I can’t read stories about what just happened in Santa Barbara and not be affected by them. I also can’t help but search for positive stories of people who’ve come back after disappointments and changed things for the better. I am an unapologetic, annoying optimist.
I can’t fault the parents of the student who killed six people before taking his own life. I don’t know them or their situation. Until you’ve been a parent and tried your best to get your child to behave one way, then watched him or her do the exact opposite, you can’t judge. I’ve wanted to strangle my kids too many times over not doing what I want, to go there. It’s disappointing and heartbreaking and made me realize long ago that, as parents, we do the best with what we have, and you can’t do better than that.
But I read a story in today’s L.A. Times called, “A Farther Figure,” that made me cry for the joy of human resilience and tenacity in the face of a horrible blow by life. It’s about a young baseball player named Cory Hahn and was written by Bill Plaschke, a wonderful LA Times sportswriter. Read my blog, then go to it and I guarantee you’ll have a better day and a better outlook on life’s disappointments. Here’s a link to it: http://www.latimes.com/sports/la-sp-cory-hahn-plaschke-20140525-column.html#page=1.
I rarely read the sports section, except for Pirate and Steeler standings — hell, I rarely read the whole paper, who has time? But I try to read Bill’s columns when I can because he’s so gifted at telling stories.
It’s strange, because I started this blog last week, wondering what makes the difference between tragedy and victory in a situation (before Santa Barbara even happened). I know there are lots of factors, but I know your attitude is your epicenter. Everything streams from it. Your attitude may be something you’re born with, but it can certainly be honed by your family and friends. I’ve spent countless hours, days, weeks, even months talking to my kids — about attitude. And I had plenty of people talk to me when I was young.
It’s not what happens to you in life, it’s how you deal with the crap that comes flying at you at warp speed when you least expect it that determines your character. Do you wallow in self pity or do you get up when you really don’t want to and try again? I always vote for the latter because that’s what my parents taught me and it works.
Back when a family member (I won’t say who because I’m not sure this is common knowledge) was in high school, he did the unthinkable and got senior-itis. He was accepted at UCLA, but got a D in a class which he re-took and passed with an A, but his teacher wouldn’t change the grade, so he didn’t get to go. Ugly life lesson? Yep. We all felt horrible for him.
But, instead of falling apart, he started taking classes at the local community college, transferred to another community college and got good grades. He was accepted at UC Berkeley, double majored in Art History and Fine Art and now is one of the successful, cool people living in Brooklyn, working nonstop alongside his new, beautiful wife. All because of his decision to not let a bad situation define his life.
Sometimes curses are blessings and vice versa, but you don’t find out until later. And, who knows whether or not talking to the young man in Santa Barbara for hours, weeks, days or years would have made the difference. Finger pointing and Monday morning quarterbacking won’t change what happened. But what might, is taking the opportunity to talk to your kids — a lot.
Talk about attitude. Explain that life isn’t fair. Not everyone gets medals or girlfriends or good looks or money. We’re not entitled to anything. You have to work for it and even then you may not get it right away, or ever. But you can’t give up. And you can’t judge yourself based on what you see on TV or the movies. The reason those scenes are on TV and in movies is because some writer wanted a different ending than he or she saw in real life. So, they created it.
You can do it with screenplays, or you can do it the way the young baseball player in the L.A. Times article did — with hard work, determination and a family’s incredible commitment. Anger and guns will never get you what you really want, they only bring tragedy.