Recently, I saw some old college photos on Facebook, and it made me think of a funny story 28 years ago, that taught me a good lesson: Look forward, not back.
It was the fall of 1989, and I had returned to Seth Grove Football Stadium for the Homecoming game. As I entered the stadium, I could hear The Shippensburg University marching band playing those familiar songs that I loved as a player on game day.
It had been a year since I suited up for the Red Raiders football team, and finished an excellent career as one of the team’s star players. I had graduated from college, and was working in the Washington DC area until I was ordered to begin my Army training.
My four years of performance on the gridiron produced 5 school records, an inspirational comeback from a devastating knee injury (Blog Post: Adversity Empowers), and a very high-profile amongst the student body. At the relatively small Pennsylvania school, I had earned “Big Man On Campus” status..or at least I thought so…
My younger cousin Mike Williams had emerged as one of the team’s leaders, so I returned to my old stomping grounds to cheer him on. Of course, I immediately gravitated to the locker room for the pre-game ritual, a special place for teammates on game day.
It was fantastic to see my close friends and former teammates once again, and we greeted each other with the camaraderie that is typical of people who have trained together. I almost felt like I was back on the team again; one of the players.
They happily told the freshmen stories about my exciting past football exploits, and the success that we enjoyed together as teammates. For a moment there, I almost felt like I was going to actually play that day. It was awesome.
Coach Joe Bottiglieri gave a motivating pre-game speech, and a few of the team leaders spoke. One player mentioned that it was good to have me back with the team in the locker room.
So when the team walked through the stadium tunnel, I could hear that “clackety-clack” of the players cleats that heightened the rush, and stirred the old competitive juices! My excitement continued to rise to a borderliness frenzy as the band played our fight song. I had goose bumps, just like the old times. Pure happiness.
The difference was that I was dressed in normal clothes, and not in the team uniform.
At the apex of anticipation and exhilaration, “we” started to jog through the screaming fans… but then I felt an arm block me from advancing any further onto the field.
“What the heck?”, I thought.
I looked up and it was the university’s Chief of Police, Herb Bowers, a good man who had always been kind and supportive to me.
“Frank, I’m sorry, but only the team is allowed to be on the sidelines. Please find a seat up there with the fans!”
Boom. I was hit by a bolt of lightning, and it was like the air coming out of a balloon. I needed to swallow my pride and sit in the alumni fan section.
That night at the team party, after my anger and embarrassment had dissipated, we must have laughed for 30 minutes on my rude awakening to reality. My buddies lionized The Great Herb Bowers for his vicious tackle of ole’ Frankie V.
That life experience was over, man. My life had moved on from college athletics, and it was time for me to leave it behind.
The hilarious experience taught me to view life’s endeavors as a series of chapters. You close one, and open another, with no regrets.
The problem on that fall day in Pennsylvania, was not that I had good memories of my time as a player, or that my friendships with teammates were rekindled; the problem was that I wanted to be a player again!
This learned perspective helped me to decide to boldly resign my commission as a path to U.S. Army Flight School, and later the courage to walk away from an exciting life as an aviator to pursue an MBA and new opportunities. (Blog Page: About The Writer)
At every fork in the road, I moved on, and never looked back, because I knew it would never be the same if I searched for “the path of bread crumbs” returning back to where I started.
What principles did I learn from this episode?
Positive relationships travel with you.
Have no fear. If you boldly follow your natural path in life, regardless of where it takes you on this planet, your connection to loved ones (family and friends) and positive people will travel with you. They are not lost, but are accumulated and strengthened, and often relied upon as a sounce of mutual support and encouragement.
When I was stationed in Honduras, Central America, living in a wooden hootch with no air conditioning, or indoor plumbing, the thing that lifted my spirits the most was receiving a “care package” from my mom.
The box would arrive in the unit’s mail room, and I would rush to get it. I knew she would include something “good”, usually a delicious lemon cake, sliced and wrapped in individual pieces. I would share those slices with my fellow soldiers (as was the practice), and it was like passing out gold bars. Happiness. Of course, I always made sure that I saved a slice (or two) for myself!
Now, if a relationship is negative and destructive, don’t allow it to travel with you.. (Blog Post: Thoughts From The Farm, 2/26/17)
Life Moves Forwards or Backwards
The “look forward, not back” approach presumes that if you experience no personal growth, and remain fixed, then essentially you are moving backwards in life.
Every life form on this planet grows. That is an irrefutable law of nature. The question deals with the nature of your growth. Are you moving forwards or backwards? (Blog Post: Thoughts From The Farm, 03/02/17)
Looking forward could include a variety of things: the annual church family picnic, attending law school, the Cub Scout camping trip, the birth of a child, the attainment of a financial investment goal, harvesting a personal garden, making it to the championship game…
The point is that regardless of the objective, life is enriched if we have something worthy and interesting in our future. Without this, we default to living the old “glory days”, which of course can never be recaptured in the same form.
The “Look forward, not back” doesn’t mean “Don’t Reach Back”
As we move forward in life, regardless of the endeavor, it is our responsibility to mentor and encourage young people to make positive movements in their lives. This is the primary reason I started this blog.
I believe that we have perspectives that may be interesting and helpful to others, and I want to share on a larger scale than my busy schedule allows. There is a limited amount of time for lunches/coffees…
The Wise Blackhawk blog is my attempt to employ technology and social media to reach more people and exchange perspectives based on my life experiences.
Past experiences generate wonderful memories, valuable lessons and treasured relationships. Looking forward, however, creates the excitement, anticipation and spirit of life. So I will end with one question:
What Are You Looking Forward To?