Back to School

This week, my kids, like others all around the country, started back to school. Classes officially started this week, but the kids had already gone back in some respect. Cross country practice, band practice/band camp, and swim practice. A junior, a sophomore, and twin freshman, all at the same school and all active in one thing or another. That’s only four of six. The older two have already moved out to conquer the world. And so far, they seem to be doing that. At one time, not long ago, including the oldest at college, the six kids were at five different schools. It’s nice to have the last four all at the same place for the next couple of years.

Every year about this time it’s a great time for students to start anew. Provided they take advantage of it. They really don’t know how good they have it. I didn’t know back then either. As parents, we can only say so much to implore them to make the most of this time of in their lives. Free rent, free food, little or no bills. They have no idea what’s in store for them later in life. I can say with certainly that being an adult is overrated. They won’t know that for years to come. But for now, they only have to jump through the hoops of high school and get passing grades.

I’m sure we’ve all, at one time or another, wished we could go back to those carefree years. But only with the caveat of knowing what we know now. I’m pretty sure teenagers would disagree that they are in the carefree years, but we, as adults, know better. How different would things be if we possessed all the knowledge we have now and were able to go back to our high school years? We would all be rich and famous, successful and happy. In theory. But that’s not how it works. And probably for the better.

I am not rich or famous. I’m not successful. I do have happiness, but sometimes it’s overshadowed by the PTSD, depression, anxiety, hypervigilance, and life. Even so, I think I would miss out on too much if I went back and changed anything. All of my life experiences make me who I am today. If I changed one detail, I probably would not be who I am, I would be a different version of me. And who’s to say that person would be better or better off? As many hard knocks as I’ve had (most of which were brought on myself), how do I know this is the worst version of who I could have been? Everything has a trade-off.

I went to war, that changed me. I failed in business, that cost me. I’ve made a million bad decisions to become the person I am today, good or bad. And even though I struggle through life sometimes, as I wrote about last week, I don’t want to be anyone else except who I am right now. I would choose to not go back in time with all I have learned up to this point. Too much would be at risk.

To my children, make this your best school year yet. Put some effort into your studies. Go the extra mile in the sports you have chosen to participate in. Shine bright in the band. And above all, enjoy this time in your lives. You will never get this moment back. And the moments in the past cannot be changed. Period. Love y’all bunches. -Dad.

Thanks for reading this week. Good day, God bless.

Dave

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Mediocre Determination

I was on the wrestling team in high school. I did well. My junior and senior years I won the Regional Championship in my weight class. I had a natural talent on the mat. I also had a great coach. He was a tough S.O.B., but to this day, I still carry some of what I learned from him all those years ago. In the state tournament my senior year, I lost in the second round by one point in overtime to the eventual State Champion in my weight class. It was a hard loss. I still carry that, too.

This week I attended two sporting events that my kids participate in. Middle school tennis and track. My twin girls are each a student athlete, one in each of those sports this season. I was watching a boy’s tennis match after my daughter finished her singles match. One of the young men on the court was hustling, running, playing his heart out to make it a competitive match. The other young man, who was a little further along in his adolescence, put in far less effort and still won the match 6-5. It was a great match. The young man that lost probably played one of his best matches ever, but still fell short. As soon as he got off the court, I heard him ask the coach if he could be in the doubles match against the opponent that just bested him. He was not going to give up, even though his chances of winning were not good. I like that kid. He’s not afraid of a challenge, and not afraid to fail.

Isn’t it challenges and failures that make us better? Or at least strive to be better? Granted, you must have the desire to put in the work to get better since natural talent can only carry one so far. Of course, there are exceptions, but for the most part, natural talent without hard work to elevate and hone those talents usually leads to mediocrity. Did you know that Michael Jordan was told his sophomore year in high school by the coach that he wasn’t good enough to be on the varsity basketball team? He failed to make the varsity team. He didn’t quit, he played junior varsity that year, worked hard, and ended up becoming, arguably, the best basketball player of my generation. Failing may have been the best thing that ever happened to him in high school. It sparked a desire to succeed. And that, he did.

michael-jordan-quotes

Sometimes I think back to the State Tournament my senior year and wonder if 10 minutes of extra practice or work a day would have made a difference. I don’t dwell on it, it’s more of a nostalgic memory, remembering good times. It was a terrific match. It was the best I ever wrestled, and I fell short. I think most of us in life have had that experience. Here’s why that loss was tough: There wasn’t a next match for me in the tournament. I was a senior and done with my wrestling career. But the kid that lost the tennis match has many games left in him. He may not have the success that Michael Jordan had, but he has the determination to keep trying.

I miss that determination in my life. I lost it in 2015 and I almost died because of it. Maybe I lost my determination before then and was just trying to survive on my life’s natural talent, whatever that is, and it finally took its toll on me. I got tired and gave up. But I’ve learned some things. There is a time and place to have the determination of the young man that lost his tennis match. There’s a time to be mediocre and survive the storm, even taking a couple steps back. And there’s a time to simply pace yourself while moving forward, with no need to be a hero and no need to keep running into the brick wall at full speed. That’s where I’m at in life right now. And I’m OK with it. I’m moving forward. I’m taking it at my own pace. And I’m going to survive.

