When I first got the news about Tim, I wrote the following that night. I’ve wanted to share it every day since then, but also wanted to let his family get through their memorial process, so I’ve left it in draft mode. Some people might find it too specific or visual, and if you’re one of them, then I apologize in advance. I also realize I’ve been (as the man himself would have pointed out) a bit of a one-trick pony lately. I do have some interesting and exciting technical stuff coming up. But for now, here’s my last word about the true impact Tim’s life and death have had for me…
It’s the first night of our Tim-less world, and my family is asleep after a torturous and cathartic day. I’ve had more than a bit of tequila as I processed the sorrow and hot regret of losing my best friend. And I type this, doubting whether I’ll ever click “Publish” because so many people need to agree to discuss it that, at the moment, it seems impossible. But I hope they will agree, because all of the people that knew and loved and admired Tim need to understand the truth of what happened. Or at least as near to the truth as we can ever know about anyone.
Sometime between Saturday night and Sunday morning, Tim locked his apartment door, got in his red Mini Cooper, and drove to a secluded boat ramp on Lake Allatoona. Tomorrow was no longer for him.
When they found his car, he was parked facing the water and the battery was dead. I imagine he made sure that the last image he saw was light bouncing off the shimmering waves reflecting the spring trees. I imagine he listened to music while he drifted first to sleep and then…. to sleep. I imagine it was Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2, but it might also have been Peter Gabriel or Ben Folds Five or Dream Theater — Tim’s taste in music was more impeccable than his code.
As of this writing, no note has been found. He did not leave us a message. I believe this is because he was the message. Everyone that knew Tim has shared stories of his generosity, his laughter, his gentleness, his humility, his brilliance. And these are the things for which he should and will always be revered.
But beneath this he carried a dark and heavy passenger. He struggled to form intimate relationships. He struggled to find new ways to stimulate his incredible mind. He struggled to separate his fantasies about how the world should be from how it really is. Even his Twitter byline “I laugh in the face of the impossible” underscores an abiding contempt for reality over the world he wanted.
There is no evading reality, not even for an intellect as powerful as Tim’s. And the reality is that Tim could not figure out how to be happy. He tried all the remedies he could think of by being talented and hard-working and generous and kind and open. And when that didn’t work he tried being closed and cynical and lazy and dismissive. And when that still didn’t work, he tried them all again. And again. And again.
Strangely, we praised him for this. We called him a great contributor, a brilliant programmer and a gifted writer when he shared. And we called him introspective, quiet and “a geek” when he shut out the world — because this is the cultural idol that we sacrifice to in our nerd chic revolution.
I am more guilty of this than anyone; than everyone really. I saw the road he was heading down on the day he resigned from Red Pill, cutting off a collaboration that had spanned over half a decade and rocketed us both into stardom. I saw it so clearly that I wrote it down and then sent it to all the people from whom I wanted empathy and understanding, but not to the one person who needed it most.
I failed my best friend, because I was scared to be as honest with him as he needed me to be. And on that day when I was too furious and fearful to even say goodbye, I let him drive away in his pin-striped coffin; too stubborn to throw myself on the hood and beg him to stay. Too angry to confess how much he really meant to me. Too frightened of failure to express my fears to the only people that might have helped prevent it.
Weeks and months later, I told myself I’d accepted his choice and that being his friend was the best thing for him. We broke bread together again. We laughed. We shared ideas. We collaborated. And it was brilliant. And he did great work in his new job, even though he admitted that some days he never bothered to climb out of out bed. But it was never the same. In those moments that we opened up our hearts about the things that truly moved us, I never grabbed him and hugged him and pleaded with him to please PLEASE let us find virtue together so that he could discover purpose and joy in his life beyond the facade of being smart and popular.
I didn’t demand virtue from him. I accepted his tale of the introverted and enigmatic geek tragedy, not bothering to look behind his eyes to find the veiled, private hell he was suffering. And when he found that tale couldn’t shape the world into what he wanted, he seized control of the one thing he knew he could shape for himself. He couldn’t control good and evil; he couldn’t control who loved him or why or how; he couldn’t control whether tomorrow he would be treasured like he was today. But he could control whether tomorrow ever came.
And so he did.
So this is the message he has for us all: fight for the people you love. Don’t just accept them. Don’t just let them breeze through their days. If you love them, help them raise their standards not just in words but IN LIFE. Because if you keep accepting someone’s fantasy of virtue, you’re just daring them to keep the story going while ignoring reality.
Tim’s story ended far too soon. I wish I’d acted when I saw that end. I wish I’d been truthful with him. I wish I had given him more time. I wish he had given me more time. I wish I could see my friend again. I wish I’d said goodbye a thousand times.