I loved to shoot baskets when I was growing up. Since basketball season overlaps with winter and winter overlaps with, well, the entirety of Michigan’s mitten, this meant that two things were required each time I played: a basketball and a shovel.
My basketball obsession began in our next-door neighbor’s driveway. He was a kind man who patiently permitted me and often my friends to play for hours. So kind, in fact, that I didn’t hesitate to ring his doorbell and ask him to move his car if it was accidentally parked in the middle of our court. He’d spring out the door, move the car, then grab the basketball on the way inside and attempt one crazy shot from the front steps.
The endless days of shooting baskets and interrupting dinners led to a friendly offer: What if we dig up the pole (which was secured in concrete) and move it to your driveway? After the ground thawed sufficiently, we did just that. Now, I had a hoop of my own.
When the next season arrived, my obsession grew and I decided that neither snow, ice, or a single-digit wind chill factor would prevent me from playing.
Most afternoons after school, I’d grab my coat, hat, and gloves and start shoveling the snow off the driveway. As anyone who has experienced the depths of winter knows, under all that snow is, more often than not, a solid sheet of ice. I risked playing ever-so-carefully on the ice a few times until I fell so hard I couldn’t breathe.
So, step two was to remove the ice. This involved breaking through the ice with the edge of the shovel until a small island of pavement was revealed. Then, I could get underneath the ice and start clearing a large enough area to use. In desperation, I once tried spreading table salt. I was glad no one was around to see that.
It was satisfying and exhausting work, and after about 30 minutes, I could finally play. At this point, my mom would turn on the porch light so I could see just enough. Nevertheless, I usually didn’t stop until I had no other choice.
There’s nothing quite like that single-minded purpose when you’re young. I wanted to shoot baskets and would do whatever it took. In conditions I would now have trouble tolerating on the way to my car, I was lost in every bounce and shot—oblivious, happy, warm. Obstacles were irrelevant.
The all-consuming love of someone or something is what fills and sustains us. It may last a lifetime or a few winters. It’s painful and glorious and looks utterly foolish to anyone walking by. It may leave you breathless. It may never leave you. It is, above all else, a gift.
The latest dispatch asked, What advice are you glad you didn’t follow?
There’s not one specific piece of advice I’m glad I ignored, but I’m happy that my husband and I didn’t try to follow ALL the wedding advice we got. I kept getting stressed about things. We wanted our wedding to be fun and we wanted it to be us and there are a lot of things in the world of etiquette and formalities that we just don’t care about. But there was a lot of advice being thrown our way and a lot of tradition and expectations. The words that kept coming out of my mouth when I was stressing were, "But aren’t we supposed to…" Finally, my hubby-to-be banned that phrase. Supposed to. We decided not to care about what we were supposed to do and make the event what we wanted. And it turned out great. Sure, some people may have wondered why I didn’t toss the bouquet and there were probably a few guests who shook their heads at the informal way we addressed invitations, but those things suited us.
We carried that way of thinking into our marriage. We try to make decisions about family and chores and how we spend our time together based on what best suits us-- our strengths, our likes, our dislikes, our needs-- not by what society says we are supposed to do. And we are very happy. :)
I am glad I didn’t follow the advice of my uncle when I was considering dropping the teacher certification program of my bachelor’s degree to finish with the Recreation Leadership option. He advised I stay in the program, suggesting that I needed and should have the teacher certification, that I wouldn’t have many options with a general physical education degree. I seriously considered his advice, but I wasn’t feeling it.
I did drop from the teacher certificate program, one methods course and student teaching away from it. And my life as I know it thus began. During the semester I would have been student teaching, I headed out West with some friends, spent a lot of time in the woods, and thus accelerated my growth in ways student teaching and jumping into a teaching position would not have. When I returned later that spring to my college town, where I would live for a few more years, I happened upon a job at a local residential treatment facility for adjudicated adolescent males.
This would lead me to discover a passion for leaning in with kids with needs, which would lead through positions as a live-in houseparent at another group home, and eventually as a lead wilderness therapy guide for a very special program, which would become my favorite "job" ever. Then, while planning a life and family with my wife, a teacher, I decided it was then time to earn my teaching certificate, and I have now been working with special needs youth, especially those with learning, emotional, and behavioral challenges, for twelve years, and am even now certified to serve as a principal.
