"'I am,' I said, to no one there. And no one heard at all, not even the chair. 'I am,' I cried. 'I am,' said I. And I am lost and I can't even say why. Leaving me lonely, still." "I am, I said."
music and lyrics by Neil Diamond
From a young age, I've always known that I was born to live an extraordinary life. I knew I was born to be a leader. The mere thought of living an ordinary life has never been of any interest to me, even as a young boy.
I remember, at the age of five, I wanted to start a club. Other kids had started clubs in my neighborhood, but I didn't want to be a part of them because I believed they were a led by a bunch of idiots. I couldn't see myself following under their leadership. I knew I had to start my own club. I needed to be the president so I could establish the rules.
I envisioned my club becoming one of the greatest clubs in the world. I believed that once I got it up and running, the community, as a whole, would take notice. Our parents would be so proud of us. We would receive special honors from our school for all the outstanding things we were doing around the neighborhood. Ministers would talk of the great works we were doing during their Sunday morning sermons. Soon the media would get wind of us. There was an upcoming interview for the daily newspaper. Next, we appeared on television. We became famous for putting out a little more effort than the average person is willing to do, by caring a little more.
I had big dreams for my club to be. I had big dreams for our neighborhood. I wanted to do great things for it. I wanted to help people. I wanted to inspire people. I wanted to encourage people. Even though I was just a child, I knew there were many things I could do to help make the world a better place. I would just do them in great, little ways.
Not all my thoughts were little. Some of my dreams and ambitions were large for such a little boy. I remember lying in bed, one night, dreaming of buying a piece of land when I grew older and turning it into a park for everyone to enjoy. I was going to name it in honor of my mother. I would call it, Ethel Park, because I knew of no greater name to call it, and I thought that would make her happy.
At only five years of age, I already knew I had the calling to do more than just average things with my life. I couldn't understand why other kids didn't feel and believe as I did. We were kids. We had our whole lives ahead of us. We could accomplish anything we could imagine if we only believed in it enough. Why did others miss what I noticed, I wondered. I couldn't understand their way of thinking. I couldn't wait to get started. All I needed to do now was assemble my team of champions.
I decided I would name our group, The Eagles Club. We were going to be a club that did extraordinary things. We were going to be leaders in our community even though we were just kids. We were going to strive for excellence in every area of our lives. I expected a deluge of enthusiastic applicants, each hoping for the opportunity to join my elite club. Only the most sincere, at heart, had a chance to join with me.
I didn't have many friends at the time. In fact, I had only one. I wasn't a popular kid. I had big ears and a big nose and I lived in a house that was only half built.
Actually, it was just a basement. My father had begun building the house, but half way through building it problems arose and he never was able to complete it. My siblings and I grew up living in an incomplete basement that had a leaky roof, a concrete floor and no running water.
Between living in a concrete box, built underground, and looking like Dumbo the Elephant, I lived quite a tortured life as a child. I was content with where I lived, and I had no problem with how I appeared, but all the kids at school tortured me for it. They made up mean stories and rumors about how we lived in a dungeon, and how I was a freak, and stuff like that.
I wasn't much of a candidate for club president, whether it was my own club or not. My attempt to start the Eagles Club ended at that. It was a nice thought, but it didn't amount to much. No one was willing to join forces with me. I was a lone eagle trapped in the body of a young boy, who didn't know how to fly on his own yet.
Several years later, I tried out for the high school football team. I had big dreams of our team going all the way to the state championship each year, but the other players were never willing to work hard enough to make it happen. They didn't want it bad enough. They would show up for practice but they never put their heart into it. Most of the players were content with just being an average football team. I didn't want that. I wanted to be a championship team. I always found myself teamed up with a bunch of people that only gave half an effort. I became frustrated that I could not win because of their lack of effort. It didn't seem to matter how hard I was willing to work because their laziness and lack of dedication would always end up canceling out all my hard work and enthusiasm in the end anyway. I soon lost interest in playing team sports.
I graduated from high school, married and had children. I had big dreams for our family. They were the most important thing in my life. Finally, I had a home team of my own. We were going to do great things together. I couldn't wait to get started.
It didn't take long for me to find out that the bills won't wait on greatness to arrive. Great things would have to come later. Now, the rent needed paying, the kids needed food and the car was out of gas.
It went on this way week after week, month after month, year after year. I had to take any kind of work I could find just to earn a buck. It was never enough. No matter how hard or long I worked, there was never enough money or time.
There was always someone ahead of me hogging up all the profits and leaving my family with barely enough to survive. There was nothing I could do about it except quit and try to start my own business. I attempted to do that. My wife couldn't handle the transition. She just wanted me to keep doing as I had been done in all the years past. I wasn't happy doing that any longer. I knew I was capable of accomplishing so much more and I wanted the opportunity to confirm it.
