“That wine’s dank,” the server said as she scanned the menu.
My friend Wally and my wife sat by the window of Indulge Bistro & Wine Bar in Golden, Colorado, on the corner of Washington Avenue and 13th Street. The sun had set.
Like hearing a word spoken in a foreign language, my brain passed “dank” through some black box deep in my brain before the message came back: I think it means something good, sir.
“Dank is in now, right?” I said. “I’m trying to keep up with what words kids are using today. Heck, I didn’t even know the cool words when I was a kid.”
The server switched to a serious tone. “What I meant to say is this wine is a positive choice consisting of delicious undertones of…”
The town was still climbing out of the cold from a 20-year record-breaking snowstorm. It roared over the foothills on September 8th, 2020, blasting every tree, bush, and flower that was still enjoying summer with a layer of snow. Just a couple days before, mountain fires raged and gushed smoke into the air. The ice was a welcome antidote, although I wondered if a plague of locusts would come next.
On September 9th, when the storm was still putting its final touches on the landscape, my wife and I got married.
Outside. In Pine, Colorado, a 40-minute drive into the mountains. Why? Because for several months we’d planned an outdoor, “summer” wedding. Instead, we got a story for a lifetime and my wife discovered all kinds of ways to tape heating pads to her body and hide them under her dress.
Wally was my Best Man so we treated him to dinner to thank him for his help.
I guess you could say he did a dank job as a Best Man. Dank seems like an odd word to become cool. Dank is the sort of thing you worry about developing if you don’t change your underwear for a couple weeks and you sweat like crazy the whole time.
The server had cocked her head to the side. “I say a lot of random words,” she said.
“What about dope?” I said. “I’ve heard kids say dope. Is dope still in?”
After the server left, we tried our wines. Not bad. I leaned closer to the table’s center, looked Wally in the eye, looked my wife in the eye, and said, “This wine is really… RUSTY.”
Silence. Slow head shaking.
“Are you trying to make rusty a new word?” my wife said.
I wasn’t giving up that easily.
I asked Wally how business was going. We talked about changing who you are on the inside to create the life you want on the outside. Wally said a big change he was focused on was surrounding himself with the right people, including employees.
A couple years ago, he had the wrong employee who eventually quit.
“But I started thinking back,” Wally said. “To figure out when I should have let him go. And I actually narrowed it down to the exact day. Nate, it was when you, me, and Dylan had lunch and visited the Denver Money Museum.”
“I remember seeing pictures from that,” my wife said. “You were standing in front of a stack of cash.”
“Yeah,” I said. “It was like nine million or twenty-seven million dollars.”
“I assume you made a withdrawal?” she said.
Wally, Dylan, and I had eaten on the 16th Street Mall on a sunny day made for long, beer-fueled lunches. Half-soused, we ambled to the Denver Money Museum because, after discussing our business plans, it seemed fitting. Wally had gotten so charged up with creative energy, he tornadoed back to his office, mapped out an intense workweek, and broke it down for his employee, who promptly caught a cold and screwed up half the projects.
“He just couldn’t handle the energy,” Wally said. “That was the first clear indication I should have let him go. So now I know I need someone who’s hungry, hardworking, honest…”
After another round of wine, my wife told a story about a self-improvement group she’d been part of for seven years. She left the group after they pressured her to break up with me.
Wally looked at her. “When you think back, when was it actually over for you?”
A damn fine question. The table went silent. Dina thought about it a long time.
“When I was able to start dating in a healthy way.”
Turns out, that was three years before she actually left.
As I sipped more wine, I thought about the groups I’d been part of. I should have left one group when it seemed the craziest too – after I’d learned the standing meditation and it had transformed me mentally and emotionally. Instead of leaving, I signed up for another year and even joked with the facilitator’s assistant as I filled out the payment form. “Nah, I’ll just leave.” She laughed. I laughed. What a ridiculous idea. Except, I should have been serious.
We finished our meal. I leaned in and said, “That was so RUSTY!”
More silence and headshaking.
Think back to romantic relationships, client relationships, businesses or jobs that turned sour and you left. Chances are, you knew it was beyond repair before you finally ended things. When was that? Can you narrow it down to a single moment? If you can, what can that moment teach you?
If there was another person involved, how did that person behave? What gave you the subtle signal that turned out to be right?
How did your body feel in that moment?
Chances are, a few months or years from now, you will leave something. It could be a job, a client relationship, romantic relationship or your home.
Is there anything you should leave now?