So, in the end, my uncle’s advice wasn’t all wrong, but had I followed it, my life would be a lot different, and I’m not sure it would be for the better.
I deleted this email. Read it, thought "great stories, interesting prompted, I have no answer for that", deleted it and walked away from my phone. I got about 10 steps across the room and "bloom where you are planted" popped into my head. Well, that is one bit of advice I have never followed. And I really don’t think it is bad advice. Love and know and grow where you have roots. What a wonderful concept. What an utterly absurd thing to say. It’s terrible and wrong and it doesn’t fit....for me. I’m not necessarily glad I didn’t follow it, I’m constitutionally incapable of following it.
So, a piece of advice....consider every piece of advice you are given and decide...does this work for me?
The advice I’m glad I didn’t follow? Well, that’s something I only discovered in the light of some advice I did follow.
Last year I began writing poetry again. The common wisdom, the advice I’d always been told, is that to become a writer, you have to get published. And to get get published, you need to submit poems to magazines, journals, whatever. Something. And as piles of poetry began to clutter up my workspaces, both physical and digital, I worried. "Where should I submit to? I know nothing about poetry journals!"
Then, one day, a friend of mine said, "Why don’t you just make a zine or something? Publish your own collection?" And I thought, "Huh, why don’t I do just that?"
I collected up my poems, and published my first book - "Mutterings of a Mediocre Micro-Poet". In doing so, I rediscovered the joy of making a physical Thing, and putting it into the world for others to enjoy. And so, I wrote another collection. And then another - as I write this, I’m in the last 9 days of a crowdfunding campaign to publish my third collection of poetry, "Distinctly: Coromandel". A friend of mine took a series of amazing photos around New Zealand’s Coromandel peninsula, and I felt moved to write poems in response to them. (If you’re curious, you can see the campaign here.)
None of this amazing & fulfilling journey would have been possible, without that one friend saying, "Y’know, the standard advice isn’t the only way..." Good question, this one.
The advice I’m glad I didn’t follow is mostly from people who live lives nothing like what I want mine to look like. Almost 30 years in, I wish I’d been braver to ignore more of the people who told me to do the safe or practical thing - when I know I’m not the kind of person who wants safe or practical. I find the common wisdom is that way because of laziness and a limited imagination - which means there are no lack of people keen to give me the kind of advice that encourages me to follow the same old path. Fortunately, I’ve got a wealth of people around me giving me the kind of advice I want to hear - which is to follow my gut and build a life that inspires myself firstly, and others if they’re so inclined.
At one point I was advised to not get married. I am very happy I ignored it.
My wife and I got married less than a year after we started dating. Several of my closest friends were concerned, partly because we were moving so quickly, and partly because my wife is several years younger than I am and had not yet gone to college. I wouldn’t quite call it advice, because no one really wants to advise you not to keep moving forward in a relationship, but I was not left in much doubt that everyone really wondered whether we should wait.
Whether we just got lucky, or whether I really knew better than my friends did that there was no point wasting any time making a life commitment to Sally, I’m glad we didn’t put off our wedding. Even more, I’m glad the eight years we’ve spent together started as soon as possible—I wouldn’t trade any of them for more singleness.
When I was long distance-dating my future spouse (an Australia/USA connection), my grandmother insisted on referring to it as my G.I. romance (geographically impossible) and my father reinforced that by saying it "wouldn’t last". In the interests of protecting me he said, "You should probably think about choosing another path because I don’t see how this will end well." I continued down my path. My love and I ended up writing letters to each other, one a day each for 18 months, until I "helped" her drive from Wisconsin to Oregon so she could take a new job. We survived four days in the car, me driving on the wrong side of the car on the wrong side of the road during Winter and a New Year’s Eve in Winnemucca, NV, thereby confirming the romance was altogether geographically possible. 22 years 11 months 5 days and counting.
Ignoring best he can
An inconvenient reality
The consequential chore that unfolds in the naked sprint from screen to screen
Scrolling binary ghettos for escape for reminders
Standing on the moon
Where talk is cheap and vision true
Standing on the moon
But I would rather be with you
Somewhere in San Francisco
On a back porch in July
Just looking up to heaven
At this crescent in the sky
Standing on the moon
With nothing left to do
A lovely view of heaven
But I’d rather be with you
So give me the soft, soft static
Of the open fire and the shuffle of our feet
What was the first sport you loved to play?