the aints

i think i was more excited about getting the used and dented helmet than actually what i was going to use it for. i lined up in a single file line, filled with anticipation, that wrapped around the small shed-like brick building. all boys were right around my age, no older than 12. i was asked my last name, crossed off the list, and then handed a green mesh shirt which i proudly wore around the house for the rest of the day, and most of the next. the helmets were white with a police sticker on the side of it, it looked like a badge but to me the whole outfit was a trophy itself.

pee wee football, in my mind, was close to the NFL and spending many sundays sitting next to my dad watching him cheer for the cowboys, i felt it was my turn on the 'gridiron'. there was one small problem though, literally. i was actually develop more like a cheerleader, and not so much a cowboy. i was stick like and more than once my mother worried i had some virus or parasite living in me, keeping my weight to an all time minimum.

that didn't matter to me, i was more focused on the upcoming mouthguard that i needed to purchase than on my weight, the other players, or the game itself. you see, sometimes we as humans work up our expectations so much that when the event finally arrives it (or they) could never come close to what we have seen on television or the dramatic love-inspired-final-second-90-yard-drive ending of the movie scene. i was set out to earn the uniform and the pride that ensued on opening day of pee wee football pre-season.

i sat on the sideline most of the first half but right before the whistle my number was finally called. for those who do not know football i will try my best to explain in terms even i had yet to learn while entering that grassy field at sertoma park in winter haven, florida that day. i was supposed to be on the defensive line, a position put aside for the biggest, car axel bench pressing, boys that look more like grown men with facial hair type of position. i was no such thing. not even close.

it took me a second to figure that out but it dawned on me as i looked around beside me to the left and right in a three point stance (something i had learned not by being taught but by looking around). then was the moment of truth, "down, set...."

at the word 'hike' the quarter back snapped the ball and dropped back, at that second the double-sized of me offensive player lining up across the line jumped at me with his hands raised high to block me, i lunged at him but at the last possible second i spun to the right side and with my powerful left arm i shoved him to the ground using his momentum to plant his face like a michigan farmers seed right into the ground. at the look of tenacity on my face and the fact that i was screaming a warpath chant carried down for generations from my indian heritage the quarterback scrambled away from me as fast as he could flee trying to make it around the pile of bearded boys into the open space to run down the field. but he had no such luck, because as the quarterback was running around the side another of my mustached friend was waiting for him, so he turned around, but as he did i was already in full stride, and like a F-16 fighter jet taking off i, i took off flying parallel at a high speed heading on a crash collision course for the quarterbacks hips. i landed with my shoulder pads so squarely into his body that i felt his undeveloped bones rattle around in that one-size-to-big local eatery uniform of his and he let go of the ball to protect what was left of his face as he abruptly slammed into the ground.

the ball bounced around here, then there, then here again and i dove on the ball, and because we were so close to the end zone i stood up to find that i was in fact there, in the end zone, and had just scored a touchdown. the crowd went wild, my mother wept, and my father looked around and yelled "thats my boy" to whomever would look in the direction of his more than audible tenor yell.

as the ambulance was called and what was left of the other player (don't worry he was fine) was hauled off the field i was hoisted on the other man-childs arms and carried around the field in a impromptu parade held in the honor of that victorious moment. ok thats what should of happened. or something like it. but it didn't.

what really happened was this... i lined up on the defensive line and on the word 'hike' instead of running straight ahead toward the quarterback and ball i thought it would be better to run around the pile of man-children. so at 'hike' i stepped back, ran to my left, around the pile and seeing other people on the ground i decided to jump on them to make sure that the ball handler was really down. the thing is the play was already over, the whistle had already been blown, and the players were getting up to begin the next play, and it wasn't until that point that i tackled them. the referee called a penalty, and my coach was was yelling at me so loud the people in the next field wondered what the commotion was all about. as i approached the bench the coach couldn't help but reiterate everything i had heard him scream while on the ground moments ago.

'what is wrong with you? have you ever even played football before?'

