In Which A Dream Dies

I’ve never said never until yesterday.

I’ve always believed that whatever was put in front of me, no matter how difficult, no matter how crazy, if I worked hard and truly cared about it I would eventually find a way to make it happen.

Now I know that’s not true.

Yesterday I was on the verge of making the only thing I’ve still wanted to do since I beat the hospital and the cancer scare happen. And yesterday, I got an email that not only will it not be happening now, but it will not be allowed to happen ever.

I don’t want to give specifics because I don’t want this blog to be taken as an attack on anyone involved. That is not at all what I’m speaking out for. But I need to talk about how much this hurts, and the very tough lesson that it taught me that I wish I hadn’t learned.

Yesterday I felt something inside of me die. This opportunity was something I’d pursued and dreamed of for years. It was something that several people had supported me in and encouraged me to do. It was literally the last line on my bucket list. And this particular shot at it would have been the perfect one because I would have gone back to my roots and a world that made me who I am today. But not only did I lose it for what is now the third time, I have to come to terms with the fact that I’ve lost it forever.

They tell me it’s not personal and I believe them. They tell me the reasoning and I understand it. But it’s still personal in the sense that it broke my heart, and that it’s hard not to feel like I failed.

This changed the way I look at the world. I’ve had a lot of defeats thrown at me over the years, but there has never been an absolute. It’s always been Okay, it didn’t work this time but go out and get ’em next time. There’ve been a lot of things that have sucked, most recently not getting to drive in the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race, but then a few months later I got to drive go-karts with Patrik Sandell. What keeps me going is the knowledge that there’s always a next shot, even if it takes fifteen years like that time I finally met Aaron Sorkin.

And I’ve built my entire life on the belief that I can find a way as long as I work hard enough and truly care about what I’m doing. Even when I was told I’d never walk I found a way to make it happen, twice. I dragged myself six miles with heatstroke through the middle of nowhere in Indiana when I shouldn’t have been able to walk one. When I spent sixteen years thinking I’d never be good enough to work in law enforcement, I took the test anyway and they offered me a job. When I thought there’s no chance in hell I’d ever sing with Adam Levine, I still left it on my bucket list and we ended up at karaoke night together. The reason I’ve gotten so far is that I knew hard work and passion could beat anything – maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but I’ve seen it do some amazing things.

Now I know that’s wrong and that’s something I think I’m going to carry with me forever. Just that knowledge that I can be defeated and that someone can finally tell me what I can’t do. I spent 31 years proving those people wrong and being proud of the fact that I never let anyone else define my path, and for the first time they won.

I can do this, but I can't cross off the last line on my bucket list. Photo Credit: Trae Patton/NBC
I can do this, but I can’t cross off the last line on my bucket list. Photo Credit: Trae Patton/NBC

It’s also hard not to take this as a reflection on myself. I’m well aware that this isn’t personal and everyone involved keeps telling me how much they appreciate me regardless. But in a similar vein, I always have thought that when I’ve spent so much time going above and beyond, constantly giving of myself for everybody else, to the point where I’ve put my reputation on the line, that somebody else would go out on that limb with me. That somebody would take a chance on me when the tables were turned. When you have a moment like this, it’s hard not to think I keep giving everything but is it all for nothing?

Because trust me, I don’t work seven days a week, fourteen hours a day, while literally gasping for air because I can’t clear my lungs properly because I think it’s fun. I go to bed exhausted almost every night and I have given up a lot of other opportunities to make sure that I’m there when other people need me, because I believe I’m fighting the good fight. I believe that I’m helping people, and that my effort matters to those people. Today my faith is more than a little shaken.

I did learn one other thing in all this, and that’s the fact that I have an amazing friend in my life. I had to break the news to him that this wasn’t going to happen and when he found out, he actually called me to find out what was going on and to try and console me. To hear him on the other end of that phone, and to have him telling me that he gets what I’m going through and that he was disappointed in all this with me, is the one thing that I’ve been holding onto ever since. If nothing else I can walk away from this heartbreak knowing that one of the people I admire most in the world is also a true friend of mine who cares about me enough to reach out when I needed it. We’ll never get a chance to be equals, but it reaffirmed to me that he has my back, and I’ll always have his.

That’s the difficult part in front of me now. I know my dream is dead. Part of me wants to just cry in a corner and say fuck it all. I feel like I let him down, like I let myself down because I was feeling like I’d found a new family and I was going to be one of them and now I’m questioning if I actually fit in. And I’m apprehensive about putting myself back out there and continuing to bust my ass if this is what it comes to. I don’t want to ever feel like this again.

But I have no choice but to get back up and keep giving more of my heart and soul. Because as much as I question my value, my friend still needs my support and I do genuinely believe in what’s happening even if I’m left standing on the outside of it. I know he needs me and I still want to be by his side even if it’s not in the way I wanted it. Something else I’ve always held true is that I am loyal to the end, and so even though this is the end of my dream I’ll swallow my hurt and go back to work, giving up the one thing I so desperately wanted so that I can enable other people to succeed.

I’ll do it with the knowledge that I won’t get to be the one to stand in the sun, instead of lifting everyone else up. I’ll do it just a little more guarded. A little less likely to take that next chance. Because now I know I’ve found my never, and I’m never going to unlearn that.