This blog hasn’t been updated in quite some time, which is not the same as saying I have been sitting still. On the contrary, life has been filled with surprises, punches and curve balls, and looking back I have never been so productive on a number of personal projects.

This post isn’t about that, at all. It’s about the last two weeks and how amazing and terrifying life has been, from my perspective.

On and off, I get insomnia, and when that happens I know I can’t think clearly. Around the 25th I was having a lot of sleepless nights for no reason and every reason at the same time. Fortunately my doctor had given me a prescription in case of emergency.

Monday 25th I get to the pharmacy, ask for the medicine and agree to come back the next day because they don’t have in stock. It was a bank holiday so it was the only open pharmacy around. The next day, a bit better but sleep deprived, I get there again. Everything is already paid for, it’s a quick task, get in, get out, go home. Only I didn’t go home.

Leaving my bicycle outside even for a short while was enough for someone to steal it. Five minutes in the pharmacy turned into one hour in the police station to report the theft. This is when life starts to pile on weight.

I had taken on some commitments on projects and work had been demanding, not in an unusual way, just at a bad time. Breathe in, breath out, keep going.

Twitter enters the play as I post that someone stole the bike and start the hashtag #SagaDaKona. (In Portuguese, Kona is an impolite slang term but I couldn’t care less.)

This was the first bike I bought when I was working at FullSix, 10 years ago. I do have a car but the bicycle is my main form of transport and the only way I can exercise.

I’m going to spare you the details on how it was like to report the theft, find the serial number, and share the news on social media in hopes that friends could help.

If you're going through hell, keep going. Breathe in, breathe out.

Fortunately I have good friends around. In that same day, Pedro Vieira shows up at my apartment with a bike that I can use while I don’t get mine back. Pedro is a rare kind of person, his heart is bigger than his hug and his childlike joviality matches his brain.

Gregory MS joins the plot

One of the commitments I had taken on was to be in Aveiro the next Saturday to participate in Fórum Saúde XXI. So I buckle down and get to work because this was the first opportunity to tell the Medical Community about it. Gregory is an Artificial Intelligence that I built to help map the research on Multiple Sclerosis and notify patients of new clinical trials.

It’s wednesday at this point and I’m dodging curve balls the best I know how. There’s a client meeting on Friday, no problem, I’ve got it done. Thursday comes and I have been sleeping a bit better, the organising team of Fórum Saúde XXI were kind enough to give me more time to finish the presentation. I’ve got this almost under control.

God laughs.

Living alone means caring for yourself and being methodic on how you plan your day and your meals. When things get a bit rough I always order something or make sure there is a quick meal in the fridge to heat up. I take two bites and can tell it was a bad idea.

It’s friday morning and I’m still not feeling well, stumbling out of bed the best I can and joining the zoom meeting with the camera off, apologyzing and trying to focus the best I can. Friday is also the day when I have to teach the last class of the semester and travel to Aveiro.

But I’m down for the count.

As things get worse all I can do is call the national health line and ask what to do. “You need to check in to the Emergency Hospital, we will let them know you’re coming.”

But I am not coming. I have already cancelled the class and can’t even walk, I call a few fire departments asking for an ambulance and have no luck.

Breathe in, breathe out.

The Lobsters join the plot

My closest group of friends are “The Lobsters” and their impact and effect in my life has been tremendous. Everything I know regarding technology I have learned from them. It’s not that my parents didn’t raise me well, they did an amazing job. The best I learned from them was how to recognise good people.

It took 10 minutes for Artur Ventura to show up at my place and help me get to the hospital. It’s 17h00 now and all I can think is “I have to be in Aveiro no matter what.”

Pedro Pinheiro shows up to relay Artur, “I’ve brought you a powerbank!” This isn’t just a geek thing, we know that communication is a priority in these situations and Pedro is always prepared. Between blood tests and waiting I am hoping this is just food poisoning. But the more I sit and get carried around in a wheelchair, the worse I feel.

Times like these can make a person lose track of time, and every slow minute has the weight of an hour. We reach the last stage near my last gram of strength when the doctor confirms it’s food poisoning and we are just waiting for one result of the blood work.

It’s getting close to 22h00 and time to surrender the guard, Luís Amaral comes in so that Pedro can go home.

