I’m not a person that speaks on regrets. We all make mistakes. We all have things in life where, with hindsight, we might have made different choices. The word hindsight is an interesting word:we will never come to a place in life where we catch it. Hindsight speaks on things past, yet only exists in the future. Hindsight will never help us make better choices. It’s unreachable.
With that being said, there is something about reflecting back. I look at my life, with the pool of unanswered questions that I was forced to swim through, and I now understand why many of those things happened. I recently had dinner with Mike Austin, one of my best friends during my Franklin Junior High days. He was in Orlando for a conference of some sort with the Navy. We caught back up with each other through Facebook, so when he comes into town, he tries to carve out some time so that we can catch up. During the last visit, we found ourselves talking about motivation and ambition, and he asked if I had any regrets, or if I ever had the impulse to bask in some of my success and take credit for all of the hard work I put in. It was a very fair question. I’m a very devout, spiritual person, and one would think the answer to those questions would be the typical “I just want to give all praise, glory and honor to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!” While this statement is at the root of all that I do, the real, genuine, truthful answer is a bit more complex.
Are there days where I want to take a Michael Jordan Hall of Fame ceremonial approach, sit in front of all of the people that doubted me and scream “WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT MY DESIRE TO PLAY BASKETBALL NOW?” Absolutely. I’m human. When you triumph over difficulties as much as I have, that’s a very human response. I remember driving home that night after my dinner with Mike wondering if I had done God a disservice. Should I have answered those questions with the staple Christianese answer? It led me to even more reflection, and I had questions to answer these questions: Would I have persevered without motivation? What was my motivation? What drove me to the brink of obsession to keep working hard to be a basketball player? The only answer I could come up with was God! Even as that young kid that fought going to church with my parents as a teenager, I knew, with hindsight, that God was directing my steps. He was my motivator.
Somehow, I was able to hold tight to that mustard seed of faith with the hope that I might eventually persevere as a basketball player. It didn’t…it could not have had anything to do with me, my strength, or my work ethic. Some people are blessed with incredible intellectual ability, others can sing or dance, and others are gifted with hand to eye coordination useful for mechanical engineering and repair. I was blessed with the gift of faith. The work ethic and faith that I was given to work hard was supernatural. It was directly from God. This is just who God created me to be.
Again…hindsight is an interesting thing. I know now, but in the thick of each trial, there was a lot of pain to manage. I’m surprised that I didn’t have some emotional breakdown, especially since a strong history of manic depression/bipolar disorder runs through my genes. I can’t help but wonder if I looked as crazy and distraught to everyone around me as I felt within. Was I the only person in my circle dealing with these types of emotions? I know I was one of the few outspoken individuals sharing my crazy dream with others. So do I have any regrets? Nah..I’d like to watch a remix of my life where I made different choices, just to see what would have happened, but I wouldn’t change anything. I believe in God’s omnipotence. In life, there’s no casting for parts anyway. You don’t play it, you live it, and I try to encourage others not to regret, knowing that you could have but you didn’t.
If I could, however, watch a different version of my life where I made different decisions, it would be during my eight grade year. I oftentimes share with people the fact that I was cut 5 out of 5 times from my middle school and high school team, from 7th – 12th grade. No one has asked yet, but there are actually 6 years in there. Why wasn’t I cut 6 times? In eight grade, as we were preparing for our Hornet winter sports season, I was torn between trying out for the basketball team or trying my hand at a second season of wrestling. My 7th grade attempt at making the basketball team was embarrassing. I started sharing my dream to play basketball with others, and after I got cut, almost everyone around me took it upon themselves to be the barer of bad news for me. It’s shameful, but people used my dreams as fodder for a quick laugh.
When Fall sports registrations came around, teammates of our wrestling team were in full recruit mode. There weren’t a lot of 70 pounders around to fill those midget weight classes, and my teammates from last year – people like Joe Peters, John Lloyd, and Steve Salvanish – made me feel needed and important. I can’t lie. It felt nice to be wanted and needed. In the end, those guys won out. I didn’t even try out for the 8th grade basketball team.
I believe that all things happen for a reason, but it would be interesting to see what would have happened if I tried out for the basketball team that year. Did Coach Schaum take me less seriously in 9th grade because I didn’t try out the year before? Maybe. Would I have measured up better by showing the improvements I had made in one year…if I had shown how much quicker I had advanced over other players through my hard work? No one will never know. I’m glad things happened the way that they did. When I am rejected, it does something to me internally. There’s this brief moment of depression, followed by this ridiculous drive to prove to myself that the rejection I endured was nothing but a poor decision. There’s a large part of me that thinks that if I tried out and actually made the team in 8th grade, I wouldn’t be who I am today. More than that, this story I am sharing wouldn’t be all that exciting. There’s a strong chance that I could have become an average guy merely existing, not living life to the fullest.