'well coach, no. i've never played football before, but i've watched it on tv!'

in life we have so many expectations. we think we know what a family trip, friendship, committed relationship, or career is going to be like because we have built up this huge story line with an amazing ending in our heads. we may have seen it on TV, or in a movie, or read it in a book, or just our wild daydreams, but reality is much different then our imagination shows it to be. even 'reality television' is scripted.

we need to become a blank canvas, or a film not yet shot, to truly enjoy what we have later in life. we should not attempt to paint a picture of the eiffel tower before we have been there, it only leads to disappointment and heartache. what we have and hold dear in our head is just that, its in our head. when we project and fantasize how we want our boyfriend/girlfriend, husband/wife to be or act before we even meet them we have already ensnared them into a jail or box that they may never want to be caged in. allow them to be who they are, and fall in love with them for them. the more expectations that you thrust on them to be who you want the more disappointment you will live with day in and day out.

my football career and that season of pee wee football was all but over even before it began, it was a tough pill to swallow, but i later found a career that didn't need or want me to be 6'7 and 285 pounds. if i had painted my canvas that day with the expectation to play professional football i would be greatly disappointed. but instead i let life be, and take me where it wanted and i am much happier for it today.

let life be, and one day you will look back on a fulfilled life, try to take control and set lofty guidelines and you are only setting yourself up for what if's and could-have-beens.


Alex said…
Thank you! I remind myself this everyday and sometimes you just forget and its great to be reminded to just let life be then try to have it scripted.
The Altar Hog said…
"we should not attempt to paint a picture of the eiffel tower before we have been there, it only leads to disappointment and heartache. what we have and hold dear in our head is just that, its in our head."

I love the truth here. Our expectations often taint or ruin our experiences...

Thanks for the reminder. :)

<3 Sarah
Anonymous said…
Good stuff! For what it is worth, I'm glad you 'failed' at football. We would have missed out on so much.
courtney said…
Thank you for sharing, this is something that has been on my mind almost constantly the past couple weeks.

As human beings it's in our nature to want things to go according to plan, and in some of us the longing for that may be even stronger than in others. For me personally I can handle life not going exactly as I planned it, I think when it starts to get to me is when relationships I have with people don't always go as planned. Relationships, whether in families, friendships, or romantic relationships obviously always take at least two people. Even though I may have some predetermined thoughts about the way the relationship ought to go, I often forget that their idea of how the relationship ought to go could be completely different. When two people have two completely different ideas of how something should go the result isn't always great. I'm learning in my relationships that acceptance is the key. Some have called it settling, I don't agree with that at all. I think once you're able to find someone that shares that mutual understanding of the way you should treat others and the way you should treat yourself as well, than that's when you're really ready to allow that relationship to grow into something beautiful.

I think it will always be a constant battle for us as human beings to not predetermine what our life and those in it will be like. Almost everyone wants something beautiful to come out of their life and human relationships are a big part of that. I think we just have to be careful not to read too much into everything. Just slow down and enjoy things as they come along.

Thank you for the reminder!
punkeymonkey529 said…
Stephen thank you for another wonderful blog post. I do exactly what's said here. I paint pictures in my head of what I want life to be sometimes and it disappoints me when things don't go the way pictured,sometimes things go as planned as well though,but I do want to live life as it is and be happy with whatever outcome it brings me.
Amandasaurus said…
Stephen, I have always thought this - you are one of those rare people who are made to do exactly what they are doing, and I thank God you didn't try to become a pro football player instead =)
Anonymous said…
This reminds me of something I read on a friend's Formspring today. Someone asked her what she looked for a guy, and she said she didn't want to come up with the "perfect guy" and look for a partner based on the list of qualities.

Well, anyway, with regards to life in general, what do you say to people who say that you must have a clear direction and ambition and work towards it? I mean this kind of thinking is always encouraged when children are fired with "What do you want to be when you grow up?"s. Children grow up thinking that they have to aspire to something really professional (e.g. doctor). (Although I heard of this boy who, when asked that question said he wanted to be a monkey so that he would do no thing but climb trees and eat bananas.)

As a Christian I just ask God to show me His will so that I may do it.

Thanks for the post anyway :)
collete said…
hello! thanks for sharing. couldn't have said it better myself :) whenever i'm out and about, i love to observe tourists roaming around and how they try to soak up the local culture. i like how some take things as they are; they don't question or doubt but learn. i guess they do have their preconceived notions and presumptions (no doubt about that!) but it's rather amazing when you see their somewhat enlightened faces when they learn something new.
This is such a good point but such a difficult struggle. There is a fine line between dreams and expectations. Without dreams, we would stagnant.

I used to make time lines of what I would plan to do each year and you know...none of them ever worked out quite according to schedule.

