Perhaps this is a lesson in navigating the world that is scary at times as an introvert. I received a very heartfelt email from my childhood next-door neighbors.

YOU’VE BEEN A GOOD FRIEND FOR A REALLY LONG TIME… YOU WERE A PLEASANT NICE “KID” AS A YOUNG MIDDLE SCHOOLER, FUN TO TALK WITH  WHEN IN HIGH SCHOOL, AND THROUGHOUT THE YEARS IN AUSTIN WHEN YOU AND VINCE WERE BREAKING RECORDS…AND THE WONDERFUL WIN OVER SOUTHERN CAL FOR THE #1 SPOT, GREAT STUFF… REGRETFULLY DURING THE PAST 5 YEARS AS YOU BLAZED NEW TRAILS WE WERE “TOO” BUSY, AND NOT AS ATTENTIVE AND SUPPORTIVE AS WE SHOULD HAVE BEEN…FRANKLY I DID A POOR JOB OF COMMUNICATING WITH YOU…FORGIVE ME…IF I HAD DONE A BETTER JOB AND HAD BEEN MORE ATTENTIVE MAYBE I WOULD NOT HAVE HAD TO READ “THE NEWS” IN THE CHRONICLE…. I WILL NOT TALK WITH YOUR PARENTS BECAUSE IF THEY WANTED TO TALK OR WERE ALLOWED TO TALK, WE WOULD HAVE KNOWN PRIOR TO TUESDAY….SO WE WILL WAIT AND HOPE YOU WILL WANT TO SHARE INFORMATION WITH US SOMETIME. HEY, I’LL EVEN TELL YOU WHAT IT FEELS LIKE TO NOT HAVE ANY CHEMO FOR OVER 13+ MONTHS….CAME BACK FROM THE BRINK AND FEEL VERY STRONG….WE ARE YOUR FRIEND AND HOPE YOU WILL CHOOSE TO LET US HELP AS YOU FEEL WE SHOULD IN THE FUTURE…

The email required a few re-reads. What happened Tuesday? I think what they meant by Tuesday was really Monday, since printed news is usually a day late. What was written about me in the Chronicle? Was there something even I didn’t know about of my own life?

As I read through the articles online, I have a sneaking suspicion they figured out about my divorce. (I was later told it was the printed article they reacted to.) I was less ashamed to tell my parents (though I was pretty ashamed) than I would them. I knew not how to break this news to them. As someone that has a lot of respect for people much wiser than me, how would I ever be able to convince them this was the path I was supposed to take? No one wants to see someone they love go through hurt, and both paths would have led me down a journey as what is now known to me as Beyoncé’s Lemonade.

We felt like this was our news to share. I was still very much ashamed at the time, but I also didn’t want our personal lives to affect what we could accomplish professionally. We worked so hard to get to where we were and I didn’t want people to think their experience at Oxheart would be different. I hope that we have accomplished that. I think our James Beard award settles that.

The problem with how the media writes about Oxheart is they rarely mention my name or that we have a whole staff of people that make this shit happen. My neighbors have over the years clipped every article that was written about us in the paper. They were so proud of us. I would find stacks of articles about us in my room that I grew up in. My neighbors wanted to make sure my parents didn’t miss one thing Justin and I accomplished. Over time, the articles mentioned me less. This was not because I had less to do at Oxheart, rather I made a choice to remove myself from the limelight. I hated all the interviews. I hated the way I looked in the photos. I hated the overly routine questions. I hated even more, that my answers seemed so routine. Every question receives very similar responses and the amount of thought that goes into the response diminishes until I can’t decide if its true anymore. I chose to retreat my voice into the background and let Justin be our voice. He’s no better than I in public (probably worse), and is more of an introvert than I am, but he was willing to make that sacrifice for me. Justin never did try to take all the credit for what we built at Oxheart, but he is better at hiding his feelings than I am. He took the limelight so that I could remain partially human. I had to find out what was real again to me.

Our lives will always be entwined. Perhaps we know each other better than we know ourselves. We spent a decade of our 20s helping each other reach places we never thought possible. I tear just thinking about how amazing this whole journey has been, reaching so many life goals with one project. As much as we think other people’s opinions matter, we still consult each other frequently on professional matters. I may be the more silent voice of Oxheart or our other joint ventures, but the truth is neither of us could be where we are without the other. If this is the starting point of my journey, I wonder where it will go. This time, the silent voice won’t be me.