Hey, I'm still Here!

That phrase has been rattling around my head for the last week. It started Saturday when I was sitting at my computer doing some software patches on my company's CMS. Ah, you probably don't want to know. There are only around 850 people in the world who care about the kind of work I do and we all get together at a conference every October and drink too much and hug each other because it's hard to be a geek and actually like it. We should probably wear costumes.

Anyway, it was a slow process so I had a lot of time to think while lots of little files dashed off to their assigned corners. Mostly I thought about how my Echo post was a lot funnier in my head. An old friend who read it thought I might be coming down with something. Carolyn read it and was genuinely alarmed.

"You had a medical emergency?!"

"Well, no. It just felt like one."

"What if it had been a real one?"

"Umm, we probably wouldn't be having this conversation?"

Lots of things are funnier in my head. Carolyn watches me wandering the house muttering and laughing to myself. She's used to it. In public it just creeps people out. It's probably why nobody sat at my table in the lone restaurant in Echo the night before the race. Guy sitting in the dark with a pint of beer giggling to himself - yeah, I should probably work on plugging up my leaking internal monologue. I'd have more friends.

I felt bad because the post had a kind of "I'm too old to race any longer" vibe to it. While I admit, I'm struggling a bit with finding my place in the sport as I get older, I'm not ready to give it up. If nothing else, it would leave a hole in my life I don't know how to fill. I started a post about my still being here, but it was too full of details about security updates to content management systems and was shaping up to be even more depressing than my last post so I gave up.

Still sitting at my desk with time to kill, I started going through a file box of old photos.  I found a tab for "bike racing" and I pulled out this:

That's me on the starting line for the 1988 Mudslinger. That's the same race I'm going down to Corvallis to line up for in a couple weeks. Yup, I might be older and slower. I might have trouble getting on an off my bike because I'm stiff. I might test to the breaking point the credibility of your courteous shout of "Good Job!" during a race, but you will never, ever, look as awesome as I did back then. I have that, and I am still here racing.

That phrase came back today as I was riding the Mill Creek loop, thinking about a long post my friend Miko Hayashi posted on Facebook about the pseudo-connectivity of Facebook. I think she has a good point. There's so much dull chatter, so much I don't agree with or, more frequently, don't care about. It seems most of my high school class has landed there and there's sort of a rolling reunion going on. I have maybe a dozen friend requests from old classmates that I haven't responded to, not because I don't like them, but rather, to quote a line from "Grosse Pointe Blank" - "There is no us here". We've had a lifetime apart and I'm not sure I really want to know what you've been up to for the last 36 years.  At least that's what I thought.

But something changed for me last Thursday night. Carolyn and I celebrated our 27th anniversary and I snapped a pretty bad selfie of us kissing and, while running it up on Instagram, hit the "share on Facebook" button and all 163 of my Facebook "friends" were informed that it was our anniversary.  I regretted it as soon as I did it. Why was it important to me to shout about this personal thing? But 40 people "Liked" the post and quite a few commented and those comments were thoughtful and sincere. They came from old friends we haven't seen in years and others so far away we only see them once a year or so. But they also came from people I haven't seen since Jimmy Carter was President, but that didn't diminish my gratitude for hearing from them, even if it was just a "Like". Those messages, those "Likes" are all a way of saying "I'm still here" and "I'm glad you're still here". We don't have to be close. We really can't be. Miko was right about Facebook not delivering on the hope that it could let people stay close over long distances. And I was right, we can't make up for 36 years of lost time.

I've come to believe something else is going on here. I thought about that Malaysian jet that's gone missing, and the recent news that transponders in the plane's engines had been pinging satellites for hours after the plane vanished. The experts described it as the engines saying "I'm still here!" every hour. Little devices dutifully saying what several hundred souls, more than anything else in the world, wished they could say to their loved ones, "I'm still here." Until the transponders stopped.

These are wonderful, terrible times. We can see so much of our world in so much detail with a click of a mouse. But that grand scale of vision, so much information at our fingertips, has made us all so small in the landscape. I think, sometimes we lose ourselves in the constant rush of data. Horrible things happen right on the heels of something lovely or funny. It all starts to feel the same. Those little messages, those little "Likes" feel like we're waving to each other on our own life rafts, hoping we don't drift apart. I think that's important now.

I thought about that on my ride today. And now that I'm back, I wanted to tell you all that yes, I'm still here but mostly, I wanted to tell you, more than anything, that I'm glad you're here. Even if we don't talk much. Even if we're far away.


Anonymous said…
warm, fuzzy feelings of gratitude knowing you and the fabulous Ms. D...JoAnn G.
kendele said…
Never ever ever ever plug your leaking internal monologue. Please? I miss you, my friend.

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