"Alright gang, I'm out!"
My last words to my fellow employees before I hit the road to Kalispell to watch my son play JV soccer against Flathead High's team. You can ask any of my friends and family and they will tell you that there is nothing that I enjoy more than watching kids play soccer. I think there is no better drama than a sporting contest unfolding in front of you. The outcome undetermined. The struggle against an opponent. The feeling of loss, and the limits one will push to avoid it. The elation of victory and the spoils that go along with winning. It is also fascinating to watch how competition bonds a team together and the depth to which it will tear them apart. A team that risks everything together and fails at something they all care about will teach them more about one and other than anything. As a matter of fact I can't think of one life lesson that can't be taught in competition.
Watching your kid do something you love is amazing. The fact that Connor and I share this is something I will never take for granted. When I tell people I would drive to Mexico to watch my son play soccer, they look at me like I'm a little nuts. If that was an option, I would do it in a heart beat. Happily. I'm sure I'd make some friends along the way, and it would be something else my son and I would be able to share.
When the wheels come off though, it can be a hard thing to lose. Anytime you lose something close to you it hurts a little more. I think that's where deep appreciation and love for something comes from. When you are faced with obstacles that interfere with the thing you love doing the most you are forced to reckon with the value of the end. Is the effort worth the sacrifice. If the answer is "yes" then you have a deeper appreciation for what you are pursuing. If the answer is "no", then you can finally be at peace. But only if the answer is really "no"! If the answer leaves an uneasy feeling, then there is more to reckon with. The search for the balance between rational and emotional making the discovery a bit more problematic for a serious a person. The dreamers can always dream up some new reality, the scientist with good rational foundations more reticent to take a leap of faith before more serious thought is required.
What does this have to do with high-school soccer? Quite a bit actually.
Connor is learning that there are obstacles standing in the way of his happiness in soccer, a game he loves. He is going through the agonizing process of discovery. Is the sacrifice worth the reward? Is the reward even what he thought it was going to be? I should also mention Connor skews a little more toward the serious side in his commitments. He has many interests, but when people ask me what he is serious about I tell them school and soccer. The fact that these two things are often not harmoniously aligned makes balancing them more difficult. So far this year, Lisa and I have not noticed much struggle in the balancing act that is the life of our high-school athlete. Tonight my honeymoon from parenting my son came to an abrupt end. Making it more difficult was the fact that I found myself woefully inept at offering any solace or advice to smooth the rough sea of questions and challenges facing the most amazing young man I know.
Sometimes there are no answers there is only effort. Maybe this is one of those times? When you keep moving to stay afloat. To stop would be the only sure way to fail. Stay moving, the only way to keep options in play.
By the way, the JV team won in an effort that showed character. They spotted the opposing team two goals in the first ten minutes and then took control of the game and came back to win 3-2. I was proud of the way Connor played and see great moments on the field for him, making it harder for me to see him struggle with the decision about whether playing is even worth his effort. Bringing to mind another lesson, sometimes you're close to an exceptional thing but life's priorities get in the way. All I know for sure is when the happiness is wrung out of something you love it's time to start asking lots of questions, find out who your real friends are, and let them work with you to restore balance. There is always peace and happiness in the things you love. Things are not good or bad, they are good and bad. Dissonance impedes harmony. Welcome to high-school disequilibrium. The struggle before achievement. I know great things are just around the corner for Connor, I just don't know if I have the courage to stand by and watch?