Last night, I was sitting on my futon, watching what my DVR recorded during the day. There was this show on the Discovery Channel about a guy who gets dropped off in the middle of the Amazon and has to survive and eventually, find a way out. This is my favorite show on television right now. Maybe the reason why I like this show so much, is because sometimes that’s how I feel my life is … caught in a jungle, trying to rub two wet sticks together.
While I’m watching the show, I decide to let the commercials run without making an attempt to fast forward through them. I’d like to say that I did this because it’s the right thing to do and the sponsors paid a lot of money for my complete attention. But, in reality, the remote control was too far out of my reach, and I was too lazy to stretch my body out to get it.
During one of the commercial breaks, I saw something that pained me severely. No, it wasn’t one of those commercials where they just show clips of pets that were never adopted. It was far worse then that. The people of the Discovery Channel aired a Grey Goose Vodka ad that made me very, very upset (do a YouTube search for “Grey Goose Vodka Oysters,” so you can be horrified as well).
For those of you too lazy to search it, here’s the Cliff Notes version of what I saw. There’s this perfect sailboat cruising through some very calm body of water. And on the boat, there are all these good-looking people who appear to be in their early 30s … just like me. They are cracking open lobster claws and oysters, while the sun glistens against the perfect backdrop that is, “the good life.” Then, at the end of the commercial, we see them all sitting together toasting each other with ice cold drinks of Grey Goose Vodka. They all seem to be enjoying each others’ conversation and just living another perfect day in their perfect lives.
After watching this commercial about 10 more times, I get up and pace around my apartment. The question that repeats over and over in my head is a simple one … how come I’m not on that boat? I deserve to be on that boat, but, I’m not on that boat! Why aren’t I on that boat? I will bet anything that none of the people who are on that boat have sacrificed more of their youth, than I did. They shouldn’t be on that boat! I should be on that boat!
I quickly take out a calculator and crunch some numbers. This is what I found. Okay, I started playing tennis at the age of six, here and there. But, for arguments sake, we’ll say I officially started playing seriously at 11 years old. I played religiously three hours a day, six days a week, 52 weeks a year, up until I played my last college tennis match against Northwestern University at the age of 21 (I lost that match, by the way, in case you were wondering). That’s a 10-year career. So that’s 3 X 6 X 52 X 10 years. When I saw the number on the small digital calculator screen, I must say that I was in total and utter shock. I’ve spent 9,360 hours of the best years of my youth (ages 11-21), training to be a tennis player.
During all those hours, I sacrificed, I cried, I bled and where has it gotten me? Certainly, not on that Grey Goose boat! I’m sitting here, in my small one bedroom apartment in Queens, typing away on an old laptop computer that still operates with Windows 95. My apartment floor is so cold, it actually hurts to walk on it barefoot. And I’m not 100 percent positive, but I think my next-door neighbor is one of those guys who has a fully-grown alligator as a pet in his bathtub. This is where all of those hours have gotten me. A far cry from that boat with those good-looking yuppies!
I can pretty much guarantee you that nobody else on that boat, sacrificed more than what I did during those years. I bet everyone else on that boat enjoyed family Thanksgivings, growing up with their friends and loved ones. Personally, I couldn’t tell you what that feeling was like, because I was having Chicken Marsala at 10:00 p.m. at a Ruby Tuesday somewhere in the outskirts of Boston because I was playing a tournament there. Or, I’m sure all those people who are on that boat can tell you how great it was waking up on Christmas morning and opening up their presents next to a nice, warm fire. I couldn’t tell how that was either, because I was somewhere in Arizona staring at a cactus, getting ready to play my 8:00 a.m. match.
What if I had done other things during those 9,360 hours instead of tennis? What if I bowled during that time? I’d bet anything, that if I had bowled during those hours, I would be competing at 2:00 o’clock in the morning on ESPN2, pumping my fist to the camera as I knock down another 12 pins. Then, I would probably would be on that boat today!
What if I learned how to cook during those hours instead of smacking around tennis balls? Again, I’d bet anything, that I would be a celebrity chef on the Food Network right now, showing the audience my version of a Chilean Sea Bass Risotto. Then, I would probably also be on that boat today!
What if I had painted or sculpted during those hours? I’d bet anything, I would be getting interviewed by CBS Sunday Morning, as they do a piece on me about the way I took the art world by storm and that my latest project called, “Toilet” sold for $30 million at auction last week. If I had taken this path, then right now I wouldn’t be writing this because I would too busy hanging out on that boat!
My mind goes back and forth about all the things I maybe should have done and the paths that maybe I should have taken. As more time goes by, I begin to accept my current situation. I’m never going to be on that boat with those people, and that’s the way it is.
The more I think about it, I guess my journey to where I am now wasn’t all that bad. After all, because of tennis, my parents had to pay a very minimal amount of money for me to get a great college education from Penn State University. Plus, I did have some good memories along the way, in between all the sacrifices. And, I did make some lifelong friends, because of years in this sport. Now that I think about it, I guess it turned out pretty good for me. After all, it could always be worse.
I sit back in my wobbly chair and just have a feeling of acceptance. Tennis is who I am, and no matter how hard I complain about it, it will always be that way. There’s a saying, “It is what it is,” and it makes perfect sense. This is the road I’ve taken, and I cannot look back and think “what if?” It’s not healthy to be thinking like that anyway.
I nod my head, as the last couple of sentences echo in my brain. I quickly stop, as another thought finds its way in there.
Wait a second! I’m still young. I’m only 32. Okay, maybe all that tennis didn’t get me on that boat, but there has to be another way! I cannot control what happened in the past, but I can control what happens in the future … right? After all, I live in the greatest country in the world. Who’s stopping me from getting on that boat and having oysters and lobster with those good-looking people on a beautiful day? Nobody … that’s who!
I immediately made a vow to myself. I will get on that boat one way or another! I will just have to dig deep and figure out another way! I smile as now this sentence of hope and endless possibilities, repeats in my thoughts. After a little bit, I come to my senses and stop smiling. In fact, I start to frown. Whatever that path may be … hopefully, it won’t take me another 9,360 hours to finally get on that elusive boat!
<p>Tennis Pro Eric Meditz may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org</p>