Anyone who knows me knows I place a high value on character shaping humiliation stories from my formative years. Last week a friend at work asked if I'd do a quick sketch for her adolescent son to encourage him in his baseball pursuits. I immediately had a flashback to one of my darkest, yet most epic and pivotal middle school moments of existential horror.
It was the Summer of 1987. I had just finished 5th grade. I had just discovered skateboarding the previous Fall.
While I took a strong liking to it, I was still trying to “date” things I was no good at.
Things like sports.
I seemed to do ok that year hitting the softball at recess. So I thought to myself, “I hit the softball a couple times at recess, therefore I will be great at Wildcats. I will show the alpha male jock kids how awesome I really am.”
My Wildcats stint barely lasted two weeks.
The crossroads of destiny converged one morning when I was riding my skateboard in the neighborhood before a Wildcats game. I had begun meeting some of the local skate kids.
I saw a posse of bros having a skate session, so I stopped to talk with them. I was wearing my official “Wildcats” t-shirt and talking with the bros. Scott Austin, one half of the infamous “Austin Twin” duo, took one look at my shirt and asked, “Why are you wearing a Wildcats Shirt?”
I paused, cleared my throat, and then uttered in my little pre-pubescent voice, “Because I’m in Wildcats.”
Scott Austin’s countenance seemed to transfix itself upon my soul when he asked his next question.
It was a question that would would hang in the air and linger.
Linger like the stench of roadkill in the middle of summer in 110 degree weather.
“Why are you in Wildcats?”
Scott asked with a sense of curiosity and perplexed bewilderment.
The world froze around me, like a scene from a movie where everything stops and you are suddenly hyper aware of your internal world while everything around you just becomes silent.
I finally answered Scott.
“I don’t know.”
I really didn’t know why I was in Wildcats.
I skated home. It was time for the Wildcats game. Up to this point, I hadn’t hit the ball once, and they always stuck me deep in the outfield.
And I mean DEEP in the outfield.
And once again that day, I was deep in the outfield. Something surreal happened.
Somehow innings changed, teams switched out and I hadn’t noticed. I was still in the outfield.
Deep in the outfield.
Suddenly, a cacophony of laughter broke out around me as everyone at once realized I was out on the opposing team’s outfield. Everything becomes blurry after that except for biting my lip and holding back tears until I got in my Mom’s car. I do remember one other detail. Right before I got in the car, my friend's Dad chortled loudly, “Heh-Heh, got a little confused out there eh?”
I opened the car door, and the floodgate of tears opened broke open like a ruptured dam and consumed me.
Needless to say, I never went back to Wildcats.
BUT, that day was the day skateboarding seized my soul once for all, and beckoned me like a lover.
And so I followed skateboarding and never looked back.
Which brings me to the question we must all pause and ask ourselves at key intervals in our lives.
What are you doing? Why are you doing it?
To quote the great Tyler Durden, "This is your life and it's ending one minute at a time."
What is your calling?
What must you do to make that happen?