So Long, and Thanks for All The Fish

A metaphor that has inspired me.

Just recently, I left an online community, (Discussion Forum), that I had been a member of for a number of  years. Here is my final post. I thought I would share it here as a further means to remind myself to stay the course on a path of personal growth and boundary definition. I can only hope that 2010 is as rich with learning and growth for me as 2009 was…

Writing does not come easy to me. This message was a challenge both to mentally construct and to compose. It is a catharsis I felt compelled to follow through.

Recent events have caused me to stop and evaluate what I get out of the online communities. In the last number of years, I have been active on a number of online discussion boards and I have been fascinated with the whole online community concept. I have learned much about myself and even some of my belief system through these communities. It has been a very rewarding journey. A few months ago I left a few of the sites I belonged to as I felt I had outgrown my need to be a part of that community. I liken it to a group of friends that just graduated from high school all sitting at the small town bar. Eventually, someone gets up and leaves to pursue other things and as they walk out the door, it is a bit sad to see the empty chair left behind. Many never come back.

The comparison of a small town bar is poignant to me as it is a vision and lesson I learned from an older brother years ago. I used that story to commit myself to a lifelong journey of learning and personal growth. In short, I want to be a better person tomorrow than I am today.

Last year, one of my close friends was piling all sorts of drama on me. He was projecting the negativity of his life onto mine and pulling me down in the process. I tried to help him much like a life guard would try to save a drowning man. Quite often, the flailing arms of a drowning man will only serve to seriously jeopardize the saviour and both will succumb. I decided last fall that one of my tough lessons and areas for personal growth was in the form of boundaries. I welcome many people into my life in varying degrees from acquaintance to deeply personal friend. I decided late last year that I need to focus on the quality of my interactions, not the quantity.

Why do I paint this picture? Well, the time has come for me to walk out the door of this online community.  This is not because I feel I am better or superior to people here; not at all. I am different. I do not judge others based on my values. My values are just that; mine. I cherish and respect that everyone is entitled to their own journey.

One of my personal challenges is in my definition of friendship. You see, to me, a deeply close and respected friend is not someone that is willing to do bodily harm to others on my behalf. The gift of friendship for me is when someone ventures to have a courageous conversation with me. He will walk the path that is least comfortable to tell me I am wrong and he is concerned about my words or actions. He refuses to blindly agree with me as a superficial means to show support. I want to be gently reminded by the people around me when I am walking a path that is destructive to myself or others. I try to leave a positive footprint on the people and things I interact with. Through those rare moments when someone calls me aside and lets me know I am acting contrary to the values I espouse to hold dear, I become a better person. This works both ways for me. If I am to have respect for myself I must offer the same in return to those around me.

Courageous conversations are my gift of friendship. I will not go punch someone in the face if they hurt your feelings. I will not go and launch a smear campaign against someone you disagree with. I will try very hard to examine the situation to see both sides and learn from it. I will encourage both parties to embark on a path of mutual benefit and reconciliation. I am quite capable of rising to the fight should the situation call for it, in truth, very rarely have I seen situations that call for it.  I see tremendous conflict arise from the smallest minutia. I do not have the wiring in my brain for this. In my professional capacity, I am often called upon to mediate conflict. I marvel at how people can get so worked up to a point I worry about them developing a stress related illness. Generally, all these situations really require is a bit of empathy, a dash of perspective, and an ounce or two of common sense.

I have found that I start to absorb negativity and conflict through osmosis. I am too vulnerable to it to stay in its proximity. Perhaps that is an area I need to develop some stronger personal boundaries. In the meantime, I need to remove myself from situations or environments that I find toxic to my values.

Please do not take this as a form of judgement or elitism from me. If you have read this far and have drawn those conclusions, that that is a failure in my ability to communicate. This is not about you, it is about me and what I find healthy for me.

To be pragmatic, I am at best an acquaintance to people on this site. I know very little about most of you and you know very little about me. I have no puffed up sense of self importance. I do not see myself as a pinnacle of virtue or paramount values. I write this mostly for my benefit.  I will leave no void, and my absence will not diminish this community at all.

If this message pisses you off, I am sorry. If a number of you add me to the category of people you wish to walk up to and punch in the nose, I am saddened, but I am ok with that too. If however, one of you reads this and decides that the amount of energy being spent in non-constructive conflicts is just out of proportion or context, than I am glad I shared this. If one of you read this and there is one less person at the next virtual dogpile, I am pleased.

I am quite a simple man really. I wake up in the morning. I am thankful for what I have and who I have in my life and I seek to spend each day where I smile more than I frown. I want to spend more time and energy on things that make me laugh, and less time on things that make me feel angry or annoyed. I cherish the concepts of joy and thankfulness. I wish to foster an attitude of gratitude.

2009 was an incredible year for me. I have struck a great balance of work and play and have a wonderful group to share my leisure activities. I do not take that for granted and I need to make sure that I continue to be a positive ambassador to the group I interact with. One of the things that I defend with ruthless passion is my leisure time. When we play, when we “truly” play, we regress to a childlike state of youthful exuberance and joy. That is a golden thing to protect. I am very careful to excise all forms of negativity and conflict from encroaching on my hobby pursuits. I do not want the joy of play to be fleeting and elusive, I want to give it a home that is safe from those detractors.

This online community represents the highest concentration of creative talent I have ever been exposed to. I am humbled and have been encouraged in numerous ways to try my hand at some creative projects. I am deeply and eternally grateful for my tenure here. I am humbled by the welcoming nature of the site and the group. I am at a personal crossroads in my journey and I must move on . I thank you all for the kindness, encouragement, and opportunity to learn many things. I wish everyone a very sincere and deeply heartfelt wish for happiness and contentment in your pursuits. May your days be filled with joy, awe, wonder, and excitement. I am not walking out the door with any hurt and angry feelings. I am getting up from the bar room table, because it is my time to move on. No drama; God please, no drama.



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