Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Winds of change

If it hasn't become overwhelmingly apparent over the last few months, our country has taken an new and more extreme look into the world of bullying. When it comes down to, we are all guilty of some type of bullying.  Intentional or not, we are, I myself am guilty of it but have also been the victim. 

When faced with the thought, I came to the conclusion that those who bullied me only pushed me to extract my revenge on someone that I decided to bully.  Sure I'm not proud of it, but it happened and sometimes still does.  What gets me are the ones with the inferiority complex that feel they have to pick on someone to prove that they are better then them.  Its not enough that they try and show there dominance but the fact that once they realize how easy it is, they keep coming. I got picked on my fair share of the time, and I picked on other people in turn, its a fact of life that happened. I think the seriousness of the problem doesn't lie so much with the bulling itself, its the reaction of the bullying from the bullied. 

As I said before, most bullies will keep it coming once they see it gets to you, keeping the pressure on you at there own pleasure.  They don't see the emotional effect that it has created on the one less fortunate.  All to often recently you hear about teens committing suicide because of constant bullying. Kids drop out of school so they don't have to deal with the daily pressure of being laughed at or mocked, or so far as being beaten and spit on.  I don't know how I will prepare myself as a parent for when my son steps into that ring.  Since I've been on both sides, I see now the right from the wrong, but I'm not sure how to convey that to him.  Connor will have to learn his own lessons, this maybe being the biggest of them all.

I think where I have a problem is, why must people constantly prove themselves to be better then each other, why do we have to have this gladiator complex in which we must destroy all those weaker then us?  I know I'm probably preaching to the choir but what other choice is there.  lets face it, until people learn respect for one another its never going to change and until parents teach there kids both by lessons and by example this will never change, and teens out there will still be killing themselves needlessly.  As parents we should take an interest into our children, know whats going on in there lives, see how there body language is changing, and always ask questions.  If you have an open relationship with your children where they are not afraid to talk to you, then you can help them deal with there problems so it doesn't come to the inevitable.

I'm not saying that you shouldn't punish your children/teens, but when you are having issues we shouldn't lash out and attack them as if they need to be threatened to learn anything. sure they need to be disciplined but I feel that an open relationship where they feel they can come to you with there problems would go a long way in relieving the stress that's put on there lives.  We all know what its like being that age, maybe the hardest time of our lives, constant pressure from parents, friends, teachers, etc. but whats most important is that we as parents try to recognize the struggle within them and help guide them through it.

About 10-15 years ago I was in that spot, i was bullied, i was made fun of, and I had no one to talk to.  So instead of try to deal with it, I lashed out on other people in ways I would rather not describe, but I did and I'm not proud of it.  It took me a long time to realize the error of my ways and looking back I can only hope the things I did will one day be forgiven.  Perhaps even harder for me is forgiving the ones who bullied me. To this day I must say I still hold grudges, and I don't ever know if ill let them go.  I'm sure the people I hurt feel the same way, and I don't blame them.

"To error is human, to forgive is Divine" this is a saying I heard recently, and it speaks to me a bit. Forgiveness, now this is a challenging proposition, and one I have never really been good at, which I guess proves the saying "to forgive is Divine".  I'm not exactly godly now am I, and so I realize that neither is anyone else.  Ill never forgive anyone should anything happen to my child because of, or as a result of, being bullied, least of all myself. If I fail at the part of my life that I HAVE to be 100% at, to show him whats right and whats wrong and to never let himself be bullied or watch anyone else be bullied. then I'm a failure as a parent and it will be because of me that I will have suffered or had to watch my child suffer. In the end its not about us as adults, because help for us is all but lost, its about the kids and teaching them to make tomorrow a better place.  We can lead by example and use our life's lessons to help them learn theirs.

