Well, I got up this morning – at 5 a.m., after maybe 3 hours of restless sleep on the couch – and went to work at a job where I can’t sit down and make $13-an-hour less than the more-or-less lifelong job that I voluntarily left.
So Winston Churchill would, I guess, be proud.
He allegedly was the source of the quote in the title. He did a harder job than I ever have done. And he probably didn’t give a sh*t about sports — or, if he did, he didn’t let the outcome of a baseball game, a failure of epic proportions by the best team in the National League, record-wise, all year, move him to tears once, let alone multiple times in a 12-hour span.
But I care too much about my sports, and about pretty much everything in life, so I felt like a big bag of stinking failure walking into work this morning at 6:45. I had cried already for the end of the Cubs’ season, immediately after the Rockies recorded the final out of the NL Wild Card Game, in the bottom of the 13th inning. Several hours later, my second full day working as a cashier in a busy farmers market left me feeling like an even bigger bag of stinking failure. And I guess all the deep-seated emotions, piled on top of the lack of sleep, just got the better of me.
I suppose no one should cry about a minimum-wage job. But as is the case with any breakdown of any degree, it’s never about one thing. It’s a compilation. You’ve spent a long, long time bottling up the pain, anger, sadness, fear, regret, doubt, fatigue, and yes, the actual failure — or maybe even the emotional roller coaster of both successes and failures — that explodes one day when you least expect it.
When are you ever expecting it?
I did not expect to be mourning the loss of my journalism career and the Cubs’ 2018 season within the same month. I don’t know what I expected when I decided to cut the cord with the job I’d worked for 16 years, the job that brought me to the state of Pennsylvania in my 20s. I guess I expected things to work out, because I am good enough, smart enough, etc., and I was actively trying to find something new.
You’re 40. You’re changing careers, with only local journalism on your resume. Wake up. You’re in for the fight of your life.
I don’t know what I expected from the Cubs, who have flashed their warning signs all year long, whether it be injuries or inconsistent pitching or roster-wide offensive slumps.
Baseball is a brutal, demanding sport with an unforgivingly long season. If your mojo is maxed out by the time you get to October, you’re looking at an early playoff exit and planning for “next year.”
But, none of that really matters now, when we all must summon the courage to continue. I mean, obviously, I’m not going to dig a hole and crawl in it because the Cubs lost Monday and then Tuesday/Wednesday to end their potential World Series run in a blink. Nor are the Cubs going to fold up the tents on the franchise because they fell short on that run, and are probably going to deal with (are they already dealing with it? I could not listen to the radio today!) severe criticism for not “living up to expectations.”
I’m not going to quit my part-time, in-between job because I messed up a few times doing something I’ve never done before, under a different kind of pressure than I’ve ever felt before.
I’m not going to quit searching for what I really want to do with my life, no matter how tired and emotionally frazzled I feel.
I’m not going to quit trying to grow as a person and develop new, diverse skills — from handling all sorts of people and navigating all sorts of experiences in the service industry, to “selling myself” on the job market. I might seem like a flaming hot, confused mess, and sometimes, I absolutely feel like it. But deep down, all of this, everything that has led me to this point right now, and every choice I’ve made in the past two months, has been in the interest of growth and happiness. I HAVE made progress, in ways we can’t necessarily quantify, or talk about.
Today, I felt so far away from my destination.
I might not get a whole lot closer tomorrow.
I might fail, and fail, and fail again before I feel like I’ve succeeded at anything. But it is not in me to quit, and no matter what, after an entire adulthood spent making my own way in this world, I have faith in my abilities and in the fabric of my character, and I have faith that I’ll eventually get exactly where I belong.
If you look at what MLB players have to do to make it, you understand why this sport is such a beautiful metaphor for real life. And that’s a great way to tie up this blog. If everyone whose batting average went from scorching in July to sucking in September (paging Willson Contreras?) just gave up, we’d not have the awesomely unpredictable, riveting sport we love to watch until Wednesday mornings at freaking 1 AM… or whatever time it was today when the hammer came down on my heart.
If everyone who went through tough challenges and changes, or broken hearts, gave up, we wouldn’t have any, say, Winston Churchills shaping our world.
I feel like that guy would totally have been a baseball fan.