In about three hours, I will pretend to be a space pirate with a group of strangers. Tomorrow, another group of strangers and I will dare to ask the question: What if the United Nations was attacked by axe-juggling clowns in the midst of a diplomatic crisis? It will be the culmination of some of the hardest personal work I’ve done in quite some time.
This is one of those stories that probably suffers from context, but somehow it seems necessary anyway, so…here goes.
A few weeks back, a group of friends and family decided that I ought to take a trip to one of the nerdiest events on the planet, GenCon (it’s a gaming convention – role-playing games, board games, that sort of thing). I’ve been a number of times, but not for the past 3 years or so. Money has been tighter than usual this year for a few different reasons, so I wasn’t going to be able to make it. The aforementioned friends and family had other plans, though, and contributed to what I am calling the “Jason Is A Giant Nerd Foundation,” collecting enough (way more than enough, in fact) money for me to be able to take the time off of work and run off to the glamorous city of Indianapolis for 4 days. It’s seriously just about the nicest thing that’s ever been done for me, and the fact that it came from a whole group of people? For me, it’s like that moment at the end of It’s A Wonderful Life, minus the singing.
I promised above, though, that there was some personal work buried in this story. Here’s the thing…when I was asked if I would be willing to accept help in making this trip, I sincerely, desperately wanted to say no. Not out of a feeling that I didn’t deserve to do something fun, or out of a sense that it was too frivilous a thing for people to do for me, but because I knew that if it actually came together (something that I was in no way confident about), I would feel intensely…something. Intense emotions are not new to me, of course, but over the past couple of years, I’ve found myself increasingly risk-averse. I don’t mind feeling something intensely, but an unpredictable feeling…now that’s something that I’ve been trying to avoid, and as such I have sacrificed surprise on the altar of getting by (a trade which, honestly, might be necessary sometimes, but really sucks when it’s made all the time). I don’t know if it’s a product of aging or a response to how the last couple of years have gone or a combination of the two, but that risk aversion nearly cost a couple of things. One, the aforementioned opportunity to make believe that I’m a space pirate. And two, the opportunity for my friends to do something good and generous. So this morning as I look at my finally-finished stack of thank you cards to send out, I’m reminding myself that a gift is a good thing for all parties involved, and that sometimes the unpredictable thing is exactly what I need.