Gone are the days that I need to go full throttle with everything in life. I’m done running into walls just to prove I can. I already know I can get back up and do it again if I wanted to. No need to keep proving it. I’m content with being mediocre because I’m still moving forward. And also because I have such wonderful memories of all the times I ran into those walls and got back up and succeeded. And I mean that. I’ve learned a lot from my challenges and failures, and those subsequent victories. Victory after failure is sweet. I hope that young man on the tennis court experiences that.

Thanks for reading Story of My Life this week. Good day, God bless.

Dave

Other posts you might like:

https://storyofmylife.blog/2016/08/20/the-storm/

https://storyofmylife.blog/2016/03/12/passing-the-torch/

https://storyofmylife.blog/2013/01/10/what-motivates-you/

 

Don’t Work Too Hard

My brain gets stuck on things sometimes. Some of those things don’t make any sense at all to be obsessing over. But I do it anyway. And in a week where nothing came to me for my blog, I’ll write about what’s been stuck in my brain. I have nothing profound to offer in this, but at the very least, this will be a glimpse into what goes on in my head occasionally. So, if you see me deep in thought and I look like I’m pondering some important life-changing knowledge, I might only be contemplating some trivial nonsense that popped into my thoughts and is driving me nuts. Like this….

I’ve always wondered about the phrase “Don’t work too hard.” What does it mean? Be lazy? Slack off? Don’t give your full effort? I’ve always answered that statement by responding with, “Too late.” In school, our teachers always encouraged us to study hard. In sports, our coaches implored us to play or run hard. When mowing the grass as a teenager, my dad would tell me to do a good job, or I’d have to do it again. So, why then, when we get to adulthood do we tell each other “Don’t work too hard”? Isn’t that a contradiction of everything we were taught growing up?

But I’ve been thinking about this lately because someone at work recently told me “Don’t work too hard” as they were leaving for the day. And it’s been stuck in my head ever since. I know this topic for my blog might be a little different or weird compared to most of my other posts, but that’s how my brain works. Or, in some cases, doesn’t work. It’s just a corny, cliché phrase, something to say that might be funny in an ironic way. But for some reason, my brain is fixated on it.

I have worked hard in my life at every job I’ve ever had, at least in my adult life. I pride myself on being a hard worker. I also pride myself on being a smart worker, efficient and productive. Work smart, not hard, right? Either way, I earn my pay, that’s for sure. But then I think about some of my Army Reserve weekends and wonder if I do always earn my pay. There have been a few times that I was amazed we even got paid for some of the unproductive weekends I’ve been part of at various units. In fairness, some of the boring weekends are a result of budget cuts after the wars “ended” and the Reserves was again put at the end of the money train.

And then I thought, I shouldn’t feel bad about getting paid for not doing much once in a while on my Army Reserve weekends. I’ve been on two deployments, one to Iraq and one to Afghanistan, where I earned my pay ten times over. No overtime, no bonuses. Just work, every day. Long days. Hard days. Every day. I’m not complaining. I did sign up for that, and I wanted to be there. I volunteered for both of my deployments and I would go back right now and do it all again, the same hours for the same pay. This is simply a comment on how things balance out sometimes. And I don’t in the least feel bad about it.

I’ve worked with people that have taken “Don’t work too hard” seriously. It’s bothersome to me. And I’ve seen road crews where one guy is working and four others are standing around not working too hard. I’ve been in the Veterans Affairs system where it seems like only a few of the people I’ve dealt with even work at all, and even fewer work hard. Maybe this is the part where it’s balancing out for them. Maybe they already met their quota for hard work. I guess I can relate to that on some level, considering some of my Army Reserve weekends.

So, if you can get away with it once in a while, “Don’t work too hard.” But I don’t recommend that being your lifestyle or motto to live by. And I’m not sure what I accomplished with hashing this out here as opposed to in my head, aside from trying to stay disciplined to post every week. In any event, thanks for reading. I’ll do better next week. Good day, God bless.

Dave

The Soccer Game

Somewhere around 25 years ago, probably longer ago than that, I got a traffic ticket.  To be honest, I got quite a few tickets during that time of my life.  A lot of tickets.  Most of which I deserved.  But I’m reminded of one in particular from way back then this week that was questionable whether or not I deserved it.  I was behind a vehicle going 20 mph in a 35.  It was raining, but the vehicle in front of me was being overly cautious.  If the driver was that uncomfortable, they should have pulled off the road.  I found it very annoying, so I passed.  Then, seemingly out of nowhere, I saw flashing lights.  I pulled over to the side of the road and waited for the police officer to come stand in the rain next to my car.

