As a young lad (birth-14 years of age) I wandered through life pretty much afraid of my own shadow. If you challenged me to attempt some feat of greatness, my heart rate would quicken, cold sweat would drop from my pores and my body would slowly move backwards, quietly exiting the room unnoticed. A period of time passed where I was so gifted at being one with the group that my great Houdini disappearing act would completely go unnoticed. Group would participate, I would disappear, group would reassemble, I would reappear and all would believe that I too had partaken. Mission accomplished!
I don’t know why I was this way, some say it was fear of failure, others believe it was fear of rejection and then there is a feeling of possibly not fitting in with a group of your peers. As an adult who can look back upon this period of my life with an objective eye, it seems to me the fear of embarrassment for not doing well or having someone poke fun afterwards is what kept me over in the corner praying not to be noticed.
Either way, my unwillingness to participate in anything of substance left me stuck in a strange mental place. My inner Betty would scream a not yet coined Nike catch phrase of JUST DO IT!!! But self-preservation mode would always overpower even the slightest inkling of actually following through on anything.
As I grew into my late teens-early 20’s I took a very drastic turn the other direction! But instead of trying new challenges of substance, I slowly became the poster child for foolishness! To this day I am surprised my parents even claim me as their own. Instead of dwindling into the corner of a room I became the mouthpiece for the entire room and the room next door. My personality had changed to the point if I was not front and center, the focal point of attention, a moment of chaos would be created allowing you to notice little old me!
Once again looking back from the perspective of an adult. I had become Marty McFly. Dont you dare call me chicken! Dare me to do doughnuts with my truck in the high school parking lot! Go ahead, dare me! You don’t think my truck can do 120 mph? Dare me, go ahead! Whats that there’s a party tonight on the other side of town and I am grounded for a week! Dare me to steal my own truck, push it down the driveway after sneaking out and join the fun without getting caught! Heck I don’t even care about getting caught anyways, so dare me! Just dare me! Are you kidding me, you think that girl is out of my league! Dare me to go over and talk to her! Chicken you say, did you just call me chicken! Nobody calls me chicken! (By the way, got my nose relocated a few times as I was never a very good fighter)
Now with this new-found attitude came a side effect that as a child/teenager I had never intended. I alienated many good, long time friends, I hurt the feelings of many other very close friends and I hurt some family members feelings. All of which I regret greatly to this day. I was kicked out of my high school, let back in and almost kicked out again. My mouth almost always wrote checks my personality couldnt cash and I am pretty sure I drove my parents to alcoholism. Yes, I was that kid. If there was a story to be told, well I told! (sometimes with a great deal of embellishment) If there was a joke to be played, I played it! If there was a covert mission to take part in well then “Good morning Mr. Phelps”! I wanted, no I needed to be front and center if that didn’t happen then I acted like a little jerk! A little jerk that had just been called chicken!
My 20-30’s something happened. I calmed down just a bit and some of the wall flower came back in. I found myself still wanting to prove something, to someone, anyone, so my mouth was regularly engaged in self promotion. The problem was there was no back fill! At no point and time could I bring myself to actually finish many challenges my mouth had started!
- Tried saddle bronc riding. Loved it, but was too scared to compete. Big regret!
- Could have purchased my own truck and started my own company. Looked at one financing option. threw up my hands and quit! Big Regret!
- Raised my own cows for two years, could have grown the operation but instead, got scared and quit! Big Regret!
- Wanted to live on my own longer in my early 20’s. Got scared of being alone. Big Regret!
- Joined the military, was promised a certain job, when I didn’t get it, I walked away, even though I had already been through MEPS and was waiting to swear in. Big Regret!
- I have owned over 20 motorcycles in my life. My goal was to travel the United States on one of those bikes. Yet I could never bring myself to plan a trip! A regret I hold to this very day!
- Plenty of chances in my early youth to travel to Europe on the cheap. Was terrified of the unknown. Regret!
- Three times in my youth I could have gone sky diving. One of my biggest fears is jumping out of a perfectly good airplane! Excuses abounded for those three times, all while speaking of how easy sky diving would be! (except for just recently when offered I really/honestly could not make the date) Regret!
Everyone has regrets from their youth, these were just a few of mine. The difference is I was continually my own worst enemy. Always talking up the subject with no substance to back the proposal. As I reached my 30’s though life and my attitude really started to even out. The temper sub-sided ( you could call me chicken and I wouldn’t be offended), my personality had tempered just a bit. The latter half of my 20’s was filled with successes, the early part of my thirties was filled with growth, personal tragedy, more growth and knowledge. My life was really coming full circle and I now felt there wasnt as much to prove to anyone.
Moving into my 40’s and challenges were around me everyday, I no longer shrank into the back of the room or stood out front pounding my chest screaming look at me! I pick new challenges one at a time and do my very best to create some form of accomplishment! It has been a very rewarding decade so far. Sounds great right? Like I should be very proud of where my life is headed. The problem?
Two things. First, I now feel as though I have an enormous list of personal challenges to accomplish and I am running out of time. I am also finding new activities that I love so much I wish they had been discovered in my 20’s so I could thrive at them for another 40 years! Second. I now see the very same issues I had as a young lad in one of my sons. He is struggling to find himself, and in doing so is traveling head first down the same road of disappointment his father traveled so many years ago. There is nothing I can do to stop him for he is every bit as head strong and stubborn as the old man himself! We have talked, I have warned him, given him examples of my failures and successes and yet away he goes! It’s like watching a semi-truck plowing straight towards a stalled school bus and knowing there is nothing you can do to halt the inevitable destruction that shall ensue from a collision.
As one parent to many others the point of my long-winded tale is this; How do we get our children to experience life, listen to advice and learn from their successes and failures without repeating the same horrible mistakes of our youth. Or do we sit back and just watch the bus crash, hoping we can triage the incident successfully afterwards?
Anyone? Beuller, Beuller, Beuller……….