Defining Figure.

When I was a high school freshman, my English teacher had us give speeches about our hero. Since all I ever did was play my guitar, I picked Eric Clapton, who I had recently seen in concert. As I recall, my presentation reflected the level of effort I put into all of my schoolwork, so it pretty much sucked. There was one girl in the class who had very nice things to say about it during the feedback session after I was done rambling.
 
When it was her turn, she gave an eloquent speech about her hero, who just happened to be her father. He somehow managed to smuggle the family out just before the fall of Saigon, leaving everything they had behind to seek a better life for them in America. Despite being a professional in Vietnam, he worked several low-level jobs in the US to provide for his family in their new country.
 
Somehow my idol looked a bit less heroic after that bit of perspective.
 
The ensuing decades have certainly allowed me to put things into a certain jaded perspective. I'm less inclined to see people as simply heroes or villains, recognizing that everyone has the capacity for both. Some people are more inclined towards one or the other, but humans are generally complex critters, and squeezing them into a small box can prove problematic. They can surprise you in ways large and small. My solution to this dilemma is to lump all of humanity into a big "self-centered bastards" pile and be done with it.
 
Still, I recognize there are people that influenced my development and path in life more than others. Sure, I could go with the easy answer, my parents. I certainly wouldn't be here today without them, and admire them in ways they probably don't realize. I could say my wife, who provided me with the chance to be a husband and father. As it turns out, they were all eclipsed by another person. If you asked them, they'd probably be thrilled by this.
 
When I really think about it, the person that changed my life more than anyone else is my daughter, Abby.
 
When she arrived, I was an obese couch potato in my mid-30s. I remember laying on the couch with her when she was about three months old. She was facing me, propped up against my thighs, and as I gazed into her eyes I realized that this was the single most important person in my life. She stuck her tongue out at me and giggled.
 
She was the reason I started to think seriously about my health. I want to be around a very, very long time, because it seems like she gets more interesting every day. Sooner or later boys will start to notice, and I need to be in adequate shape to dig their graves. I was already riding my road bike at that point, and gradually I starting riding it harder. I started taking it seriously. I started racing. I spent less time at McDonalds. The weight started dropping off, I no longer had trouble tying my shoes, and I wasn't sick or hurt as much.
 
This wasn't an evolutionary change. After years of negative trends, it was revolutionary, and it very likely kept me from an early grave (although you never know riding on open roads). Of course, if I didn't find it fun I would have never continued. After all, I still am a self-centered bastard at my very core. Still, she was the inspiration for starting and added motivation for sticking with it. Countless dollars and countless hours (actually, they're counted somewhere but I'm too lazy/afraid to look.).All because a baby girl stuck her tongue out at me.
 
Not quite the same thing as smuggling your family out of a country at the apex of a violent war, but pretty good in my book.

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