I had a blast in high school. I really did. I played sports and made plenty of friends. Those were great years, and I will treasure them for the rest of my life. In fact, I count several friends from high school as among my closest. I’m grateful for those friendships and those high school years, and look forward to our 25th reunion next summer. But the reason that those years are great is that they are only one small part of the journey. I moved on from them. I went to college. I got married. I became a teacher, then went to law school. I’m still a practicing attorney with fantastic clients. Along the way, I had four kids. High school is but a distant memory. My accomplishments during those years are just rungs on the ladder of life.
Some people never move past high school. They peak at age 16. At that point, they had more of the good life than they’ve had at any point since. More friends. More confidence. More accomplishments. More praise. More hope. Since then, life has been a bit of a disappointment. Unfortunately, they were never able to turn the high school achievements into life success. Instead, they’ve become High School Guy. There’s nothing more pitiful than High-School Guy, the grown-ass man who peaked in high school. You’ve seen him. Life never got any better than the time he made that jumpshot, hit that home run, or scored that touchdown to beat the cross-town rival in the playoffs. Whenever you see High School Guy, he’s still talking about that moment. For whatever reason, he never moved beyond it.
What We Have in Common with High-School Guy
Everyone recognizes High-School Guy’s problem. But what often goes unrecognized (or, at least, unacknowledged) is that we share some of High School Guy’s issues. Unfortunately, oftentimes the difference between us and High School Guy is only a matter of degree. Too many of us have settled. We’ve moved on from our high school achievements, but, if we’re honest with ourselves, we have not built the lives we set out to build. We’ve done fine. But we aren’t where we hoped we’d be. Little by little, the life has been sucked out of our dreams. Whatever fire we had inside of us has slowly been extinguished.
It’s happened for lots of reasons. Life got busy. We hit that stage of life where both our careers and our families needed more time than ever before. So we worked too much. We stayed up too late and got up too early. We subsisted on junk food. We stopped exercising. We got fat. We drank too much coffee. But when we looked around, we were just doing what everyone else was doing, so we either hardly noticed the change or told ourselves that this was “normal”. But in the few quiet moments of reprieve, when the kids go to bed, on the commute to work, when insomnia sets in, we know that this life is not what we had hoped to build. Our marriages, careers, incomes, and relationships with our kids are not what we’d hoped they’d be.
Getting Beyond High-School Guy
But that’s not the bad part. The bad part is that, like High School Guy, some of us have given up on anything more. We haven’t leveled up. We haven’t expanded on what we’ve built. Some just keep going through the motions hoping things miraculously get better. The oft-repeated definition of insanity is particularly applicable here (we do the same things over and over, but hope for a different result). Others of us haven’t given up, but we just can’t seem to make a change.
In most cases, the common denominator for both groups is fear. We’re scared. The object of our fear varies. For some, it’s the fear of failing. While our lives may not be what we wish they were, they’re safe and no one laughs at us. Trying something new would involve the potential to fail and be humiliated. For others, it’s the fear of losing what we have. “My life may not be what I want, but it’s something, and I don’t want to mess it up.” It’s better to have something than nothing, we say, as if those were the only two options. While the object of the fear varies, it’s still fear that holds us back.
As you know from my post, I Want More, I’m not content to stay where I am. I’m not content to give in to fear. It’s time to find the next mountain to climb. The journey will not be easy or without setbacks. The path will not be straight. Odds are, there will be failure along the way. But I expect that it will make my heart pump, and I’ll know that I’m alive inside. And that’s a hell of a start. I hope you’ll join me, because I have confidence that you can be more. And if you see High-School Guy, tell him to shut the hell up and move on. It’s time to write a story we haven’t heard before. Our story. If you need help in moving forward, Manhood and The Hero’s Journey is a great place to start.