Life Outside The White Lines
Scott Fisher Nov 2010
This is for Wade and Joey and Chris and Becky and Elizabeth and Drea and Mom and all of the other wonderful people who love me no matter what. I'll start by copying and pasting an article I published about a year ago, then continue from there:
Outside The White Lines
By Scott Fisher Nov 2009
Every time I see bleachers, I feel it - the same longing, shameful, empty feeling that I'm feeling now. Consciously or subconsciously, I'm not sure which, I happened to move into a house that sits directly across from a football field. So, this morning, as it is every morning, I feel it.
There was a time, a lifetime ago, when the sight of the field filled me with a sense of power and ownership, as though I had won this land through battle and it now belonged to me and my men. Between the white lines, I conquered and excelled. No one was better than me. Nothing surprised me, and nothing happened without me. I know that I will never be as good or as smart or as capable or as outstanding as I was when I was on that field.
Now I stand beside my old truck, late for work, looking not at that field, but rather into it. I can smell the mud and grass, though the field is dry and empty. I can picture the white lines, see them blurring by as I sprint down the field. I can hear the crunch as I make contact, feel the jarring of my teeth and taste the sweet, bitter blood as it runs down my throat. Between those white lines is the only place I ever really belonged, and I miss it. I miss the hell out of it.
So why, after all the glory, all the touchdowns and winning and conquering, do I feel this sadness and despair? It's because I quit. After my senior year, I lost the fire. When I stepped off of that field, outside the white lines for the final time, it became the first step in a lifestyle of giving up. I was developing a chronic habit of walking away. So today, looking at this field, I no longer feel the rush, the adrenaline, the anticipation. Just the guilt. And I know in my heart that every time I quit, give up, walk away, it's directly linked to the day I walked outside those white lines. That day I stopped being the one thing that I truly am. I wonder if I can ever learn to be anything else.
When, how, and why the fire went out, I'm not sure. I told myself it wasn't fun any more. I told myself that I was tired of my father pushing me to do something I didn't want to do. The truth is simple. When I look back now at all those years, what I remember are the failures. I remember that first fumble when I was seven. I remember breaking my ankle in practice when they really needed me in the playoffs. I remember crying on the sidelines on the last play of the state championship because I didn't have what it took to play through the pain and be there for my team. When I look back, I realize that I see my whole life that way...I ignore the years and years of straight A's and worry about the B. I trivialize Employee of the Year, but make sure you never forget that I lost a client.
And it all started right there between the white lines - or rather, when I stepped to the other side of those lines. So, at forty-six, I'm asking myself, just as I did in 1982, "What do I want to be when I grow up?" I've spent the better part of 30 years trying to answer that question, and I can't. Will I ever again feel that control, power, perfection, that rightness? Or am I destined for a life of confusion and mediocrity? How can I live a life outside the white lines?
Now, another year later, I still yearn for that feeling...that rush...that comes from being that one guy that can change the world with one play. But I'm no longer in that arena. I held on as long as I could. I played baseball until I was 38, and played hard. But sooner or later I had to learn how to play the game outside the white lines. In other words, I had to learn to live life.
My mother showed me how life was done. She has gotten her pilot's license, driven a cab in Denver so she could have her dream of living in Hawaii, traveled Europe alone, in her 50's...my God, if anyone ever wanted a role model my mother is it.
The problem, apparently, is that she isn't a man. I needed a man to show me how to be a man...because men are men and women...aren't. Although the strongest and most influential people in my life have always been women, they still couldn't teach me to be a man.
OK, let me go back to the sports thing. When I was on that field, doing what came naturally, doing what my instincts told me to do, I felt like a man. Feeling the love and adoration up and down the halls at school, I felt like a man. Dating the prettiest girls and hanging out with the cool guys on the team, I felt like a man. But I never knew what it really meant to be a man - the responsibility and sacrifice it takes. All I knew was the way it made me feel. So I worked most of my adult life to recapture that feeling.
But, finally, in my late 40's, I'm realizing that the feeling was always an illusion. Helmet hitting helmet was real. Winning and losing was real. But what I had gotten addicted to was the approval that it brought. I needed to be great...to other people. But the fact is, when you live that way, live for other people, you have to hit the ball out of the park every single time...score that touchdown every single time...make that winning shot every single time. Because no amount of accolades or championships or records or accomplishments is ever good enough. If it's not in my heart to be proud of what I do - if I have to look to other people to find out how I feel about me - it's never going to be good enough.
So, here I am, middle aged, bald, a little larger than I'd like to be, writing this because I'm finally beginning to get it. I look around me and I see people who love me because I love them. I see people who like me because I don't care how much they make or what degrees they have, I just like them. They don't have to prove anything to me. I just like them. They can relax and be themselves around me. I love being that guy. But I find that I still hold myself to that other, impossible standard.
For a while, my answer was to become a teacher, so that I could coach. However, admittedly, that was never going to happen unless I won the lottery and didn't have to work. Besides, what kind of coach would I be when all I could think about was playing? Then a wise, wise friend asked me a great question one day. At the time, I was the trainer for our company, I trained every new employee and cross trained many managers. I also managed and coached our company softball team. Chris asked me, "So if that's what you really want to do, be a teacher and a coach, what is it that you're doing right now?" Talk about a two-by-four between the eyes. You see, I saw it my way and God saw it His...and I realized then that I was teaching and coaching. I was right on as far as what I'm good at and what I can bring to the world, but I had it pigeonholed and God didn't. I'd like to think that God figured I could teach and coach in any situation, cause that's who He made me to be.
So now my job, as I now see it, is to first and foremost, lead by example. Secondly, be the man that my boys can learn from, so they don't have to wait until they're 40 to figure out what being a man is. Third, learn...I need to always learn from everyone, because they know something I don't. Last, keep loving people for who and what they are...they always do that with me, I just never saw it before.
And I always have to remember that there are angels out there, you just have to pay attention.
About Author / Additional Info:
Scott's previous articles can be found at http://www.saching.com/profile/Scott-Fisher/2185