In my way of thinking, it was such a cop out to yield to the pressures of living a mediocre life just for the assurance of receiving a guaranteed pay cheque every week. I wanted more than that. I couldn't live with myself doing it anymore. I had to try to break free and go after something more towards the life I wanted and believed in. It wasn't long thereafter that my home team fell apart.
Every team or organization I've attempted to join has always turned out to be the same, at least at my job level: average people making average efforts, just doing enough to get by and not fired. I've never been happy with performing like that. Most believe that's just the way it has to be. There's no benefit to making an extra effort; do what you must do and go home. If you make an extra effort, the result is likely a penalty of some sort: angry co-workers, an employer who won't recognize the effort and so forth. In fact, the employer may increase its expectations of all employees, based on your extra effort; it's hard to win.
"Be glad for what you have," they say. "At least you've got a job. Things could be a lot worse, you know. It's best not to complain and just do your job. If you expect too much they'll just get rid of you and find someone else to replace you. Just go with the flow and except things the way they are otherwise you'll be the one who ends up with nothing while everyone else keeps on keeping on."
What kind of life is that? I don't want to live like that. I know I deserve better. I know the universe wants me to have more than that. It's waiting for me to call on it.
What ever happened to my dream of starting an Eagles Club? It was a grand dream for a young lad and it had ever good right to come true, so why didn't it? Why did I have the vision, in the first place, if it wasn't even possible for me to obtain?
Where are all the good works I had planned to do? Why was there no completion or much attempt to complete? Where are the reporters, the newspaper stories and the television interviews telling of all the great things I've done? Where's Ethel's Park? Why doesn't it exist?
I believe I've come to know the answer after 47 years of flying with various flocks of sea gulls. I've been waiting all these years for my team of eagles to show up to help me accomplish all these great things and I've just recently found out that they are not coming. If I'm ever going to mount up with eagles and soar, it's something I'm going to have to learn how to do by myself.
No one else shares my same vision. No one else has my same faith. The knowledge and fore site I've been given was given only to me. Others don't see it. Others don't understand it. Only I am capable of making my life into what I believe it should be. If it's going to be, it's up to me.
It's really quite simple when you think about it. It's not as hard to do extraordinary tasks, as one might believe it to be. It just takes guts. It takes willingness to be different from everyone else. It takes a little more effort, a little more time, and a little more determination than the average person is usually willing to put out there, in most cases. It takes a little more courage, a little more humility and a little more sacrifice sometimes. It doesn't always take a whole lot more, usually, just a little bit more. It's amazing how many great accomplishments are possible, with a bit more effort.
I've been waiting around all these years for something great to come along. It isn't coming. It's out there waiting on me to come and get it.
Greatness is all around me. It's around you too. We just have to understand what it is, how it works, and then be willing to do what it takes to draw it into our lives.
Anyone can fly like an eagle if they choose to but most are afraid to fly that high. Many are afraid they'll fail in their attempt or be excommunicated if they even try. You know what, there's no failure in trying even if everyone abandons you for doing it. There's only failure in not doing what you know you should do.
As the old saying goes, "If at first you do not succeed, try, try again." Make up your mind. What you want your life to be and make no compromise. .
Others will be there to pat you on the back when you get there someday, but getting there is something you're going to have to do on your own. That's just the way it is. It may take a little more effort on your part to rise above the crowd and get to where you want to be. It may take a lot more effort to get there, but in the end, it will be worth it.
Consider once again the words of Neil Diamond. "'I am,' I said, to no one there. And no one heard at all, not even the chair. 'I am,' I cried. 'I am,' said I. And I am lost and I can't even say why. Leaving me lonely, still." "I am, I said," music and lyrics by Neil Diamond
Enough of all of that, let's stop feeling sorry for ourselves and get on with our lives. We know who we are and we know what we're capable of doing whether anyone else believes in us or not. It's time we stop wasting our time and energy trying to convince everyone else of what we're capable of and just go out there and start doing it without saying another word about it. Actions speak louder than words.
I'm not lost at all. The majority is lost, not the minority that makes an extra effort. I know who I am. I know who I'm capable of becoming and I know what I want out of life. I refuse to feel lonely about it anymore. I have a whole universe of greatness around me waiting for me to come claim it into my life. It's all out there for the taking, but only for those who have the faith and the courage to believe in it.
Will you join me and become one of them? Perhaps there's still a chance for my Eagles Club becoming a reality after all. I'll see you up above the mountaintops.
M Adam Roberts lives and writes from Clearwater, Florida.
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