Saturday, March 5, 2011

Progress and Change

A year ago today, Grant's life changed in an instant (more on this later) aboard his snowmobile. I wrote about it here: linky

Since then, there's been a lot of sacrifice, suffering, and hard work on his part and from everyone around him, most notably his wonderful wife Shawna. They've given 100% of their time and energy to his rehabilitation; anything less than a full recovery is not an option.

He's been helped along the way by an embracing community of organizations and individuals who understand his stubborn commitment to rejoin society with a whole body as Korg 3.0. Arguably at the top of that list is the High Fives Foundation. To quote directly from their website, "High Fives Foundation is a Tahoe-based non-profit organization dedicated to raising money and awareness for athletes who have suffered a life-altering injury while pursuing their dream in the winter action sports community."

A couple weekends ago, Grant invited Ethel and me to join him for his halftime appearance at the UNR basketball game. I got to be on photo duty while Ethel and the rest of the crew lined his path out onto the court.

Watching the Korg 3.0 promo video

Video plays far overhead to a packed house

Making his way onto the court

Leaving the court; notice the nice heel-strike!

Passing the Korg 3.0 crew

He's been out of the wheelchair for a couple of months now, sworn to never return to it. And he's also moved past the walker, exchanging it for a pair of arm braces. He's started, in the last couple of weeks, turning the arm braces around to make them canes, all part of the quest to walk again. And, just a few nights ago, he held the arm braces in the air and stood, unaided, supporting his full body weight, for the first time nearly a year. Watch the video on High Fives' Vimeo channel here. And for the most current tidbits from Grant's recovery, visit him on facebook...or his youtube channel (gratuitous shirtless cameo by yours truly).

So back to that first sentence about life changing in an instant. I waxed poetic after Grant's injury a year ago, and I'm going to subject you to a little bit more. Hey, you've made it this far!

Several years ago, I was asked to make a timeline of my life up to that point, taking note of important (totally subjective) events and periods. Over the course of a morning, I trawled back through a lifetime's worth of memories and came out the other side with a timeline with about 20 tick marks on it. A pattern soon emerged.

About half of those tick marks corresponded to lengthy processes, encompassing months or years. Learning how to snowboard, for example. This process was a hugely positive one, having a substantial influence on who I am today. In no particular order, this sport has exposed me to a community of genuine, fantastic, and positive people; has given me reason to travel to mountains near and far; has been a safe place suitable for frequent catharsis in difficult times; and has been a source of bottomless spirituality. Not to mention bottomless pow turns!

The other half of those tick marks corresponded to instantaneous or very short events (less than a few minutes, say). Breaking both of my legs in a snowboarding accident, for example. The impact on my life of learning how to snowboard unquestionably pales in comparison to the impact of the injury, which had a far-further-reaching effect on who I am. In spite of the glowing review I just gave for what snowboarding has done for me, the changing effect of this instantaneous injury far overshadows the aforementioned benefits. It changed the path of my life in unimaginable ways: reset my perspective on disabilities, made me realize how much I'd taken for granted, and introduced me to a new athletic pursuit...which in turn ignited a passion for world travel, yet again realigned my mental approach to challenges of all sorts, and put me on a collision course with the girl of my dreams.

This pattern continued, not of learning vs. injury, but of lengthy process vs. instant in time. Without a single exception, the most formative and change-inducing influences in my life were instantaneous.

Unable to resist obvious temptation, the engineer in me added up the total elapsed time for all of those highly influential events. Five minutes, give or take. And if we cherrypick the top 5 of these events...about 30 seconds.

Changing gears for an aside, it's easy to argue that who we are today is simply the sum of every thought, experience, and interaction in our pasts.

Okay, back on track. We're going to say that my present self owes its constitution to my amalgamated experiences. And we're also aware that the handful of those particular experiences that were most influential total a whopping thirty seconds. I can then conclude the essence of my being and who I am today has been defined by those thirty seconds, chopped into memorable little bits. Is the rest fluff? Absolutely not (see above argument that I'm the sum of my past). But the core? Less time than your average pee break.

Needless to say, this realization presented itself as an epiphany. I enjoy thinking back to it and regard it as a valuable lesson. We'd best be ready for those fleeting moments; hell, we'd better square our shoulders and step in front of them. These are the experiences that force us to evolve and to improve.

So, to come full circle, feel free to ask Grant if the few seconds in the air when he knew it would be a bad landing, followed by the fraction of a second that it took his L-1 to explode and shower fragments into his spinal cord has been a defining moment in his life; I'm quite confident in his answer.


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