Vision Quest, Wrestling, and Manhood

I’ve been noticing some parallels between the recent events in my life and the events that defined me as a 17 and 18 year old. When Karen had a C-section a month ago after spending nine weeks in the hospital I found myself in a familiar position. We were both scared to death because Max and Kate were still only 30 weeks gestational age. The whole scenario unfolded so fast that we didn’t have much time to think about it. She called me that morning, Oct.22, and told me that the doctors had informed her that “today is the day.” She had been laying there for nine weeks and now all of sudden it was time, because on an infection. I suited up in an operating room suit and made the long walk to one of the ORs with Karen and the team of doctors and nurses. Just outside of two double doors a doctor stopped me and said “you’ll wait here while we get her prepped. I’ll send someone for you in about 20 minutes.” I sat in one lonely chair in a deserted hallway at Baptist hospital. With each passing moment my heart pounded more. Everymoment of my marriage, our pregnancy with our first child Izzy, and the entire long journey we had experienced with Max and Kate flashed through my head. I’ve been through alot of big moments athletically in my life, so I was very familiar with that tingling feeling of anxiety. I recalled the Parade of Champions at the state wrestling tournaments in both 92 and 93. The parade takes place prior to the championship finals matches. The two finalists parade around the “big house” gymnasium side by side with the 3rd-6th place finishers following them. I experienced that moment twice, as a junior being huge underdog and as a senior as a very close favorite. Both times I remember, and have photographic evidence, of staring at the floor trying my best not to make eye contact with my opponent. I could go on about this forever – in fact, I’m well into writing a book that details the horrors I experienced cutting weight and trying to live up to expectations. My heart pounded as the national anthem played both times. I could already feel the tears welling up in my eyes. I can recall my senior season specifically. I was 42-1 headed into the finals match against a returning state champion (an eventual 2x state champ and Div 1 wrestler). I sat behind the officials riser in my sweat suit, my hood pulled over my head, with tears streaming down my face. I was sobbing so hard that I shook. My coach eventually forced me to pull myself together; although I was still wiping tears from my cheeks as I walked onto the mat (I won by the way). That’s the difference between being 18 and being 34, I guess. No one arrived in that hall to force me to pull it together at the hospital. I was alone and shaking again. I couldn’t control what was about to happen that day, but the nerves were very similar. The moment was similar…alone, suited up, feeling like the whole world was on my shoulders. A nurse eventually came and brought me through the double doors, down a long hall, and into the room where my wife of 10 years was prepared to deliver our miracle twins. I consider myself a champion (I’m an arrogant SOB sometimes), but no more of a champion than my wife. We were both ready and something changed in that moment. The nerves left us both…it was our time…our destiny…no matter how it turned out. There are times in life when the waiting has to end, the nerves have to be put aside, and you have to step up and face life head on. We now have 3 perfectly healthy children. And I’m looking forward to feeling those nerves again at some point in my life. Times like those help me know I’m alive.

I watched the 1985 film Vision Quest many many times as a wrestler. I listened to the soundtrack even more. Before every big match I listened to the song “Change” by John Waite. I still listen today when I need reminders about who I am. Here’s a video tribute to Vision Quest set to the that song (disclaimer – there’s lots of cheesy 80’s stuff included, but it’s still a great movie and song). “What’s in your heart will never change.”

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2 responses to “Vision Quest, Wrestling, and Manhood

  1. I was hoping you’d write about seeing this after reading your Facebook status updates yesterday.

    You are on a lunatic fringe.

  2. This is very well written. Plenty of lessons in this piece that identify with all of us.

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