I think the trick is to allow for detours. There have been so many times that something in life has gone "wrong" and only in retrospect have I been able to realize that it was exactly what was MEANT to happen. Because without that detour, something else wonderful wouldn't have taken place.

The things in my life that I cherish the most are all things that happened "by accident". Being aware of that has really helped.
Tunafish said…
Thanks =) Jesus loves you!
Anonymous said…
I have been waiting for an update seemingly forever,but now that you finaly posted something i can see just why i have waited so patiently.I NEEDED to read this so badly,and it makes me smile knowing i am not the only one that always piants the picture before i have seen the landscape.

Thank you for reminding me to experience everything from a new angle rather than to expect the old.
Renny said…
The imagined story you told had me cracking up, you are such an entertaining writer. Thanks for the outlook though.

It is difficult to become who you WANT to be when you constantly look at yourself through the lens of what others think you SHOULD be.
Emily said…
I had to smile at the anecdote. Not the yelling and the disappointment or whatever. But the fact that I've done that. The whole daydream turns into a nightmare simply because I put it out of proportion. but it's okay. It usually ends up being a great laugh. :)

I will say though, that it's not just our own expectations piled on our dreams... It's those that care about us, too... (I speak from experience...) A mother who calls her daughter princess daily only cares for a prince to be the one to love her daughter. And in what fairy tale is that ideal any less true? But when the boy with crinkled clothes and an odd taste in social habits shows up, the mother, good-naturedly, dismisses him as "the one."

The same thing happens with those kids whose parents expect the students to be A students forever, but those kids come home with an F or a C or even just a B once in a while.

I guess my question is "what would one do in those situations?"

The easy answer people would give is "tune'em out" but when it's your mother or father or pastor or best friend or whoever it is, how do you guiltlessly tune them out? :/
Anonymous said…
this is exactly what I have been needing for the last few days. thank you for posting!
Anonymous said…
Funny this post finds me today as I've never read your blog before. Lately I've been battling (more like having a war) with what life is like. How do I get over this feeling that everything is just stuck? How can I let "life be" when I feel is not being at all? I feel like such a Debbie Downer since everyone here got your message loud and clear and intend to or lead their lives already that way. I just can't seem to let go of the expectations that at least for once I will not just exist on a daily basis, but thrive in life and be alive. Maybe that's the first expectation I need to let go of?
Andrea said…
Funny, I'm actually going on a family trip first thing in the morning. I'll try to keep this in mind.

- Andrea
diana downer said…
Dear last Anonymous post - I think I understand where you're coming from. It sounds like you're lacking something very essential to even live right now. Like you were starving, and someone comes up and tells you to just be happy and go with the flow. And you're thinking that you can't "let go" and ignore the fact that you're hungry, because you'd die. I know how that is. Well, it's 2AM and I'm really tired, I may be talking nonsense, but I just wanted to you to know you're not the only Debbie Downer around here.
Joe M said…
This is true... It seems that i'm most miserable though being an idealist though rewarding sometimes I know what you mean Stephen by imagining a girlfriend who hasn't met the expectations of your mind- you're mind for god's sakes is sometimes the enemy, can you imagine that?

Expectations are the real enemy though. This is no big deal compared to all the struggling people of modesty but i've had six interviews in the past month all successfully resulting in a "no". My future had gotten thrown away for me because my family couldn't afford College so in that realization what other security would there be besides a job. My expectations take the better of me- I know everyone knows that i'm the biggest fucking loser they know but the truth in expectations is you come to accept that. I for the most part don't
Janelle said…
You know, your insights always seem to come at I time when I need to hear them.
Angela said…
Haha, yup. Sport wasn't my thing either, don't worry. :-)

But then, unlike you I haven't had much luck with music.

Guess we'll see!
cheshirekitty said…
I definitely agree with you. Sometimes we create the ideas of who we want people to be, and are so let down when they can't live up to our expectations.
We set markers and conditions so impossibly high for them, and when they fail we forget that it's not about getting what WE want for or from them.

The beautiful and unexpected surprises from these people are probably better than anything we could imagine for them anyway (:

Thanks for the post!
Ben86GN said…
In the movie business we say: "The worst thing that can happen is for everything to go according to plan."

