Big Life with Ray Waters Neal Campbell no

The year was 1977.  I was 15 years old just beginning to attend a new high school.  I had a few friends at the new school, but like so many my age, I was a intimidated by some of the upperclassmen.  They were just bigger, hairier, and scarier than any of the kids I was used to hanging around.

I was on the JV football team, made up of mostly 10th graders, and we were on the field practicing with the varsity team. (If you are not a sports person, don’t bail on my story. Hang with me.)

Now I was a pretty good football player in my day. Don’t misunderstand, I was not great, but always a  starter, and I had a certain level of success on the gridiron. The time I had spent on or around a sports field, had been generally good times.

But, on this day, everything was a little off. You know those days when nothing seems to work like it usually does.  I was having an unusually bad practice. And, the coach punished me by making the team run extra wind sprints.  Don’t miss this. The coach made the whole team run!  All the JV and all the Varsity!

One big, hairy and scary upperclassman was rightfully ticked at me and said, “Punk, you need to get your ‘act’ together.” Well, I don’t think he said ‘act’.  Without thinking I said, “‘Forget’ You!”  Well, it was something like that. 🙂 He scowled at me from under his helmet and said, “I’ll be waiting for you in the locker room after practice.”

Because of my poor practice, the coach kept me on the field even later than everyone else making me do additional running. When I got to the locker room, exhausted, I quickly noticed no one had left. Every varsity and junior varsity player was hanging around to see what was going to to happen to me and the big, hairy, scary guy.

Our football lockers were in cages in the boys dressing room near the gym.   I’m guessing 30 lockers in a cage – and probably 3 cages in the locker room – This kept our football equipment locked securely away from the general school population who used the locker rooms to change clothes for regular PE classes.  I walked into the middle cage to my locker, and walking in behind me was the big, hairy, scary varsity player I had offended.  The upperclassmen who were eagerly awaiting my ‘beat down’ slammed the cage door behind him. Me and the big guy were locked in a cage in my new school where I had few friends. I could not believe what was happening to me.

With the upperclassman standing now inches from me, I tried to apologize. “Listen, I am sorry about what I said to you. I was having a bad day and …….” As I was trying to talk,  the chants of the varsity team began to rumble through the locker room. ‘Kill him. Teach him a lesson. Stomp the 10th grader’s butt.” Then he hit me and knocked me over a bench in front of my locker.  As fights go,  it wasn’t horrible. I held my own and after a few minutes of us both hitting each other he said a few final words and I said a final word and it was over. Who won? Not sure – I remember my ear hurt for a few days afterwards. As for any damage to him, I truly don’t know.

Because I was 15 and not yet able to drive,  my mom was waiting to take me home after practice. When I got in the car she was a little irritated because I had come out so late. She was in full mom-mode, telling me that I needed to hurry out after practice so she could get home to make supper after working her full-time job.  As we drove home, with her voice not really lodging in my recently punched ear, I began to quietly cry. I was sitting in the backseat of the car, out of my mom’s view with big tears rolling down my face. I remember thinking my life had been so easy and now everything seemed so overwhelming.  I was afraid.  Life was never going to be as easy as it once had been. Did I have what it takes to survive the battles in front of me?

As I grew up I realized it was not so much battles with fists that I would have to navigate. My real battles were going to be fought inside of me. I was going to be attacked on a regular basis with thoughts in my mind.  Every day would be filled with internal dialogues that held the potential to knock me out or propel me to a better, larger life.

And you fight the same voices I fight. The details are different but the strategy seems to be the same.

Our negative internal voice tells us

… should be afraid of your future.

… are not up to the task.

….. you don’t deserve good things coming your way.

And that voice can knock us out. It has knocked me out. I have lost a few good years to that voice. But it doesn’t have to. You and I can defeat that negative voice with a better, more hopeful and benevolent voice.

… are walking into an exciting future.

….you are up to the task.

… deserve every beautiful thing coming your way.

I figured out a long time ago, I am a lover not a fighter. And I have no interest in raising my fist against another person ever. But I have to be a fighter with my internal voice that sometimes tries to drag me down. And you have to do battle with your negative voice too. The battle is not easy. There are times it sneaks up on you and tries to knock you out. But you have to fight it. Your future depends on it.

Dive Deeper to Float Higher

Four resources to help you Dive Deeper to Float Higher!


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