First Contact

Many of us tend to mark our relationships based upon a place, experience, or time period they began. For instance, I have friends I have known since high school. Others that began at past jobs. Still others are tied to events. For instance, I met my wife when her computer broke through a mutual friend who called on me for help.

These marks also infer a relative timeline for the length of the relationship and, sometimes, even its depth. If I tell you about my friend Dan who I have known since high school, that automatically tells you I have known him for a fairly long time. You might even infer that the relationship was a close one if we are still friends after all these years.

If I tell you about a guy I used to work with a particular company, and you also know that this company closed in the late 1990′s, you now know I have known him for a bit more than 10 years and, once again, if we are still in touch it must have been a relationship of some meaning.

We have so many more places we are now. For example, I have friends on Twitter that I have known since we met on Jaiku. I can use that now departed social network as a place – a point of first contact – as any other. Saying this, you know roughly how long I have known them in that context. And what does the fact that we remain friends infer? Perhaps one might guess that we followed each other to this new network after the other one died to maintain that connection.

I’m sure some of us have a few friends that we know from, say, Facebook that are not on Twitter so we maintain a presence on both. Still other relationships can blossom in online forums or blogs that we frequent and comment on.

I wonder if will one day, many years from now, I’ll be able to say, “I’ve known her since Twitter” and have that impart the same sort of immediate understanding of length and importance as high school does?

All of this is to say that these virtual places are as much a point of beginning and ending as those we have long-held in the real world. And, just like school or business or events, these virtual places begin and end, open and close, occur and stop. Yet, as well, the connections and relationships are what remain and the strongest transcend.

Unsung Superheroes

You should have seen their faces.

This group of about twenty men and women had just spent the past thirteen hours beginning at one in the morning doing the hardest and most physically demanding activities of their lives. Over the last seventeen miles they had run, crab walked, bear crawled, alligator walked, elephant walked, carried a giant fallen tree trunk (for three hours), and even ran for a mile or two carrying another person across their shoulders. When they weren’t moving forward, they had done push ups, squats, lunges, and more. Some of it while standing in a cold river or lake. All of it, while carrying a backpack weighing forty-to-sixty pounds that was never allowed to touch the ground (as well as a couple of additional twenty-five-plus pound weights the team also had to figure a way to manage).

They thought at this point it was over. After a grueling five-mile Indian run through the busy streets in the heart of the city, they thought there could be no more. Mission accomplished. That they would get their reward (a small patch and the knowledge of having completed the course) and find a way home. They were wrong. There was more. And, when they discovered this, their faces bore the weight of every minute that had come before. In their eyes, the thousand yard stare of a people lost in suffering and pain. Yet, when the word was given to go that extra mile, carrying a buddy, they rose up, gathered what remained of their resolve, and did it.

I don’t consider myself very handy. In fact, when it comes to most DIY home fix-up stuff, I’m actually quite intimidated. Mainly because I have no clue where to start or what to do if something goes wrong. So, you might imagine what was going through my head when we purchased a house for a price so low that we could have put it on a credit card had the closing company been able to accept them. The caveat being, of course, that it needed a lot of work. Not as much as one might think, given the price. Yet, a fair amount. Enough so that it is things I have never done before. I’m like a deer in headlights.

Right now, our plumber can’t continue his work until the bathroom sub-floor is replaced. The Instructions show two people, one weekend, and a skill level of moderate-to-hard. I’m one person, with a few hours, and a skill level of w-t-f. Yet, here I am, about to load up my car with a crowbar, a reciprocating saw, my broken-toes, and a hefty helping of gumption and devil-may-care.

My four-year old daughter, Beatrix, always — Always! — tries food she has never had before. Despite the fact she knows she won’t like it. She tastes it, chews it, swallows it, and then decides. It does not matter what it is, she will always give it a fair shot. I contrast this with the large number of people who will refuse to eat something just based on how it looks or sounds. Not my Beatrix.

All of us have struggles, challenges, fears, and other impediments that we must overcome on a daily basis. More often than not, our boundaries are illusions created by the fear of what we are truly capable of. All of us, at some point, push through this fear and learn a valuable lesson in the process.

That, in ways both large and small, we are all superheroes. We move faster than speeding bullets (that we pull the trigger on), are more powerful than locomotives (that we purposefully step in front of), and bound tall buildings (of our own making) with a single bound. A secret identity we don’t ever see or admit to. Yet, when the task calls for it, we step into the booth as a person incapable and step out the other side as another doing things we never dreamed we could.

This essay is dedicated to GORUCK Challenge Class 167. A group of superheroes if there ever was.

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