For the last several years, I’ve fought this struggle internally, wondering what my purpose is in this thing we call life.  I’m still trying to figure it out, but think I may have a better handle on it- better, at least today, than I had on it a year, a month, even a week ago.  The more I self-analyze, the more I seek out the counsel and guidance of those around me- professional, personal, and otherwise- the more I begin to peel away at the underlying dilemma that has been weighing heavily on me for what seems like an eternity.

And what have I come up with?  Well, let me ask you a question.  Better yet, I’ll ask that you ask yourself a question.  The same question I asked myself to begin the process.  Who am I?  What am I?  Who and what do I want to be?  Who and what do I want the world to see?  And probably most importantly: are all those things the same?  Am I what I want to be?  Am I what I want people to see?  And is what people see really who I am?

Okay, okay, that is a lot of gibberish I just spilled out.  But, I contend that if you take a few moments to think through that question-those questions, really- if you really ask yourself honestly, I think you- like I did- may find it harder to answer than you think.  Maybe not.  But for me, it has been a profound experience.  Sometimes it’s frustrating, sometimes enjoyable.  Often times it’s amazingly simple, while others very, very difficult.  All of the while, though, it has produced inside of me an incredible sense of purpose, an amazing feeling that I am doing whatever I can to be a better person- to learn more about myself so that I can get the most out of my God-given abilities and talents.  And as you’ll read- or if you know me are already aware- that is exactly what I need to get me going- a purpose, a reason to get in gear.

It all started when I was about eight years old.  I remember it like it was yesterday.  “Dad, signups are next week, right?”  “Yeah, Bobby.  They are next week” was the reply, similar to what it had been for the previous several weeks.  “We’re gonna go, right?  Don’t forget.”  “Yes, Bobby, we’re gonna go.  Promise.”  A week later, about an hour early if I remember, I was ready to sign up for my first year of youth football. All summer I’d been begging my dad to make sure we didn’t miss signups.  For a couple of years I’d been waiting to be of age to strap on my first helmet and pair of shoulder pads.  And I was now a few moments away from becoming what I’d always wanted to be in my eight years of living- a football player.

For the next thirteen years, that’s what I was.  A football player.  Every waking moment was spent thinking about it, most nights spent dreaming about it.  It’s all I could focus on.  The grass.  The camaraderie.  The sweat.  The hitting.  The running and catching.  The competition.  The hitting.  The winning.  The losing.  Oh, yeah, and did I mention: the hitting.  I loved it.  I still do, even after playing my last game almost fifteen years ago.  (For those of you reading this that played with me, does it seem like it’s been that long?  Dang!)  Football was in my blood.  It soon became who I was.  I identified with it.  I was it and it was me.

And not long after my first time running onto a football field did I begin to dream what every young football player dreams- of playing in the NFL.  I remember watching games and highlight films, imagining I was one of those guys on the screen, playing in Pittsburgh, or Miami, or Dallas.  Okay, mostly Dallas.  I imagined scoring touchdowns and celebrating in front of thousands of people.  I imagined buying my mother and father a home, my brother and sister a car. I imagined having a family- okay, maybe  I didn’t imagine that when I was eight, but certainly by junior high school- and providing for them a beautiful home, taking wonderful vacations.  But those dreams were normal.  Every kid has those, right?  Well maybe not the last one.  Soon, though, I began to dream much different dreams.  Well, not completely different.  I still wanted to play in the NFL.  And I still wanted to score touchdowns and make enough money to provide for those around me that helped me along the journey and loved me unconditionally.  But my dreams also began to take on a different shape.  The more I grew as a person, it seemed, and the more help and guidance I got along the way, the more there developed inside of me a strong desire to help others.  I began to dream about the influence and power I could have as a professional athlete.  I began to look forward to the time I’d be able to step in front of a room full of elementary, junior high, or high school kids and explain to them the benefits of really going for their dreams, of maximizing their potential, of becoming whatever they wanted to be.  It sounds unbelievable, maybe even corny, but even as a young kid, I was cognizant of those around me that had influenced and helped me, of those who’d believed in and encouraged me.  The years between my first entrance into the game of football and my last snap as a player only sought to reinforce that, as more and more individuals- teachers, coaches, my parents, my siblings, friends- helped me grow as a player, as a student, and as a person.  And even without fully understanding how, I knew I wanted to be one of those people- a role model, a mentor- to others, to ‘kids’ just like me.

