The 'F' Word.

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I've had this PostSecret saved on my desktop for the past three weeks.  For the uninitiated, PostSecrets is an ongoing community mail art project, created by Frank Warren, in which people mail in their secrets anonymously on a homemade postcard. Frank publishes a group of the 'best' entries every Sunday at his blog.  One of the few secrets that has really make me think, it seems to somehow capture the biggest fear (that's the 'F' word, if you were wondering...) of our generation (myself included) and, in the interest of full disclosure, I wanted to share it with you.  

The image is taken from one of my favourite Simpsons episodes, #52 'Homer At The Bat', where Mr. Burns places a bet on the power plant's company softball team 'The Isotopes' winning it to the championship game and, to this end, drafts nine ringers from the 'big leagues' to ensure his success.  In this scene, the famous baseball player Darryl "The Straw" Strawberry is at the plate and the Simpson kids, feeling sorry for their Dad's failure to be asked to play, do their best to put him off by chanting "Darryl! Darryl! Darryl!", eventually driving even the most hardened of ballers to shed a single miserable and simultaneously hilarious tear.

The episode is often sited by people as one of the greatest ever, but the accompanying caption really changes the whole tone of the image.  This simple, five-word question might be the scariest query in the history of words.  And it's so ambiguous, it can really be about anything.  Anything you really want from life.  Anything you're putting off because you think it'll all come in good time.  That amazing career.  That lucrative idea.  The ideal house.  The perfect spouse.  The chance to make your mark on this world.  What if it never happens?

Actually, I mis-quote.  The version on the postcard has no question mark, which actually has the potential to totally change the entire tone of the piece from a question to a statement.  What if it never happens.  What if.  Who cares if it doesn't. So what....

But still, question mark or none, it's quite a statement.  In my own life, it's about the accomplishments I hope to achieve.  I'm 25 now.  That's a quarter of my life (I know the average male lifespan is around 75 but I plan to go a bit longer...), and I don't really have much to show for it.  

I haven't yet written and directed a zombie-robot apocalypse movie.

I can't play the piano nearly as well as I'd like to.

I don't have a valid driver's license.

I'm in poor physical shape.

I wear jeans to work (which in ANY other situation would be a MAJOR plus, but right now I'm using it to communicate the point that my job is menial....).  

I still have a LONG way to go in the pursuit of happiness, whether that be in the form of a great job, or an amazing girlfriend, or a triple-platinum selling album, or just the ability to live a worry-free life and sleep soundly at night knowing you're enjoying this fleeting life as much as possible.  But what if it never happens?  What if I never get to that plateau of life where you look back at all you've achieved and think 'I wouldn't change a thing'?  I'd like to say I have no regrets, but sometimes I look at how much others have done in the same length of time or less and think 'I must have fallen down somewhere along the line'.  

Shouldn't I be touring by now?  

Shouldn't I be married by now?  

Shouldn't I be a better Christian by now?  

Shouldn't I have seen more of the world?  

Shouldn't I have attained that college degree?  

Shouldn't I be donating to charities via standing order?

And if I'm 25 now, will any of this mean as much to me if I accomplish it by the time I'm 50, or will I just be left wishing I'd done it sooner?

I guess the question 'what if it never happens' is really a statement of the real 'F' word - fear.  Fear of regret.  People often use the phrase 'no regrets' as a cover for this fear, which I think is total BS.  Show me a man with no regrets and I'll show you an arrogant douchebag who's too pigheaded to concede his failures.  So if failure is a part of life, how come it's so flippin' scary?  I guess what it boils down to is that this is it.  This life.  This is like our one chance.  There are no mulligans, there are no do-overs.  There are no extra lives or continues or 1-Ups.  If we screw something up, we have to live with it.  And conversely if we don't achieve something through our own inaction or the wrong action, we have to live with that regret.  The best we can do is learn HOW to live with and through that regret, and try to learn from it so that 'what if it never happens' becomes 'here's how I'm going to try and cause it to happen'.  

As it happens, the 'Topes win the title. With the score tied, bases loaded, two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, Burns elects to field a right-handed hitter against a left-handed pitcher and pinch hits Homer for Strawberry. The very first pitch hits Homer in the head, rendering him unconscious, but forcing in the winning run. The team wins the title and Homer, still unconscious, is paraded as a hero.  But there are probably countless would-be ballers for whom 'it never happened'.  And musicians.  And inventors, and managers, and chefs, and pilots, and mothers, and husbands.  So I feel that, at 25, I should probably focus less on 'what if it never happens' and more on how I'm going to try to make it happen, and trust God for the rest.


mulhuzz said...

Excellent blog sir. Well made points.

Peanut said...

Ta! :-)

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