Thursday, January 6

the last twenty minutes

First of all, it’s 2011, so I’m changing the font. Fuck yeah.

Turns out I wasn’t nearly as “over” my cold as I thought on NYE. Turns out that working that night from eight until four the next morning didn’t help. Casino hours… what are ya gonna do?

So I stumbled through the weekend of dealing cards and then slept Monday and Tuesday, literally. It’s Thursday and I almost feel mostly human again.

All that down time did let me finish watching the World Junior Hockey Championships though, so it wasn’t all bad. I just set my phone alarm to get up for the games and, in between, slept in medicated bliss. I was back on my feet yesterday though, running around, catching up on stuff, and ended up watching the final (Canada vs Russia) in a pub.

Canada lost in a monumental third period meltdown, going from a 3-0 lead at the start of the period to a final, dismal 5-3 loss, allowing five unanswered goals in what will surely go down as one of the greatest chokes of all time. I’ve mentioned before that I watch hockey now for the joy of the game and not to cheer the home team. Mostly. I was a little disappointed.

It was disappointing to watch the Canadian team blow the lead, but not world-ending. More disappointing was that it was a boring game to watch. Canada dominated for forty minutes, and then Russia dominated for twenty. There was very little of that exciting battle between two equals when they go toe to toe in the kind of display of skill and speed that makes hockey the fastest, most exciting game in the world. (Yes, I’m biased. My blog, I’m allowed.)

So I was less disappointed in the final score than I was in the fact that neither team came out to play a full sixty minutes of hockey.

That sounds uncharitable, and it kind of is. These are kids after all, every one of them nineteen or under and subsequently susceptible to vagaries of emotional vacillation tempestuous enough to sink the Titanic.

Nobody will ever know what exactly happened. It looked to me, though, like Canada spent the intermission between the second and the third imagining what the gold medals were going to feel like hanging around their necks, and then came out worried about not losing them. The Russian team, on the other hand, spent the intermission realizing that they had absolutely nothing to lose, and twenty minutes left to them to reach for the brass ring.

And that, I think, made all the difference.

The team that won yesterday didn’t play the whole game as well as they could have, but they played the most important part – the end. Life is like that, yeah? Not too many people manage to figure out their personal legend, to use a Paulo Coelho-ism, early enough to say they were able to play the whole game. I know a lot of people, like me, that didn’t figure that part out until later on.

Most of the time, we give up. We say that we made our choice and now we have to stick with it. We get fixated on the destination and lose sight of the journey, hung up on holding onto what we've got instead of risking it for the sake of the path. We have a career, families, kids, mortgages*, obligations, responsibilities, and we convince ourselves that personal legends have to come second to those things, because we’re used to lists and priorities that have to be linear.

News flash: They don’t have to be. You can love your kids and spouse and still love yourself and pursue whatever it is that makes your blood sing. And if you can, and if I can, then we all can.

When it comes down to it, how we start is less important than how we end. Lots of us have great ideas, brilliant starts, and then, somewhere in the middle, lose the thread. It’s a marathon, a journey, after all, and there’s lots of time to get distracted, or sidetracked, or bogged down. Win or lose, it truly is how we play the game, the effort we put in to the end.

I lucked out. I truly feel that I found my little bit of destiny to chase after, and I was in a pretty flexible personal position to make drastic changes in order to chase after that fucker. I get that it isn’t always appropriate to flip everything upside down in a life-inversion like I did in order to make changes, but there are always ways. I’m surrounded by amazing people, online and in the 3-D world, that are doing it, chasing personal legends, making it up as they go along, carving out a path through the jungle towards a mountaintop and a cave full of bliss.

They’re reaching for it as if there was nothing to lose, and I find it inspiring to see. It inspires me every day to get in the chair and finish stronger than I started, the skate to the buzzer. Because I have nothing to lose except me, and the only way to do that is to stop trying. Let me say that again: We have nothing to lose but ourselves, and the only way to do that is to stop trying.

I don’t usually do the question asking thing here, but I will today, because I’m truly interested in hearing your truth. What is it in your life that’s worth playing hard for right to final buzzer?

* The word mortgage finds its roots in the French. It literally means “death pledge”. Not surprisingly, they don’t use that particular phrase in French-speaking lands to describe contracts to buy houses. Go figure…