I have been thinking a lot about my childhood lately, I really didn’t have a lot of options. Growing up we all wanted to make something of ourselves, we knew early on that if you wanted a better life than everyone one else in the suburbs, there were basically only two options to get out…Play Sports or basically anything else you wanted to do.
That’s all there was in Ft. Mohave….You either played sports or just cultivated some other interest and either went to college or just made a career out of it without the schooling. If you couldn’t slam dunk, hit a baseball or catch a football then you had no other option but find another rewarding path to professional and personal fulfillment.
I hate to dwell on it, even to this day, but that was just the cold, hard fact of life where I was from.
I remember back in our subdivision which was not too far from a golf course, that if you weren’t out playing some type of sport, you had better have been devoting yourself to literally any other academic or artistic endeavor, there was just no other way. You need to understand, my friends and I had no other choice. A Sports scholarship was a ticket to freedom. Or you had some other type of scholarship, or the money your parents had put aside for your education. If you weren’t able to make it happen that way, well, then you might just never escape your four-bedroom ranch style home.
I can still recall laying down at night, hearing the sound of my SAT tutor, other friends told me, later on at a school reunion, that they heard the voices of their orchestra instructor, some would recall their lines from the play “The Importance of Being Earnest” a few basketball jocks heard the sounds of basketballs hitting the parquet floor over and over. Looking back I think if you were dreaming about something other than impressing college sports scouts with you’re playing or doing pretty much anything else with little possibility of failure, well, honestly you were just wasting your dreams.
The kids in my neighborhood always said…” You gotta play ball or choose one of many other available paths if you’re gonna get out of the Burbs” It’s just drilled into you…Football or Dental School, Baseball or Law School, Basketball or Art School, Football or Computer Sciences. Baseball or Psychology, Basketball or Finance, Football or Medical School or Economics or English or dammit start your own business. Pretty much anything your heart desires or Football!
Or maybe Baseball…
It’s kind of sad watching what happens sometimes, I knew this one kid who was on his way to a big-time Ivy League university with a big-time Football program until he got hurt. I believe it was a groin injury. But you know what happened to that kid? He attended the same Ivy League college for a mechanical engineering degree, I believe he later got a Doctorate from MIT. But he was lucky…Real Lucky. See, that’s the thing. Even if you’re the best player the neighborhood had ever seen, there was no guarantees. You my twist an ankle the wrong way or get a groin injury and guess what all you have left are a nearly infinite number of other opportunities.
Today I ask myself, “What if?” What if I grew up someplace where you didn’t have to take advantage of an endless supply of educational and vocational resources to build the future you want for yourself or play sports? What would it be like if your whole damn life wasn’t riding on putting that ball in the end zone or experimenting with different career paths until you found one that suited you? I don’t know. But maybe one day, I’ll go back and help change things. Because I want the kids growing up in my old neighborhood today to be able to do what they want with their lives…Or anything else for that matter.