Life resembles, for the lucky, a 100 inning baseball game.

Top of the 24th. Cleats in the dirt. Toes on the rubber. Fresh coat of eye black. Fingers across the seams. Pitch. Location. Deep Breath. Go.

“You ain’t gonna believe this, but you used to fit right here. (He gestures to the palm of his hand). I’d hold you up to say to your mother, ‘This kid’s gonna be the best kid in the world. This kid’s gonna be somebody better than anybody I ever knew.’ And you grew up good and wonderful. It was great just watchin’ you, every day was like a privilege. Then the time come for you to be your own man and take on the world, and you did. But somewhere along the line, you changed. You stopped being you. You let people stick a finger in your face and tell you you’re no good. And when things got hard, you started lookin’ for something to blame, like a big shadow.

Let me tell you something you already know.The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place, and I don’t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!

Now if you know what you’re worth, then go out and get what you’re worth! But you gotta be willing to take the hits. And not pointing fingers saying you ain’t where you wanna be because of him, or her, or anybody! Cowards do that and that ain’t you! You’re better than that!

I’m always gonna love you no matter what. No matter what happens. You’re my son and you’re my blood. You’re the best thing in my life. But until you start believing in yourself, you ain’t gonna have a life.”

– Rocky Balboa

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Somewhere along the line I got lost. Lost in the woods of life. The mountain was no longer in sight and I spent my time traipsing around in the brush. A long time ago I would have regretted that experience because I thought I lost time. But I know better now. I know that the mud on my shoes and clothes is a testament to the lessons I learned. The things that I was taught during this time I know are going to be invaluable to me as I refocus and return to the mound after being hit around for a few innings. There is no price tag for the things I am about to put down on paper. It is pretty incredible how hindsight is 20-20.

As time goes on I believe in the goodness of people’s hearts. I think that there are times when we all lose focus of what truly matters in this life…and those mistakes often cost us dearly. However I was told long ago that it is the direction of our moral compass that is important. Of course we are going to lose ourselves at times and become influenced by less than desirable things when we look back at them, but we always have the opportunity to correct and refocus. During the downs it is incredibly easy to lose that confidence and excitement you had when you first took to the mound. The game goes on and life begins to life you. You miss opportunities that you should have taken, make mental mistakes in the field, and perform less than your best. You make room for the hitters who reached base to get into your head and create that knot in your stomach which will lead you to take your mind off the one thing that should be occupying it: the next pitch. Life isn’t so different from a baseball game at all. Because in this moment, there is nothing. No past. No future. Nothing to fix or change. And from nothing, you have the opportunity to create everything. So when I say, “This is it” I really mean it. This moment, the one right now, is it.

Don’t get it backwards. Thinking you are really important is not only unattractive, but actually in the scheme of things, naive. However, you don’t deserve to be treated as if you are unimportant. You have so many special gifts that the world is just waiting to see. But if you get stuck in the world of feeling bad about yourself because of other people grinding you down, then those gifts will never reveal themselves beyond a glimpse – only to remind you that they are indeed there manifested deep inside you. You deserve to be loved….but don’t forget, you must love deeply to have the world return that back to you. Because what we project out into the world eventually is returned back to us in one way or another. Don’t have any expectations of what it will look like…but in time it will come.

Believe in yourself. Believe in something greater than yourself. Believe that whatever you are right now in this moment is the starting point for the rest of your life. The innings pitched are behind you. 24 glorious innings in their own right. What did you learn from their lineup batting around a handful of times? Don’t remember the double he hit off the fence…remember the 2 pitches he swung and missed on. Go back there. Hit those locations. Have confidence in your stuff. This game of life is the finest game you can play. Sure it’s possible that one of their players may be hitting .900 off of you with runners in scoring position. You can focus on that number or you can, at bat by at bat chip away at his average until he turns into just another hitter that you have faced so many times. And this is exactly the way our fears grow within us. You can either be afraid of the fear itself or attack that fear head on. It’s your choice.

I will tell you right now that I am scared of what I am about to embark on. In fact, it has been a few months that I have been thinking about this and attempting to stick my foot in the water. There are probably a few reasons why it hasn’t gone down, reasons that I will explore at some other time, but there is one thing that I know was lacking: a declaration. So here it is. Without saying exactly what it will be…because I truly believe in showing rather than telling.

I declare it will be

You can hold me to it. Because you will be able to see it.

We can always learn from the balls and strikes we threw. But life isn’t so much about those times when you sit down and chart out your outing. Instead…life is about those moments…those 15 pitch battles where you put your best stuff up against their best player, and after foul ball after foul ball…you finally struck him out. It’s about that exhilarating feeling of being alive. Of giving it your best no matter what and the appreciation for the air you are breathing. Because when you are in the moment you are just “there.” You don’t need to be anywhere else. And this is where I intend to be in the future. I intend to be “here” and nowhere else.

– Evan Sanders