Life, Confidence, & Goals
It is 4:30 AM on Saturday. I cannot sleep. I am listening to my wife and our children breathe as they rest peacefully while I am contemplating life.
The initial twenty-one years of my life were relatively normal and easy. (Except for the whole defying predictions of not being able to walk as an adult but that story is being told in detail soon). There were the experiences of losing classmates and grandparents but all in all I was protected and safe within the bubble of my seemingly predictable world. The next two decades, though, the years just lived through, they have been a whirlwind. Career changes. Relationships. Family dynamics. Friends coming and going.
I am grateful for all of it though. It has made me who I am today. The experiences have shaped me. Over the past six months I have begun to experience a new feeling in life; confidence. Even now as lay under the warmth of my covers and my mind plays out scenarios surrounding a current stressful situation, I have personal confidence like never before in life.
I know this trait or strength is the result of the journey and developed as I experienced every peak and valley along the way. From the pinnacle of career success in sales, to the lows of a church committee voting to fire me in my own office as I sat dumbfounded behind my desk. From the heartbreak of yet another failed relationship, to the exuberance felt on my first date with Stephanie, to the safety my heart has embraced the ten years since that now fateful evening. From the despair of sharing scriptures of comfort at a student’s funeral, to the overwhelming pride I have encountered in even the previous 18 hours as I have witnessed some of my former students (you know who you are) kicking butt in career & college, others receiving their 4.0 jackets, and writing recommendation letters on behalf of still others to some of the most prestigious universities in the world. From the unbelievable sensation that totally changed everything in life as the nurse placed Bowman in my arms the first time, to the same experience with Lorelai, to the utter darkness of hearing the radiologist confirm there was no heartbeat, to the rejuvenation Cohen brought to our lives, to the current anticipation to meet baby Clara in less than 4 short months. From 38 years of saying wait till next year at the end of every MLB season, to the high that still has not completely died out from just after midnight on November 03, 2016 when the Cubs won the World Series.
Every single moment of this odyssey is a blessing. Some have been painful. Some have been earth shattering (in good and bad ways). Some brought excitement. Some brought emotional devastation. Some still bring immense joy daily. Some moments I have purposefully not mentioned yet.
In the preceding paragraphs I have not spoken to the various health scares, extended hospital stays, and times I heard doctors wonder how I was still alive. It is not like I have forgotten any of this or because I have blocked it out. Trust me, just one time of hearing a doctor say you should be dead is something that sticks in your mind. Hearing variations of that statement over three different times changes your outlook. I have not yet addressed it in the written portion of this stream of thought because I do not know what to contrast it with. I still struggle with wrapping my head around this part of the journey. When I let my mind embrace the questions surrounding the weaving of this particular thread of the fabric of my life I take a familiar mental and emotional trip from despair of what if to thankfulness of grace and providence to steely resolve to make every moment count.
I typically do not say much about my odd medical journey because I do not want to be seen as the victim. I do not want to be viewed as different. I do not want to be an object of pity. I know others face far more difficult circumstances than I ever have or will. I want them to receive the deserving spotlight. Yet, while I do not speak of what I have overcome it is never far from the forefront of my mind. The steely resolve the questions ultimately bring is the major factor spurring me to excellence in all aspects of life. The other moments of the journey have shaped me with their various ups and downs, however the tumultuousness of my health is the driver that keeps me laser focused on my goals.
I spend quite a bit of time pondering goals in life, especially of late. In the summer of 2017, while in Chicago studying the Gilded Age and Progressive Era with now life-long friends, I set some goals for myself in relation to my career as an educator. I do not think I ever wrote them down but I knew them. I mentally went back to them and reviewed them often. I wanted to be a podcaster. I wanted to be viewed as a leader in my state within my subject area. I wanted to present at conferences; both breakouts and keynotes. I wanted to serve on board and councils for my academic discipline. I wanted to help write standards and curriculum. Basically, I wanted to secure my place in the room where it happened.
I have surpassed all of these goals, in ways I never dreamed of as I first imagined them. I exceeded them because of the determination which drives my every day. I pursued them to the point of blazing past mere achievement to the place of excellence and leaving my mark behind.
I met these goals through trial and error buffeted by resolve. I met them while lacking full confidence much of the time. Recently, I have been crafting new goals for the next five to ten years of life. They are ambitious. They are bold. I have written them down and have been refining them to sift through what is most meaningful for my life, my family, and my career. Truthfully, most of these goals make my eyes go wide when I take a step back and examine them critically. They do this because the pursuit of them will stretch me greatly due to their aspirational bent. The amazing thing is while they astonish me with their unmitigated moxie they do not scare me. A year ago I would have been terrified of putting most of these goals in writing. You see I had them then, most of them anyway. They resided in the deep crevices of my mind. They seemed too far-fetched, though, and best suited for others.
So, what changed? What brought them out of the depths of my thoughts to flow through my pen onto the pages of my journal and ultimately to be stored in a digital format? It was confidence. As I began to realize how fully I had surpassed my previous goals my personal confidence started to grow. I noticed it as I would speak up in situations where before I would shy back. I noticed it as I was looking up and out at the world instead of down at my feet. I really noticed it this previous summer as I stopped for a restroom break and fountain drink while traveling to a conference in another state. I was washing my hands and I looked up and in the mirror. At that moment, for one of the first times in my life, I was really proud of what I saw. I was pleased with the man looking back. Instead of the imperfections I saw hope of the present and the future. Instead of seeing the disappointments of experiences missed I saw the beauty of what I bring the world. It was not a long look in the mirror yet it was a truly remarkable moment. It was as if my growing inner confidence had finally lifted the lenses heretofore preventing me from seeing the real me. Thankfully, I have only grown in how I see myself since that brief look. That glance caused my confidence to shift from steady growth to exponential. This ever-increasing confidence has led me to be comfortable being myself in my new job. It has led me to dream about the impossible coming true in my life. It has changed everything. Now I am not pursuing goals on resolve alone. I am chasing them down with confidence and resolve.
I share all of this for several reasons. One is to bring further internal clarity to my mind as I reflect on all of this. The deeper reason though is you. To motivate you. To give you hope. To spur you to confidence. To help you discover the reason for resolve in your life. You, each and every collective and individual you reading this, have unique gifts and abilities to bless the world both around you and at large. There are opportunities and tasks uniquely suited for you. There are ways of bettering the existence of others which you alone are able to accomplish. Be resolved to shatter the limits of what you can do. Embrace confidence in you. We will all be better as you do!