Coming Alive in the Back Half

I’m really not a competitive person. At least I didn’t use to be. And in my brain I still want to believe I’m not that kind of person. That I’m one of those cool, laid back people that can just say “Whatever happens, happens”. Win? Lose? Draw? Eh, doesn’t bother this guy. He’s just happy to be there and participate.

Yeah. That’s the kind of guy I want to be. That Zen heavy individual that can just be happy with what he’s got and where he’s at. Doesn’t he sound great?

Fuck that guy. That’s actually how I feel. I want to win. I do. It doesn’t even really matter what it is. I want to be the best. I want to stomp the competition into the ground and bask in my own awesomeness. Fuck the competition, Clanman is number 1!!!

Okay… I’ll admit that sounds terrible. I don’t actually want to stomp anyone in to the ground. I don’t really want to defeat anyone. I’m not that kind of guy either. I want to be nice. I want to respect my fellow competitors and be a good winner. But see? There it is again. I want to be the winner.

So here’s where you ask “What the hells are we even talking about, yo”? I know. I started in a weird spot. I’m not completely clear about this either. Maybe I should start at the beginning. Okay, let’s try a do over.

Lately I find myself wanting to push myself to be “the best”. To achieve the next level for myself. At work, I want to be considered one of the top peeps in my position. I want my team to be high-functioning, full blown awesome sauce, fueled by my awe-inspiring management, leadership and of course visionary insights. I want them to be the clear best of the best. You’re the best, around. Nothing’s ever gonna keep you down…

Side note: my friend, Sean, once had a genius idea to turn that in to a slow, emotional power ballad to sing to his wife when he got married. It didn’t happen, Sean wasn’t a musical dude. So I’m not completely sure how his dream would have ever happened. However, it was a good dream. Someone should get on that shit.

Anyways, it’s not just my team that I want to be the best. I want to be the best. Me = Best 4EVA. And not just at work. I find myself pushing more than ever. I’m nitpicking my cooking like never before. Tweaking spices, methods, combinations. I’m like possessed to make the best food I can. The same for my running. I have a set goal of how long I want to run each day, 55 minutes. And that’s what I keep to… but everyday I find myself pushing how far I can go in that 55 minutes. Every minute I find myself thinking “Okay, I need to go this far in 60 seconds” or “I need to be done with this mile in X amount of minutes”. And I’m hitting the incline more than ever before. I know that I don’t need to, but I can’t fucking help it. I want more. And don’t get me started on my grocery shopping. I am currently trying to beat the following records:

  • Total Shopping Time
  • Total number of Dollars Spent in One Week
  • Total % of Meal Plan Adhered To

I think I’ve mentioned my weirdness? I mean, I competitive shop. And I will not lie: I judge my fellow competitors. HARSHLY. You ever see these yahoos with no list? The hell is that about? And how do people grocery shop without creating a menu for the week? Like are you hoping inspiration for meals strikes you at the entrance, and somehow by the magic of Asgard you remember all the ingredients? DO YOU KNOW HOW MANY ITEMS ARE NEEDED FOR TACOS??? By the Hammer of Thor, how many times do you forget the green onions???

See. Competitive Me is a serious me.  

This leads to the… let’s say less than stellar post rate I have had for my site and blog. I know, I suck at consistency. But I promise, it’s not for lack of trying. I have been writing things. Really, I promise. But they’ve been… well they’ve been shit. Or at least to me they have been. I have been getting to the point where I hit a page and just shut down. I hit the delete button on everything I’ve written. And I don’t fucking get it. I don’t even read what’s written. Somehow I just know it’s not right and BAM! It’s gone.

For those that haven’t known me for long, this is some weird ass shit. This is not me. I have been a proud slacker for most of my life. “Underachiever and Proud” has been my moto forever. Which really shows my previous laziness since I think I stole that from a Bart Simpson t-shirt I saw in a Dubuque Walmart when I was like 10. For those wondering, this would have been flippin’ 1992. I LOVED the Simpsons. I even had The Simpsons Sing the Blues on cassette! If you don’t know what that is, here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kE8P11BVbV4

Congratulations, you can never not see that again. If you want to further investigate this album of awesomeness, Homer sings a spirited version of Born Under a Bad Sign that any middle-age adult man can connect with. It’s dope.

So this need to win or be the best has been holding me back from posting. I’m sorry if that bummed you out. I’m not stoked about it either. The bad news is it took me awhile to figure out what my issue is. The good news is that now I know what it is… except there’s possibly more bad news that I need to work through this shit. Fuck. This is complicated.

