In life, we take things personally, and as we should. Doing so signifies self worth and self appreciation (although there's a fine line between self worth and feeding the ego.) As we go through life, there are going to be people who try to bring you down, who have negative opinions of you and those who hurt us, whether that be intentionally or not. Those are just facts of life.
To take something negative about yourself on board is common place. As an athlete, you have to deal with the media. A lot of times, these people have never played a meaningful minute of sport in their life, but they are paid to express their opinions and sometimes you'll be on the wrong side of those takes.
Regardless of what athletes say in the interviews, we hear and read what is written and said about us. We are competitive and in a field that demands perfection at every turn, so of course we take these matters personally. As much of a hit it is to our ego, it also is part of what drives us.
The same goes for people in society. People will say negative things about you or hurt you but you need to find forgiveness. Carrying those negative emotions with you will only burden you down the road and curb your growth and true potential.
But how do we find forgiveness when we are cut deep? When the people closest to us hit us with the gut punch? It's quite simple- we need to stop, take the emotion out of the situation and genuinely put ourselves in their shoes. Let me give you the shining example in my life because no one took things more personally and lacked the ability to forgive more than myself, and it has cost me life's most precious commodity- time.
I haven't talked about my relationship with my dad often, but I feel this is as good a time as ever to really shed light on to the complexities of it.
Growing up, my dad and I were incredibly close, best friends even. He was extremely active in my life from a young age, transitioning roles at work from driving a truck to the office, just to make sure he was there for my mom and me, and eventually, my younger brother. This was a sacrifice in it's own- long hours, working well after close of business to learn what he needed to during the transition.
As we got older and began to play sports, my dad was ALWAYS the parent to put up his hand for coaching. It started with baseball, soccer and eventually basketball. But the real love in the family was football. My dad played, up to when I was three or four, and I can remember him coming home and I would put on his pads, running around in the front yard pretending to be a football player. It's what I wanted to be when I was young and it is because of my dad.
So when I turned old enough, my parents went down to sign me up only to find out the football program folded years back and there was no opportunity for me. They could have driven me to another township but instead, they started a program up on their own, figuring I wasn't the only kid missing out on the chance to play. They were responsible for giving kids at a young age the love of football and the ability to grow with it. Multiple kids had NFL experience and even more received free education because of it. All from tiny little Hightstown, NJ. Now do those kids still get those opportunities if they don't play as juniors? Maybe, but they were definitely helped by having the opportunity to grow from a younger age.
Moral of the story, my dad was always there for me. One thing I can also thank him for, is from an early age, he instilled real values in my brother and me. This however, could be seen as a detriment to our relationship as well down the road.
When my parents separated and eventually divorced, it was messy. Everyone knew my parents as a golden couple, constantly together, constantly active in the community. We seemed like a perfect family, and for a long time we were, but things don't always work out.
As the dust began to settle and reality began to set in for everyone, my dad left New Jersey for Florida where his family lived and work opportunities (he recently started his own company right before the divorce and folded it more stable income at a rocky time.)
As a thirteen year old boy, that is a knife in the heart. All you can think about is why would he move away like that? It was personal.
Referring back to the values I said my dad taught, protection was a huge one. Always protect the ones we love, especially our mother. So we saw the divorce not for what it was, but rather an attack on ourselves, and more importantly, on our mother.
The relationship between my father and I was severely damaged. To the point there was no contact for years.
I held on to a bitterness and a disdain for my father without ever trying to understand the situation. It comes down to a maturity issue, though. There aren't many 13 year olds who would be able to take the emotion out of that situation.
When I headed off to college, we tried to mend our relationship, and for a while, we made great progress. My father was a key cog for my brother and me when our mom was sick, flying from Colorado (where he lived) to New Jersey each weekend to help my brother in preparation for her passing while I was in Australia. Without him, I don't even want to fathom what would have happened. (I'd also like to take this time to thank his wife Fran, for all of her support during this time. It was a very tricky situation and one that she handled perfectly and I am extremely grateful for that as well.)
My dad and I continued mending our relationship over the next year or so until my heart incident happened. When I came back to the states, I was severely depressed and struggling with thoughts of suicide.
At the time, my dad was on leave from work, having had a major back surgery so we spent some days on the phone or playing video games online together. As my depression worsened I leaned on his support more than ever, although I never said this to him. There were days he would get busy and miss a scheduled call, and again, I took that personally.
As I geared up to come to back to Australia in 2018, I was frustrated with my dad again, a similar feeling as when I was 13, and so, communication stopped and came almost to a halt.
Aside from one or two phone calls in Australia, I had next to no communication with my dad out of bitterness.
It wasn't until I began my relationship with Carlie, I gained an understanding and appreciation for my dad's situation. Although this wasn't done in the first handful of conversations, she finally got me to take the emotion out of the situation, and simply put myself in my dad's shoes.
What I never accounted for is that my dad is a human being. I always saw my dad in the same light as we hold superheroes (in my defence he told me that he was a superhero but I couldn't see his powers until I turned 18 when I was young,) and I think that is where we become misguided. When we are young, most of us see our parents as these superhuman, perfect people, when in reality, they are just as flawed as we are.
I made a handful of mistakes in my relationship with my dad but this has taught me invaluable lessons for the rest of my life, so again I can thank my dad for giving me some more lessons to live by.
One of the biggest mistakes I made in my relationship with my dad, was I never thought about the massive issues in his life. I never took time to think about his own problems, his own train of thought. I never took into account the heavy things he was dealing with (and he was dealing with some real doozie's) because at the end of the day- it doesn't matter what Clark Kent is carrying because Superman always saves the day.
The second big mistake I made, was I made it about me. I let my ego into the driver seat and steer the ship. There were many people in this entire equation but in my relationship with my dad, there are only two. Even when you break an equation down so simply, I still missed half of it. I thought about my feelings and never for a second considered his situation, and for that I am sorry. But, at the end of the day, it's a lesson learned.
The third mistake I made, was when I tried to lean on him. First and foremost, I never addressed with him what I was going through and I certainly never addressed with him that I felt the need to lean on him for help. If I would have communicated that, there's no doubt in my mind he would have helped me through that time.
We all need help in life, that's why we have communities. But when we are trying to get through a difficult time or situation, we never consider the lives of the people we are trying to lean on. Just because they appear to be doing okay, doesn't always mean they are. When those people can't be there for us, we take it personally and relationships that shouldn't, break down. Always be mindful that the next person has just as many problems as you do.
The next mistake I made was carrying those emotions with me all those years. I had frustration, anger, disdain, disgust and a general sense of hurt within me. As I said before, when we take things personally, there is a sense of self worth, so it's not a bad thing because it shows you respect yourself. However, you show an equal level of disrespect if you don't forgive those people and let go of those negative emotions. You deserve to live a happy, wholesome, guilt-free life and you are unable to do that by hanging on to negative emotions from your past.
The final mistake I made was the lack of respect for time. Time is the one thing we do not get back regardless of how much money or power we do or don't have. I have spent years not having a relationship with my dad, someone who has cared about me since the day I was born, making countless sacrifices for my happiness and comfort. Now, in the midst of a global pandemic, I will have to wait a little longer before I can spend time with him again.
This could all have been avoided by dropping the emotion and my ego, having more discussions and putting myself in his shoes. But we live and we learn and this is certainly a lesson learned.
So forgive those who you think have done you wrong. Forgive those who may or may not have meant to hurt you. We are all navigating our way through this life and none of us get it right. Fact of the matter is we won't be here forever, we are on a finite timeline and thus, do not have time to waste. So waste none, forgive everyone, and move forward happily and freely. You owe it to yourself to be the best version.