I Still Miss Steve Jobs: A Reflection on How He Influenced Me to Be Who I Am Today
I still miss Steve Jobs.
It has been a month now since he passed away, but I still feel this huge hole, this dark void, in my life. Even though I never actually ever met Steve before, I have always wanted to shake his hand, give him one of those high fives from the side, pull in, pat on the backs, and tell him what an influence he has been to my life. I wonder if he had any idea how much of an impact he had on a kid growing up in East Oakland. I got so much love for my boy you don’t even know. He has left a legacy, a legacy of arts-meets-science, of counterculture-meets-mainstream, and of it’s-great-to-be-different legacy that I am so grateful for, and I hope to carry that legacy forward for the rest of my life.
Before I continue, a little about me first: I am from East Oakland, home of my hood the Dirty Thirties, home of Fruitvale BART, of Skyline High School, and of me and my Chinese/Vietnamese family. My family came here after the Vietnam War as fresh immigrants, and took up roots down near High St. and MacArthur. I am hella proud to be from Oakland. To be able to say that people like Bruce Lee, Huey P. Newton, and Tom Hanks call my city home as well is an honor.
I will admit though that the first computer I ever used was Windows 3.1. I was only four years old at the time, but at that moment standing in my sister’s office room with 4 or 5 of her friends from our Buddhist temple hovering around an NEC monitor, I already had this strong feeling that I wanted to work on and program computers for the rest of my life. The humungous CRT monitor, the beatboxing sounds of the keyboard and mouse, and especially the 88 MHz processor that even had a turbo button enthralled me and my young mind. I knew at that early age that I wanted to be a programmer for the rest of my life.
Fast forward several years later and things started to change. Around the time I was in middle school, a few years before Youtube came on to the scene, I stumbled onto filmmaking and loved it. Yet again, I thought to myself: this is exactly what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I strived to be a filmmaker, to make movies and tell my stories through film, to make things no one had ever seen before. I wanted to blow people’s minds away with the visual complexity of a Picasso painting coupled with the imaginative power of J.K. Rowling. I knew for the second time in my life what I really wanted to be: a filmmaker.
And so here I was, a teenager who knew he had two passions in life: programming and filmmaking. Science and Art. X’s and O’s. Two cultures that were not supposed to get along with each other. Yet my teenage self was stuck in the middle. I was having an identity crisis at age 13. On top of that, I was told by my teachers and respectable elders around me the adage that it was better to position oneself as a specialist and not a generalist. In order to be successful, I was told, I had to go with one passion or the other. I had to choose: Science or Art.
I was frustrated with what older people around me were telling me. I had to choose between two things I liked? I had to give up something that brings me happiness? Why couldn’t I do both? Why couldn’t I combine the two together? I wanted to refuse what people said I had to do in order to be successful, but I wanted a role model to show me it was remotely possible. That was when I read up on Steve Jobs.
I read about how he, like my refugee family, was influenced by the counterculture and anti-war movements of the 60s and 70s, about how he and Steve Wozniak dared to dream big at the very university that I would eventually go to (UC Berkeley), and about how he continued his spiritual exploration through Buddhism, a philosophy that I too hold dear to my heart. These were not just mere coincidences Jobs and I just had. No, these shared passions that we had were my foray into stepping into Steve’s mindset, walking around it, and seeing that I too think differently, and that is a facet of me that I can share wherever I go in life. Steve Jobs made me comfortable with who I am: a denizen of two worlds. A person of both Science and Art.
I really look up to Steve, and his ability to ignore all the haters and continue doing what he loved doing. That is a mantra I will always strive to do in my life — to do what I love doing despite people telling me I would fail — and that is wisdom that I appreciate Steve giving to me. Thanks Steve. I will miss you.