A while after the doctor comes back to hand me the prescriptions, we’re going home.

“When do you have to be in Aveiro?”

It’s a 2 hour drive and at 8 in the morning Luís is picking me up, we’re off.

My symptoms are still flared up, and yes this could have been a remote presentation. It’s just not the same. Every message becomes stronger when you take the time and make a solid effort. Think about this, It’s easy to send a text message saying “I am sorry”, and I am sure you are and that your feelings are genuine. But it’s even harder and more meaningful to say it looking into their eyes, and to hear back “I know you are, and I am sorry too”. Human connection over video calls takes longer and isn’t always effective.

We get to Aveiro with 20 or so minutes to spare. Let’s go !

Let’s skip the details, those are all in the link. It’s enough to say that my mind and body were drained and that success was somehow a bit hollow, at least until the next day. It’s sunday and I can finally say “fuck, I did it. And I would never have done it if not for the Lobsters.” My throat closes up as I text to say thank you. It’s just a text, it’s easy, it doesn’t show how much I value them and am grateful for all they did in that dark day.

Alright, breathe in. It’s not over yet

Monday is meant for a reset and get my pace back. 16h45, I open the computer and draft a new project.

kona dew macOS terminal brunoamaral

Tuesday was time to meet the Lobsters at #Twittlis we get together every first tuesday of the month for over 10 years now.

While I do feel slowly back on track, there’s still something boiling that needs to get out. It’s always there because I come from the old school of the web, when the internet was a friendlier place and we felt more like a community. And when you belong to a group like that you get the urge to put your energy towards something for the common good.

I come from a time when you needed to learn how to code so that you could blog. And remember, I’ve known the Lobsters for over a decade and learned a lot from them.

Determination and focus are two of my strengths. And while I was typing code and googling for answers my mind was numbing down the emotional drain of the last two weeks.

In total, I was down that rabbit hole for two days. Switching between the code and messaging friends in the cycling community. That’s how Rodas Furtadas came to be.

It’s a website where anyone can report their bicycle has being stolen and leave the serial number and an email address. Others can search the database for the serial number of the bike they found or are looking to buy to find out if it’s legit. There is the option of sending me an email so that I may forward the information to the actual owner. The system is as anonymous as possible, and I take responsibility to abide to any edit or deletion request that may come.

It took less than a day for three journalists to call me wanting to write about the initiative. Across twitter and the cycling community the site is also getting good exposure, and timidly the serial numbers in the database are starting to add up.

What do I get out of this?

At first it’s a way for more people to be on the lookout for my bicycle, and on the long run the cycling community and the police get a new tool to track legitimate owners of stolen bicycles.

This was exciting and by Friday, as oposed to the previous week, I felt good and happy to have made something valuable for others.

Breathe in …

I am back to my old self by now and doing what I can to relax and make up for all the anxiety and stress. Along the line I wasn’t the best person in this world towards a few people I care about. And I hope to look them in the eye and offer a sincere “I am so sorry for how I acted”.

And times like these I feel as if I don’t deserve the friends I have. This morning I told the Lobsters in the group chat I was going to place an order for a new bicycle. My phone pinged before I even left the store.

They were contributing to the new bike and I froze. You see, I have always been the independent one, the one who solves problems and removes obstacles. I never know how to respond to these acts of kindness, I never learned to be on the receiving end. But I am so very grateful that my parents taught me to recognise and find good people and that I found so many.

I feel the knot in my throat loosen as I write and it will surely tighten again when the new bike arrives.

My hope isn’t that you have read this as a self pity report or a demonstration of bravado and gritt. If we are friends, this is about how I value our friendship and my way of sharing with you what was eventful and stressful these last few days.

If you just happen to have stumbled and made it this far, this is about how important it is to know when to reach out for help. This was just a stolen bike and food poisoning, others are going through harder challenges and bigger obstacles.

And for me, I just needed to write everything down.

Breathe out …

Is it over ?

I don’t know, kid. Let’s see what happens next and, whatever it is, we will figure it out.

avatar Bruno Amaral
Bruno Amaral

I am a Digital Strategist, divided between tech and creativity, working for the Lisbon Collective and teaching Public Relations at the …