I am a meticulous planner. But the most memorable moments in my movies are the ones that did NOT work according to plan. Locations falling through leads to finding a better one, a take here and there between actors is the funny deleted scene that made my day...or maybe a bigger car explosion than we expected (that one was AWESOME).

So sometimes with having expectations, it allows you to be open for surprises. Surprises are in fact "that which you did not expect." Meaning inherently, you're always expecting something. Maybe just not EXPECTING TOO MUCH of yourself is the key. Have dreams, but don't rely on them.

"Don't fix your eyes on a fix you rely on."


P.S. The EXACT same thing happened to me when I played football in 7th grade!
I needed that. =)
Peter said…
Wow. Thanks Stephen. I needed that. I always feel like I want to plan my life out ahead of time right now and expect it to follow my plans. I need to learn to have the blank canvas mindset.

Loving the new album by the way. Keep up the great work.
roscyn said…
Thanks Stephen for this! I literally just wrote out a list of qualitative things I wanted in a man, but after reading this post, I went back and deleted the list and simply stated that I would love my future man as is as he would love me as is. Simple.
Everything good in life comes from love.
Dalton Lee said…
Hehe, that's why my enjoyment of football is limited soley to Saturday afternoons on ESPN.

But you have a serious point (not that you ever don't). One of my biggest problems - probably due to my incessant isolation from other people - is that I am constantly overthinking every little thing. I rehearse conversations I plan to have with friends/family/potential-ever-afters, but of course, as you put it, you can't script life.

I really have no idea what it would be like to NOT think of anything, but I'm more than willing to try. I'll try to enter my next social forray with no expectations... thanks, Stephen. Mad love, man.
Jane said…
There is a lot of wisdom here, Stephen. Everyday, I hear people grousing about their lives not being what they, family, spouse...etc. I have seen deep disappointment when "life" does not follow the planned routes.

We have been taught to PLAN for what we want out of life. Well, yes, some planning is good, but as a wise Greek bus driver in "My Life in Ruins" said..."how can you plan life?" There are so many directions we can take...and we truly do not know which one is the best. Then again, "the best route" often does not allow us to fail...which, as I have learned in my 50+ years, is exactly what we need to do to get to the next get to our goal.

God has the REAL plan for our lives. We may never understand why He takes us His directions, but it's truly an interesting ride. Embrace the adventure...

Jane (artfully graced...and Reid's mom)
Nicogirl said…
Doors slam closed on us all the time. Make sure you turn your face forward, or you will never notice the fresh breeze coming from an opened window.

A new friend just shared with me that in the Myth of Pandora's box, hope was the only evil left in there. All the rest of the evil was spilled out onto the Earth. How could hope be evil? Possibly if it's false hope!

So keep yourself opened to new ideas and adapt. I swear it's the secret to every successful person.
kaye said…
we need to become a blank canvas, or a film not yet shot, to truly enjoy what we have later in life.

perhaps this is why we are not given the ability of prophesy. when one holds on too strongly to expectation, one is focused on the expectation than on the event. one would be too focused on the image in one's mind than the image unfolding right in front of him/her. there is no enjoyment in living inside one's mind, where we are the gods of our fantastic scenarios's own outcomes. there is only enjoyment in living in this world full of craziness and weirdness, where there are many mistakes - yet these mistakes lead to learning. and learning leads to living, and living some more, and when the learning seizes to be, death.

thank you for the reminder.
Rover Fox said…
Having been that small kid on the football field with a very short career ahead of him, I know exactly how it feels. Sometimes its important to know when to break through the doors and when to just let them close. Even though I'll never make it to play NFL football or even college I know that the time spent all through high school playing football wasn't a waste. I had fun. I committed and I learned a lot. Who knows where life will find me but all I know is that there is a time for everything and letting things be is some great advice for me to hear right now. Especially in regards to relationships.
Miguel Cristo said…
Dear Stephen,
You are quite talented at writing very, engaging lies. It leaves me with the feeling that I have whenever I go to the movie theatre, vainly attempt to find something worth watching on television, or read the world news in my local newspaper... unsatisfied. The Truth sets our (your followers') consciences free to engage more in who you are as a person, versus merely being entertained. Your meanings/themes are great, but not the way that you make them a part of your posts, however. Like all sin though, God allows it to happen so that something greater will come from it, my innocent, fun-loving, still-distant friend. Sincerely, Miguel Cristo (tu amigo bueno).

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