Bottom of the 4th!

“Bottom of the 4th quarter. :05 seconds to go, game is tied. Jordan for the win … 3 … 2 … 1 … baaaang!!”

We (Zizou and I) sat on the park bench for what seemed to be hours, watching these‘young bloods’ (slang for kids) play basketball – admiring and emulating their favorite superstar athlete while being overzealous in their efforts. One kid was fitted in a Kobe jersey and most wore the classic Air Jordan sneaker, a key pillar of the basketball culture. It was deja vu … growing up, we maintained this religious-like belief that wearing an athlete’s paraphernalia placed you one level above others on the court. On that note, I recall saving $200+ for a pair of soccer cleats (Adidas Predators) time and time again simply because the legendary Zinedine Zidane wore them … it was a happy fantasy, one I yearn for daily.

As the sun set at the park, clouds settled in, and the street lights illuminated, I could not help but have the following sticky thoughts:

I miss my childhood years … especially the time spent at McPherson Elementary School in Napa Valley … we would literally spend the entire day, from 10am until sundown, during the  summer months, riding our BMX and losing track of time. Before we departed, mama would boldly say “don’t be late” and for a split second it was as if Bruce Lee was warning us of complete destruction if we crossed the line. I compare my time at the park to a yoga class … truly focusing my mind, body, and soul while taking deep breaths and enjoying the simple things in life. These full day outings at the park were crucial to my ‘growing up’. Walking out of the house door, with $0.99c in my pocket for an afternoon coke/cherry slurpee, and a BMX bike – that’s all that was needed to be dangerous for a full day. It was growing up … simply because the day trip to the park included challenges, thoughts, decision making, and being self-reliant. Examples to follow:

  • Crossing the street on my own.
  • Riding my BMX at what seemed to be 100mph.
  • Having a neighborhood kid push you for no reason or randomly calling you a ‘7-11’ worker.
  • Not getting selected to play basketball when only ten could play and there were 12 kids waiting.
  • Buying a slurpee on my own and ensuring I had a 70%/30% mix of coke/cherry because my older brother Atif had taught me it was simply the best.
  • Deciding when exactly the sun came down and when it was time to head home to ensure I didn’t suffer the wrath of Bruce Lee.
  • While playing basketball, whether to cry after falling on the concrete pavement or to compress, disallow tears, and simply walk it off.

Growing up, the above experiences can be mapped to qualities and life lessons that I use today. Every single one. We don’t realize it at the time but now that I have fast forwarded 20 years, I’m blown away how these little mini events at the park have instilled a hunger, desire, and willingness to succeed that is bigger than ever.

Superstars, celebrities and parents … there exists a strong need to be the best role models out there. Simply doing what our parents did back in the 1990s is no longer good enough. My two cents: it’s not good enough because the new generation is easily distracted by the nonsense in life. And trust me, it’s not their fault nor is anyone to blame. Our society has made it acceptable for our little soldiers to be driven by technology and gadgets for hours at a time. Literally, hours at a time. Our society has made it normal for friends or a married couple to define socializing as having their head buried in their smartphone while keying away. My favorite part, folks actively voice that our young ones learn tremendously from technology and gadgets. I actually believe they learn quite a bit – my only knock is if you put these same kids in a social setting, most all do just fine but you’ll find quite a few that struggle. And those that do just fine, they lack key attributes that are crucial in the real world.  The kids may be perfect on paper but unfortunately the world we live in is quite the opposite and no where near perfect on paper. 6fc903e5-c4b9-4273-b136-ef27c06e95d7So while technology and gadgets are a great distraction for now, one may argue they don’t teach our babies the life lessons that are forever strong. And you’re probably right, having a good balance may be just fine. It’s really on you to decide.

Why has my life transformed … to what seems to be 180 degrees? Why does the pile of work and errands seem to grow exponentially while my work ethic and engine has not slowed down … but my mind, body and soul are fatigued. Time for an oil change? More importantly, I think most agree that with age, our responsibilities age thus requiring more tender, love, and care. Yet, I’ve come to realize the importance of the word timeout. Timeout: time for rest or recreation away from one’s usual work or studies. My favorite example of a timeout are in the NFL or NBA. Teams that may be underperforming or perhaps off track, take a :30 second timeout to realign objectives and take a breather, and soon enough, they are back on track with a renewed focus and energy. So I remind myself, you have unlimited timeouts in life. Take them, use them, abuse them, and remind yourself that a single hour in the park can remove kilos of stress and hurt. I’m calling timeout!

I do, I miss my childhood … this short experience last night made me realize I want to live near a park again. A proper park within walking distance so Zizou and I can play ‘horse’, 1on1 basketball, and just be, be, be without being distracted by the minuscule things that hit our radar on a daily basis. I watched the father in the picture above play ball with his boys; it was a simple game of ‘horse’ and the social interaction and love exhibited was contagious.

In closing, I’ll end with one of my favorite words, recycle. If we recycle all the good our parents have instilled in us and add to it your own flavor of good and great and re-inject all of that in your little ones and those closest to you, and ensure it’s done with balance and proper tactic, I’m sure the recycling of all this goodness will yield greatness for years to come. God bless.

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