22 votes

Who's in your corner?

Tell me about someone who supports you.

Who are they?
What's their relationship to you?
How do they support you?
What do they mean to you?


  1. [2]
    I have a number of folks in my corner but I'd like to highlight the newest member of my support crew, Samuel. Samuel is the freaking man. Spending time with him is an absolute joy and it's hard to...
    • Exemplary

    I have a number of folks in my corner but I'd like to highlight the newest member of my support crew, Samuel. Samuel is the freaking man. Spending time with him is an absolute joy and it's hard to imagine you can fit that much stoke into one human being. We jokingly call him the mayor of our little town because it doesn't matter where we are or what we're doing, no less than 5 people will flag him down or shout from their cars at him. Everyone loves Samuel.

    We've been friends for about a year and it's such a good match up. I have this every so often where I just click with someone. Samuel is the first person in the last few years that I've just clicked with. We have a similar level of deference and enthusiasm which makes outings very fun, flexible, and high energy. I met him at a party at our house and we quickly bonded over our love of bikes. My partner and I have 8 bikes stuffed into our little one bedroom house (all live inside like indoor cats) and when he saw them he yelled to his wife "Eva, they're weird like us!!!" And he was right! I was training up for a 200 mile race at that point and he, being in much better shape at the time and forever, asked if I'd like to train with him. Cue some of the most fun rides of my life! When we decide where to go it's always very open and we spend most of our time panting or laughing. He's a big proponent of off road riding so we'll often come home covered in mud and ending up weird places and having to figure out how to get home. He's also an absolute machine on a bike so there are many times I'm just watching is butt from 200 feet back, but he'll always be waiting at the top of the hill with a big smile, high five, and maybe chocolate.

    About 6 months ago I finally cracked and started joining him for open ocean swims in the morning. I used to life guard and teach swimming, but I've always been apprehensive about swimming in the sea. Last summer we had 3 shark attacks, one at the location we swim, one 200 yards away, and one about 500 yards away so I was pretty on edge about going out. And for some reason it doesn't bug him at all! When we initially started going out he took us pretty deep and pretty far out and I'd spend most of the swim just calming myself down and would be glued to his side, like constantly running into him, because I was so freaked out. Since then we've talked about it and we follow the cliffs now. On mellow days I'll be in amongst the rocks of the intertidal with anywhere from 2-10 feet of clearance. On wavier days we'll swim around the outside but still keep within sight of the ocean floor (usually anyway). There is no way I'd be doing this without him and his encouragement and stoke mean the world to me. So much so that I went from being an ardent non-morning person (I threatened to quit a job in the past when the floated 8:30am start times) to waking up at 6am to go swim at sunrise. Some days we even combine riding and swimming into a 2-3 hour fun fest.

    I was really active and fit when I was an early adult (22-28) and then a middling adult as I neared 30 (I'd still climb and set routes, but lifting/running/biking took a backseat). This new era has been an amazing return to feeling like myself again. I'm more high energy, I'm in a better mood, I'm just excited to be well... alive. And Samuel has played a really big part in that. Getting a morning of high fives as we cruise through rafts of otters, naked swims after grueling rides, 50 mile night trail rides through the forests and valleys with just headlamps, just an incredible amount of life being lived. All of those things are thanks to the encouragement, camaraderie, and enigmatic energy of Samuel.

    Getting older is weird because friends become more transient. I have an amazing community where I live, but most of my best friends live scattered across the globe. My best friend is in Venice, another is in Taipei, another in San Francisco, followed by Charleston, Munich, San Diego, and Lima. It's great to catch up with those guys and while we still connect on a deep level they don't know much about my day to day experiences. I'm not frequently making new memories with them. So having Samuel here, to push me into the more engaged, harebrained, light version of myself and be able to share all of these incredible experiences with is amazing. It's incredible just how many amazing people are on this planet.

    23 votes
    1. frailtomato
      Link Parent
      Damn, I need to find myself a Samuel

      Damn, I need to find myself a Samuel

      3 votes
  2. [2]
    I have a number of less-than-ordinary relationships due to my background in life. I was homeschooled and raised in a cult from the time I was a small child. While I was able to go to a couple of...
    • Exemplary

    I have a number of less-than-ordinary relationships due to my background in life. I was homeschooled and raised in a cult from the time I was a small child. While I was able to go to a couple of small, public colleges between the ages of 15-19 (albeit only as a commuter), I didn't make it out of the cult until the age of 21. As you might imagine both of these things had and continue to have a massive impact on every part of my life, including who I met and was allowed to meet and who I was allowed to be friends with.

    The cult met for religious services weekly and also had a number of other assorted events, youth camps, group trips, etc. In the early years I met another cult kid who I'll refer to as Jake, who was slightly younger than I. After some time Jake's congregation merged with mine; we got to know each other a bit better. Our friend group would play the Pokemon TCG after services every week (a long sought-after privilege that some of us, specifically me, fought a years-long war with our parent over revolving around whether or not Pokemon were satanic beings 🙃). We'd debate over strategies, talk about video games, generally good vibes. Some of the fonder memories I have of the past, for sure.

    Some years went by, and then Jake's family packed up and moved a few states away; their dad had gotten a new job. We said goodbye, and while we still saw each other a few times a year at various cult events, for the most part we drifted apart, as people that live hundreds of miles apart tend to do.

