Tuesday, October 7, 2014

A lesson in humility

It's been a long time since I wrote on here. A lot has been going on, so hopefully I'll get some time to chronicle that at some point and share it with you all.

In the meantime, the reason I've come out from hibernation is something unusual happened today.

Several years ago before I moved to Helsinki, I was living in San Diego, working for Nokia. I decided that it was time for me to blow all of my vacation at once and finally set out on a solo adventure abroad. It was a time of testing wills. As it happened I was also training for my second half marathon and doing pretty well but was also getting a bit bored. To give you some context for the time.

This solo adventure abroad ended up being New Zealand, after my original plans (and flights, and bookings) for Egypt fell through as they had their civil war. Turned out to be a ridiculously great choice because well, New Zealand is awesome.

I went with a tour called Contiki (internationally known as "the fuck truck," which was unbeknownst to me until I was there amongst the youngsters). It's a group for people ages 18-33 only. I think you can see why it has the nickname.

Anyway, the tour itself was absolutely everything it promised to be and more. It was an adventure of a lifetime and I did more extreme sports than I thought I ever would: blackwater rafting, whitewater rafting, bungee jumping, canyon swinging, skydiving...the list is endless. Let's just say I blew a lot of money and made a lot of friends.

One of these friends was a guy named Grant. Tall, Australian, one of the friendliest guys I'd ever met, and one of the sweetest. He was one of the most fun to go out with and a great person to talk to.

At the end of our tour we all exchanged emails and eventually Facebook profiles, vowing to keep in touch with each other as only people who have experienced life-changing adventures do. Grant was one of the people I kept in touch with most at first; he was funny and we had a great time reminiscing. We even had a few Skype calls before things started to fall apart.

Life dealt Grant a pretty severe blow. The week he was back from our trip he was fired from his job managing a bank for something that though technically his fault, was pretty harsh. In summary, he was at a company event (with booze) when his branch called him and said they had found a discrepancy in the cash amounts for that day.  Being a responsible manager, he left the party to go back to work and help them find the money. I never found out if he did or not, but the next day he was called into the corporate offices and told that he was being summarily dismissed for "drinking on the job."

What was he supposed to do in that situation? Ignore his branch and stay at the party? There was no good response to the situation he was put in. It sounds like they were gunning for a reason to fire him, but that's neither here nor there.

Because he was fired, he had to move towns. Things got a bit hard for him and he got depressed. His Facebook posts turned from partying Grant to rather sad rants about life and pictures of his dog and cat. A great many of us tried to cheer him up at first but after this went on for six months and then a year, and beyond...we drifted away.

The sheer self-pity in the posts were enough to hide him from my newsfeed. I stopped wanting to hear it because it wasn't helpful. No matter how much people tried to help him he just kept himself in a hole. I guess that's how depression works.

The last I'd heard from him was two and a half years ago when I was still living in Finland. I responded to his IM but in the end it was the same: he said he was giving up on trying to find a longtime girlfriend and wanted me to join Twitter so I could follow his ramblings. I said I didn't have a Twitter account and we sort of left it at that.

...until today. Today he IMed me for the first time in years.

Admittedly I hesitated responding to him. I remembered everything that had happened previously. I heard from some of my other friends who still kept in touch that he'd had cancer, but that he was getting over it. Otherwise it was a continuation of photos of his dog.

I did respond though, after a few minutes. I figured what could the harm be? He's a guy wanting to catch up. He wasn't the first. Who knows what someone will tell you.

In talking to him I could see how much he'd changed. Calmer, more thoughtful. As we chatted more I read through his profile to see what I'd been missing all these years. Prostate cancer. Bad prostate cancer. Such major surgery that he is now infertile. Massive weight loss.

And yet the sunny positive Grant that had been present in our travels together was returning. It was no longer rambunctious, but still there. He had come to accept the inevitability of his situation and embrace the long and tough journey ahead of him. It was inspiring. I felt like an asshole for having ignored him all these years.

So I thought I'd give him a little bit of fame here on my blog, even if it's a little thing. I wished him well and told him to message me whenever he wanted.

Thanks for the reminder Grant. To life.