I met TJ (as he was known then) on September 10, 2001. It was my first day at a new job, where he was currently working soon after he had ended his stint in San Francisco. He showed me his piece published in the San Francisco Chronicle called "Diary of a Failure", outlining his story of his successes, troubles, and lessons learned in his entrepreneurial adventures in the pre and post dot-com boom and bust.
On September 11, 2001, the world changed. I lived in lower Manhattan, which was then covered in tanks, heavily armed military men, checkpoints requiring ID every block, and the smell of burning metal from the smoldering towers that lasted for at least 6 more months.
TJ offered his home in Brooklyn as a respite from the chaos. He was a great listener, but he also was able to help me put in context the emotions that everyone was going through, himself included, and how to adapt, adjust, and process all of them.
Back then I was a senior in college still trying to figure out my path in life. And TJ always was there to offer insights into any adventure or path I was thinking of pursuing.
After I left NYC, I chatted with him online all the time, with his handle, Shaxper. Over the last 16 years, I've worked for non-profits, for-profits, large multinational organizations, small agencies, doing everything from campaigns to fundraising to communications to user experience design and so much in between.
I can't help but think that TJ has sewn these seeds in my life to always challenge myself and explore the possibilities that life has to offer, even if they are scary and you have no idea if they will pan out.
I think about TJ often. I have a picture of him on my desk shelf, as a way to remind myself of potential and possibilities.
Strangely enough, 16 years after meeting TJ, I find myself starting my own company. I'm in the entrepreneurial space he talked so much about back in 2001. I wish he was here to mentor me now. I wish Greenhouse for Startups still existed. He always seemed to be able to tell what the future holds before any of the rest of us saw it coming, and I wish I had him there to guide me through that.
Also, strangely enough I've moved to Colorado and have visited the Denver Botanical Gardens that he loved so much (as I found out through his family through his obituary). Any time I visit it, I sit down on a bench and think of TJ meditating there about the world, his friends, his family, and his place in all of it.
I miss my friend.