Delusions of Grandeur • R.D. Rhyne

November 29, 2020

Sunday Letter: Swallowed in the Sea

It was a hard week. A lot came crashing down on me at once. Not anything specific that happened this week, but everything about this week. Thanksgiving week.

This was not the first Thanksgiving I spent away from family. We moved to California in 2016, so this was actually the fifth. Before the recent rise in cases, we had plans to drive cross country. Spend several weeks back east with family and old friends.

Plans. Travel.

Words that seem foreign after this awful, unpredictable year. Then moments after we canceled our trip, I was reminded why I should be thankful.

Both of my boys have “their playlist” where they collect favorite tunes. This makes car trips easier[1]. They also fill our home, as the boys discover how many devices in the house can play their music.

I’m proud that both of them have an eclectic taste that spans genres and generations. Music matters to them. It motivates them, and inspires their creativity.

It was my youngest son and his ferocious appetite for new music that gifted this story.

Like many his age, he lives on his iPad. He plays games and watches his fair share of YouTube, but iPad is also his canvas. And his jukebox.

I watched with envy as he searched music and related artists on Apple Music. Impressed with how quickly he figured out he could add anything to his playlist with a long-press.

Sidebar, so I can talk a little about how cool I am. My boy was transfixed by the full-screen player in Apple Music. “It looks so cool, Dad. I like how it takes over the whole screen.”

At the beginning of the year, the Music team needed some help getting their iPad update ready in time for WWDC. Our software releases were massive this year. All hands on deck kind of effort. So when Music needed help, our program office was desperate enough to let a manager take a few weeks sabbatical to help.

People ask what it’s like to work at Apple. Nine months after I split myself in half[2], I watched my son discover music using software I helped to write.[3]

As great as it made me feel, that isn’t why I’m telling you the story. The moment I want to tell you about happened as we were talking about Coldplay.

Yes, Coldplay. Some people like them, some don’t. I love them… and so does my youngest son. I know their catalog by heart. I couldn’t help but sing along as he cued track after track. He wanted to sing too, so he tapped the Lyrics button.

We sang. We danced. It was the kind of moment every parent dreams they’ll share with their children. Music matters to us. It motivates us, and inspires our creativity.

Then one of my favorites came on:

And I could write a book. The one they’ll say that shook. The world and then it took. It took it back from me.

Swallowed in the Sea isn’t the kind of song he’d pick by the sound of it. It was the lyrics that grabbed his attention.

He’s a storyteller[4].

I watched and smiled as the world opened up before his eyes, and made just a little more sense to him.

This week was harder on me than it has been over the past five years. There were also moments of joy. Memories, like this story, which remind me things are going to be okay.

Fortunate for you, my dear readers, I was creatively productive during the week. On Saturday, I finished drafting the final story in The Traveler series. It’s a bit of a beast, north of 6,000 words. We’ll see how much survives in edit.

But I finished a story.[5]

Wherever you are, I hope you’re staying safe. Just a few more weeks before we toast 2020 into the history books.

  1. “Hey Siri, play <child_name>’s Jams.” ↩︎

  2. My team had demos planned for WWDC as well. ↩︎

  3. Parachuting into another team is hard on the other team. The Music team was really awesome to work alongside, and they welcomed me even as I stumbled to learn to their style and codebase. ↩︎

  4. A damn creative one, if I’m permitted to brag. ↩︎

  5. 🎉🥳 ↩︎