If there is one thing my parents taught us growing up, it was to never settle for less than the best.
Things aren't going the way you want them to? Change them.
You're not scoring many goals during soccer games? Go outside and practice until sundown.
Track practice is tough? Work through it.
School doesn't come easy? Study harder. Better yet, study with Mom. You'll be reciting the entire text book by sunrise.
Whether or not we followed through on their intense desire to see us succeed was - and still is - entirely up to us. But it was instilled in each of us that we were born into a family that doesn't give up; doesn't blend in; doesn't settle for mediocrity; puts their heart into it; walks off the field/court after a win or loss knowing they gave it all they had with sweat on their backs, blood on their lip, panting to find their breath. I'm so serious about this.
Naturally, it's been very difficult for me to just throw in the towel over life stuff after being brought up this way. (This excludes my college years when I was suffering from something that couldn't be solved by my own will and even then, I can't tell you how hard I tried to get myself through it on my own).
I've written countless times (and mention it in nearly all of my posts) that I struggle with anxiety-filled thinking. I can't tell you how many times I've wanted to just give up on myself; stop trying to fight through it. I wanna pull the covers over my head and stay in bed for the rest of my life. "I just can't go on!" I hear myself exclaim. "Can't means won't," my inner strength responds, (or is it my father's voice? I can never tell). Thank God for a family like mine during these instances. Despite lots of really heartbreaking dysfunction, at the end of the day, any one of my family members will pull me back to the surface if I'm ever in a place where I've decided I'd rather drown. (It's funny, my mother is rarely good for a hug, but she's always good for lighting a fire under your ass if she senses complacency, laziness or self-pity).
So, tonight I'm watching my brother play college basketball against Duke University, a team seeded #1 in the NCAA. My brother plays for Colgate; a tiny but ridiculously prestigious college in chilly upstate New York. Colgate's being crushed by Duke. It's not a game I've enjoyed watching all that much...until I see that familiar yet undefinable power emanating from my brother's every move, every pore, every ounce of his being. And guess what? I'm not the only one who sees this happening.
Here I am watching this game on espn3.com in horrible resolution. I can barely make out who's who on the court. But I can see my brother because I know the way he dribbles; the way he switches speeds as he runs down the court; the sneaky dishes he gives to the lanky forwards from under the basket right before he steps out of bounds. Then I hear the commentators say something along the lines of, "there's H, named Captain of the team and doing a great job at showing an example of hustle, not giving up despite the way the game's going." (That's either exactly what they said or a horrible paraphrase, but you get the picture.) In hearing this, I instantly begin clapping my hands together so hard that my dog wakes up from her nap and begins barking and jumping around like she's just ingested 30 fudge sticks. I'm screaming, "that's my brother, that's my brother!" Tears begin to well up under my eye lids (this is not surprising, I cry when I see a leaf fall from a tree these days). But I'm filled with so much pride. My brother has always been an inspiration to me. Because like I said earlier, my siblings and I have always had the choice on whether or not to use the so-called inner strength my parents promised we had inside us, or let it go. My brother has never given me a reason to think he's ever once let it go. When we were kids, I remember spending many fall afternoons reading or talking on the phone. Thumber watched a DVD in her room or sucked her thumb and held her pillow. Conversely, my brother would be walking up and down the street we lived on while dribbling with his left hand - his weaker hand - for hours. This didn't phase me as a child because I thought this was what all boys did. It didn't dawn on me until years later that no, not all boys did this.
Nobody really did this. But he did. And he still does stuff like this. Sacrifices for his passions. Keeps his eye on the prize. Fights despite adversity. Shows courage and poise.
I'm proud of you kid. I know you guys are probably going to lose by 30+ tonight. But you are a shining star. What Mom and Dad taught us shines through in you and always has.