“There’s no substitute for guts.” Bear Bryant
Being married to The Coach for almost 18 years has taught me a lot about guts, and even more about grit. If I had to self-define guts from what I’ve seen play out on the football field, I would say that it’s taking chances when it looks like you have nothing left to lose. If I had to define grit, it would be how the nose guard can drill a man into the ground on the first down, and know that he has it in him to do a hundred more times if he needs to, because he has learned what hard work means in practice, and what winning tastes like in a game. I have admired these qualities for quite some time. I told The Coach once, that I would love to be able to play just one game, to see what it’s really like. I know that I never will be one of those players down on the field, but I do have my own game that I play each day of my life. As we all do.
Some days just stink, like sweaty socks that have been worn for multiple days in tennis shoes you wore to mow the grass. It’s that sickly sweet, overly dirty, almost dead animal in a barnyard smell, they stink up a storm. Some days give you that stinking, sinking feeling because they are just so bad. On those days, you aren’t a winner, or a champion, or someone important or special, because you are just trying like hell to keep your head above water. You are making it, but barely. Those days aren’t the days you want to remember, but they are the days which build your character, and make you, and hopefully don’t break you. They build a strength inside you. It tears you completely down, but you come back up, like a phoenix from the fire. You come up. Stronger than ever.
The Coach is enjoying the “off season” now, and while that can bring joy and some fulfillment, it also brings a big bag of confusion. I get to rework how we have been doing things for six months without him. I am a very independent soul. I have learned to be, and maybe I was just one to start with, but I have been doing everything, and bothering him with little to nothing for half the year, and now here he is. What am I supposed to do with him? Luckily, The Coach keeps himself pretty occupied. He has had two trips to Florida (the ProBowl in Orlando, and his yearly trip in a motor home to the Daytona 500) , coaching clinics in Chapel Hill and Greensboro, and he continues his run with a coaching clinic in Columbia, followed by one in Winston-Salem the next, and Virginia Tech after that. During the week when he is “home” he works at the high school by day as Athletic Director, and by night working games of various sports which are taking place. Tonight that just happens to be baseball.
This year, I had the bright idea that I should start my Master’s degree. This seemed to be a brilliant plan at first. I have waited many years to get my masters, and I considered several different avenues of study. Would I want to get it in design, or fine arts, or education? I have always loved writing, with a passion that I have never been able to shove aside. With all the things that I love to do, I have loved writing the most, so I decided to make a go of it. What could it hurt?
I went in January for my first residency at Queens in Charlotte. I met with people from around the world with my writing, which I thought was reasonably good, only to find out that it utterly sucked. It was criticized for being far too emotional and sentimental. I found that I wasn’t special at all, and that my writing may never be worthy of the respect of those who are “academically superior”. I was ripped apart for including my faith in my writing, and one woman blatantly told me to “cut that part out”, when I had written how I believed that God had placed me in a certain situation. It wasn’t great. My dream of writing, and finding kindred spirits who shared my creative dream, was not at all what I thought it would be. I cried. I felt terrible, and totally, utterly stupid. What was I doing? Who did I think I was? Obviously I was out of my league.
I contemplated quitting. Some days I still contemplate quitting. Why wouldn’t I? I have a challenging teaching job where I teach both art and AIG (Academically and Intellectually Gifted). I come home to three kids, who play sports, take lessons, and are involved in a variety of enriching activities; two dogs, two cats, and The Coach. I have family members who are dealing with a multitude of problems, sicknesses and issues. My plate is way too full. Why should I continue this journey into something that makes me shift out of my comfortable, habitual life of monotony? I am not satisfied with a life of “okay”. I want more. I don’t settle.
The Coach is still busy with football, just not in the same way. He finds time to be supportive of me, between clinics, presentations, and planning the upcoming football banquet. He listens to my concerns, and tries to talk me up when I’ve had enough. Days that stink, hard times, and challenges make me want to quit. They make me want to throw in the towel and give up on hoping for something better. The problem is, that I have guts. Sometimes I don’t want them. I just want to be that person who is sweet, compliant, and satisfied to smile in the stands down on her husband living out his dreams, and on her kids who are doing great things, but I’m not her. I have guts to do and try new things. I have guts to take what life gives me and not feel satisfied until I have challenged the status quo, and found solutions to problems, and creatively dealt with life. I have the grit to get up every morning and push myself to be just a little bit better than I was the day before.
As Bear Bryant said, “There’s a lot of blood, sweat, and guts between dreams and success.” He was right. Dreams take guts, whether they are on the football field, or in everyday life. They take grit, and hard work, and standing up when you are getting knocked down every single time. Just like on the playing field. I must keep picking myself up, and plucking all that grass out of my face mask. I won’t stay down. I just won’t.