This year it seemed to sneak up on me…

I think it’s because every year since I’ve left coaching and teaching the beginning of the football season seems a little less painful. I woke up this morning and couldn’t help but think of the possibility of once again starting 2-a-day practices under the hot August sun as I had done so many times before. I still thought of that initial nervousness and excitement that I had always felt leading up to that first morning with the team. But this morning it was something completely different. There was a calmness about me. I felt perfectly content not heading out the door to that first practice of the season. I felt excited, but it was because the high school football season was merely kicking off, not because I was going to be in up to my eyeballs in it.

For over twenty years football played a huge part in my life as a player and as a coach. That chapter in my life came to a close a few years ago when I chose to leave it behind. At the time, I didn’t quite know exactly what I was leaving it behind FOR, but there was a deep down feeling that there was something else out there for me. Little did I know that football was merely a lesson – a stepping stone – to where I was truly meant to be.

We all go through struggles in life. Many are visible and show through in our everyday lives and actions, but the biggest ones – the deepest and darkest ones – are typically invisible to all of those around us. We bury them in hopes that they will fade away, only to see them rear their ugly heads in full force down the road. For me the struggle had been ongoing for years leading up to making that enormous decision. Each school year and coaching season that went by I found myself struggling a little bit more. Each year that passed, however, I kept telling myself things would change. That it would get better. By the end, that struggle had started to consume me, my time and my personality. It felt like my job and career were defining who I was and who I was supposed to be. It was as if there was a different me, deep down, just waiting to completely break out, but I was suppressing it more and more, day by day. That’s why I had decided to get out. I knew it was now or never for my own health and sanity. And also for my family’s.

That day I turned in my resignation from teaching and coaching it felt like the weight of the world had been lifted off my shoulders. Like someone had finally taken off the chokehold grasp that had been around my neck, gradually tightening more and more. I’ll never forget wavering over pushing that send button in Outlook when I was ready to email in my resignation letter. Looking at it over and over and over. I sat there, trying to come up with all the what if’s of that decision. All of the positives and negatives. Trying to picture what my future was holding. Where I was going. I finally came to the following realization: If I’m not happy now, there’s only room for improvement. I have nothing to lose, but everything to gain. I had always told my wife, if I was ever going to roll the dice on a life-changing decision, I would be rolling them on me. I would do it with my fate and future in my own hands. Everything was going to be on me to succeed. Failure wouldn’t be an option.

When I finally hit send on that email it felt as if I was being given an opportunity to start over again. With a new and exciting adventure ahead for me. Unsure of what was out there and how it was going to go, but excited and nervous all in the same. I felt like I was walking out of a life where everybody but me knew who I was and into another where nobody knew or cared who I was. One where I was the only one who knew me. It was the feeling I was looking for for a long time. It was an opportunity to start again, but with a lot more scars, knowledge and experience this time around.

You may be going through the exact same situation right now. Maybe it’s work, as I had experienced, Maybe it’s a family situation. Maybe it’s your health and wellness. Understand, however, that you are the one that ultimately determines your happiness and who you become in this world. It’s never too late to take a leap of faith to become a happier you. If you feel deep in your gut like there’s something pulling at you. Like there’s something bigger and better for you yet to be discovered, trust your instincts and go for it. Don’t fear failure. Don’t fear what people and others around you might say or think about you. If you live your life trying to please everyone around you and ignore yourself you’re going to die a very unhappy and unfulfilled person.

Yes, we all have outside influences that help shape and guide us, but in the end, it’s on us to live the life we want to live. To become who it is we feel like we’re meant to be deep down. Don’t let your past define who you are in the present or determine who you have to be in the future. Don’t let it hold you back from where you are going and want to be. We have one chance in this world. Don’t waste it being unhappy or unfulfilled.

If you truly sit down and think about what is holding you back from certain areas in your life, you’ll find nothing more than excuses. You’ll find excuses pertaining to time…and money…and motivation. In the end, though, they’re all just excuses. YOU are the gatekeeper of your time and the engine behind YOUR drive. Sometimes it takes a long, deep stare into the mirror before we can really see ourselves.

One would maybe think I’m sitting here thinking about the what if’s of If I had never walked away from football and teaching, but honestly, I haven’t thought about it in a long time. That’s a definite sign that I made the right decision. Eyes are only forward now. I look back upon the past as lessons – merely stepping stones – to where I need to be right now, in the present. As far as what the future holds, I have no idea where I’ll end up. My focus isn’t on the future. I do know, though, that by putting the past behind me, focusing on the present and being excited for the future I am completely happy.

For now, I’ll enjoy sitting in my patio this afternoon and working instead of being out there on the practice field. I’ll always miss the competitiveness of Friday nights and the relationships and bonds I formed with many kids and coaches. I’ll miss the camaraderie and pageantry of it all. But I’ve learned to accept that, though, and can look back, smile and be happy about it. That need for that competitiveness is now fulfilled through my workouts. Those relationships I still form with clients I work with every day. The pageantry of it all I get by hitting up a game or two on the weekend as just a fan now. Football and teaching was part of who I was. But it’s no longer who I am or will be. And that’s OK.

I look forward to a great fall football season! Anxiously awaiting that first Friday night under the lights. It’s the best time of year, no doubt! This go-around, however, I’ll be looking at things in a much different light.

 

*Patrick Metzger is a life and health coach and speaker that helps busy parents and professionals discover and ignite their ultimate potential in life through living healthier, happier and more balanced and fulfilled lives.