So why do I feel this need to win? This need to compete. Well, let’s take a look at my past. Like I said, I was never one to compete. I really never pushed to be the best at anything. Not a big sports guy, so sorry to shatter anyone’s image. I played a couple of sports… that I totally sucked at. I was either TERRIBLE or I didn’t give a shit enough to do that thing that’s essential for success. What was it again? Oh yeah, practice. I did not practice because as I said I did not care and was proud of my lack of caring. It’s kind of a crappy thing that those that don’t care and don’t try are considered cool, while those that do are not. It’s kind of what Garth Brooks warned us about in Standing Outside the Fire. BTW, that’s like… the best music video ever. I kinda can’t watch it without tearing up. You should check it out. Here ya go:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SIDaJZnNh0w

Sorry, the video quality is BAD. But you get the idea. That dad was a dick. And then he wasn’t so I guess it’s cool.

But it’s true. Trying isn’t cool. In fact my kids even talk shit about what they call “Try Hards”. For a while they used to use this as a derogatory remark towards people on that Fort Nite thing. My wife and I asked them what that means. This is what they explained that it means:

Try Hard: One who tries hard to win in a game.

Yeah. That apparently is a bad thing in their game. When I asked why you they dislike the person trying to win when they in fact were mad that they hadn’t won, Ian my oldest explained “Clancey, it’s one thing to want to win. But it’s not cool to try hard to win. Try Hards are the worst.” So there ya go. Perfectly reasonable explanation.

I need to go back to that Garth Brooks video. Isn’t kind of fucked up that the banner for the school catches fire? I mean… who lit this fire? And why are they burning down the field? Is there like a dark turn for the kid? Does he get revenge later? Wait… is that like a glimpse into the past of Mr. Brooks? Shit. That video has layers.

As much as I pretend to not understand the idea of Try Hards, I do get it. I remember Try Hards growing up. And I remember hating them. They were lame. They were playing the game. They were doing what was expected and trying to be better at it. Fuck them. Punk Rock is very clear that these dudes are uncool. As a proud aspiring Punk in the U.P. I was NOT going to do that shit. No, sir. Instead I’m gonna watch a lot of movies I rented at the video store(remember those things?) and laugh at how lame those others are. Like I said, fuck ‘em.

You might imagine this strategy of not giving a shit led to a less than stellar time. You would be right. High school sucked balls. I mean, there were a couple of cool things with acting that I liked, but overall it was a totally skippable section of time. Not a lot of note to remember. And if you’re thinking that a kid that didn’t believe in trying hard was probably not the world’s best college student, well you would be right. I flunked the fuck out ALMOST immediately. See you gotta try hard to go to all your classes, do the homework, and study. And well, I think you’ve heard about my stance on trying hard. So yes, after two semesters the University of Wisconsin felt it better for me to continue my studies elsewhere. They were not wrong.

This continued into nearly every job after I left college. Even jobs I was naturally good at I would eventually fuck up when it came time to try at. There was this one job that I did really well at when I was 21. I got promoted and was actually being allowed to train newbies on-the-job. At one point I remember the Director inviting me to begin the training program for management. This would have been a pretty good opportunity for me. There was one catch: I had to try. Well Spoiler Alert: I did not do that. Instead I became an asshole, drank a lot, and eventually got fired. Ain’t nobody gonna accuse me of being a Try Hard. Take that, Person Who Believed in Me! This continued for most of my twenties. Get job, do good at job, get offered opportunity, fuck opportunity up. Rinse and repeat with many different customer service positions.

My relationships weren’t that much different. There were several potentially good relationships that were ruined simply because I didn’t try. Of the mistakes I have made(which are ample), I think the worst I made was not trying with the people I met and came in to my life. I hope they found peace and know it was me, not them but you never know. For those that I hurt with my not trying, I am sorry. I might even tell you in person someday. Hey! There’s another thing I can try being the best at: Making Amends.

One other thing about that Garth Brooks video. Did you catch how fucking violent that argument between mom and dad was in the kitchen? Shit, dude. There are clearly other issues in that home besides Scotty(I named him Scotty for some reason) joining the track team. Maybe Scotty and mom are training to run from dad? And that burning at the end is symbolic of the burning down of the abusive violent home they were trapped in? Again, the layers of that video are astounding.

So when the fuck did I start trying? And why? Well… after a lot of reflection and meditation, I figured out the when. I even pinpointed it to the day: 11/19/12. My Finnegan’s birthday. I know that it is cliche to say, but the birth of my son started my new life. It fixed me in a lot of ways. Now this sounds kind of shitty, because I already had two stepsons. And I am not saying that becoming a stepfather wasn’t a big deal to me. It was. Ian and Harley started a process of change for me. My love for them and their mother brought me back to the one place in the fucking world I never wanted to ever go to again. And to build a life with them I did start trying, I really did. I tried to make a go of it as a small business owner, I tried to make a go of it at almost a half dozen shit jobs that I really didn’t want to do but took out of necessity to pay the bills. I even quit smoking for them and I fucking LOVED smoking. All of these things were steps of trying that I had never attempted before. But they weren’t quite an all in, give it everything you’ve got, effort that I find myself in now.

