Hello there true believer… it’s funny, I used to really enjoy that opening. And maybe I still do. It’s a great salutation with an acknowledgment of positivity that sort of creates and instills positivity in the reader even if it’s not initially there, which is a great feeling… but it works entirely different for the speaker because the positivity HAS to be there initially and almost inherently in order for it to be done with any honesty or passion to have any impact whatsoever. Because if that positivity isn’t there, then I just don’t see the point- in anything, much less trying to compose some words to spin a positive and relatable message and I’ve been having a hard time doing that with any harmony for the last couple of weeks… but I suppose I’ll try anyway.
In times like this, I often look for entertainment in sources of inspiration like the stories or creations of others that have successfully danced a happy jig on the grave of adversity. Last night I spent the better part of the night watching Rudy, a 1993 production of the true story of an unlikely champion of human will. He basically lived an entire young life being blatantly told by his loved ones that he was something he was not, and simply relied on the power of his own desire to realize his goals.
Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger was a 5′ 6″ 175 lb. dyslexic kid that dreamed of one day playing football for the college of Notre Dame. Because of his undiagnosed dyslexia his grades in high school were never good enough to even be considered a candidate for an ivy league institution such as Notre Dame. He talked about it all the time time though. Always telling his friends, family, and teachers how one day he would be riding the throes of glory on the field of The Fighting Irish. But all anyone saw was just some big mouthed kid with a brain and body that were both too small to equal such big dreams. People couldn’t even see past their own perceptions enough to provide him with any form of emotional or moral support. He was on his own to work harder in EVERY way than anyone had ever been expected to work. However, one day through years and years of adversity and trials, and heartbreaking hard work, he actually made it on the team.
Most of the time he served more as a practice dummy, with his small body taking the brutal blows of young men much too large to be seen as peers or contemporaries. Due to his small size, there were occasions in practice when his teammates would go easy on Rudy. But this only caused Rudy to get in their faces and slap them around for not giving their all, which only resulted in even more brutal punishment for someone so slight. The larger players actually complained that someone so small as Rudy was making them look BAD for the coaches! Yet the majority of his time on the team, he wasn’t even allowed to suit up on the field for games which caused his own family to not even BELIEVE him because they never saw him on television on the sidelines. But all that hardly broke Rudy. Bruised, battered, and grossly underestimated, he was still happy just to be a part of the team. He was proud and grateful for every bruise and because of this; though he hardly looked the part and was lacking in natural ability, through the power of his own will he had actually become the most important team member. He was the heart of the team. Men that towered over him actually looked up to him as a source of inspiration.
Then one day in his senior year in 1975, in the last minutes of the the last game of the season his dream came true. Though it was only for a matter of minutes, for just a few minutes, his dream came TRUE. Years and years of excuses and being overlooked and never given even the benefit of the doubt were cast aside with absolutely no regard whatsoever. There on the field, the one person everyone said couldn’t do it… DID IT. He sacked the quarter back! Though it was the only tackle he ever recorded in game time, somehow it was THE ONLY tackle that mattered because in those few minutes, he became an actualized person. If there was ever a great meaning to life, Rudy discovered it and showed everyone. There on the field was Rudy- riding the throes of glory on the field of The Fighting Irish, and being carried away on the shoulders of his teammates. Starting from literally NOTHING, he had actualized his lifelong dream.
He soon graduated from Notre Dame with a degree in sociology and inspired 5 of his younger brothers to do the same. Whereas before they were all expectant workers of their local steel mill.
I’m not going to jump on some self righteous soap box here and moan to you about how hard I had it, and how much I relate to Rudy’s story. Honestly I’m not sure if I can relate to a story of such remarkable and unconquerable spirit. But I appreciate it and admire it greatly from the inspiration it elicits in me. In all honesty, the key difference between Rudy and I is HUGE. He didn’t need anyone to believe in him, whereas I do…
When I was a kid, I had the walls of my bedroom literally covered in what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to make comics. I wanted to write them, I wanted to draw them, I wanted to be KNOWN for them. But most of all I wanted to inspire others with them. I wanted to create magnificent stories of triumph like that of Rudy. I wanted to tell stories of hope so that in some small measure, the mark I made on the world would be a positive one, however small it may be. I wanted to help people by letting them know that everything is okay, things aren’t really as bad as they seem, and life is good. But I suppose the grip of my will is weak because life has knocked me so far from that course that it’s not even funny. At this point the only thing I have in common with Rudy is the begining of his story, where he started from nothing.
Most of you know that I am soon to be a father to a baby girl named Violet. I am of the opinion that though I am just as imperfect and flawed as anyone else, I will be a good father to Violet because of how grateful I will be for everything life with her throws at me. I am also of the opinion that this is a typical level of intention and self expectation for someone in my position. And while my intentions may be common, I happen to know that life knocks many people off this course of behavior. I mean, EVERYone’s parents have screwed them up a little bit in some form or another. It’s basically inevitable. Life happens and parental obligations are often used as an excuse for letting go of personal dreams. Letting go of dreams is painful and scarring, causing unbridgeable distance and emotional unavailability. It’s just bad for the spirit. When a dream dies, a certain part of that person dies and is forever stunted. Things just aren’t as fun as they should be. A bruise is just a bruise and not a badge of admirable courage. Fear is ever present and Love becomes a chore. But… what if some of that could be prevented by staving off any personal frustrations and knowing that in the face of failure, at least you tried and you showed up for the tryout. And even if you failed once, you got back up and tried again, if only to take another hit. Instead of making an easy excuse for yourself out of your child (or someone else for that matter), you provided them with an example of strong character, and let them see that dreams can and DO come true. What if the natural damage of growth can be lessened or even prevented by a balance formed between both taking care of your child, AND taking care of yourself? Why can’t they both be done? Is it possible that being a healthy actualized person can greatly increase your odds of successfully raising another healthy actualized person? I honestly don’t see why not.