    A few years later we reconnected over Fortnite. Jake and I had a great four-man squad that we played with every night during summer break. Another standout period of fond memories from my past (cut short by my parents going through a cult-fueled divorce at the end of the summer, but that's neither here nor there). My life changed a lot very quickly and Jake and I began to drift apart again. It was around this time that a disturbing trend emerged: Jake's behavior was veering farther and farther away from what what the cult considered to be acceptable.

    For those who may not be aware, a foundational element of many cults is that there's an "in-group" and an "out-group". Cult leaders put lots and lots of effort into somehow creating as large of a gap as possible between the two groups and simultaneously making it very vague where exactly the lines are between the two, often doing both in a single sentence. These seemingly incompatible goals enable administrators to wield a very flexible and very powerful tool: being able to quickly and effortlessly define anyone as a member of the out-group, and knowing that as soon as that's done the target will be shunned by the in-group. In fact, oftentimes the higher-ups need not lift a finger; the in-group is generously always on the lookout for a way to find new people to kick into the out-group!

    Jake reached a point in life where he faced some difficulties. Out of respect for his privacy, I'll broadly say that he faced some serious health-related challenges. The cult, as it were, had Opinions about these challenges, whether or not they were legitimate, and how they should be addressed. (Much of this I learned details about later on.) It probably goes without saying, but the cult was Very Fucking Wrong, and it made Jake's challenges roughly 10x worse than they perhaps otherwise would have been. Naturally this led Jake towards questioning the system. He began to Learn Things. His behavior changed. Rumors began to go around. He was falling away; he was a Problem Child; he was dangerous to be close with. I'm extremely ashamed to say that I was one of those who reported some of Jake's "bad behavior". I told Jake he was wrong, he was out-of-line, he was going down a dangerous path. I minimized Jake's challenges. I worked to reinforce the narrative of the cult.

    I failed Jake. It's one of my biggest regrets in life, and there's nothing I can say to justify or moralize the fact that I wasn't there for him during that time. Jake left the cult, and I got to see, I got to feel, first-hand, what it meant for someone to make that choice. I sat in on the conversations where teens and adults alike wrote him off as a hopeless, lost soul. I fucking participated in those conversations. I said, did, and thought things I'm not proud of. It's hard to convey those moments, those feelings, those conversations, to one who's never been in such a system. The way that a whole living, breathing, human being, a whole person, can just be thrown out with the trash. They matter; but only in the most base sense of the word, only through the veil of the fact that it's not yet acceptable in the group to say bad things past a certain line about the out-group. It's a disgusting way to choose to build one's worldview. And I built mine that way.

    More time goes by. I get a "real" job, I move out and start living on my own, I get the very, very fortunate opportunity to travel. See the world a little bit. Pull my head out of the fucking sand and realize that the out-group is pretty big, and maybe not quite like what I was taught.

    Not long after that I come across some banned material about the past, the kind that could get you paid a visit from your local higher-up if you didn't keep it to yourself. My brain awoke from a decade-long slumber and went "holy shit, wait, what? The people in this system go out of their way to paint the rosiest picture of the past that they possibly can, to the point where it's actively annoying how much they talk about it. And somehow they've never mentioned the fact that fifty years ago this organization taught that doctors were evil, medicine was banned, becoming sick or being injured was a direct result of breaking the rules, and lots of people fucking died because of it???". I'll spare the details, but lots of ex-cult members who share their experiences online describe a very similar moment. It's like a light switch flips in your head, your whole perspective on the world just shatters into a million pieces. It was only a matter of months from that moment to when I turned my back on the whole system forever.

    It just so happened that Jake and I showed up at a graduation event for someone we both knew right as I was starting to connect the dots. We had been in touch here and there over the years, but for the most part we hadn't really spoken since his departure. We reconnected that day in person and online afterwards, and I'm incredibly proud to say that he gave me the kind of support that I wish I could have given him when he needed it. He shared all kinds of helpful resources with me, gave me a place to vent, share my discoveries and frustrations. He was a great friend with a very unique understanding of what I was going through right when I needed it. So it was deeply ironic that as I prepared to make a clean break, I knew exactly what it would look like. I knew that I would permanently destroy or badly damage almost every relationship I had in life, even with my family; I knew the kinds of things people who had once been close to me would say to each other, in whispers, in writing, in DMs, in group chats, but never to my face; I knew exactly how they would view me, look down on me. Exactly what it would feel and be like from their perspective. The reason I knew all of this so well, so intimately, was because of my participation in it when Jake had left years prior. And then I left, and he was right there to comfort me as I went through what he had.

    I am incredibly thankful for Jake. I'm inspired by his love and ability to forgive me for the poor decisions I've made in the past. I wish that I could go back in time and change those decisions, and I can't; but I can make better ones in the future, and I hope I will.

    All of which to say: Jake is in my corner! He's a human being, a whole person. He deserves love, friendship, and to be embraced for who he is, just like all of us do. And it means a lot to me that he's in my life.

    10 votes
    1. rosco
      Link Parent
      Hell yeah Jake! And also I hope you're easier on yourself, it's called brain washing for a reason. You should be proud that you made your way out and have folks that you made such strong...

      Hell yeah Jake! And also I hope you're easier on yourself, it's called brain washing for a reason. You should be proud that you made your way out and have folks that you made such strong connections with inside the cult that they support you unconditionally outside of it!! Thanks for sharing!

      3 votes