According to some, the only sure things in life are death and taxes.
I'm not sure that's entirely true. After all, some people avoid taxes often. That's either the beauty or the failing in our tax system here in America and I'm really not so interested into getting into that right now. I think also that many of us avoid Death, though eventually that dark robed specter catches up with us. There are other things that are guaranteed. In life, we're all sure to experience moments of pain, moments of loss as well as those moments of perfect joy.
This is on my mind because of a recent death in my family. My uncle passed last Friday and it was unexpected.
I am handling it fairly well. I'm not sure that's a 'good' thing. In retrospect, I think I knew him less than my brother and sisters. My sisters have been heavily affected by his passing, as has my mother. But, the man provided the safety of his home to me as a child for many a summer. He (almost) always was upbeat, happy, and energetic. He had a real passion for life. There was never a dull moment in his presence.
At the same time, the man was human and had his flaws. I'm not calling him out on them because we're all human. We're all fucked up. We all have our flaws. I certainly have mine. I'm no saint.
I think about the family he's left behind, his children, and what they must be going through. I've seen the Facebook posts of other family and the pain they're all having to endure. It breaks my heart. I wonder if I'm not experiencing that now because I wasn't as close to him as my other family was. I'm sure I'll feel it at the wake tomorrow morning. But, I'm still torn by some sensibility that I should feel it now and not just then.
Sometimes, I wonder if I'm even still human.
I wonder if when my parents pass, I'll have the time or space to feel it. I know I'm going to have to be the responsible one making all the arrangements and handling all of their affairs. I'm the child reared for that task. I'm the rock that will keep the rest of them balanced out. I don't mind the role. I just sometimes wonder why it needs to be this way.
This past Saturday, I ran the Run For Your Lives 5K outside of Baltimore, MD. This was the first time I ran a 5K and, in my opinion, it was the perfect gateway race.
Most runners—in my mostly incorrect view of the world—are born runners. They are the kids that get into cross country and track running in high school. I was not one of those kids. I never joined either and never really, truly ran until the Army forced me. I did grow to love it and found a happy Zen spot, which I assume most other runners discover as well. The whole world just falls away and you are left with your breathing, the beating of your heart, and the peace of just being.
For those that have not heard of it, the RFYL is not just a plain 5K. It is an ‘adventure’ race. An adventure race involves running but adds obstacles to the course to make it more difficult, which is to say, awesome. This was the first event and, as far as I know, is unique because of the theme and that to survive you not only have to complete the obstacles but you have to avoid the zombies. As a runner, you’re equipped with the standard racing bib and the not so standard flagged belt ala flag football. You are provided with three flags. If all three flags are taken, you still complete the race but are considered a zombie and are disqualified from placing.
What sort of obstacles were there? There was a massive uphill climb, for one. We had to dive through corrugated pipes which simulated a storm or sanitary sewer system. There was also the—quite unexpected—obstacle which involved swimming across a pond. Yeah, they gave us the option of running the long way around the pond but, really, who was going to do that? Okay, so maybe it was only 55 degrees Fahrenheit outside and the water felt ice cold. Also, yes, a few people did choose to run around the pond instead. Not me, though. I was there for the thrill and the challenge. Besides, everyone knows zombies can’t swim. Right? Right?
There were a number of climbs (walls and rope netting) and a pool of blood we had to wade through. There was a dreaded gauntlet which involved running through dangling intestines. There were just so many fun obstacles.
The major complication was not the man-made or natural obstacles. The zombies were the actual challenge. They served not just as a physical challenge; they were also a psychological challenge. I don’t care if zombies are not real. When you run uphill through a forest, dodging zombies left and right only to reach a dead end on the trail it is terrifying. Needing to turn around and do it again was both frightening and exhilarating. In the moment, it becomes a very real test of survival.
At the beginning of the race, I saw the zombies as people in makeup with a specific job to do. By the middle of the race, I stopped looking at the zombies as people. I no longer saw faces. I saw blood, tattered clothing, and shambling death. My mind kicked into fight or flight mode and I found myself calculating ways around them. I gauged their speed and response to the folks in front of me when there were other runners ahead. I quickly planned strategies and implemented them with finality.
Did I survive?
You’re damn right I survived. I was not the fastest runner (never have been and I know this time I did not even come close). I did survive it wholly intact, however. When I crossed the finish line—by sliding through a hole in a chain link fence—I felt a real sense of accomplishment. I felt great.