He asked for license and insurance card.  While I was handing that to him I asked why he pulled me over.  He informed me that it was unsafe to pass a vehicle in the heavy rain.  I pointed out that I didn’t even have to break the speed limit to pass because the vehicle in front of me was going so slow.  Plus, the fact that we were not in a residential area.  The police officer acknowledged that I had not exceeded the speed limit but that I would still be cited for, if I remember correctly, something called “failure to use due care.”  It’s like reckless driving, but not as bad.

I was not happy with the police officer’s decision to give me a ticket when I honestly felt like I didn’t do anything wrong.  It was a judgement call, it was his call.  And he deemed it unsafe and wrote me a ticket.  I didn’t argue with him.  I respected his authority even though I think he was wrong.  I could have contested it, taken my chances in traffic court, but just ended up paying it.  Back then that violation wasn’t a very expensive ticket.  And I’m guessing he must have really wanted to write someone a ticket that night even though it was raining fairly heavy.  He probably had rain gear on, but I’m sure he was getting soaked anyway standing there next to my car.

This week I attended my daughter’s middle school soccer game.  My girl’s team played very well in their loss.  If you are a parent of a student-athlete you know that sometimes calls on the field (or court) get missed, wrong calls get made, and the referee will hear about it from the parents in the stands.  It did seem that the majority of the calls favored the other team, but in his defense, he missed about the same number of calls for each team.  One of them he missed on our team could have drawn a yellow card.  One of our girls lowered her shoulder before plowing into her opponent.  No call.  That’s when the parents of the other team yelled at the ref.  I don’t envy his job.

During one play, a girl from each team was going for the ball as it headed towards the sideline.  Our girl (the blue team) was trailing another girl (the yellow team) to get to the ball.  The yellow girl started to lose her footing.  The blue girl slowed up and instinctively put her hands up to show she wasn’t making contact with the yellow girl.  The yellow girl eventually slipped on the ball and fell to the ground.  The referee called a penalty against the blue girl.  This happened right in front of the bleachers where all the parents were sitting.  The referee was much further away from the play.  But from his view, his angle, he saw a push that caused the yellow girl to fall.

We, the parents of the blue team, vocally shared our disdain with call.  That’s perfectly fine.  No one was ugly about it, no one used profanity, and then play resumed.  Well, except one mom in the stands.  She got a little ugly about it, but didn’t use profanity.  Once play resumed she should have let it go.  It’s perfectly fine to disagree with the call and be respectfully vocal about it.  After the ball was put back in play, the mom continued, attacking the referee’s character.  She was beginning to make a spectacle of herself.  The ref blew the whistle and halted play, walked over to the seats and asked the mom if she would like to watch the rest of the game from the parking lot.  She declined.  The ref put his hands to his chest, then extended his arms straight out as if to stay this matter is over.

I ended up talking to the referee after the game.  In the men’s room of all places.  I started by telling him not let the parents get to him, that he did a good job.  He’s a volunteer that officiates middle school and high school soccer games.  Give the guy a break.  I did tell him that I thought he got the call wrong, that the yellow girl tripped over her own feet.  He explained to me that call was pushing from behind that led to her falling.  That’s what he saw.  I was in a much better place to see it, had a much better angle, much closer to the action as it happened on the sideline.  But he explained what he saw.  I couldn’t argue with him, nor did I want to.  He’s the authority figure on the field.  It was a judgement call, his call.  He got it wrong, but it was his call to make so it counted as a penalty against the blue team.  That’s life sometimes.

All my children play or have played organized team sports in school and city leagues.  They aren’t the biggest, fastest, or strongest, but they compete hard.  We have had talks about “bad officiating” over the years.  I try to explain, and I think they understand for the most part, that at the middle school and high school level, the referees aren’t professionals.  I think some of them, especially the football officials, get a little something for their services.  But I believe most of them do it out of love for the sport, or for the kids, or possibly as a hobby.  They aren’t perfect.  But they are doing something that makes a difference for the young people competing.

I want my children to fiercely compete in whatever sport or academic team event they are part of.  If they win, great.  If they lose, I only ask that they gave it their best effort.  I want them to be humble in victory and gracious in defeat.  And I want them to respect the officials in charge of calling the game.  If something needs to be said to the referee, let the coach say it.  Let the parents yell from the stands.  But you, my child, my student-athlete, shake it off and keep playing.  Play hard and do your best.

Life lesson:  Not everything that happens in life is fair.  God knows I’ve gotten away with a few things in my life, but I’ve also paid the price for things that weren’t my fault.  It’s a balance.  Sometimes that balance tips one way or the other.  Don’t get bogged down with the minor things in life that aren’t right, that in reality won’t matter later anyway.  There will always be a bad call or a questionable traffic ticket in life to deal with.  Shake it off and move on.  Save your energy for the battles that matter.

Thank you for reading this week’s post.  Good day, God bless.

Dave

Other posts you might like

https://storyofmylife.blog/2016/06/11/hostage-negotiator-or-hostage-taker/

https://storyofmylife.blog/2013/01/10/what-motivates-you/