedly intensely private man who shielded his illness from the public eye, he was dignified and discreet in his death. I know only too well how swiftly and mercilessly cancer can consume the body of a mighty man, flooring him where other adversaries would have withered. Just as cancer claimed my father.
Seeing photos of Steve Jobs in his wheelchair – thin, wasted and with head bowed – takes me back 12 years to when my father aged 30 years in three weeks with the physical effects of chemotherapy and the psychological impact of the realisation that he may not live long enough to drink the case of Rioja he had bought the month before.
My dad also went into remission – a brief period of denial that we all played along with. Even up to the minute he passed away, I still clung to the belief that he would recover, bounce out of bed, and ridicule us for being so maudlin.
I’d like to say that losing my dad made me rethink my life; made me feel more determined to be the person I was meant to be. Looking back, and joining the dots, I think his death may have led me to some life changes that I would not have made had he not died.
However, it’s the words of Steve Jobs that haunt me, and make me want to make a change from today. He has left a legacy. Working with my Mac has never meant just typing on a keyboard. My Mac has always been an extension of me, my dreams, hopes, aspirations, sweat, tears and deadlines. And the words I write will feel ever more meaningful.
For now, however, I’ll leave the last words to Steve Jobs: “Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”
I’m a Mac. And I’m following my heart.