I like conflict because it gives me motivation to try harder. During high school I had the talent to play at an elite level of tennis if I trained more. Unfortunately, I didn’t want to work on my backhand and nobody was really badgering me. As a result, I only received “First Team All District” honors instead of achieving “All Sectionals” honors at the end of senior year. Because I wanted to spend more time with my girlfriend and I didn’t want to spend time traveling on weekends to play tennis tournaments, I never received any recognition from college coaches except for a small Division III school. I sometimes wonder what could have been if I went all out.
Nobody made me feel like a loser about tennis because I was already the team captain for two years and had a girlfriend. Girlfriend + Captain in high school is a respectable combo. I didn’t have anything to prove, so I didn’t do anything more.
But now as a 37 year old, I love playing tennis. I’ve worked on my topspin backhand religiously for three years and I’m entering tournaments now. The problem is my body isn’t as fast or as strong as it was 20 years ago. I’ve got a torn meniscus that is slowing me down. Damn. I wish I had the same enthusiasm back then. It’s because I know my time left playing competitive singles is limited, that I’m trying to do as much as I can now. When you’re young, you think everything will last forever.
There are other events that have left an indelible mark on my psyche. When I was 20 years old, four offensive linemen from the university football team came into Denny’s and attacked me and my girlfriend with racial slurs. We were used to racial conflict living in the South, but I was still pissed because they attacked my girl’s honor. Attack me all you want, but don’t attack the people I care about. The incident motivated both of us to do well for the remaining two years of school and try to become financially independent as soon as possible. I wanted to prove to them that I could rise above their bullshit perceptions.
When I was 32 years old, a junior colleague started making fun of me when I told him I was starting a personal finance site. He started making a weird face and typing on an air keyboard, mocking my idea. I guess I smiled, but inside I was thinking, you little prick. Whenever the going gets tough online, I remember back to this incident and push on through. Word has it he’s miserable at his job because he’s stuck. Welcome to the real world, buddy. Guess you should have joined me in air keyboard class.