Next Play

This was a piece I wrote back in 2017 when I lived in Manhattan:

I was walking around my neighborhood in New York City and came across a youth league basketball game. Nothing special, just talented young kids playing a game they love. I recalled the coach of one team repeatedly yelling ”NEXT PLAY” after either his team made a mistake or the other team scored against them. It made me realize how much life was about the “next play” more than anything.

These mistakes wouldn’t be overlooked, but they weren’t something to dwell on while the game was in session. The most important talent any one of those kids had during the game was their ability to forget any mistake they made that either caused the other team to score or their own team to not score. The time to assess mistakes could be during a time out or during a practice session.

Life can come at you pretty fast sometimes. But all you will ever have is the very next play. Logic may propel you to assess your shortcomings as they affect your life. But the key to success with peace of mind is allowing the universe to come to pass and making the most out of any given moment regardless of how the previous plays turned out. The heaviness of perceived failure is often our greatest barrier that hinders us. But failure is an internal illusion – a fragment of reality that is often misconstrued as our reality. But by definition, a fragment is only a portion of something and not all of it. And without that fragment, something seizes to be all of it. Fragments of perceived failures are the portions of our characters that strengthen us the most. They become the foundation by which the happier fragments of our beings can grow. The key to guiding our perceived failures into strength is being able to assess them for what they are and when the time is right. Yes, they hurt and yes they can burn, but you wouldn’t want a foundation made out of anything else. Live every moment as if you’ve never made a mistake. Forget about what went wrong because your complete mental and emotional presence is the most valuable asset your bring to this world. And then, when the time is right and life slows down – assess what went wrong – learn – grow. God Al Mighty put 5 prayers in a day for you to slow life down. They are your time outs. And whether it’s during your prayers, in bed at night, or when you’re out for a walk – those are the times to reflect on the previous plays.

Yesterday is only as valuable as the lessons it provides, not necessarily the reality of which we wished it to be. Tomorrow is only as valuable as the state we are in today. If we want our perceptions of yesterday and tomorrow to change, it starts with the mindset we foster today. Be all in. Be at the next play.

It’s Okay Not To Be Okay

Granted this is a title of a K-Drama that I actually managed to watch and enjoy – I thought that this was an appropriate title for this blog post. I couldn’t tell you when it happened, but somewhere over the past decade or so, struggle became a sentiment that was less normal and more of something to hide. Of course, social media has a lot to do with this. People were suddenly compelled to create a perception of reality devoid of struggle and thus – push people to seek those utopian realities. Not being okay was suddenly something that was unusual and awkward because everyone spent their time scrolling through different highlight reels full of amazing vacations, recipes, friends, and family outings. Today, we feel wrong for struggling. We feel wrong when things don’t go our way because we have been conditioned to think that our lives should be okay.

But what about struggle? It didn’t suddenly just end. People’s lives suddenly didn’t stop containing difficult times. As they say, “The Struggle is Real”. Everyone will contain some level of struggle in their future. In fact it’s impossible to lead a life free of both major and minor struggles.

So if struggle remained where it was, then who moved? We did. Our minds did. Our internal desires did because we suddenly were NOT okay NOT being okay. We were immersed in a ‘me first’ society which pushed individuals towards their independent goals, and society then encouraged people to embellish their successes to the world. The connectability of the world allowed individuals to post their success or very easily jump into a group chat and boast about their success. And their boasting didn’t need to be loud – it could just be a caption-less picture with a filter.

The problem with all this is that struggle is a very normal part of life and when the sentiment of struggle is sullied with the perceived expectation that we shouldn’t struggle, we struggle even more. It’s a dangerous, emotionally isolating cycle which leaves you less connected with the most important person in your world – you. And when you start feeling like you are losing you – all your “islands” (Inside Out reference) begin to dwindle.

Anyone reading this has, is, and will struggle. Struggle didn’t go anywhere – our souls and our expectations did. No one is out here Instragramming their failed recipes or their anxious moments they feel when life is hard. And the resulting emotional isolation of refusing to embrace struggle sinks you deep into anxiety and despair.

It’s okay not to be okay. Life is hard. It’s beautiful. It’s difficult. It’s fun. It’s tragic. It’s crazy and it’s lovely. Life is going to happen the way that God wrote it to happen no matter what, so if things are amazing – they were meant to be amazing and thank God for that. If they suck – they were meant to suck. It’s not just you. The ‘me’ centric society we have now makes struggle seem so personal. “Why is this only happening to me” or “WHY ME”. It’s not just you, it’s everyone. And that’s not to say that your problem isn’t critical or major – it’s to say that you don’t have to feel like you’re the only one struggling.

Life is hard enough and when we think that not being okay is not okay, we add to how hard life can be. When you get stung by a jellyfish, it hurts a lot. But if you decide to keep the jellyfish on and then pour some salt over the fresh wounds as you’re being stung – then the whole experience of the jellyfish string goes from bad to catastrophic. That’s what we do when we decide to ignore the struggle or feel wrong when things are hard. We ignore those sentiments and thus – add salt to our own wounds.

Struggle is meant to shape us into versions of ourselves conditioned to navigate this world. In fact, if you miss out on a struggle – you could set yourself up for more struggle in the future. We aren’t going to win in this life – nor were we meant to. Things are going to fall apart. People are going to disappoint you. A crazy storm is going to ruin your house or your car. You’ll miss an exit and be late for an appointment you couldn’t be late for. It’s okay. Even the most devastating thing was meant to hit you. It’s okay. It’s not your fault.

There’s a really powerful moment of a movie, “Good Will Hunting” where Robin Williams repeatedly say’s “It’s not your fault” to the character Matt Damon was playing. At first, Matt Damon just laughed it off but each time it was said to him, it broke down a wall within him. He begins to cry because the words begin to pierce through all the struggles that he shoulders as his responsibility.

So to anyone reading this, it’s not your fault. It’s not. Thing’s really really suck sometimes and although you can sometimes pinpoint who or what caused it to happen – it would have still happened if the who or what didn’t do it. Everything that happens to you is meant to happen to you. And of course, the good feels good but this post is about the struggle. So I encourage you to embrace it and feel okay not being okay. It too will pass and the only way through is through. So go through.

The picture represents one of the stories from the K-Drama that I referenced, “It’s Okay Not To Be Okay”. I thought it was appropriate.