I think I have something in common with Rainn Wilson, the guy who played Dwight Schrute on “The Office”: that we both found ourselves unhappy for no good reason, other than that we had a lot, and still wanted more.
In Wilson’s case, it was him not being happy being a TV star, and not also being a movie star, which, that’s understandable, right?
“It wasn’t enough,” Wilson told Bill Maher on a recent episode of Maher’s “Club Random” podcast. “I’m realizing now, like, I’m on a hit show, Emmy-nominated every year, making lots of money, working with Steve Carell and Jenna Fischer and John Krasinski and these amazing writers and incredible directors, like Paul Feig. I’m on one of the great TV shows. People love it.
“I wasn’t enjoying it. I was thinking about, Why am I not a movie star? Why am I not the next Jack Black or the next Will Ferrell? How come I can’t have a movie career? Why don’t I have this development deal?”
I’m not to Wilson’s level in the business, but AFP is a multimillion-dollar business, so life is great in that respect, and for years I had a great little side gig going with ESPN+, calling around 50 college baseball, football and basketball games per year.
But I wanted more.
Like a lot of self-styled media moguls, I tried the politics thing, running for local office, and came up short – way short, actually.
(I was landslided. It wasn’t even close.)
I’ve been trying my hand at building up podcasts and a presence on YouTube to go from reaching tens of thousands to reaching, I dunno, millions.
It’s not working.
I mean, Rainn Wilson, for example, doesn’t come on my podcast to talk to me about his problems.
I spent most of the time I was doing ESPN+ stuff lamenting that I wasn’t doing bigger games.
You know, like, sure, Jack Buck is available for “Monday Night Football,” but what am I, chopped liver?
(Answer: no. Chopped liver has nutritional value.)
What all that got me was a blood clot that traveled to my lungs and dang-near killed me two years ago.
The constant stress – all self-induced – almost did me in.
It still took me probably a year or more after the blood clot issue to realize what I was doing to myself.
The hard part for me, since coming into that particular perimeter of wisdom, has been dialing things back.
I’m the type that sees something that can be done, and decides to do it better than anybody else, or die trying.
I got big into powerlifting, for instance, and got to a point where I could bench press 450 pounds, squat 650, leg press 800+.
Why? I don’t know.
I’m not trying to tackle quarterbacks, or block guys who are trying to tackle quarterbacks.
It’s kind of pointless to be able to lift all that weight when your job is sitting in front of a computer all day, but whatever.
Then I decided to slim down, lost 110 pounds in seven months, and became a runner – and within a year was running marathons near Boston Marathon-qualifying level.
I’m still trying to scheme ways to win a Pulitzer through this little website that we created out of the thin air in 2002, while also marshaling enough of an audience to run for governor, and then president.
I mean, as if, right?
It’s great to have … lofty goals.
But at some point, the die trying part will catch up to you.
So, when I read about Rainn Wilson’s moment of clarity, it resonated with me.
I rarely have enjoyed any of the fruits of the successes that I’ve been fortunate to be able to be a part of.
Our Augusta Free Press media experiment was a pretty novel thing to bring off back when we first got it off the ground, and very much is today, 21 years later.
I’ve been able to use that platform to set myself up to write two books on University of Virginia basketball, which is awesome to be able to have done.
The accomplishments in weightlifting and distance running, not many people are able to do those things.
The ESPN+ work, for nearly a decade – not bad for someone with no training in broadcast before I stepped into a broadcast booth for the first time.
I did about as much there as I could.
In general, I’ve been able to get a lot out of what I’ve had at my disposal, which for a kid who grew up in a trailer park, hasn’t always been much.
This is coming across as the least humble of humble brags of all time, I get that, but I’m sharing this because, we all have things that we’ve done, that we’re doing, that we can be proud of, that we should be able to enjoy, and some of us – a lot of us – don’t allow ourselves to enjoy, because we take for granted what we could enjoy and focus on the wanting more.
More money in the bank, for instance.
A bigger house, a new car.
The list goes on.
It’s hitting me now that when it comes time for me to draw in my last breath, which I hope still isn’t in the offing for, oh, well, you know, several decades, but whenever that is, I highly doubt that I’m going to be thinking, I wish I’d been able to do more, have more, be more.
I hope when that moment comes, I’m going to be grateful for what I’ve been able to do, for the people I’ve come to know and love along the way, and who I am as a person.
What I’m trying to do today is reverse engineer that back a few decades from the end, and remind myself to be grateful today for what I’m able to do, for my wife, my family, my friends, for me.
I still want to keep striving, basically, but not at the expense of thriving.