It was a hot July day during summer break in 1995 and all the kids were out playing roller hockey on the cul-de-sac. It was a typical sight familiar across America: kids outside with friends enjoying themselves in between yelling the Wayne’s World inspired “Game On” and “Game Off” as neighborhood cars would come and go.
Adorning our new gold t-shirts with our own special number, the members of the “Golden Ducks” were ready for their first game against some punks from the other side of the neighborhood. Although we were just like any other kids that were captivated and obsessed with Disney’s The Mighty Ducks, we took ourselves very seriously. We took our dirty, street-style hockey fighting even more seriously.
Not even five minutes into the beginning of regulation, our “captain” of the team – in this case, the eldest member of our posse who happened to reside next door to me – yelled: “ONE, TWO, THREE, FOUR, DROP YOUR STICKS ON THE FLOOR!” This was the official command to release hell.
Hockey sticks began flying at our opponents. Kids wearing gloves more than half their body weight struggled to raise their arms high enough to take a swing at their target. For better or worse, I was well-equipped with leg pads, hockey gloves, and a chest protector; I was a big boy and played goalie. While I was protected, the pads also reduced my mobility – not that I was very mobile at 130 pounds and 4’11’’ anyways. I had difficulty skating and all those extra pads made my life even more miserable.
Frustrated with my inability to pursue my own victim, I pitifully sat on a kid that my friend Mike had somehow managed to topple. The pain on the poor kid’s face suggested that my weight must have been unbearable; he helplessly laid there until I jiggled my fat rolls off of him.
Momentarily after I pancaked my opponent, parents were descending upon us from all angles on the cul-de-sac. It was time to face the music – escape was not an option, especially considering our safety havens were the same places our parents resided (who would have thought?). My dad had a slight smile on his face.
“You need to keep your balance when you are trying to move around with those things on your feet,” he smirked as he looked down at my roller blades. Keep my balance I thought? I hadn’t even found my balance in the first place.
Any humor my dad had seen in our street rumble vanished when my mom approached. “Michael A, What do you think you are doing!?” Oh, crap. The middle name came out; I was in deep trouble.
Fast-forward 20 years to July 2015. My wife and I are walking north on the west side of State Street in the Chicago Loop outside Macy’s. We just moved to Chicago. It’s my 31st birthday. We’re on our way to meet up with some new and old friends at a bar. We’re running late, so my wife is looking over her left shoulder for a taxi (this is before we adopted Uber <gasp> – I know, we’re so old-school). Then I hear a CRUNCH (this is my opportunity to incorporate onomatopoeia into this attempt of a literary work). My wife accidentally missed the curb in a break in the middle of the sidewalk for an alley. She broke her ankle.
Four hours later, we’re still in the ER and the doctor walks in. She asks a bunch of questions, like if we’d been drinking. My wife, who is brutally honest and blunt, says “no, but we were trying to – do you have anything we can take now?” What an awesome wife and birthday.
The doctor just chuckled and started going over the x-rays and treatment steps.
In order to keep your balance, you need to first find it. And it’s never ending; it’s a continuous balancing process of improvement, enjoyment, and learning. If you keep investing in yourself, the dividends will likely keep coming.