I sent this message to my team on my birthday, somewhat jokingly, but completely whole-heartedly. Any person that’s spent more than 10 minutes around me the past half year knows about my sheer obsession with “The Wire,” the best show of all time and God’s gift to the Earth. I used this obsession of mine to drive a point home to my best friends and my Cross Country team:
“One thing I always love about ‘The Wire’ is that it’s not one or two stars, but an ensemble where each piece matters and contributes something important. That’s this team. Love you guys.”
That’s the thing about not only “The Wire,” but also the more popular HBO series, “Game of Thrones.” As “The Wire” isn’t just a show about just Jimmy McNulty, Stringer Bell, Avon Barksdale, or Kima Greggs, “Game of Thrones” isn’t just a show about Daenerys Targaryen, Tyrion Lannister, Jon Snow, or Arya Stark. It’s not about just one individual. It’s about all of them, and somehow, they all connect. All the pieces matter and each one of them, in some way, contributes to the actions and decisions of another. Both of these shows, arguably two of HBO’s greatest, feature their characters getting an equal amount of screen time and overall importance to the complex overarching story.
I thought about these things that mattered to me in my life, and the TV shows, books, and everything else that resonated with me, and it was clear the one value that each of them communicated to me. How my football team, the Eagles, won the Super Bowl against one of the best franchises and quarterbacks of all time.
Each of them had a sense of community. Communities where we rise and fall as a collective, and take the fall and stand tall for each of us, unconditionally. Communities where we let each other be human, and be there for each other when it’s one person’s time for sadness and sorrow, but also cheer and pat someone’s back in their time of success and triumph.
It’s about treating other people as you want to be treated yourself, about not giving up on people and giving the benefit of the doubt, of realizing that we’re all in this together at the end of the day.
We have the same origins and destination at the end of the day: our mothers gave birth to us, and we’re going to die and go to whatever afterlife we might believe in or deserve. But it’s the journey and steps along the way that we can change.
That, to me, is the triumph of the human spirit. I’ve been happier the past couple days, upon realizing that my life isn’t, and shouldn’t be the story of Ryan Fan. No — it’s more meaningful when it’s the story of the institutions and organizations that I’ve given everything to, and have given me everything in return. I want my life to be the story of these ensembles, not the just selfishly based on myself.
It’s the story my network of friends, my family, and how we’ve built off each other. It’s the story of Emory Cross Country, and how it’s grown and changed over its entirety and the time I’ve been here. It’s the story of the Odyssey at Emory, and how it has shaped and changed people’s lives. It’s a story of ensembles that go beyond the numbers, beyond the surface-level stats: it’s our story and how we decide to tell it.
I didn’t think I’d be where I am now a couple years ago. I’ve grown up and matured what I thought would take my whole life in two or three years, and at times, it’s been overwhelming. It really has been.
But I have no regrets, even for a second. I know and am beyond grateful for the fact that what has happened to me is nothing short of a miracle. And the most I can bring to any team, any institution or organization, is to make those ensembles, rather than collections of individuals, and guide others to feel the same way.
What I loved about the Super Bowl was that my team won, even though it lost its franchise and star quarterback for the season. It proved that the team wasn’t a team of Carson Wentz — it was about everyone, at the end of the day, and that was how they were able to overcome seemingly insurmountable adversity. As Coach Doug Peterson said after they won the Super Bowl, “An individual can make a difference, but a team makes a miracle.”
This post was previously published on The Partnered Pen and is republished here with permission from the author.
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