Without Achievements

by Sketch

Ninja all the fruit, crush all the candy, get 30 headshots with the pistol in one Team
Deathmatch. It’s a good thing WeasleBot can’t track my K/D ratio like Halo did. It’s never been about the achievements. Gamification is meant to keep users plugged in and engaged with whatever app/game/platform they’re pouring their lives into, and yes, have some fun along the way, of course. Beyond keeping PAX engagement up, our achievements are meant to reinforce our mission as well. Plant, Grow, Serve. There’s a reason one of the achievements isn’t ‘Post only with the same 4 PAX each week’. The achievements we have to date serve the first and third F’s directly, but more importantly, they support Fellowship.

The 2nd F, at it’s most basic structure, is the relationship between 2 PAX. To grow the relationship both PAX must build experiences together. With a group of PAX the relationshipis built and experienced collectively.

Recently at Sasquatch, Impact forgot to bring the shovel flags (for the first time ever, no doubt). We ribbed him the entiretime. “You just cursed Disc Jockey’s VQ!?” “Where do we even take the count-o-rama picture?” “Can’t mosey back to Start X, no idea where it is!” Even Piano Man put him on blast in his VQ Preblast: “with FLAGS”. Ha!  The collective experience of laughing throughout the beatdown bonded all 16 of us and I can guarantee we won’t drop it anytime soon.

Moments like that wouldn’t be made, shared, or bonded over as strongly or as frequently if we weren’t chipping away at our achievements. As coincidence would have it, Low Pass and White Hat both earned ‘Holding Down the Fort’ that very same beatdown. Its easy to imagine a world where a nice warm fartsack would’ve called their names instead and they would’ve never known the flags were missing.

I’ve got a lot of social energy that I love to share and I deeply value laughing with friends. That’s what I’m in pursuit of. More shared comedy, more shared joy, more bonding. Achievements are mile markers on the way to long lasting relationships. Without ‘Centurion’ on the horizon, I might’ve missed Primer’s soapy coffee, without ‘Be the Hammer, Not the Nail’, the Liberty Hill police might not have pulled me over in The Green’s parking lot right in front of all the PAX, without ‘Cadre’ there might have never been a Great Motivator Debate. Our pursuit of achievements facilitate the experiences we have together ITG.

Without achievements those moments that bond us together would happen less frequently to fewer PAX and have less impact (although we all could do with a little less ‘Impact’ sometimes ;-) ). And not just the good moments. The serious ones would happen less too. The heartfelt CoTs, the six-sweeping, the CHAD 1000x, the show of solidarity for a San Antonio PAX’s 2.0 going through a heart transplant, and countless more. Consider tackling an achievement you thought might be out of reach. Your efforts might net you some smiles, some warmth, and some fellowship. At the very least, you might help some others net thosetoo. I’m not trying to get preachy, but if I can earn these achievements, so can you.

Thanks for reading - Sketch

"Rediscovering myself in the gloom"

by Hammer Time

My family and I moved from Arkansas to Texas in August of 2014 - me, my M, 5 y/o daughter, 2 y/o son, 5 week old son, and two dogs. I thought this would be the best move for me and my family, despite having no job lined up for me. Prior to the move, I worked 14 years in a large church - started as a junior high youth pastor, worked as a music pastor/director, and then became the executive pastor. Throughout those 14 years, I also worked for our inner-city church and served our homeless community. It seemed like no matter what I tried, with grit and determination, I succeeded. I had a community. I had influence. I was known. I had purpose. I had drive. I felt like a winner. I had hope, but I worked a lot. When my wife became pregnant with my daughter in 2009, I decided to get my Masters in Social Work to switch careers and hopefully be more present with my family. When I graduated with my masters degree in 2014, we decided to move to the Austin area so I began applying to open positions in the area. I applied for countless jobs (~100), but never received an opportunity to interview with a single one of them! My wife, a nurse, applied for one job, received an interview, and was hired. We had 3 weeks notice to pack up, find a place to live, and move. Once we relocated to Texas, I began applying again. After nearly 50 online applications, I still had no responses for an interview. I began to question my worth, my competence, my experience, and my belief in myself. I was losing and felt like a loser. I wondered why no one seemed to take a chance on me. I had hoped my experience and new degree would open doors, but nothing opened. Two of my best friends in the area told me they would get me a job, but they could not find a job for me either. I finally took a $10/hour job to do what I could to provide for my family. That messed with my brain. I was a married 38 year old with 3 kids, 2 dogs, a mortgage in Arkansas, and rent in Texas making less money than I had when  I was a 23 year old single college student. This scenario has played out year after year, since we moved to Texas. It hasn't felt like the best move for my family.  I’ve never been able to recoup the salary I had in Arkansas, with any company. As a man, the provider of my home, I felt less then. For the first time in my life, I fell into deep, dark depression. I isolated. This used-to-be-people-person would much rather sit at home and stop engaging. I took the lack of employer interest in me personally and did not think I had any value to offer anyone. I felt like a failure. To be honest, I still fight feeling like a failure. There were times driving down I-35 highway that I prayed someone would just swipe me off the road and put an end to the inner turmoil I was in. Over a year ago, while isolating, I began playing Halo. I met a dude on there. A few months ago, while playing with the dude, I felt comfortable enough to share the above journey with him. There was anonymity, so I actually felt safer sharing it. To my surprise he used to live in the area and we shared similar backgrounds. I told him I needed to get back into a community and that I probably should start getting back into shape again. He tells me about F3 and his F3 name, Covenant. He explained to me how F3 started and what it had done for him. He looked online to find an AO near me. This was August 2023. I told him I would go the following week. September 1, 2023, I woke up early and nervous, but determined to go to F3 because I told Covenant I would. I arrived at Sasquatch, walked up to the flags, and told them what my buddy told me to say, “My name is Steve. I’m an FNG and my buddy Covenant from F3-Katy told me about F3 and this location. He said something about Impact being a site Q and Whitehat doing a BD?” I was welcomed quickly and then we circled up and I was on my way to my first F3 experience. I’ll never forget my first gloom workout. Struggling with other men to accomplish a task, laugh along the way, and then chat at the end was strangely satisfying. I found myself exhausted, yet energized too. At the end, I was given the name HammerTime - a handyman and mental health therapist. I am grateful Covenant shared with me about F3. It is truly the highlight of my day. Like many men have shared with me about their F3 experience, I echo it. I came for the workout, but I’m staying for much more. The quality of HIMs I’ve met since September have made a significant impact in my life. I used to be people-person, with passion, purpose, drive, and hope. For many years, I’ve struggled to find the strength to dig deep and rediscover myself. What I’ve come to understand is that I tried to do it alone. Watching the PAX struggle in the gloom and listening to the PAX share their stories andtheir time with me, I am inspired. I can feel myself climbing back to rediscover me. I am honored to share my mornings with HIMs, because I know I am better for it. To the HIMs of Sasquatch, Shootout, and Tigers Den, thank you for pushing me to be a better man than when I first attended.