This one will be hard to understand for most of you, but I need to write about it anyways.
I fell asleep on the couch watching the Diamondbacks game tonight, so when I woke back up about 11:30 I opened my laptop to check who won (the dbacks did!). After that i decided I would do a quick once over of my e-mail and head to bed. When I opened my mail I saw an e-mail from a guy I’ve known on-line telling me someone I knew had died.
You see, I sort of grew up on the Internet. I would join chat rooms at all hours through my teens and in to my twenties and talk to random people. In this little sub-culture of people I made friends. Some were in Phoenix and I ended up meeting, befriending, and even working with over the years. Some were morons I wouldn’t ever want to meet, or avoided meeting again. However, others were just nothing more than digital text me. I still considered those people to be my friends in many cases.
Over the years, there was one group of people that I chatted with more frequently than others, and when I do log on these days I still stop in to say “hi”. These guys were once a hacker group, or at least what teenagers thought a hacker group was at the time. Today it’s more just a group of 20-something computer professionals that have been chatting with each other for as long as 10+ years. These are some of the guys that motivated me to learn, challenged me to be better with computers, and I can honestly say I wouldn’t have the life or career I have today without having gone through it with them.
Well one of them passed away in his sleep at a hotel on Tuesday. You see, he was morbidly obese, had diabetes, drank heavily, and really did everything to harm his health. If diabetes kills you when you are 27 years old, you obviously haven’t been taking care of yourself. I know a few people with diabetes in various stages, and while this death puts their illness in a bit of perspective for me, I really wouldn’t even put it in the same category. This guy seemed to want to hurt himself physically. Apparently he wasn’t even taking his medication.
However, in the end I lost a friend. Someone I never met once in my entire life. Someone I will never meet. I considered him a good friend. He was a genius with Unix. He was one of the people that taught me how to learn. It wasn’t some idiot Chemistry teacher in high school, or a Calculus teacher at Arizona State, it was a few of these guys, including this guy Brice. If I had a problem, I NEVER got spoon fed an answer. No one ever held my hand through it. They would throw a little peer mocking in there if I even attempted to get them to. What they would do is point me in the right direction, clarify any confusion I had, and let me figure it out on my own. If you can’t take the time to learn it yourself, why should someone else take the time to help you?
Brice used his own knowledge and what we drove him to achieve, to land himself a fairly high technical position dealing with systems and security at Wells Fargo Bank. Banks don’t hire unskilled drones going through the motions for these jobs, and Brice was definitely no fool. It’s odd to think that while I’ve heard his voice a couple times (give teenagers telecommunications knowledge and a desire to break things and they’ll figure out how to use the phone systems in interesting ways), but I can’t even tell you what he sounds like today, how he laughs, or how angry he sounds if you piss him off. I do know that about most of my friends.
The perceived need for our anonymity has long since passed, but I still don’t feel like I have any need to meet these people I talk to. I’ve grown up, started a family, and left much of that part of me long behind, but it doesn’t make him any less of a friend. I’m still a bit at odds with the thought of being close with someone who is nothing but 1s and 0s in their representation, but I guess this is the digital age and I should get used to it.
Anyways, while I was literally less than half the person he was in weight, it does remind me that we are all pretty fragile, and my youth isn’t what it used to be. It’s a good reminder to not eat poorly like I have this week. It’s a good reminder to get some exercise which I haven’t been doing enough of lately. I need to stay healthy for my wife and daughter, so they can see my smile for many years to come.
Most importantly it’s a reminder to spend time with my friends, no matter how they represent themselves to me, as they really do matter in life.
R.I.P. Brice Beaman – 1980-2007