Insight into a hard life lesson.
One Step Away
Nerves. The only negative thing felt before doing something you love. I felt this as I walked down the dimly lit hallway; somewhat thick air filled the basement from the people hard at work nearby. Around the corner I went, wondering who I would see there, hoping there would be at least one person I knew who could accompany me as I start the process of growing up through the journey of football.
The first step was a role I was not used to, an infant. Thrust into a world that was more chaotic and fast-paced than the one I had known. The warmth and comfort vanished and cold unfamiliar places awaited. For hours I would hear people yelling, instructing, as I sat there scared of doing the wrong thing. I think I just simply existed in most of their minds; I was nothing more than a body, a useless mass. This pushed me to work towards my goal of success, the reason for my struggle. I did what was instructed. I showed my capability. Soon enough, I became an infant people believed could be something.
Along came the second step of the process. I walked down the same hallway except under a different frame of mind. The work continued. I was hungry. I worked harder than I thought possible at becoming the player I wanted to be. I remained in the process of growing; I still had not assumed a familiar role to me. I matured from an infant into a toddler in this increasingly familiar world. I still followed directions, only giving small input here and there, remaining afraid of losing what I earned by trying to do too much. I heard my superiors' words pierce my ears and enter my brain as if they were the only thing that ever mattered. I longed for my goal more than ever. I continued to grow. Within the second year of football, I grew from a wandering toddler to a capable teen.
I became aware. Aware of what I was truly doing, aware of the road ahead, aware of how hard my journey would truly be. This newfound cognizance took place while I matured to a teen who proceeded on the journey with infants, a familiar role for me, leader. This step proved to be the hardest. As all kids experience massive growing pains. Those who understood our goals pushed us to endure the pains while I did my best to show them what waited on the other side. The knowledge I possessed, though limited, proved helpful in countless ways. I knew the intricacies of the game at this point; where people should be and what is best for specific circumstances. I passed it on while at the same time taking in more and more. Staying hungry, unable to get enough food for how fast I was growing. I worked myself in order to make more and more room for the knowledge of how to reach my goal and growth. I aspired to reach adulthood in my journey as fast as I could.
I progressed through my teens and into my twenties. I felt as though I had matured enough for my goal to become reality. I showed capability at this age that many are unable to; it came through work that left my body entirely demoralized. As I wanted to progress, my body yelled out to me the only way it knew how, pain. Every step I took my shin acted as though it had split open, my hip made me think a spike was being driven into it and through to the other side. I ignored it, responded to it with more work, further attempts at healing through strengthening rather than rest. What made me do this? The sight of my goal in the distance sitting there like a house on a hill, waiting to be entered and enjoyed, and the noise of those witnessing my growth every week screaming for improvement, longing for "shared" success.
I became an adult. The last stage of my journey arrived with no warning, in a rush. It arrived like unexpected vomit, but tasted and felt more beautiful than anything I had experienced thus far. A cohort of teens and adults assembled, all hungry, all willing to work. We handled our opponents my senior year how adults handle kids. Authoritatively. We were the ones in charge. We did what we wanted. Some chose to oppose us but fell short of our authority. The time finally came. I found myself on the long driveway staring with wide open eyes at the beautiful house in front of me. I had longed since infancy to grow old and move in. The opportunity had come. My goal was within reach. We were in the semi-finals. The air was pure, cold; it went into my lungs with a fierceness that left myself and others shivering. My shoes felt heavy from the water that fell frozen to the ground in the days before. The wind hit against me, turning my sweat cold on contact. My body worked hard, sending blood to my hands and feet, stressed they may fail when needed most. The adults with me remained calm, focused, fully aware of what needed to be done. We proceeded, tedious and calculated. The maturation led us to this point. We grew up for this very moment. Finally, my goal was in reach, all my past shortfalls in the stages behind me occurred, so that in this moment, I would not fall short again. I gathered those with me, told them what we were to do. On the porch to the coveted house I stood. I had finally grown up. No one could accuse me of lack of work or complacency. I gave everything. Away we went, the last step to true adulthood.
The whole mood shifted. A weight thrust into my chest. Incomprehensible emotions pressed against the inside of my head looking for a place to escape. I can only equate the taste in my mouth to rotten milk willingly drunk with no thought to the consequences. One step away from the house I longed for I got ripped away, with no opportunities left. I looked at those who took this journey with me. Our senses became numb. The wind had no effect; we ignored our soaking shoes, the frozen sweat, the noise of those hoping for our failure, and the silence of those longing for our success. My last chance to enter the house was gone. I will never have the chance again. Everything I put into working up that hill fell short. All that remained were memories, a body that could barely function and the hardest thing I ever had to learn: you can put your heart and everything you have into something and still end up one step away.