I had a really bad 30 minutes on Friday. Right before a meeting with what I assumed to be my future bosses I got a text from the person I’d been dating. A long one. Enough for me to say immediately, “Oh shit. That’s a long one.” Predictably, it didn’t end well.
It was at that point I knew that the upcoming meeting would end poorly too. There’s this universal truth that bad things come in bunches. It’s never wrong except for all the times it’s wrong. This was not one of those times.
I got laid off. Or furloughed. Or something.
I’m kind of not sure honestly. Can you be any of those things if you hadn’t even started the job yet? Either way, the job I planned on starting in two weeks didn’t exist anymore. For now anyway. And the reason why had nothing to do with me.
I think when you grow up and consume a lot of TV, you assume that every occurrence where something goes wrong has a lesson attached. You go through Arc X to get to Moment Y where you learn Lesson Z and you pass it off as character development and John Stamos gives you a hug and everyone moves on. The job loss happened because of a pandemic far out of my control. I couldn’t do anything. And when bad things happen that you have no control over, you get lost searching for the lesson. Sometimes there’s no lesson. Uncle Jesse doesn’t come tell you it’s ok and you’ll do better next time. These things only happen once every 100 years. I just happened to have expert timing.
For a large majority of the people reading you already know this. This is a 20-something problem. Plenty of you have already learned nothing from the lessonless mishaps that have plagued your life. But right now, plenty of us have either reverted to or cemented their 20-somethingness. There’s so much bad that’s not our fault. And there’s not much we can do. And that sucks.
But we can control two things: How we treat each other and how we treat ourselves.
The first part should be easy. Like...what the hell is wrong with you if it’s not. Wear a mask. Be kind. This isn’t hard.
The second part is tougher. We get dumped and told that it’s “not you it’s me” and we refuse to buy it. We lose our job and think that it just might be us and not a global pandemic. For so many of us it’s impossible to consider that there might not be a lesson. That we couldn’t lose if we did everything right. But what we’ve done wrong is that we haven’t understood that we can still lose when we do everything right.
I’ve been thinking a lot about Atlanta United losing in the Eastern Conference Final lately. Imma bring up the picture again so get ready. Are you ready? Are you sure? Ok, here we go…
2.4 xG to .14. That should have been a got a dang route. But nope.
Am I comparing Nick DeLeon to a worldwide pandemic? OF COURSE I AM. That’s my god-given right. But I think there’s some truth to it.
Sometimes you do nearly everything right and out of nowhere something happens to make it a loss. And that sucks. And it all sucks for a while. And maybe, if you really really think about it, you could have closed down on the ball. You could have dove in front of the ball. You could have done literally anything to make sure that shot didn’t get off and end up in the back of the net. But you didn’t. And that keeps you up at night. That you didn’t do everything perfect and that you didn’t capitalize on every single chance.
But—and it’s hard to grasp this---that’s not fair. In the same way I can’t blame Julian Gressel for not closing down on Nick DeLeon from 30 yards out, we can’t blame ourselves for so much that’s out of our control.
Weirdly enough, when so much is out of our control, there’s an opportunity to gain control. When everything is out of your control, there’s a chance to gain a better understanding that sometimes you don’t win. And a chance to understand with as much ferocity as you can muster that not winning is ok.
If you haven’t taken a moment to pause during the middle of the end of the world I want to recommend taking a breath and then using that next breath to tell yourself that it’s ok to not be on top of the world. If you’ve messed up, fine. If you haven’t messed up, fine. But I want you to tell yourself that your anxieties are ok. I want you to tell yourself that your losses are ok. I want you to tell yourself that it’s ok that Nick DeLeon scored that goal.
Perhaps the biggest opportunity, in the midst of being stuck inside and hearing your thoughts at a volume you probably haven’t before, is the chance to learn how to be kinder to yourself. And this is clearly self-indulgent and this is clearly meant to reassure me and this is clearly meant to make me feel better but I genuinely believe that we don’t take enough moments to tell ourselves that our anxieties and our missteps are our own but that they’re also understandable. That our mistakes and losses are definitively human. And that in the midst of the world collapsing around us that the only way the center holds and keeps us alive is an understanding that the end of the world isn’t your fault.
I don’t think this is about soccer. But we can see it in soccer. And the sooner we understand that no one could do anything about Nick DeLeon, the sooner we can at least be ok in the middle of the apocalypse.
We’re fine. I’m fine. You’re fine. Because we have the chance to understand that there is so much out of our control and still understand that we’re going to be ok.
Tiotal Football has a saying that “soccer is hard.” So is pretty much everything else. But we’re at our best when we’re forgiving of each other and ourselves.
I don’t know who needed to hear this besides me. But be kinder to yourself. There’s no time at the end of the world to be angry with yourself.