Our son is a competitive ultra-endurance runner who is currently living in Utah chasing his dream of becoming a professional athlete. His road to getting there has been anything but conventional and I have questioned his judgement and decisions he has made over the past three years.
He was a three time Texas “All State” runner, graduated with a 4.0 GPA, and was heavily recruited by many schools. On opening day of college recruitment the cross-country coach for the University of Texas sat in our living room and told us he was the number one recruit in the state of Texas. He could have gone anywhere for college and ultimately chose the University of Portland which is a powerhouse in long distance running. Portland was coming off a 3rd place finish in Nationals the year before and he was given a full scholarship for the next five years. His life, at least the one we wanted for him, seemed to be set.
But strangely, he was never focused at Portland and three semesters later informed us he was leaving and was burned out from school and running. He came home for another semester before dropping out again.
“College is not for me”.
During this time he changed out all of his friends for new ones that from our perspective seemed to be strange under-performers who had all “dropped out” of school and main stream society.
We were pretty down at this point as we had high aspirations for him. Of course we set our own goals for him; some we mentioned out loud and others we kept to ourselves. He could become an All-American. He could go to the Olympics. He could be the President of Insert Name of Big Company.
But those weren’t his goals. They were ours.
Over the next year he continued to run and train and then announced he was moving to Salt Lake City to train full time in the mountains at altitude. He had a place to stay but barely enough money to make it out there. Upon his arrival his car broke down and he had to borrow money from a friend as Mom and Dad were no longer supporting him financially. I had tried to warn him that he wasn’t ready to go out there. He didn’t have enough money. His car was old with many miles on it. What would he do to make ends meet? And in addition to the many worried questions we asked him were dozens more we kept to ourselves.
During this two year period I was at times angry, fearful, and frustrated. But I came to the decision, one I had reached with his sisters as well that it was their life to face. Their problems, stress, and failures to deal with. But also their dreams and goals to set.
I decided it was time to let him go.
It has been three months since he left and while we are not there he seems to be thriving. He works with a coach via texts and phone calls, has ramped up his mileage, and claims to be in the best shape he has been in the past three years. He was scheduled to race in San Francisco this past weekend but his race was canceled due to the California wild fires.
After a quick detour and coming up with “Plan B”, him and two others completed the 50 mile Grand Canyon “Rim to Rim to Rim” trail in under 10 hours. And while that accomplishment is great I’m trying not to think too much about winning races or other goals that I would consider important. He seems happy. He has a good job and is making ends meet. He’s growing up and learning one day at a time.
I’m not sure what he ends up accomplishing but in the end, they are his goals, not mine.