But then there was Finn. And something snapped, or maybe it was more of a switch was flipped. I was turned on to a need to try hard. I wanted to be the best for once in my life. I wanted to win. Now, I have come to an understanding of this that may make me sound like a horrible person. I don’t disagree. I was not great for a long time, I have never pretended otherwise. I am not sure if writing this will change people’s opinions of me and the piece of shit I was in my life, but I’m this far in and might as well share my realization. I didn’t try hard because I always knew in the back of my mind I could walk. I could move on. I could leave. I could start over. Why try hard when I could always try something else, somewhere else, with someone else? People were disposable to me. But that isn’t a knock on them. Not at all. They were disposable to me because I didn’t believe I was good enough. I didn’t compete or try because at the end of the day I didn’t think I was worth it. At some point at a very young age I became convinced that I wasn’t a good person and wasn’t worth it. That literally anyone would be better off without my shit. My understanding is that those that are like me that have a problem with the drink know this feeling. And that’s part of how the bottle becomes your friend. It takes you as you are and let’s you forget. At least it did for me.

To Shay, Ian, and Harley: I am sorry. I am sorry that I wasn’t fully me from the beginning. That I wasn’t trying as hard as I could to make our family what it’s become. It wasn’t you, it really wasn’t. It was me and that demon in me that I promise is gone at last. My favorite quote to describe me now:

“I am better now. Word of honour: I am better now.” – Kurt Vonnegut

So Finn is born and something changes. The best explanation is that I finally met a human being that I knew I could never walk away from. He was perfect, which makes no sense since he came from me. I mean… I was not, nor am I now, or ever will be perfect. But here’s Finn. And he is. So… maybe I can be???

And then it fucking happened. A beast awoke in me that apparently had been long in wait. I became what Ian and Harley hate so much. I became… THE TRY HARD! And I mean in fucking every way. I went back to school and fucking put in the work. I mean I read EVERYTHING. I did that thing that I had heard about but never tried: studying. Shit works. I started working out and watching what I ate, shedding about one hundred pounds. Six years later and I’ve kept most of it off. I started trying for better jobs. Like literally every day I spent 2-3 hours job hunting, even when I had a job. I wanted more. For the first time in my life I wanted to win. And I did. In just about everything I did well. I won. Maybe not the best, but always in contention for the crown. I became something better. Someone who tried and wanted to win.

Now here I am. With this desire to win everywhere. Why? Why this desire? My best guess? Two things:

A. Success is super fucking cool. I mean it’s dope. Like way doper than failing. And I would like to keep this going. Plus I gots responsibilities and a family that has a way better life when I succeed than when I don’t. I gotta make it work for them because I can’t walk away. Not an option any more.

2. I have a lot to make up for. Like a LOT. I mean to all the people I have met, myself, and actually society. I committed a decent amount of crimes in my drinking days that I am not proud of. Not murder or anything like that, petty shit. But I did not make the world a better place than when I found it. Shit, do you have any idea how many milk crates I have stolen over the years? Those aren’t free. And I really didn’t need them. So in a My Name is Earl kind of way, I have shit to make up for and that is a long list.

Now, I am an Irish-American male that used to be 300 pounds, smoked for nearly fifteen years, drank heavily, and LOVED McDonald’s. I can run all I fucking want and eat as much spinach as I can afford, but life expectancy puts me at about 72. FACT. I am 36, putting me at the halfway point, and I’ve only been trying hard for about 6 years. That means that the first half was not great. But the second can be. I can make it what I want. I can try. I can be like little Scotty and I can Stand Outside that MOTHER FUCKING FIRE.

And that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to compete. I’m going to try. Am I going to be the best all the time, am I always going to win? No, of course not. Cause not everything is a fucking competition. No one wants to compete at grocery shopping. But that doesn’t mean I can’t push myself. Cause really, that’s who I am competing with: myself and the person I used to be. And so far? I am kicking that mother fucker’s ass. My secret? Trying and trying hard. That’s what I need to get back to. The trying is the winning. The work is the success. The writing is what matters, not the perfection of it. Anything is more than something. I spent a lot of my life letting myself believe I was nothing, when in reality I was something and could be anything. Everyone can. Absolutely fucking everyone can be anything. You just gotta do that thing Ian, Harley, and Young Me hated. You gotta be a Goddamn Try Hard.

Clandemonium is coming alive in the back half. Watch the fuck out, bitches.  

Clandemonium is coming alive in the back half. Watch the fuck out, bitches.

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