Tuesday, July 11, 2006

RX: Sweat some small stuff

I recently heard about an old friend who is not doing real well. Outwardly this woman appeared to be one of the blessed. She had striking good looks, brains, common sense and an innate drive to succeed. Anyone who knew her never worried about her welfare. She was gonna do just fine, come what may. Now I hear she is suffering from debilitating migraines, apparently brought on, or at least exacerbated, by stress.

I'll spare you all the details of what week- and month-long migraines are like, but suffice it to say, it's one of those conditions that would make a person burn all three magic wishes just to feel normal again. Naturally, this reminded me of a story.

I attended graduate school in a program that took itself way too seriously. And by that I mean all the administrators, the professors, the students, the clerical staff, maybe even the janitorial staff all just really saw themselves as larger than life. They had what you might call a mystique.

Which is a fancy expression for bullshit.

To be fair, this mystique brought students and lecturers from all around the world to this particular program, which brought in hefty endowments and inflated out-of-state tuition fees. And all of that is money in the bank, sure enough. But this mystique also created an aura of competitiveness that was nurtured by the administration and the professors, but mostly existed in the heads of impressionable young students. So a lot of them spent a lot of time worrying themselves sick over shit like adverbs, adjectives, word-counts and deadlines.

I had a roommate who was one of these worry warts. This guy desperately wanted to be a big-time journalist and he had come to the forge to be pounded into the kind of steel that could get the job done. Or, at least, that's the way he saw it. And to his credit he hit it hard. Many a night he'd bust through the door and sprint upstairs slamming his bedroom door behind him and then you'd hear him yelling every insult he could think of at himself as he read one of the papers he'd just got back or some piece he just had published in the paper.

It'd be stuff like, "You stupid fuck, can you not write a coherent sentence? This shit is lame, you fucking dumb fuck." All of it behind his closed door and very near the top of his lungs.

I remember glancing over at him as our class took our comprehensive exams. Comps were, like, four hours of constant writing using nothing but one of these big electric typewriters and really thin, cheap paper that you could not erase or use any kind of corrective fluid on. I glanced over at him cause I could hear him muttering as he typed and X'ed through something, which was no big deal cause everyone had to do it. But when I glanced over I knew what he was muttering cause his teeth were clenched to the point that his jaw muscles were about to explode. He was muttering, "You stupid fuck, can you not write a coherent sentence?"

About now you're thinking this guy must have been a real loser, although in reality he was anything but. He was a very good writer and an even better reporter, which made him a very good student. He also was a world traveler and a very good athlete--the guy had even run with the bulls in Pamplona and actually beat them into the stadium, no doubt knocking quite a few of those little Spaniards out of his way in the process, cause this dude was built like a bull himself.

But by his own admission he just got way too stressed out over his career. We'd talk about it occasionally and I'd just ask him, really, man, what do you have to look forward to? He knew it was a problem, but he didn't see a way around it. As he saw it, if he failed in his career his life wouldn't be worth living anyway. And believe it or not it was during one of those conversations, that he had as much to do with why I have kept racing all these years as anyone or anything I can think of.

It was this statement by him that struck a cord with me: "Man, I stress out over my career and don't worry about athletics, while you stress out over your races and don't worry about your career."

And for the most part, it was true. I don't know, maybe there is just a certain amount of stress that we must burn off and when you can spend it on shit that doesn't really matter in the grand scheme of things, then, maybe you won't get so uptight about the bigger stuff, which, in reality, you really can't control for the most part anyway. Now that's a rambling statement that would've netted me a red mark or two back in the world's oldest J-school, but maybe there's enough logic in there to help you better appreciate your next racing fuckup. Later.


Blogger seth said...

I think you have your priorities straight, honestly.

6:02 AM  
Blogger seth said...

To further this thought--most of the time is goes in this order for me: family, cycling/sports, sleeping, career.

6:04 AM  

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