Monday, February 9, 2015

76 Things: #9

What a magnificent time it was, reuniting with former colleagues from the USAA Bank…as I walked into the party room at Los Barrios, I was greeted by so many smiling and familiar faces.
Each step I took into the room brought a new hand to shake or friend to hug… and wonderful  memories to reminisce over.   With the old stories brought laughter and usually updates on new adventures, marriage, growth in families, etc.

It was great to be part of that world again.  I don’t think I realized how much I’ve missed it, I really didn’t want the lunch to end.
There was great comfort that, for the most part, they already knew my story.  I didn’t have to dance around being a “writer” and what that means. 

When I meet new folks, there is always a bit of insecurity that creeps up…will they think I’m a quitter?  I couldn’t handle a curveball that life threw at me?  Whether that is silly to think or not, it’s a reality in my mind.
But with my former colleagues, those types of worries are greatly diminished.  They know who I am and the work I produced and I feel like that stands on its own. 

One thing that isn’t solved by old colleagues or friendly conversation is my struggle with vertigo.  The dizziness and uncomfortable sensations are intensified around large groups of people….at a social gathering, or even just out at the grocery store.
There were other ailments to manage – standing on my left leg was difficult, to name one – but the more pressing concern I had was the room spinning around me.  At least that’s what it felt like. 

When my vertigo starts, remaining upright is a win, being able to speak in coherent sentences is a bonus.  I know I did the former, I hope I succeeded in the latter.
I remember when I finally took my seat that day, one of my friends asked me, “How are you doing?” to which I somewhat jokingly responded, “Other than feeling like I’m going to pass out, I feel great”!

It was a rare form of pure, unadulterated honesty in a situation like that for me.  Normally I don’t respond quite as openly like that, he reads this blog and has shown great care towards my journey with MS…I felt like he already knew the answer before I gave it, so it just felt right.
And it felt good.

After the lunch, the standing conversations resumed, as did the dizziness; I’d say goodbye to folks and hope they couldn’t read it on my face. 

I want them to remember Mike Wentink,  a former co-worker turned writer.  Multiple sclerosis didn’t diminish me, it only altered my path to a life less traveled.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

A Prelude to #9....

Last week, I got together with some former colleagues from USAA.  I attended a luncheon hosted by the President of USAA’s Bank. He is leaving the company and he held this event to commemorate the time he spent on the Finance team.
Not long after I joined the Bank Finance team – and before I moved to Bank Product Management – he became the Bank’s Senior Financial Officer.  I was fortunate to work under his leadership and came to see him as a friend and mentor, in addition to the head guy.

Right around the time I progressed into Product Management was when he ascended to Bank President.  About a year later, I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
I owe him – and many of the other leaders of the Bank and USAA, especially my manager at the time – a great deal of gratitude for the warmth and understanding they displayed towards my illness.

It was as new for me as it was for them.  My job required a great deal of face-to-face interaction with areas around the Bank and USAA which makes the flexibility they provided that much more remarkable.
They allowed me to work from home three days a week, my business trips were greatly reduced and it was understood (and encouraged) that work took a backseat to treatments and doctor appointments to treat my MS.

Many of the folks that were invited to this luncheon still work at USAA so I was flattered by the invite and gracious to still be considered part of the team!

….and, my experience at the lunch last week leads me to the #9 thing you might not know about (my) MS.

 Come back on Monday to read about it!


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