Fast forward thirteen years.  A realization that my dream will end.  I’d known for about a season and a half.  Until then- midway through my junior season in college- I think I still believed I might have a chance to play at the ‘next level’.  Even though I played at a small Division II School (University of California at Davis), somehow I believed I’d beat the odds.  I’d be one of those rare gems that make it, one of those even rarer gems that land a spot on an NFL roster coming from a school outside of the major college programs in Division I.  If I just ran more.  If I just lifted more weights.  If I could gain ten pounds and slice a tenth off of my forty yard dash time. If. If. If.  You know the saying: if my aunt had you-know-whats, she’d be my uncle.  Okay, I digress.  The dream was over.  At the time, I thought I handled it well.  After all, I’d had a whole year to come to grips with it.  I’d even began to imagine a different life for myself- one, of course, that was also filled with success.  I’d be a great businessman, whatever that meant.  I’d coach football in high school.  Or maybe, I’d become a successful entrepreneur, combining both of those worlds-business and sports.  Turns out, I’d try, with little success to do just that, starting a company that provided recruiting, academic, and training services to aspiring high school athletes.  But it was unsuccessful, due in large part probably because I could never escape the fact that I did not get over what I deemed a failure- not making it to the NFL.

I tried to replace it, now that football was gone forever.  That feeling of “making it”. I think, in hindsight, that I needed- probably still do need- to have something out in front of me as a carrot, a goal, that is so difficult to accomplish that very few try and fewer accomplish.  I think a part of me needs that to feel worth something, to feel worthy of giving guidance to others, of being a role model to young people to be able to prove to the world that you can do whatever you want.  After all, “what does a kid care about some guy who didn’t make it in football, didn’t make it as an entrepreneur, and is now ‘just working’” is what  I tell myself.  That sort of dialogue, which has prevented me from giving all that I have, of teaching all that I know, of loving with all of my heart, continues on and on in my head.

Until now.

Until now, I thought I was a failure because I hadn’t donned an NFL uniform.

Until now, I thought my value was tied solely to my physical appearance, to my fitness and physical strength.

Until now, I waited around for the time I was “successful”, so that I could give back, so that I could begin counseling and guiding, mentoring and teaching, and giving the world all that it’s given me.

Until…until I realized: what the hell am I waiting for?!?

I looked back at my life, through the advice of several friends and family members, honestly and subjectively.  And I realized one thing.  I may not be the man I want to be yet.  But I certainly have a lot to be proud of.  I certainly have accomplished a lot of things for which people would consider me successful.  More importantly, I looked back at my life and the people who influenced me.  I began to list those people that have helped me- and believe me; none of us makes it in this life alone; we all have help along the way.  And to my surprise (not really), none of them was a professional football player.  Not one was rich and famous.  And to be honest, none of them really accomplished anything people would consider extraordinary.  The truth is most of them were quite ordinary people who chose to lose themselves in me-even if only a morsel, even if only for an instance-and to give to me what they felt I needed at the time.  All of us, I now know, have that within us.  All of us have lived a unique life, filled with successes and failures, both of which give us ample ammunition to attack the world’s problems and to help others.

If we only choose to accept that challenge, to use that gift.

I do.  And from this day forward I pledge to begin what I’ve dreamt of doing since I was eight years old.  It might not be perfect at first, but at least it’ll be me. And it’ll be fun.  It might not come out the right way each time, if at all, but inside the stories I tell, the advice I give, inside of the lessons I try to convey, somewhere in all of that will be a bit of information that helps someone at that perfect time in their life that they need it- just like it happened for me, like it fortunately continues to happen for me (I thank all of you that continue to teach me every day of my life).  And I can do it now.  I will do it now.  Even if I’m not a professional football player.


About bbluford
I am an executive finance professional with a love for process and application development (MS Access, Excel, Quickbooks), mostly as it relates to Accounting and Business Functions. I also love to write and share ideas with other people in this world. I'm an admitted Gym Rat who works out excessively. The best summation of me is that I love to teach and to learn.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: