At what point does someone crack when in pursuit of a dream? I think everyone has a breaking point when they begin to ask the question “what am I doing?” This doesn’t mean that person gives up their dream or quits, it means they have to really refocus and see if whatever they are doing is actually what they want to do and begin counting the costs if the risk is worth the reward. I also don’t think this is a onetime thing. I think it happens several times throughout someone’s career or lifespan. It happens to business people, athletes, musicians, soldiers, moms, dads, relationships, teachers, pastors and the list can go on. If you are alive, at some point you will begin to ask yourself “what am I doing?” This question is often asked while in the midst of a challenge or an obstacle.
I am no exception. I can’t count the times I have asked myself this question. I want to take you back to my first summer in San Diego again. Although the summer was filled with incredible memories of sweat and blood I must also share the tears.
I’ve mentioned before my daily schedule that would begin at 6:30am with practice, Big Moes from 8am-4pm and then another practice at 6pm. By the time we would arrive home our stomachs would be screaming for something. Ideally we would grab a quick burrito on our way home or Mike’s dad would have something prepared once we arrived home. After we would eat we would spend a few minutes in the hot tub and then hit the sack to begin all over again the following morning. That was the typical schedule but things change.
Our household went through a rough spell that summer. After I sold my VW van for parts I purchased a 1981 VW Rabbit. My VW Rabbit got towed at the border (another story) so I was without transportation, Mike’s dad was without work, and the rest of us boys were working minimum wage jobs making just enough money to pay rent and gas to get to and from practice. Mikes mom still wasn’t fond of the fact I was living there and she made it quite clear through her actions.
Mikes mom had a decent job and was the bread winner. Due to the tension at the house with Mikes dad being unemployed, three college boys (two of which were her kids) and a 12 year old daughter living at the house his mom withdrew from interaction. She did her own thing basically in protest of the living conditions. This made for many uncomfortable situations.
Let me give you an example of an awkward situation as this happened more than once. We had one of our long days working and playing soccer. We came home to a house low on food. A few minutes later Mikes mother walked through the door with fresh hot Italian take out. The aroma of the garlic breadsticks was enough to make you want to kill your best friend for a bite. In most family settings everyone would sit down and enjoy a delicious dinner together even if there wasn’t a large portion. Well, that night she walked straight back to her room with the food. We all thought that was odd but I wasn’t going to say anything.
I remember progressing to the shower. While I was in the shower she called Mike back to her room and proceeded to give him some dinner. He thought she was going to do this for everyone so he went ahead and ate. After completing my shower and getting dressed I remember waiting for the call and suddenly realizing that it wasn’t going to happen. I started to feel sickness come over me. It was as if birthday party invitations were being passed out and I was waiting for the boy to give one to me but it never showed up. It was a feeling of true rejection. It was hard to understand how I could be so hungry, the cupboards so empty and there be so much food in the back room without an invitation to eat. Now granted, I chose this life and I knew this. That’s what was so tough to deal with.
Mikes dad was a good man. He would do his best to make do with whatever he had and trusted that God would supply his needs. Some of you may not believe this but that night as we looked through the cabinets and pantry, the only ingredients to be found was a box of Bisquick, a little sugar and a couple bruised apples. That night chef Rick whipped up bowl sized apple pies for our dinner. This was the first apple pie I ever had as I was never a fan of fruits or vegetables. I was hungry and needed something. It was awful! This was my breaking point.
Some may think this wasn’t a big deal and looking back on the grand scheme of life and my journey it probably wasn’t. But I can tell you that I cried that night. I cried as I felt rejected, alone, broke, and I wanted to be in my own house or environment. Suddenly that night I thought I may not be cut out for this dream. I couldn’t get home as I had no car and I didn’t even have the means to call home. Even if I did call home my parents were in a similar boat as they were living in my grandparent’s house. They had no money to help. I had no options.
That night I asked myself that question, “Joe, what are you doing?” Why couldn’t I be happy landscaping in Fargo? Why couldn’t I just work a normal job close to what’s comfortable. All that sounded so good that night. If I had the means to get back to Fargo I would have gotten on the next flight. I had had it and I felt broken. Was my dream worth it? Thank God I didn’t have a choice. I had to stick it out.
That was a tough week for me. I finally was able to talk to my mom and share with her some of my week’s events. Now as a dad I can only imagine how tough it must have been for her to listen. Anytime your child goes through a difficult time you want to fix it. During that conversation my mom did what any great mom would do. She began to remind me of the life I’ve been given. She reminded me that nothing in life that is handed to you is worth celebrating. She reminded me of the obstacles I had overcome the past years and most importantly reminded me of what God had in store for me. She pointed to times in my life that could have only been God and this was just another step. She basically licked my wounds and sent me back out to conquer the world. I love you mom! How difficult this must have it been for her. I know she wanted me close. I know she wanted to protect me yet she knew the importance of letting me rise, fall and rise again. My parents believed that I could do anything and encouraged me to pursue my dreams. They wouldn’t settle for me selling myself short. It was this support that allowed me to push myself, fail and get back up again.
Note: The Bisquick Apple Pie invention was terrible back then. If anyone happens to have a great recipe for this please pass it along as I now enjoy apple pie and some vegetables.