The white light grew stronger, seeping through my eyelids until I could no longer ignore it. I opened my eyes and tried to focus through the brilliant haze. It was as if I were seeing for the first time.
Disoriented, I mentally scrambled for the last thing I remembered. There was a taxicab, and what I was pretty sure had been an illegal U-turn…
A figure came into focus in my periphery. He seemed to be waiting for something. For me.
I turned and asked the angel (who was for some reason wearing a conductor’s cap), “Am I in Heaven or New Jersey?”
Last weekend, running on four hours of sleep, I hopped an Amtrak to New York City to help assemble the web presence of third issue of Longshot Magazine. A lot’s been written about the magazine itself, the process, the sheer awesomeness of it, so I won’t reiterate what’s been said.
I was expecting to be one small part of a rather large web dev team. I ended up a core part of a small team. I learned during my time at my college paper that a small team of talented, driven people under do-or-die pressure will either destroy each other or bond intensely. I think the outcome of Longshot is obvious. We knew we had each other’s backs, and we knew we were trying to pull off the impossible (but we were just cocky enough to try it anyway). For a nerd, it was sort of like being a hero for a day.
Someone remarked that Longshot is like summer camp for nerds. Last time I felt this way — protective, proud, sleep-deprived and totally jazzed about what I was doing — was when I spent the summer teaching canoeing at Scout camp.
Very few things have impacted my life the way that one sleepless Longshot weekend did. (Scout camp was one of the other few.) It sounds silly and melodramatic, yes. But it’s true.
Moments like that are rare. They’re surreal because they’re unreal, in that they never last for very long. They can’t; they aren’t sustainable. For a few hours or days, life as you know it changes dramatically. Suddenly you’re wandering around an airy room full of computers, glancing at faces in sleeping bags to see which of your compadres you’re supposed to rouse. Or you’re jumping into a pool with all your clothes on so a Scout can practice lifeguarding rescue tow holds.
There are so few chances you ever get to shake up your routine completely. When you do, even if it’s to do something silly like make a magazine in two days, you learn a lot about yourself, how you deal with things, what’s important to you. You often find an inner strength you didn’t know you had. You’re forced to stop mechanically putting one foot in front of the other, because instead of walking a straight line, you’re suddenly doing some strange new dance. And when the dance is over, even if you don’t dance again for a long time, you remember that you are capable of dancing. You’ve learned to recognize the music, and you’ll listen for the faintest strains of it.