There is an anti-bully campaign that's out there right now that has a slogan and that slogan is "BE A STAR, Show Tolerance And Respect" this should be a lesson to all of us, and maybe in a few years we will hear less and less about suicides of teens being bullied and more about friendship spawning in the strangest of places, people helping people, and the general improvement of life for all of us.  I for one, can only hope to feel the winds of change.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Moments that define us

For those of us who don't really KNOW who they are, it usually takes a defining moment to learn something about yourself that you never knew before.  For example, I never thought I would want to have kids, until my son was born.  In that moment I knew deep down inside that I wanted the little guy in my life.  Or two years ago when I was laid off, times got really tough but I learned that I was more then just a single skilled person, and that even in the toughest times I could overcome the adversity of the present situation.

I'm sure a lot of people will disagree and say they know exactly who they are, but I'm one with the belief that you really don't learn something about yourself until you have to apply that part of you.  Its like the guy that runs into a burning building to save a complete stranger.  I'm sure he never thought until that moment that he would ever put himself at risk for someone he didn't know.  It could be as simple as a person helping the less fortunate.  But in each small or great moment of our lives, we break the mold of the person that is hiding inside.  Its those defining moments, the moment when you either achieve or you fail, its the moments that deep down inside we all live for.

A picture is usually worth a thousand words, a few years ago the Pittsburgh penguins and the Detroit red wings played in the Stanley cup finals, and with precious few seconds left on the clock, and the red wings up by one, the puck slide through the crease but missed the goal.  If it goes in, it ties the game and the pens still have a chance.  The picture I remember is Sidney Crosby looking on from the bench, watching as the Red Wings celebrate there championship.  That right there was a defining moment, because the next season, Sidney and the penguins won it all beating the very same red wings in 7 games.

Of course there is the other side where some just never see that moment and never learn from it.  You cant teach someone these things, its a life lesson basically and they have to be able to see it before they can learn from it.  The problem with these moments is they can be devastating as well as invigorating.  When athletes play there hearts out and leave everything on the field, ice, lanes, whatever, just to come up short is a crushing feeling, its something you should never forget.  You should never forget the feeling that you came so close to something but you came up short, and you never know when or if you will get another shot. 

See the problem with some athletes is that the memory will always be in the back of there mind, and they develop a fear of failure, once you establish that fear of failure, your destined to fall short over and over again.  As individuals you should never fear failure, no one is going to succeed at everything in life, that's what makes it fun, its supposed to be fun doing something that few can say they have done, that's why we compete, that's why write, that's why we learn, that's what we should wake up everyday doing.  Having enough confidence in ourselves to know that we can achieve the unachievable. Anyone who says it cant be done has already succumbed to the fear of failure. I'm not saying we should embrace failure, I hate losing just like anyone else, but if you are afraid to lose, then you will be destined to lose.

Athletes are a different breed, competition is there life, no matter what event your competing in, its what drives us.  In my life I have won only one championship.  all my other teams falling short, some getting alot closer then others, some just being a disaster, but I keep competing and the reason I compete is because I know if I quit now, ill never know how good I could have been or would have been.  Sitting on the sidelines isn't the place for me. sure one day I'll reach the later years in my life where the sideline will look like a much more comfortable spot, and then when that time comes and if I feel I've done all I wanted to do, then maybe.

Until the time where I "hang it up", there are still plenty of moments left to teach me the lessons I need to learn.  The most recent, sometimes you need to learn to lose with dignity before you can succeed with integrity, and to never let that fear overcome you. don't let the fear of knowing you may never get there again take a seat in the back of your mind. next week is a new week, tomorrow is a new day and just another stop on your journey to glory.  and its that moment, that moment and how you respond that will truly define who you are.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Pressure...and the aftermath

There is something to be said for the athlete, amature or professional, that deals with the pressure of there given sport with grace.  We as normal human beings often don't understand what the mental and physical drain it can be to be put in a high pressure situation, especially in a team sport atmosphere.  This past week everyone obviously saw the Baltimore ravens kicker billy cundif crash under the pressure of a game tieing kick at the end of regulation in the AFC championship.  Ill admit, all week I was pretty hard on the guy, saying things like, your a professional athlete and you should be used to the pressure and you should know how to deal with it.

