In May of last year, my former principal at my high school in Clinton, Massachusetts, asked if I would give the speech at the 2017 baccalaureate and give graduation advice. It was an honor to have been asked, and I gladly accepted. The offer was extended, perhaps, in November the year prior, and I had plenty of time to think about what I was going to say. I racked my brain for creative ways to inspire high schoolers, but I really didn’t know what it was like to be a high schooler in 2017. I only knew what it was like to be a high schooler in 1999 to 2003. So, I imagined what I would say to a seventeen-year-old version of myself, and I simply pretended I was in the audience, with the hopes of inspiring others. Watch the video below and let me know what you would say to your 17-year-old self.
This morning, I was exchanging emails with my dad about concussions in football, and he wanted to remind me that he never let me play football. True, I wasn’t allowed to play football as a kid. And my dad wasn’t allowed to play football either. And he wanted to make sure that, one day, I kept the tradition alive.
Well, honestly, I’m not sure if I will or will not let my son play football. I know that I won’t let my son play football before the age of 14. The research shows that under 14, kids brains are still developing and their necks aren’t strong enough to support their oversized head. But when it comes to beyond 14, I might just let my son make his own choice.
Honestly, football is one of my favorite games to watch. I’m the biggest Patriots fan in the world. The reason the Patriots lost against the Seahawks was because I wasn’t watching the game or wearing my jersey. I cursed the team. (I had to conduct an interview.)
I’ll never forget the game when Tom Brady came back against the Oakland Raiders. I was still in high school, and I was watching the game at my grandparents’ house. It was pitch black outside, and the snow was stacked high. Cumulonimbus clouds were dumping down a wicked lot of snow. I remember feeling that the game was over, and the miraculous Patriots run was finally finished.
That’s when Tom Brady started connecting to Jermaine Wiggins and Troy Brown in the second half. That’s when Brady started to spike the ball into the snow so hard that he fell over with joy. That’s when the tuck rule bailed out our team. That’s when a sixth round draft pick — from out of no where — became a hero.
My grandmother, Mimi, was going crazy. She was sitting right next to my brother and me, holding our hands and screaming out every play. She didn’t like football — in fact she called it foosball and the Patriots the Pat ri awts. I wish I could spell it out phonetically, but I can’t. And she was right there with us, cheering at every play. It was almost like we were cheering for ourselves, too.
Man, when I look back at this video, an intense memory comes back. I watched the game back in my hometown, Clinton, Massachusetts. I was still in high school. I was lost and confused. And I remember, while watching Tom Brady bring life to a somewhat miserable franchise, I felt that anything was possible. Of course, when I write that everyone from Boston is going to be reminded of Kevin Garnett. That felt forced when he screamed, “Anything is possible.” But when Tom Brady marched down the field, in the snow, and Vinateri kicked that field goal, the snow didn’t seem so thick and the night didn’t seem so black.
Well, back to my original point. I tried to play football when I was younger, and my dad wanted me to make sure I remembered how miserable I was at football. Just in case I had any thoughts of letting my son play. My dad hated watching me play. He was so worried about me. This is what he wrote: “I remember that one play the running back got easily outside the tackle and you were the only DB in the area. You intentionally faked yourself out so you wouldn’t have to take him head on.”
I try to remember that season I played football differently. He was right though: I was pretty terrible.
One thing that I’m learning about freelancing is that time management is so important. At first, you think you have all day, and you can work on certain projects as much as you want. But then you start getting work while you still need to look for more work and it suddenly builds up and up and you feel out of control…whew!
That’s kind of how I felt today…powerless to outcomes. Will someone respond to my pitch? Will an ad agency respond to my query? Will someone hate my writing or like it? Well, those questions are out of my control, and, as soon as I remembered that, I felt better, which is what they talk about in the rehab center I used to work at. Oh wow, I almost started to write about the serenity prayer. But I’m going to stop myself. It’s obviously a great thing, but it seems somewhat intimate.
And I have to remind myself one way to help with the feeling of powerlessness is to keep a schedule and follow that schedule. Even when you can’t finish your work completely, remind yourself there’s always tomorrow. The sun also rises. (What an amazing title that was.)
So to change the subject, I was on twitter, and I started talking about my top five poems with another poet. One of the top five was “Gin” by Philip Levine. I wrote a bit about him yesterday and how he finds beauty in work. Well, Gin, that’s an incredible poem. It’s about the first time the narrator, a young boy, drank gin. He couldn’t figure out why people drank that stuff. He said it tasted like hair tonic. Continue reading “Time Management, Gin, and Reading at Stories”