Monday, August 13, 2012

Let's Talk About Ideas

What is the most resilient parasite in the world?

A bacteria? A virus? An intestinal worm?

An idea.

The smallest seed of an idea can grow. Once it is fully formed and has taken hold, it is impossible to eradicate. It may define you or destroy you. It may come to change everything about you.

Some people go through their entire lives never being inspired in that fashion. I'm fortunate enough to say that I've had two such ideas thus far.

The first was football. Now, this was a very unexpected shift. After all, here's this 135 lb. 16-year-old kid who has hardly ever played organized team sports and didn't have an ounce of athletic ability who thinks he's going to walk on to the high school football field for the first time and start in at least one game that season. I invested a lot of energy into that goal, spending nearly 2 hours a day six days a week in the gym between November 2000 and July 2001.

It exceeded every expectation. Not only did I start in one game, I started in seven, and five at outside linebacker no less. To this day, it remains one of the most satisfying things I've ever done. And to this day, I remain very heavily involved in football, as I enter my eighth year as an official and fourth at the CIS level.

Well, in December 2001, I had another idea which came to me in such a fashion, and was even more resilient than the first. This one provided me with some continuation after I was too old for cadets. It provided reasonable financial security. It provided me with a physical challenge which is something I had lacked since football. It would plug me into an entirely different social circle. There were nearly endless opportunities for advancement. And most of all, it was something to look forward to. Needless to say, I was quite motivated to make this one work. And since football was so wildly successful for me, I thought there was absolutely no way it could fail.

On August 13, 2002, it all came crashing down. I was turned down and there was nothing I could do about it. I had the next five years of my life (and potentially more) all mapped out, and all it took was one letter in the mail to make it all go up in smoke that afternoon. But more than that, it was the first real rejection I'd ever dealt with, and I realized that the old maxim "You can do anything you set your mind to!" is bullshit. 

It's all pretty much speculation after that, but I do wonder what might have been. There's one timeline where I was successful in that endeavour, and one where I was not, which is the one I currently travel on. I think about this all the time. There's no doubt that I would have stayed in university for at least the first year, but after that, who knows. I think there's no chance I would have entered immunology and infection, so who knows...I might have actually enjoyed university.

There's no chance I'd have ever started working at Molson, and therefore, no chance that I'd ever end up at Labatt. Career-wise…well, I'm thinking commercial pilot would have been very likely. Probably still would have moved back in with Binks and Gord if I was still in Edmonton. There's a chance that I would have started officiating football as the circumstances of how that started aren't really clear. And it goes on like that.

Of course, there's always the chance that it wouldn't have worked out at all, and I would have quit in a matter of months. But at least I'd leave with no excuses and no regrets. And I know that I could live with that.

Anyway, ten years later, here we are. Mostly, I can say that things have turned out alright since that day when things looked their absolute blackest, but I've always felt somewhat incomplete as a result. If, by some miracle, my peanut allergy became less serious or went away completely, I would do it all over again without hesitating. But, no matter what I'm feeling, I'll have to look at myself and honestly admit that I might as well start crying about cloudy days, for all the control I have over it.

August 13 is a day I regret. It's a memory I have to change. And that can only happen with another idea.