Wow, I thought that quote was a powerful one, and I could not agree more. We are a product of our own environment as children and young adults, but somewhere along the line you have to break free of those patterns and truly have your own identity. As the world changes, there are things that you need to cling to and defend, like virtue, honesty, integrity and other core values. But there are also a lot of things that need to evolve as well. My grandparents didn’t have any friends who didn’t look very similar to themselves and fell into the same economic bracket. Today, I have a wide variety of friends of all ages, races, colors, creeds, religious background and other distinct differences, and I am a better person for it. The world has evolved to a large degree, and I went right along with it.
I am trying to make the best decisions I can, all the time. I didn’t have a great track record of this when I was younger, as I, like almost everyone else, didn’t think too far into the future when making decisions in most cases. It seemed as though I would live forever, and so would everyone else in my life. Why worry if things are infinite and you have plenty of time to figure things out. I can remember one thing that stands out as a defining moment in terms of decision-making for me, and it happened. There was a famous college basketball player named Len Bias who was the first pick by the Boston Celtics, who had won the NBA Championships the prior year, but had the number one pick for the upcoming season due to previous trades. Long story short, Bias was at a party with his college friends and was celebrating his soon to be superstar status. Someone offered him a line of cocaine, and the age-old “Come on man, we’re all doin’ it” peer pressure rears its ugly head. Despite having so much on the table for his very near future, he snorted the line of coke, stood up, and was dead before he hit the floor. Later it was discovered the cocaine induced a heart arrhythmia that was what killed him so quickly.
After watching this news story, I vowed I would never put my family in the position of burying me for a bad decision. But I also started to pay closer attention to the lives of the people I was hanging out with at the time, and I realized that I was hanging out with the wrong crowd. I thought I was with the cool guys, a little older than me, who knew how to have a good time. At a party not too long after the Bias death, someone dropped a bag of cocaine onto the bar top and a few people definitely wanted “in”. By the way, this was a Thursday night, and I was supposed to be at school the next day. I declined when offered, and even got called a pussy for not wanting to give it a shot. But someone stepped in and ran interference for me, and exited the situation, staying in the back yard for the rest of the time I was there. I left and went to school the next day, admittedly a little rattled by this.
I came back to the same guy’s house Saturday night, and they were still going strong. Yes, two full days later, many had not slept, eaten nothing but pizza, and were haggard looking to say the least. It was at that moment that I realized I need to part ways with these group of people. Later that night two of the guys who were there on Thursday night decided an arm wrestling match was in order, so they cleared a table and started to go at it. Neither would give in, and before long one of the guys began to tire and then we heard a loud crack noise. He had broken two ribs from the force of being pulled against the table. They stopped, and he began coughing blood. It was scary to say the least. But he refused to go to the hospital because he would fail a drug test and if his employer found out he would be fired. Not a good decision, and clearly a series of bad decisions that led to that moment. Nonetheless, I was out. I never returned to that house or contacted those guys.
This is a perfect example of the phrase above of dying looking like your decisions. I ran into the guy with the broken ribs a few years later, and he looked like he was 65 years old, despite being half that. He was my former doubles partner for a few tournaments before I exited that scene. I was playing racquetball at a pretty high level at that point, and he was on his third rehab stint. I looked at him and felt bad, but I also knew I had made the right decision.
If you come from a family or an environment that s prone to bad decision-making, you need to change your thinking about the world. It will take time, and it will not be easy, but you can do it. I grew up on a small farm n rural PA, and was one step away from poor white trash. But when we moved to Phoenix, and I left that environment behind, my world view adjusted accordingly. I saw things differently, new possibilities and a different future for myself. I am not sure this would have been possible if I had stayed put. I may have died looking like the decision to stay. I am confident that the things I have done in my life would not have happened if I had stayed on the farm, or worked to get back there. The life view was narrow and limited, and I would have paid the price.
Keep this in mind, whatever stage of life you are in, be sure to remember that we are all the sum total of our decisions to this point in our lives. This is good news in some sense, as you are not locked in but rather you can make changes that could radically change your future. If you are a drug addict and you finally commit to quitting, the world is wide open for you. If you are an athlete that finally let’s go of the judgement of others to perform at your highest potential, then once again you have a wide open future. Just remember that you need to be responsible enough to own where you are at and where you want to go. The rest is just details. Important details but again, just details.
Get to work, and make the changes you need to ensure that you are proud of the look of the decisions you chose. I wish you luck in your endeavors.
That said, there are things I am not going to get on board with, and in the interest of not getting canceled in the future for something I write today, I will keep those thoughts to myself. I have never seen a time during my fifty plus years on the planet when so many things that have been assumed, accepted or taken for granted that are now in question. I am all for scientific progress, but I am going too need some real proof that gravity is an archaic idea that no longer applies because a group of people got together and decided they wanted something different to be the new normal.