I write this to put down my feelings/observations after my first Mankind Project meeting.
For those alarmed I will reveal specific information, know I will not divulge anything that happened because I promised the group to keep what occurred private.
I drove over on the evening of the longest day of the year. It was hot, the fields were shimmering Summer, and there would still be hours of warm light till sunset. The nervousness I had suppressed for days now made itself fully present; what if they didn't get my heads-up email and reject me? What if I go to the wrong spot? What if they realize what an insecure dork I am? What if they kidnap me and sell my organs on the black market? It went on and on.
The spot was a glorified mini-golf course outside our county seat, a place I had passed for years without giving a second thought. "This can't be it." I thought, as I left the car, passing golfers sweaty after their rounds in the heat. Inside, it looked like any pro-shop at a golf course, I felt embarrassed asking the golfy-dressed man behind the counter if this was were the Mankind Project Meeting was taking place.
"I'm here for... a meeting?" I awkwardly asked. "Oh yes, it's upstairs, I'll show you." he replied easily. Relieved, I followed him as he led me to a door that led to stairs. I ascended and went through another door, into a dimly lit room. The few guys there all turned as I entered; I introduced myself as the man who had emailed ahead, hoping someone there was the guy who had received it.
"Oh, yes, you're Carl", one man approached...
For the next two and a half hours I watched, participated as I could, and strove to remain as non-judgemental, open-minded as possible.
I must first state these men did everything to make me feel welcome, I actually felt a bit odd being there, hearing such personal stuff from men I'd just met. Feelings were discussed, over and over, deep personal feelings.
I was asked how I felt several times, including at the conclusion, and one word rose up in me: numb. I felt numb. There was nothing in my experience to prepare me for this interaction with others, not even with the very, very few people I have been lucky enough to call a close friend.
There was also a fire there, an enthusiasm I have not witnessed since my crew days long ago; these guys were rallying, getting charged up. My adult life has been a culture of cynicism and cultivated ennui toward most things, this attitude surprised me.
Will I go to the next meeting? Well, I am still sorting that out. I got home much later than my other meeting commitments, and hit the sack way later than I'm used to, so there will be a cost of some lost sleep. But in short, yes, I will go to another meeting. My curiosity has been peaked.
The most important thing I realized is that mere attendance at these, or even the Weekend will not make a better man of me, or solve my problems. What happened at that meeting was work, hard, hard work. It makes me tired just thinking about it. I will have to do that work, all of it, on my own. Otherwise participation is useless.
But what is the option; continuing to stumble ahead alone? I've done that all my adult life, and damn, I've been lucky things have turned out as they have.
I've decided to give this a try, for now. I know the Weekend itself is the next step, but I will attend a few more meetings before I determine when, where and if, I am going.
I must thank everyone here who have encouraged me and given advice, as at one point I really was ready to not go. And I can still change my mind at any time, of course. But I will have to live with myself, and next time I advise someone to leave their comfort zone I will have that in the back of my head.
So for now I have much to ponder before I go to the next meeting. I feel monsters lurking within, and I know this process will require me facing them. That, to me, is terrifying, but one step at a time.
Right now it helps knowing that, with this, I may not be facing them alone.