I’d do it all again in a heartbeat. Sadly, I know the run is not scheduled to return to the Baltimore area before the end of 2012. That just means I will need to get off my butt and travel to run it again. In the meantime, I may pick up a few other races to keep myself prepared.
Were there any negatives? Of course. This was the first RFYL ever and, as such, there were a few issues. Many have already complained about the parking issues or that the ‘free’ swag for running did not have the logo on it. These are all issues that I know they’re working on remedying already. These issues were really minor and did not detract from the run. I felt they did the best they could to accommodate the large turnout.
On a scale of one to five half-eaten body parts, with one being the worst and five the best, the Run For Your Lives 5K receives a very juicy five.
Were you there on Saturday? What was your experience?
Where has the time gone?
That is the question I find myself asking most anymore. Five years ago, I began to dedicate myself to my occupation more so than to my personal goals and ambitions. I grabbed my ambition, my dreams, by their horns and wrenched. The horns of the beast were steered in a new direction but the neck of that beast snapped.
I had my blinders on. I could not see the damage.
Five years later, I realize I have been going forward only on momentum. Sometimes, momentum is all we have. But without passion, without those dreams, without love and interest, we are more likely to fail.
I am failing now. So, where has the time gone?
There were some positive results. Doors did open. Many more opportunities arose. I climbed up the ladder. Money improved. Five years later, I can afford to live on my own in one of the richest counties in the United States. I learned a good deal more about business in general.
More noticeable, naturally, are the negatives. We humans tend to remember the negatives more. I have not honestly loved my occupation in nearly five years. I have had to give hours and hours of my personal life over to the job. Social life dwindled. Each day began to resemble every other. My passion for life died off. I lost my way.
My writing, one of my great loves, failed.
I realize I have not been moving forward. I have been running in place.
What to do? What to do?
A couple months ago, I began taking career placement tests. Maybe I was just in the wrong field. Maybe there is something I can do, where I am, to reawaken that passion. I have taken the strengths finder tests. I also paid for the Kolbe tests. The results were pretty clear: my personality and strengths lend well to the entrepreneurial path.
The very idea of following that path was exciting. There is a part of me that held back because of the excitement. The part of me that fears that the change is what is exciting, not the destination itself. So, despite a number of early ideas for startups, I have held off.
It is time to make that change though. It is past time to find my passion again and, finally, to follow it to wherever it leads.
Today is the official start of my fall classes. I'm taking quite a few this semester. I'm trying to get off my butt to actually finish out my degree.
The first assignment involved posting an introduction for the course. Here's mine:
Hi! My name is Ron and I like long walks on the beach, cuddling, and sarcasm.
I am nearing the end of my two year program. Clocking in at nearly a decade, it has easily been the longest two years of my life. Life is what happens while you're making plans--or so I've heard. I am a Business Management major. Currently, I'm also the Chief Technology Manager for a civil engineering firm in Northern Virginia. As a result, my time is stretched a bit thin.
If student success were a food, it would be a house salad because everyone knows that--deep down--it is what they really want or need but some of us skip it to have room for the cheesecake instead.
I am feeling very reflective today. I have been bombarded by memories of my past for the last day or two--memories of twelve years ago and memories of seven years ago. I blame my family.
I blame them because this past weekend was a family reunion. The last family reunion was eighteen years ago. Now I'm suffering flashes of memory. Some of them are beautiful. Many of the flashes are sad. A few are happy.
They're all quite random.
The morbid part of my psyche wonders if I'm not lying down some where, bleeding out and suffering the cliched life flashes. The rest of my psyche is just sitting back and trying to drink in the past, drink in the beauty.
Today was quite the day. The background is this: I'm on vacation this week. It is actually a Staycation because I was not planning on going anywhere; I just needed a break from work and to burn through some vacation time that I will lose at the end of the year.
I have worked every day this week. I did not work that much Monday or Tuesday but today, today I did my seven hours. I thought I knew what I was getting into when I signed on as CTM. Okay, I actually did expect this on occasion but not on my week of vacation.
Since I took over, we have had nothing but trouble with our domain controller. It will pass, I am sure. Hopefully sooner rather than later.
I'm thinking about popping back in here, straightening up and maybe posting again.
For the moment, I'm just relaxing in a recliner, leaning back, feet kicked up with an old school batman t-shirt on. It is good to be on vacation.