FWIW I think this thread would make Rob laugh. It's not like we never recklessly/secretively speculated about who might be a troll/AI bot.
I don't have any further updates at this time. I haven't wanted to bother his sister, and I also don't like the feeling that I might be fishing for bad news.
I'm just going to vomit some feels:
Even though I'm more or less in willful denial of the likelihood that I won't hear from him again, trying to remain positive even to the point of silliness, there has been an added heaviness in much of what I've been doing these days.
One of the reasons I hadn't had much time to talk to Rob recently is because I've been working on putting together something resembling a structured curriculum for my kids, now that they've hit highschool age.
My plan for several years has been to center their "formal education" around running a small bakery/kitchen (I doubt there's a subject you can't tie into that somehow!). While they are learning, it will be a hobby/charity endeavor, but will teach them everything they need to know to operate as a small business as well, by the time they're adults.
A few months ago Rob had asked me if I'd be willing to help him learn how to cook. I was like "funny you should ask because that's exactly what I'm gearing up to teach!" (I feel like I'm a lot more qualified for that than to give advice, too, lol.)
I had actually been toying with the idea of incorporating production of a small instructional video series into the program I'm building, where the kids would learn various skills, and then make a brief instructional video for the purpose of teaching others.
People have always begged me to teach them, or teach their kids, offering to throw money at me, so I know there is demand. More demand than I could ever keep up with teaching classes or lessons in-person. Since I'm not driven by the need or desire to make money, it makes sense to put what I have to teach down in an easily duplicated format instead, and just make it free. And have faith that as long as we do good and valuable work in the spirit of charity, we will receive enough support to continue doing so.
Rob seemed to think that was neat, and even offered (eventual) remote help with the technical/editing side of things.
So although we hadn't been talking much in recent weeks, he's been on my mind as I've been shuffling things around and re-tooling my home for this impending educational endeavor.
Recently I received a HUGE blessing in the form of an opportunity to salvage some equipment and bulk ingredients from the very same small bakery where I used to work, and where I basically "leveled up" from just knowing how to bake really well - to being able to run an entire small commercial enterprise on my own.
I don't think I could have asked for a clearer sign that I'm on the right track.
Ever since I was a kid, people have told me "You need to open your own restaurant/bakery someday! You need to teach lessons! You could make so much money!"
And I've been like "Shut up, I hate money"/"I'd rather stick a fork in my eye."
Internally, non-sarcastically, my position has always been that I wouldn't mind having a bakery, I wouldn't mind teaching, but I'm not motivated to do it to make money; I want to do it to serve God. When I was younger I wasn't sure how that would be possible. The world tells you that you have to go out and make a whole bunch of profit before being in any position to give labor away, and for a long time it looked like that was true.
Talking to Rob helped me understand that I was wrong/misled.
One of the things he talked about struggling with, is finding people who want to help him - because they WANT to help, and not because they are motivated by the need to eat or the desire for a certain lifestyle (if not plain greed). Real, charitable help - where those who can't pay simply don't have to, and those who CAN will WANT to, because it supports something good. For him it wasn't about not wanting to pay. He wants to be one of the people paying because he can and wants to; the transactional requirement is just a red flag for potential false charity. He struggled to find help he needed that fit this model.
He was talking mostly about counselors and psychologists and the like. But in principle he was describing the sort of model I want to follow for basically everything I do. What I want is to give freely and charitably of what I have to give, and receive back (also in the spirit of charity) enough to sustain myself and continue giving.
I think that's part of why he liked talking to me so much. It was obvious that I was talking to him because I cared and wanted to help.
He helped me realize that there probably ARE enough people out there who understand and value genuine charity highly enough, that what I want to do is not impossible at all. I just have to do it thoughtfully and with care. If I do it right, total expenses would be a tiny (TINY) fraction of what the average "nonprofit" would blow through doing something similar. Tiny enough that I could probably absorb the cost myself if we had any disposable income at all. So not even trying is kind of weak/lame.
It is not very surprising to me, at this point in my life, that the thing I've stomped my foot most petulantly about and been like "UGH I'M NOT DOING THAT, IT'S TOO HARD AND THE WORLD IS TOO STUPID AND PEOPLE SUCK TOO MUCH TO DO IT RIGHT" appears to be the very same thing that God very much wants me to do. (He does not bestow extraordinary gifts for no particular reason.)
What has been overwhelming is that since I quit the foot-stomping and the stubborn/belligerent refusal, and started thinking/praying along the lines of "okay, okay, I'll do it, but HOW?" I've been absolutely flooded with the specific resources I need to build what I'm building. And I've hardly had to touch money. Most of it has come to me as someone else's garbage, more or less.
So I've been thinking about Rob a lot through all of that.
He's further proof that God can use anyone. I HOPE that I've had a positive impact on his life, especially if this is the end of it. Because I KNOW he's had a positive impact on my life.
He wanted to be able to help me by giving me ADVICE about my own life, and I had to take all of that with a grain of salt. But he ended up helping me just by asking for help.
(He also helped me see that I'd basically been praying "NO!" *at God* in some ways, because I could not point the finger when I saw this behavior in him, without also seeing it in myself.)
How about that?
But it's like... it was such a neat thing to be setting up my little bootleg-startup bakery in my garage and organizing all these resources, and thinking about how cool it was that this random internet friend came along, unwittingly encouraging me to do something I'd never even talked about doing. Aside from my kids, he was going to be my first "apprentice" of sorts. I'd hoped that learning some basic cooking and kitchen management skills might be one of the many things that could add up to make a difference in his life and outlook.
And now it looks like my random internet friend who encouraged me and offered to help... might NOT be my first internet kitchen apprentice??
Now it looks like if I want to build a set of lessons and teach people... it might be, like... it turns out I'm NOT starting out teaching my friend who offered to help me - but instead teaching other people how to do these things... in honor/memory of my friend... ???
No. Nuh-uh. I don't need that, universe. Don't give me that.
THAT'S NOT HOW IT'S SUPPOSED TO BE AND ROB NEEDS TO GET. BACK. HERE. RIGHT. NOW.
I feel like I just time traveled back to 2001 and posted on my LIVEJOURNAL. Sorry not sorry. I'm not upset at anyone for wondering if he was a troll. But because he was always so worried about being a "bad person," I want the record to show that, at least from where I sit, he is basically a good kid who wants to see more virtue in the world in spite of being spiritually broken and needing a lot of help.