Seldom have I ever really, truly, paid tribute to my own achievements. Those of you who know me know it isn’t really in my makeup to delve deep within myself to find enough traces of arrogance to celebrate who I am purely for the sake of celebrating. I’m too humble for that. I always have been. But just because I don’t particularly celebrate my successes gun-ho, doesn’t mean I’m not a confident person. Make no mistake, there’s a difference between arrogance and confidence. As the Russian novelist and philosopher Leo Tolstoy put it
“An arrogant person considers himself perfect. This is the chief harm or arrogance. It interferes with a person’s main task in life – to become a better person.”
And I’m not perfect. Not by a long shot. And I likely–never–will be.
But I’m not saying arrogance is a trait that’s never needed. I believe in some instances it is, such as competitive sport, when it’s used–either individually or collectively, depending on the event–to intimidate the opposition into submission for that ever sacred ‘W.’ But in all honesty, apart from such occurrences, I seek to practice behaviour that comes from more of a confident humility, if there can be such a thing. A ‘I know I’m good at what I do or look good as I am, but you don’t all need to know that’ (til now!) kind of behaviour. In some respects I liken it to how some people tend to practice their religion. For example, I believe in what I believe but I don’t need to go door-to-door to push my belief onto other people, whereas others (more often than not, those who are religious, if I may say so), do–as far as I’m concerned, that’s arrogance.
There. I hope that’s cleared my position up.
Regardless of where you stand in relation to the above opinion, the point is, the two traits should never be confused. Arrogance doesn’t trump confidence. It never will. And as Tolstoy remarks, arrogance merely stems the flow of personal growth, and why would anyone ever want to do that? I’d like to think I’m still growing.
That being said, this past week I managed to extend my stay in America at least into next year, with the view to stay until the expiration of my VISA in July. By that time I’ll have needed to find a full-time job to stay for the foreseeable otherwise my time here will no doubt be up for good. Nonetheless, positive news which was long-overdue.
To those unfamiliar, and to give you the short version, I started my academic and athletic journey in the States in 2008 having followed through with the flash of inspiration I got a year previously after working my first year at an American summer camp in West Virginia. I met a lot of friends that year, some of whom I treasure to this day, but having reached the shores of England once again to fall back into the routine mundaneness of bar work and alcopop-filled-weekends, I realized I wanted more–not of the drinking culture that my homeland encourages but more of America; more of the friends I had met; and more of, well, life.
Making the decision to move here wasn’t to be taken lightly, of course. I had to leave my family behind–everyone–after all. But as an independent soul and lover of the game that brought me here–football (yes, soccer!)–there was an opportunity here I couldn’t turn down, but not before having to prove my abilities through extensive trials back home. I did.
Then I made the move. But my time in upstate New York wasn’t without its difficulties–not playing as much as I had hoped for, for one–but I could never regret it. Whilst the horrors of a winter spent that far north will haunt me til my dying days, as well as some of its local inhabitants (sorry), my time spent in the classrooms there got me to where I am now, while the friendships forged, still last today.
I left Herkimer in the spring of 2009 having run my bank account dry (not before winning a National Championship). Up to that point I had pretty much spent my whole life savings, whether on tuition or housing or buying useless junk at the nearest Walmart because that was the most exciting thing to do in the evenings–I kid you not–it was that kind of town.
Finding myself back home, it didn’t take long for me to get back into the drudgery of a customer service job to earn a few dollars (or what would become dollars) for the “next step.” What that next step was at the time, I wasn’t so sure, so in between figuring that side of things out–if I wanted to continue college–in late 2010 and early 2011 I travelled to parts of Europe and then Israel, respectively. Travel broadens the mind, remember?
Settling back home in earlyish 2011, and deciding to pursue my education here for definite, both indoors and out, the ball quickly began to roll not long after my return. Those who knew me at the time will serve as testament to what I had prophesied, but during my time at camp, I said all along that I could one day end up in Pittsburgh (where the organization who ran the camp was based from), although I do admit, I sometimes said it without fully believing in its potentiality.
Nevertheless, it happened in the fall of 2011 and there I was in a scorching month of August during my first pre-season for my new university, meeting new teammates and coaches alike. Surprisingly, it took a while for me to settle in, and over the course of the first two months I wasn’t particularly comfortable but as we started to gel, everything began to click. I believe it’s been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
Not only did we (our team) break ground in terms of the program and become a winning group of players for a very long time (winning a Conference Championship in 2012 for the first time in university history), but we broke ground as teammates. It’s hard to explain if you’re not familiar with the comradery a sports team can produce but I don’t think I’ll ever play with a group of players again that were as close as we were. Bear in mind: those relationships off the field translate to the pitch too. It makes it so much easier to play well if you just know the other person. Where G will play the next pass; where H will run to next; where I should run if J has the ball (I do hope that alphabetized pattern was appreciated as much as I had planned) Is it any wonder we were successful? I miss those days playing, even training, but I’m very thankful to have been a part of them.
Skipping ahead, in May of this year I graduated with a B.A. in Journalism, bringing a curtain down (for now) on my institutionalized education. It may have taken an unorthodox amount of time for me to get there but I got there. The fact is, since 2007, when the idea first entered my mind about playing and studying here, I have achieved everything, and more, I set out to achieve; even now, this past summer, when I decided to stay-on and work for as far as it would take me, and now I have that chance. Come 2015, I’ll have been here on-and-off for seven years. Seven! (Great film by the way).
Along the road, I’ve had my doubts, and others have too, as well as my fair share of bumps, bruises and scrapes, but I’m still where I want to be. I still have an incredible, incredibly, talented, core of friends–here and abroad–whose kindness really knows no bounds. I still have a family who is behind me one-hundred percent whatever I decide to do and wherever I may be however hard it is for them emotionally for me to be away from home for so long. I still have a heap of ambition I’m yet to fully realize. I still want to see as much of the world as I possibly can. But most importantly, in my own traditionally humble opinion, I still believe in love.
I’m still, me.