Dear 18-Year-Old Randy,
Happy Birthday, kid. You made it to 18. It’s a big year. You’re old enough to vote. You’re a senior in high school, and in a few months, you’ll graduate and leave for college.
I know you don’t have it all figured out, but don’t worry; I don’t know if you’ll ever have it all figured out. Right now, just enjoy being a kid. Yeah, you just turned 18 and you think you’re an adult now, but you’re not. You’re still young. 20 years from now, when you’re 38, you’ll be wishing you were 18 again. And I know, you’re reading this letter and saying to yourself, “Wow, 38 is old!”
Look, your 30’s and 40’s will be here before you know it, so enjoy your last few months in high school, while you can.
High school is the good ole days. You don’t have any real responsibilities. You drive to school, you’re on the basketball team, and you chase girls at the Mall. Life doesn’t get much easier than that.
Truth is, you haven’t experienced anything yet. You haven’t lost many people in your life. You haven’t dealt with much rejection. And those lil’ puppy love relationships you were in are nothing compared to when you have a wife and kids to take care of.
But listen, I’m going to tell you three things I never want you to forget. 1) Believe in yourself. 2) Trust the process. 3) Keep going.
If you remember those three things in life, you’ll be alright. Let me give you an example. Do you remember what happened last year during the first day of basketball tryouts?
It was your junior year, you played JV ball the previous season, so you were already on the team. It was the end of the first basketball practice and tryouts. Coach Dupree had the team and all the tryouts lined up at the baseline. It was time for suicide drills.
You’re going to sprint to the other end of the court. Once you reach the other end, backpedal back. Do that 10 times.
You’re tired, out of shape, and it’s your fault because you didn’t practice or work on your game all summer.
But it was too late. It’s time to line up. Coach blows the whistle and everyone takes off. You start off slow, but you finish the first lap. Still, those backpedals are killing your hamstrings. But you pushed on. Two laps. Three laps. Four. Before you realized you’re lagging behind.
Then it happens…
On the fifth lap you fell. (Boom!) On your back. In front of the whole gym. The good thing is you rolled over, popped right back up and kept going.
You got to the end of the line, and for a minute you thought to yourself, “I can’t do this.” You had four more laps to go, and you knew you had to finish. You tried to catch up with the rest of the team but it was too late. The next trip down, you fell again. At this point the whole team is lapping you. Matter of fact, the whole team is done and it was just you out there.
You had three more laps left…
To make matters worse, the Girls Varsity Basketball team was sitting in the bleachers. Their practice was next. They were watching.
It hurt but you kept going. Each time you hit the baseline and backpedaled, you fell. In front of everyone. You can hear the whole gym laughing in the background. Especially, your ex-girlfriend. She’s on the Girls basketball team, she’s watching, and she’s enjoying seeing you fall more than anyone.
But you still pushed through. 3 more trips down the court. You fell every time, but you finally finished.
That moment was the most embarrassing and humbling experience of your life. To this day, it’s a moment you’ll never forget.
The next day you quit the team. They had practice, but you didn’t go. You were too humiliated.
Sad part is you dreamed about playing Varsity basketball since you watched the James Island Trojans win the State Championship in 1992. You were 11.
You grew up wanting to play ball just like the upperclassmen you looked up to—Jonathan Brown, Nicky Kornicky, Tony Elliot, Taiwan Bright, Tyrone Thomas and many other JI legends. When it was finally your chance to step on that basketball court, you quit.
Understand what I’m trying to tell you, that was all part of the process. Yeah, you failed. Yeah, it hurt. But you learned from it.
The next year, you practiced all summer with Trev, Trav Brown and Leroy; working to get better every day. And it paid off. The next year, you showed up to tryouts ready and you made the team. You finally got to wear that James Island Varsity basketball jersey. The same season you’re playing through right now.
Let’s be honest. You’re not playing much. You’re sitting next to Coop on the bench, only playing in a handful of games, playing a handful of minutes, only scoring a handful of points. But none of that really matters.
The biggest takeaway from this whole thing is you kept going. A season ago you failed in front of everyone. They laughed at you, talked about you and counted you out.
Never forgot that moment. Use it as motivation. You believed in yourself, you trusted the process, and you kept going. For the rest of your life you’ll have to remember that.
In a few weeks, when you get a rejection letter from the University of South Carolina, trust the process.
When you’re in college, and you decide to pledge Kappa Alpha Psi, and they turn you down, believe in yourself.
And when your girlfriend breaks up with you, and hits you with the “one day, you’re going to make someone so happy,” man, fuck that bitch, keep going!
Life will get harder as you go. Every chapter of your life will call for a better version of yourself. Your failures will be your lessons, so embrace them. Learn from them.
Listen, I know I’m just an old head, trying to drop knowledge on you and you might not want to hear this. But life happens fast. I mean, one minute your 18-years-old on your high school basketball team, and the next minute, you blink, and you’re 38, looking at old pictures from when you played high school basketball.
In that very moment, your 3-year-old son is going to come over. He’s going to ask, “Daddy, who’s that?”
You’re going to say, “That’s me. I used to play basketball.”
“I want to play basketball, too,” your son will say.
In that very moment nothing else matters, and it’s all worth it.
Happy Birthday, Randy.