Sunday, June 28, 2015

Dear Younger Me

High-school reunions have a strange way of making you look back on the past.

I've grown up a lot in the three decades since I graduated from DuPont Senior High School in Hermitage, Tennessee, and I've stayed the same in a lot of ways. Given the chance, what would I have done differently?

DuPont Senior High School, Class of 1985
That's a good question, and one I've asked myself probably a little more than what was actually good for me. I worry about stuff that I can't change far too much. And you can't change the past. I know, because I've tried. It doesn't work.

I was in Nashville this past weekend for our thirty-year reunion. On the way to dinner with Joe, Sandi and Jennifer Estep Friday night, I spotted the case for MercyMe's new CD and checked it out. If I wasn't already in a contemplative mood because of the reunion, the title of one of the songs hit me like a sledgehammer.

Dear Younger Me

I had to hear the song. As soon as I did, it was hard to hold back the tears.

Dear younger me 
Where do I start
If I could tell you everything that I have learned so far 
Then you could be
One step ahead
Of all the painful memories still running through my head
I wonder how much different things would be
Dear younger me, dear younger me

What would I have changed first about my high school years? I wouldn't have worried so much about what this person or that thought about me. I would've just been me, and if that wasn't good enough to be one of the cool kids, tough.

There's a line from "Freaks and Geeks," one of my favorite television shows of all time, that perfectly encapsulates my high school career.

She's a cheerleader. You've seen Star Wars twenty-seven times. You do the math.

Yeah. That was me, big time.

I would've worked far, far harder than I did in my classes. I cruised through high school, making grades good enough to pass, but I could've done so much better. I would've majored in journalism in college. I would've sat down with my mom to watch the Christmas tree lights more than I did.

Dear younger me
I cannot decide
Do I give some speech about how to get the most out of your life
Or do I go deep
And try to change
The choices that you'll make 'cause they're choices that made me
Even though I love this crazy life
Sometimes I wish it was a smoother ride
Dear younger me, dear younger me

I would have been the kind of father to my son Richard that I am to Adam and Jesse. To the day I die, that will be the single greatest failure of my life. I love him every bit as much as I do them. I hope he will someday realize that.

If I knew then what I know now
Condemnation would've had no power
My joy, my pain would've never been my worth
If I knew then what I know now
Would've not been hard to figure out 
What I would've changed if I had heard

Dear younger me
It's not your fault
You were never meant to carry this beyond the cross
Dear younger me

The only other really important thing I would change about the last twenty years of my life is that I would've fought harder. If you already know with whom, you're family. If you don't, it's none of your business. I wouldn't have covered the Busch Series. I wouldn't have kept to myself so much while on the road with NASCAR. I wouldn't have gone out and partied, but I would've been more outgoing.

Forget about NASCAR. I would be more outgoing, period.

Joe, Sandi and Jennifer would live closer. We'd all own homes on Booger Swamp Road. 

You are holy
You are righteous
You are one of the redeemed
Set apart a brand new heart
You are free indeed

Every mountain, every valley
Through each heartache you will see
Every moment bring you closer
To who you were meant to be 
Dear younger me, dear younger me

The fact is, I am who I am and my life is what it is, nothing more, nothing less. And I'm okay with that.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Five Years

Five years ago today, I enjoyed one of the greatest opportunities of my life. 

Five years ago today, I was in complete agony. 

Five years ago today, I did a run on board the Space Shuttle motion-base simulator at Johnson Space Center. Alongside me was astronaut Doug Hurley, who had already flown STS-127 and who would go on to fly STS-135, the last Space Shuttle mission ever.

Five years ago today, the safety harnesses of the simulator would not fit because of my oversized belly. I've written and talked about the experience before, so I won't go into the gory details here. The fact is, I was devastated in a way unlike I'd ever been devastated before that day. 

And I'm glad it happened. 
Five years ago, I might have been smiling on the outside, but inside, I was a broken mess.

Since that day, I've walked and ran somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,500 miles and lost approximately 110 pounds. I would've never thought it possible, and maybe it wasn't. But I did it anyway.

I've lost count of the 5k races I've done, to go along with four ... or is it five? ... 10ks and three half marathons.

I've been chased by dogs ...

Darn near run over by more cars than I really care to count ...

Peed behind an abandoned convenience store ...

Pooped in the woods ...

Run in the snow ...

And rain ...

In 28-degree weather ...

And in the high 80s ...

Run in groups ...

And completely alone ...

Been beaten to a 5k finish line by a woman carrying a purse and wearing a pair of Uggs ...

And finished second in my age group ...

Gone through five pairs of running shoes ...

Been asked for my autograph ...

Smiled as people honked ...

Been flipped off ...

And, on one occasion, did the flipping off ...

Had my compression shorts fall to my knees during a race ...

Amassed one whale of a race T-shirt collection ...

Conquered hills that looked absolutely impossible ...

Along the way, I've given up Oreo cookies, Reese's Peanut Butter Cup eggs and Diet Pepsi. I'm still not skinny. I'll NEVER be skinny. And, to be honest, I've not actually lost any significant amount of  weight in two or three years now. I can kind of eat like I want to, within reason. Here's a line I never thought I'd be able to say.

I'm happy with where I'm at.