It was a privilege to have known Mike Aiello. After attending his Celebration of Life yesterday, I was reminded of how many people’s lives he had touched, including my own.
If you didn’t know Mike, he was a pretty crazy guy. He was big-time into motocross. If you look at his MySpace page, you’ll see all kinds of pictures of him getting huge air on his bike. He was also a fantastic snow skier, throwing himself down the mountain with reckless abandon. He was fearless.
In stark contrast, you have me. I’m a fairly risk-averse individual. I purposely avoid things like motorcycle races and double-black diamond moguls because they scare the shit out of me. Fluffy bunnies give me nightmares.
Mike and I weren’t particularly close, but we lived in the Lambda Chi house during the 2001-2002 school year. It was in this context that, on a random drunken night, he and I were outside talking about life. I proceeded to tell him what a crazy asshole he was, and how it was beyond me that he was willing to risk his life on a consistent basis. In a word, his response was, “Yep”.
Long story short, he and I spoke at length about taking risks. In his house growing up, his dad told him that without risk, there is no reward. In my house, if you put pepper on your baked potato, you were given the evil eye, and you lived the next week under constant fear that you would be reported to Senator McCarthy for surreptitiously spreading Communist propaganda.
That conversation is forever burned into my mind. I’ll never be a crazy guy like Mike, but I now make a constant effort to try new and unfamiliar things. 30 years from now, I don’t want to look back on a life full of regret because I was too afraid to try something outside of my comfort zone. I will have lived a more complete and fulfilling life, and I have Mike to thank for it.
Rest in peace, Mike. You left us far too soon, but you made the most of your short time here. Not many people can say that.