Daniel Clark Bronx, New York, United States
Back in the Spring of 2009, I found out that my favorite pro wrestler was going to be having an autograph signing in Poughkeepsie, NY, which is roughly an hour away from where I live. And not only that, but guests can have their picture taken with him too! Wow, what a great opportunity this would be! And what? You can take a photo with him… holding championship belts together? Oh man! That would be a dream come true for me! I’ve had a Burning Desire to meet this man since I was a kid! I’m there, dude!
But wait a minute… my Dad tells me that this also falls on the day of one of our many family occasions that we have throughout the year. Drat! Looks like I would be foiled again!
Well, not this time… but first, a little background.
The previous year had already been challenging enough for me; my best friend of over 10 years to that point had betrayed me and tried turning other friends of mine against me by spreading false rumors or telling them things that I confided in him with, and I later found out that he was instrumental in luring past girlfriends away from me. This man never went anywhere in his life and seemed somewhat threatened whenever I had a Burning Desire to make improvements to my own life. Unfortunately, several other people I have known throughout the years have repeated the same pattern. To make matters worse, I had also just broken up with my girlfriend at the time after I found out that she was just using me and exhibiting similar behaviors to this so-called “friend” of mine, and I myself didn’t really feel like I was going anywhere in life, be it in the work field or even in my personal life. I probably would’ve ended my connections with these people sooner but after earlier in the year, when my family had one of their routine “let’s fix Danny” sessions with me, I felt like these people were more than I really deserved and that I should hold onto whatever or whoever I had at that point. Criticism and verbal attacks from outsiders (friends, acquaintances, people I’ve only just met, etc.) were easier to withstand, but when it comes from within your own immediate surroundings, from the people who are supposed to support you, your family, how do you combat that?
“Why do you have to go upstate? It’s so far away!”
“Why do you have to go meet with friends at this place? It’s so low-class!”
(meanwhile, there had never been any incidents there before)
If my family could have a motto, it would probably be “it’s too dangerous!”
My Burning Desire for something more was taking a lot of damage. I fell into a deep state of depression to the point where getting out of bed felt like “what’s the point?”
But once I found out about this event, suddenly there was a hope spark; I can go to an event that will certainly make me happy, featuring an athlete I have always admired, and be held in an environment which has a different energy from the place that I am used to being in the majority of the time, a more positive, empowering energy.
Alas though, it appeared as if this would be the latest casualty in a long line of family events that conflicted with things that I had wanted to do, which was another source of my depression. Dating back to my teenage years, family events always seemed to fall on days of auditions I may have wanted to go to, or days when people I was interested in meeting had been available to meet me (girls from school, other potential friends I had been trying to get acquainted with, etc.), or anything that would have gone toward helping me find myself. If I didn’t know any better, I would say it was almost strategic; “book events on days that Daniel would otherwise be doing something that could be considered non-routine”.
And maybe I wouldn’t have minded so much, if these family occasions didn’t all follow the same formula:
- I’d go to the occasion with my Dad and a few others (all in the same car).
- All of the adults would talk with each other, while I’d get left out of the conversation (unless they are asking me about how work is going, to which some of them reply with what I “should” be doing instead).
- Whenever I’d try to get into the conversation, all of the adults seem to know to pause awkwardly for exactly six seconds before resuming their conversation like I didn’t say anything. (That always freaked me out!) And if I did manage to get a word in, they would just talk over me.
- If I did get to talk to anyone, it’s only the kids, which is fine, but being an adult myself at this point, I’d like a balance too.
I could go on, but the point is that every occasion I had ever gone to felt like a duplicate of the one before, so nothing new was coming from these. The only deviation I would be likely to experience is knowing that I gave something up to appease them, because “hey, family comes first, right?” “Don’t worry” I would tell myself, “you’re building up good karma by sacrificing everything for your family… even if the result is often the same and you feel drained afterward”.
But after the last year I just had, it was time to treat myself right. This was something I could not afford to miss out on. Now, by this point, I had been driving my own car for about a year, so I could go where I wanted to and when I wanted to, but when it came to a family occasion, I would always get several “excuses” thrown at me why I can’t take myself, or why I had to carpool with four other people (never mind the fact that EVERYONE else went to these occasions in their own cars). Being of weak resolve (up to this point), I always bowed to their demands, even when it hurt and I regretted it every time, but “whatever” I thought; because in my family, the only time you say “no” is when you follow it up with “problem”.
So what did I do? I got up very early in the morning on the day of the events, I got in my car, and I just went to the event I wanted to go to myself. I even went as far as to change my voicemail message temporarily to explain my reasoning, knowing that my folks would be calling me asking where I was. The result? One of the best days I have ever had in my life. I went to the autograph signing, got an autograph AND a picture with my favorite wrestler, and I even made some new friends while waiting on the line to go in, who I am still friends with to this day, and who introduced me to some of the hotspots around town. I went to one of these places later that evening in Chester, NY, and met up with the people I had just met earlier to watch a pay per view event and have something to eat. Before that, I met up with my photographer friend who lived in nearby Rhinebeck (who also did the photo that currently displays on my Linkedin and IBOtoolbox profiles) and had lunch with him, and spent the next few hours with him and with the family of a mutual friend of ours that we met by chance when going for ice cream afterward.
So I was very happy that I followed up on my Burning Desire to go to this event (and unbeknownst to me at the time, getting so much more than I could’ve expected). Naturally, some of my folks scolded me for my decision. By the way, the family occasion this time around involved my nephew, and my sister told me about how this was a once in a lifetime occasion that I missed (it was his first communion). I told her and the other people who brought it up that I understood that, and that I did care very much, but that what she and others needed to understand is that I too was having experiences come my way that are once in a lifetime, and that I can no longer neglect my own needs.
I just looked at what my future held if I kept this indecision up; today it’s the autograph signing, tomorrow it’s the audition that I’d want to go on or the girl from another town who would like to meet with me on a certain day, the next day it’s… who knows?
As for my nephew, I offered to come by and visit him that Wednesday and spend the day with him, and you know what? He was overjoyed! He didn’t ask why I didn’t show up on Sunday, all he cared about was that I was there to pick him up from school, go back to the house and have dinner, then go outside with him to play some games, then back inside later to help get the internet connection on his Nintendo Wii going, and giving him a day that he talked about with his friends at school for at least a week afterward!
The picture of me and my favorite wrestler now sits proudly in my room, where I see it everyday and am reminded of the wonderful experience that I had and the lessons I learned. One of these lessons was that we shouldn’t let fear of disapproval, rejection, or anything for that matter, snuff out our Burning Desire to do something. It certainly can be intimidating to go against the norm, especially when they have a considerable influence over you, but once we get into the habit of letting anything or anyone take away our Burning Desire, we cease to live and merely just exist.
Anybody can “exist”, but the true leaders are the ones who know how to LIVE.
Let me leave you with a quote from my favorite wrestler during his Hall of Fame induction speech (I’m not sure if he’s the originator of it, but I first heard it from him):
“The best chance you have if you want to rise to the top is to give yourself up to loneliness, fear nothing, and work hard. One thing that you will discover is that life is based less than you think on what you have learned, and much more than you think on what you have had inside of you from the very beginning”.
~Bret “The Hitman” Hart
7-time World Champion, Wrestling Hall of Famer, and my favorite pro wrestler of all-time