Usually, the end of the year is a time for me to reflect on how the year’s gone.
What I’ve done, where I’ve gone, and what I’ve become.
This year, more than most, presented itself to me with both great opportunity and great difficulty.
A lot of folks, when you tell them that, usually respond by saying, ‘Oh, yeah, right—you know, man, the Chinese ideogram for crisis is actually made up of the ideograms for ‘danger’ and ‘opportunity’’. This is usually unbidden. Also, wrong—the crisis ideogram doesn’t mean that, and isn’t made up of those other ideograms. I’ll get into it some other time.
Anyway, back to what I was writing—difficulty and opportunity. Right, yeah, that’s the ticket.
So, I started out the year by serving as a legislative staff member to a truly decent and honorable man, Michael Merrifield of Colorado Springs. He was going through some personal difficulties (which I’m not going to get into here). Together, we managed to make it through a hard and productive legislative session relatively unscathed—and at the end of that, my professional prospects were rather bright, if I say so myself.
I’ve always—I mean always loved politics. My favorite book ever is Richard Ben Cramer’s What It Takes, which is his accounting of the 1988 Presidential campaign, the first one I recall. Read it sometime—it’s simply, in my opinion, the greatest campaign narrative ever written. He puts Teddy White (and White’s no slouch; hell, he invented the bloody genre, after all) to shame.
Anyway, after the session, I was set to move on and take a well-earned promotion in the game of politics.
Then I got diagnosed with cancer.
Testicular cancer, to be precise. And it was the second time I was diagnosed with the damned disease.
A wise man (who writes by the name of Ogged) once wrote of cancer that the first time you deal with cancer, everyone treats you as if you’re noble and dignified. You tell people, ‘I’ve got cancer.’ And their reaction’s like, ‘Whoa. Wow. Okay.’ They get all hushed, and generally treat you as if you some kind of secular martyr to the Medical Gods.
And if you survive it, well, boy howdy—now the fun starts, because people treat you as if you’ve got a deep, mystical insight into the human condition—kind of like if you graduated from an Ivy League school, disease-type.
The second time, not so much. You’ve got the same pain-in-the-butt awful medical ordeal to endure, but it’s not new or novel or anything—it’s just drudgery.
Anyway, the doctors got everything taken care of, and nowadays, I’m cancer-free. Also, to be precise, right-nut free, since they take your cancerous testicle right along with the offending tumor.
Well, the fun was just starting out, it turns out.
In my haste to get back on the political saddle, instead of taking time to rest and ponder my next move, I decided to rush back into work. I joined a campaign as a staffer.
The rest, if you were a political junkie or professional, is as the saying goes, history. I managed to write a biting, biting email about some of my states political leaders. Unfortunately, I didn’t follow the advice which once was given to me, which is:
Never write it if you can say it; never say it if you can wink it. Basically, discretion is the better part of valor.
Anyway, I managed to not exercise discretion. And the result was that I resigned under pressure from the campaign I’d just started working for. It was the first time that had ever happened to me. It was shocking and gut-wrenching, and I didn’t know what was next.
What came next was…well, it was, in the end, awesome.
First, I found out who my friends were. That, in and of itself, is priceless.
Second, I ended up working in a field I absolutely love, while still remaining involved with my first professional love.
Third…well, it’s like this. One of the greatest baseball players ever was a man named Satchel Paige. He pitched, not just for many years, but for decades—in sports, particularly baseball, that’s unimaginable.
Anyway, someone once said of Paige: ‘Life knocked him down a thousand times, and he simply got up and dusted himself off a thousand and one times.’
Now, I’m in my thirties; but I’ve been knocked down enough times to appreciate that saying, with one REALLY important change, which I’ll get to shortly. What happened to me was shocking and gut-wrenching, yes, but also inevitable in a way—I had become too certain, too cocky, too arrogant.
This year was humbling; and what I needed was to be humbled, to be shown, in stark relief, what was truly important and what truly matters in life. At least, in my life, if no one else’s.
Friends picked me up off the floor. Friends dusted me off, and friends showed me what was next.
What comes next? I don’t know. It’s not given to anyone to see what comes over the horizon of our days, anyway.
What I’ve gained, though, in friendship and knowledge is priceless. I wouldn’t exchange that for the world.
To all of you who helped me through the year, both near & far—thanks.
What’s next? I don’t know.
I do know this—break time’s over.
I’m ready to go.
And I’m fired up for what comes next