When I was about ten or eleven, maybe even up to twelve or thirteen years old, I believed I had a chance to play for my favorite professional basketball team. I convinced myself on the basis of my adroit low post moves and prescient court vision. The play that probably sums up my ability to that point in my career was when I got the ball in the paint and proceeded to repeatedly engage the defender, who capitulated each time, with about five or so upfakes in succession. Normally after the first or second one is when you go “up-and-under,” i.e. get around to shooting the ball. Instead I upfaked my way into a traveling violation. I will die believing I did not travel and that the referee decided I “must have” travelled after so much time and so many pivots with the ball, but a larger point seems clear to me now: in spite of a specialized aptitude, I didn’t have the follow through; in the face of the moment of truth I was impotent; it wasn’t happening. That play was not the light-bulb moment for me, and in fact, I never had an epiphany, but at some point I did realize of the many things I was missing to become a professional athlete, athleticism was the first and foremost. I kept playing basketball, and I had fun and improved and learned a few things unrelated to the orange ball, even though I never really became good. After that my big vision went into hiding for a while as I navigated the perilous insecurities of high school. Eventually I did find a way forward, a new vision, even if it was blurrier than my naive youthful self.
To give the longstoryshort: I wanted to become a great fiction writer.
And I still do. I have at various and many times, shut my eyes on the vision. Not to make the dream more vivid, but to make it vanish. This one, however, I am heretofore unwilling to let fade into darkness. This is mainly because I have not allowed it to meet its end, come what may. It can certainly be summed up in a simple, sorry fear of failure, but it is urgent in my mind lately how each of my failures has become death itself. It is an easy but good metaphor. It reminds me there are many lives a person has to live. Where I have strayed is in thinking that, unlike in the one mortal space of being we call our “life,” I can orbit these visions, lives and dreams and thus control and guide them from without, as if I was Earth and could make the Sun burn by going around it.
In the way death is implicit in life, an end is always present. Now I look back on my boyhood, and the end of that life does not seem to have expired in vain. I forgot it as a silly, desperate dream of a lost boy, then remembered it again as a whimsical, sincere manifestation of a lonely boy’s first love. And so understanding also capitulates. This is the way to dream anew. All dreams are already waking. To quote Sundiata, “Everything in the dream, is the dream.” Here I see in the light, and here I see in the dark. The only thing left is to write.
2 thoughts on “The End of My Life”
I had aspirations of playing pro ball when I was young as well. I did manage to play in high school (even on TV once), but lacked the athleticism to take the next step toward my dream.
Now, after a first career in pastoral ministry, I am looking to make it as a writer and a teacher of writing. So far, so good. I think one key is not to aspire to greatness (or any particular outcome), but simply focus each day on writing well.
Thanks for your post and I wish you well in your venture.
I agree with you about a daily focus being important. I have had that recently, and I have been productive. Thanks for stopping by and reading my post; it is much appreciated.
Best of luck in your writing and teaching endeavors!