I had life figured out by the time I was seventeen. My future was planned, crystal clear and meant to be.
I was the starting second baseman on my high school team and had already received interest from several colleges and even one professional team. I was going to play baseball forever. I had to. Because the kid who roamed the halls of my high school and drove his truck around town wasn’t me. Not the real me, anyway. No, the real me was the guy on the ball field. It was the only place where I ever really felt I belonged.
School was an irritant. Most high school seniors try to stretch out that last year as far as they can, enjoying every moment. Not me. I wanted to get out. I had a life to start living.
Not that high school was hard, mind you. I had the prototypical jock schedule of classes—math, history, English, and four study halls. Brutal. On day my English teacher decided I needed to do something besides sit around all day, so she pulled some strings and got me a job writing a weekly column for the local newspaper. Write about anything, she said. Just make it good.
I obliged, partly because I had to but mostly because she was my favorite teacher. Every Tuesday evening, I would sit down with a pad of paper and write between innings of the Braves games on television. It was busy work, nothing else. Just something to pass the time.
Then everything fell apart.
I blew out my shoulder three weeks later. Trips to doctors and specialists resulted in a shared consensus that though I could kinda/sorta play baseball again, I’d never play the way I had.
It’s tough being seventeen and knowing that every dream you’d ever had was gone. Tough knowing that your entire life lay in front of you, but it wasn’t going to be the life you wanted. Tough.
So one night I got into my truck, drove into the mountains, and found the highest rock I could so I could jump off.
Almost did it, too. I got to two-and-a-half on my count to three when a voice popped into my head and said, “You’re not really afraid of dying, are you?”
No. Not at all.
“Then you’re afraid of living.”
Whether that voice was God’s or my own still escapes me. But I sat for a long while on that rock, thinking. Then I got back into my truck, drove home, and wrote my column. Really wrote. About how things sometimes don’t turn out the way they’re supposed to and how sometimes life can be more night than day. About how, in the end, we all just have to keep on.
That was the night I learned to strip myself bare on the page, to risk exposing fears and worries and doubts. To quit pretending I was someone I wasn’t. It was the biggest act of courage I’d ever displayed.
Three days later, a letter was sent to the high school with my name on the front. Thank you, it said. “I’m having a really tough time right now, and a few days ago I thought I just couldn’t take it anymore. I was going to end it. Then I read your article and, well, I’m still here. So thank you. You rescued me.”
It wasn’t signed, and there was no return address on the envelope. I didn’t know who sent it, but I did know this: God didn’t want me to play baseball. He wanted me to write.
At the mall, a month later. I was picking up my girlfriend from work and decided to walk down to the bookstore. Approaching me was a teenage girl in jeans and a leather jacket. I nodded as she passed, and then she called my name.
“Allison,” she said. “My name’s Allison. I’m the one who wrote you that letter.”
I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know what she wanted me to say. So I asked if she was all right, to which she replied she was, to which I replied that it was nice to meet her. I was so shy, so backward, so unnerved, that I simply nodded again and walked away.
I have had many bad moments in my life. That one? Top three.
I never saw Allison again. I do, however, still spend many a day wishing that I would have. Just once more. Just to say I’m was sorry for not saying more. To tell her to keep hanging in there and she’s not alone.
And to tell her she rescued me, too.
This post is part of the One Word at a Time Blog Carnival: Future hosted by my friend Peter Pollock. To check out more posts on this topic, please visit his website, PeterPollock.com