Well last night I got my own lesson in pressure.  For those of you who don't know I'm a pretty avid bowler, weekly league and sometimes subbing on Saturday nights, and I have had my fair share of pressure moments when it comes to trying to help my team come out on top and win each game.  I have been pretty good in those situations and usually I fair pretty well. Last night though was a different story, It wasn't so much the pressure of helping my team win, it was pressure to achieve a personal goal.  after one game I had a 240, decent game and I felt pretty good, got lucky in some spots but ill take it, and my team won behind me.  Then came the second game, and I started well, striking on the first ball and I was off to the races. 10 strikes later I stood on the line, 1 strike shy of a perfect game.

It is very hard to describe the feeling of standing up to the line, looking down the alley and knowing that if you get a strike, you have a perfect game, something that has been a personal goal of mine since I started bowling about 7 years ago.  My hands were shaking, my legs felt like they were going to give out, and the world just seemed like a blur.  I couldn't catch my breath and was trying to take deep breaths to relax.  Its the most pressure I have ever been under in my life as an athlete in any sport that I've played.  So I get set, a little quicker then usual, and I'm off, a little quicker then usual, and I let the ball go, a little farther out then usual, ball hooks, hits the pocket, and I leave the 8 pin standing.  299, I turn to lots of people in the alley congratulating me and telling me what a great game I had, but deep down inside I wish I could have the shot back, to come up one pin short was really hard to take.  Suffice to say I throw 4 strikes to start the 3rd game and end with a 234.  I finished my night with a 773 set, highest I have ever bowled. 

While I'm very proud of myself for getting to where I did, there is that part of me that keeps saying, next time, your going to bury the last ball and walk away with a 300, a perfect game.  So I pack up my stuff and head home, of course as I try to sleep the last ball keeps running through my head.  Well now I have had some time to reflect. There are some really good bowlers out there, but there are not a lot of bowlers that can say they have ever bowled a 299 or a 773 set.  So I'm very proud of the fact that yeah, I caved under the pressure a bit, but I came so close to my goal and now I know I can get that goal.  who knows when I will have that chance again, but I plan to make the most of it when I do.

As far as pressure for the individual goes, I can see somewhat now what it is like for a pitcher to be three outs from a perfect game, or a golfer a putt away from a championship, or a kicker a field goal away from a win or loss, or a hockey goalie a save away from the win.  The next time I watch one of the guys in my league try for a 300 I will fully understand the amount of pressure he is feeling.  A guy said to me last night, "the last one is always the hardest", that goes to for kicks, outs, goals, or putts.  As athletes, we are prone to high pressure situations, no one wants to fail, but we do, and we learn from that failure.  So cundiff is officially off my shit list, The pressure I felt is nothing compared to the pressure he was feeling, I'm sure, and I have a new respect for that pressure, it wasn't fun. 

In the end I have learned there are no limitations to what we can do as individuals, goals are there for us to achieve them, and when we surpass them, we make bigger goals. for me, its a 300, which in due time ill have another shot, after last night, I have added a new goal, an 800 series.  27 pins shy is hard to take, but an accomplishment none the less. I also know that even as an individual accomplishment, it would have been hard without the support of my team, and that in order to achieve individual goals in a team sport, you will always need alittle help from others.  Just the mental support was a great help from them last night, and for that i am really grateful.

In the end, before we demand the head of an athlete that folds under the pressure and doesn't come through, just try and imagine the pressure that is on them at the moment, how hard the heart is racing, weak the legs and arms are, how the world seems to be spinning, you can try to compose yourself all you want but there just isn't enough in each individual to compose all there emotion. sure some are good at it, but even the best cave every once in awhile.  Put yourself in there shoes for a minute and try to understand what they are feeling, I know from now on I will.  for me, I cant wait to feel that pressure again, cause then I will know, Ive gotten my second chance at redemption.