Aron Ralston Was Here

I never have my camera with me for these opportunities. My little flip phone does okay. The lower end of okay, but still okay.

Aron Ralston’s talk was part of the Nuskin convention at UVU this weekend. A friend of mine who works with that company had some extra tickets, so Reilly and I jumped at the chance to hear him speak last night.

Company formalities took up the first hour of the evening: votes for Nuskin’s Got Talent, a Lifetime Achievement Award, recognition of the Gold and Lapis executives. Those familiar with the company know how this business works, their whole culture. Easily, at least 2,000 people filled the seats of the UCCU Center, and one could conclude that nearly all these people matched the network marketing archetype. A giant family all with this personality came to this reunion with loud music and a bright stage almost as bright as the smiles of the crowd, almost as clear as their product-enhanced skin. I felt out of place. I didn’t get the jokes. The whole setting was surreal.

It was worth the wait, though, because Aron Ralston told an incredible story. He cut his hair and wore a suit and tie. We watched the trailer to 127 Hours, we watched a few scenes from the movie during his talk. He shouted and whispered and reenacted scenes of videotaping himself and fidgeted with his prosthetic arm that he helped design. Effective pauses and homage to his mom. Out of body experience where he met his future son. Picture of the 4-year-old son nearly 10 years later. Pictures of him with his friends climbing various mountains around the world. Pictures of him climbing solo, appearing impudent, challenging fate, seeking the same solitude he pursued when that boulder pinned him.  Pictures of him giving back to the community, participating in search and rescue parties and other non-profit organizations.

He recounted that a truly bad day is when you’ll have to drink your own urine. He spoke of turning boulders into opportunities, being grateful to leave the arm behind that held him back. He prayed in the middle of nowhere. He thanked the boulder that he used to break his arm off and ultimately set him free. He described everything well, as if he’s had to tell this story thousands of times. He talked about what matters when death is imminent. He dismissed prestige and achievement and lauded his family.

His appearance at the Nuskin convention seemed fitting. He inspires.

I’ll never go hiking alone.

I haven’t seen the movie or read his book. But hearing him tell his own story live, in person, seems a sufficient primary source.

On Homework

Another semester is well under way. School campuses everywhere teem with eager and already-weary students. Disciples. Learners arrive early in the morning, sit through morning classes with their droning instructors, grab a bag of Corn Nuts or stop by the eatery for a refreshing caffeinated soda, then sit through a round of afternoon classes. Instructors stand in front of their classes appearing to teach. Lectures, they call them. Professors’ voices may penetrate 30-60% of student skulls, depending on attentiveness and head placement relative to the desk. If my head was down during a class, I had every intent of going to sleep. But of course, if I sat upright, that did not guarantee alertness or even consciousness in any way.

After a whole day of classes, students flock to the library or return to their eclectically decorated or otherwise messy apartments to do at least 17 trillion hours of homework. An estimated 2 hours for every credit hour. I came home to read about 100  pages every night from sundry novels that my various English classes assigned. Then I would have to write stuff or think about term papers or work on a group project. Then I’d do my assignments for French, which involved stumble-reading 20-40 pages, writing in a journal, and doing grammar exercises. Three sets of 20, with a 30-second rest between sets. I was up until 1:00 or 2:00 every night, only to wake up four to five hours later for another day.

I understood the importance of homework; I tried to make my brain achieve balance in learning between lectures and homework. On any particular day I had no more than four classes – four hours. But then came the eight hours of homework. Sometimes it felt that all I ever did was homework. But I also tried to make room for a social life and reassured my friends that I still loved them. When I started dating Reilly, I still did homework, which involved a different type of juggling that I wasn’t used to, but I still did the reading and writing and tortuous French grammar études. When I started dating Reilly more seriously, of course I spent more time with him, which meant there was less time to accomplish everything else. I got the same four to five hours of sleep, so it seems homework was compromised.

We got engaged before my last semester, and I knew that I had to restore my discipline if I were to finish well, or at least with my GPA intact. Our relationship had progressed enough, or maybe we were mature enough for him to work on his lesson plans and for me to do homework while we were in the same room. Sure, we would take a break and make out every once in a while, but most of the time we acted like adults with academic focus.

Is it possible to have an academic focus for making out? Admittedly, there were days after school that I had to tell Reilly that I just had to go home and do homework by myself, else all I would do is gaze into his eyes and admire his handsome visage and distract him from lesson plans with little, teasing kisses.

With Reilly’s help and encouragement, I made it through that last semester, and BYU let me graduate, most likely because I had something like 652 credits, 550 of which came from a science major from my early days at BYU before I wised up and changed my major to English. BYU was happy to be rid of me and all my credit-hoarding.

Don’t even get me started on the science homework.

So, I graduated and got married. Then there was no homework. Just like that. No term papers, no French grammar. I read for fun, though. The whole summer. I decided that I would look for a real-life job before summer’s end, and I started working the same week Reilly headed back to teaching. And the nature of my job doesn’t require homework. Sometimes I stay at the office a few extra hours each week, but I never bring work home. Every day, I study, read, write, edit, and revise. I get to work in groups to prepare presentations. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say that my job is just like homework, eight hours a day, . . . wait a second.

Academic focus. The differences are that I really like work, and – again – I get to leave it at the office, and I can come home to the best campus ever and do whatever I want, which is usually reading or watching television or fun house projects or surfing the internet or distracting Reilly while he’s creating lesson plans. He’s even entering grades into the computer right now.

I should go kiss him.

Of Course You Have to Brag at the Beginning

Because, what if we suddenly suck as the season progresses?

I joined an intramural kickball team, and tonight was our first game.

The rules allow everyone to play an equal amount of time. And I think everyone had a chance to score at least once.

We had fun. So there’s that.

And we quickly determined the “weak spot” in the outfield, but I never kicked the ball that far. We do have strong guys who can blast them into the upper troposphere (I said I’d brag, not grossly exaggerate), and we have a girl who’s played soccer and another girl who plays hockey. Lots of strong legs.

My strategy from now on is just to get on base, because my legs cannot do what theirs can.

Also, I played catcher. And my team fielded really well. They knew where and how to move the ball; everyone knew how to throw people out.

The teams switched leads throughout the game, but we got to kick at the bottom of the last inning, where a team member coached at third base. We confirmed our legitimacy with that. We needed two runs to win, and I had pop-flied out, but the rest of the lineup delivered. And when we scored the winning run, the game ended. We high-fived and cheered the losing team; and we almost got away with sneaking the game ball — the victory ball — off the field, mostly because the next two teams were praying with the referees to begin the next game.

Prayer will get you every time.

That’s why I don’t close my eyes when I pray.

We like each other quite a bit, and I’m actually not surprised by that. There was constructive coaching and serious fun. I’m honored to be playing with my team.

We’re actually a good team.

So maybe I’ll just keep bragging.

Which will mean even more once we figure out a name for ourselves.

Suggestions?