Why I decided to go back to school after 15 years
Dear Izzy, Max, and Kate,
It’s been nearly a year and a half since I finally took that big step, a flying leap really, into the unknown. A leap of faith – across some great chasm of wind and deep water – is really the only satisfying path when the others you’ve explored all lead back to the same end: cold bitterness and a half-awake self.
So I jumped and life has been different since. It’s been an enlightening experience where I’ve learned to appreciate what we have, the value of real labor, and ultimately my own self worth.
What I found out was that life isn’t waiting to happen to you. That someone isn’t coming to tell you that you’ve won the prize and that all along you’ve been worthy of so much more than life has given you. There was never a big conspiracy against you. But that all you needed to discover the right path for yourself was to get up, dust yourself off, accept your gifts with gratitude, accept your burdens with dignity and grace and move.
I’ve had a good life. I’ve lived a lot of places. Was raised in a solid middle class world where danger was only the product of youthful exuberance – jumping from docks rooftops into shallow water, racing cars on dark suburban midnight streets – but never real danger. I had plenty. I won the championship, the only thing I ever wanted leading up to 18 years old. My college was paid for. I met the blonde in the mustang who wore Zepplin and Grateful Dead tee shirts. I lived on the island. I bought a sports car. A house. I had 3 beautiful children. I paid my bills on time. I did the all the races.
But deep inside I didn’t feel worthy. And I let myself sink into the deep waters of my own bitterness. I wondered when I’d be discovered. For better or worse. Someone might think I’m smart. Or perhaps stupid. But something. No one did. But I waited for them to come. Long enough that I was forgotten and the mundane daily minutes of my career and my life weighed upon until I couldn’t bear it any longer.
I got sick. So sick that mommy and I went to the Texas hill country for a few days for me to get better. And then we all went to the beach – and God spoke to me. And I was better.
So I jumped. I changed my life overnight.
I love my career now; helping people. It’s not easy, but it’s fulfilling. I feel smart and I’m valued and told that I’m valued – which you’ll find means more than money – though now we have plenty of that too. Things didn’t work out immediately. It took a while. But God’s timing is perfect and His voice is there – if you listen and follow.
My biggest fear in life is that people would realize eventually that I’m not particularly smart. I wasn’t a great high school student. I was the stereo type of an athlete who rested on his athleticism. For a long time that was good enough. Academics were way down the priority list. After high school I decided to give up wrestling to focus on grades in college. I chose an English degree, for a variety of reasons, but among them was that it allowed me to avoid math classes – again I was afraid of being found out. I don’t regret earning an English degree. I know more about Hemingway and Kerouac than most people and there’s something to be said for understanding life at a deeper emotional level that numbers don’t provide.
As part of continuing to grow I’ve chosen to go back to school again. I graduated from college in 1998. Tomorrow I start class again, for the first time in 15 years – pursuing a miniMBA certificate in Management and Business Administration from Belmont University. Without the leap many months ago now, this wouldn’t be happening. I’d still be waiting. For someone to notice me and hand me the prize. It never would have happened. For most, life doesn’t award you the prize based simply on who you are – so you jump the chasm of wind and water and wrestle it from life’s hands.
My new life and career have taught me that I am in fact smart enough – because being genuine and honest about who you are and what you know are all that really matter – and all that others are really interested in from you. Even still, I want to prove it to myself. I turn 40 in 13 days and the best me is still ahead.
Get more education. Ride and run more miles. Learn more about God. Love your family. Read more classics. Encourage others. Love yourself. Until you’re full. Until you’re not afraid of being found out. Pursue it – until you become it – or you’re satisfied with your effort.
I love you.
I’d gladly take 10 seconds in the saddle for a lifetime of watching from the stands. – Chris Ledoux
SUN: Ran 11 miles
Tues: ran 3 miles
Wed: biked 17 miles