Why I Do What I Do

October 11, 2014 By Tom

I’m only human though I’m super at times
I jump off of risers I should not have climbed
Rock jumps won’t kill you ’til one of them does
Well they’ll say “He died doing what he loved”

-Old 97’s (Longer Than You’ve Been Alive)

one of my favorite photos of working with students in this session

The reality is that the last five weeks have been brutal. 60-70 hours weeks of work, a ton of social commitments, juggling the dogs, my Butler University gig, the Portland expansion, working on the book(s) concept, drafting ideas for a couple of keynote style speeches I’d like to make decks for–I hit max bandwidth capacity in the last few weeks and suffered as a result with little sleep and lots of stress.

Fall break landed at the best possible time and I have 2 weeks to recover. I’ve got a couple of major pitch meetings related to 2015 corporate partners next week so I’m getting ready for that–but I’m already feeling more human just from being able to relax on a Saturday and watch college football and cuddle with the pups.

So, I’m recharging. There are so many awesome stories from the last few weeks that highlight why I push myself so hard. There have been thousands of smiles as students saw themselves succeeding. The teachers that open their classrooms to us and the relationships we build with them because of it, including catering a lunch for staff at one of our schools this past session as a thank you for their amazing physical education curriculum that they have in place. The time I get to spend with the rest of the awesome Nine13sports team and the fact they’re not co-workers, but actual friends.

One of my most favorite experiences though, the story that highlights exactly why I do what I do and push myself so hard, occurred this week. We were on a site working with 150 8th graders and one of their classes has a student with special needs that is mainstreamed in their physical education program (which I love). She’s a rock star on the bike and had the biggest smile whenever she was pedaling in our programs. Our week 5 curriculum includes a very long course to wrap things up–the longest course she or any other student does in our programs. She did great, and the most touching thing happened, the other students who were on the bikes cheered her on. The students who were wrapping up other stations within the class stopped what they were doing and cheered her on. Our staff had already noticed how much the other students treated her as an equal, carried on conversations with her and genuinely viewed her as not just a classmate, but a friend.

But standing there, listening to them offer words of encouragement and cheer her on as she finished our most difficult course is something that warmed my heart in the moment and will bring me a smile whenever I think about it in the future.

Zilla wasn’t a big fan of the early mornings in this session—can you tell?

And those moments? That’s why I push myself so hard. The bicycle is an equalizer and it allows students of all backgrounds and abilities to succeed, and by pouring myself into work, we’re able to create those moments for the youth we serve.

But I learned a valuable lesson with this session–I need to be better about scheduling “me” time into my days and make sure that I’m doing things that make me happy to keep perspective on what’s going on in my life. I can only pull a superman schedule for a few days before it starts to burn me out, and I need to be better about carving out the recovery time after doing those days so I can recharge.

And after not getting out of bed till noon today and taking a solid 3 hour nap while watching football with Bailey asleep on my feet, I’m already feeling more human.

I’ve also got a blog idea theme that I’ll be using over the next week or two for a creative writing challenge. I’ll explain more tomorrow.