About 25 years ago my maternal grandparents purchased a winter/retirement condo in Boynton Beach, FL. I’m not sure if it was something totally out of the blue or if it was pre-meditated. I was in middle school and my mom traveled with them to Florida. She only stayed for a couple of days, and then came home. I thought that was weird, especially since she left my grandparents there. She went down to help them buy the condo. And just like that, my grandparents had a home to live in for a few months a year to get out of the snow in Western, NY.
It was during that first winter living in Florida that my grandfather, in his late 60's, learned how to play golf. He had never played a day of golf in his life. A perk of the retirement community was having access to an 18-hole Par 3 golf course. He bought some used clubs and started playing with a group of gentlemen also living in the community. Without hesitation, he learned how to play a new sport. I’m not sure how the initial conversation went with him and my grandmother, but I’m pretty sure she didn’t discourage him from starting. You can see the golf course from their condo which makes it very easy to walk to, simply by pulling your clubs along with you. Nothing that demanding for an in-shape person in his late 60’s.
The longer I think about what to write in this article, the more I think about how the conversation went between my grandmother and grandfather. They were always extremely supportive of my brother and I, attended pretty much every sporting event we had in high school and into college, and never said anything negative about our performances. I must admit, my grandfather did get more excited at my brother’s baseball games than he did at my track meets. But, getting back to that conversation…..
It could have gone a couple of ways (imagine these conversations being had in Sicilian dialect):
1. Frank, why are you going to play golf? Why are you going to start something new? You’ve never played golf before. You are too old to play. Don’t waste your time.
2. Frank, you are going to go play golf? Do you know how? Who is going to teach you? You need to go buy clubs? Is it expensive?
3. Frank, that sounds like a great way to enjoy your time here in Florida. It is great that you want to learn something new. What do you need to get started?
The conversations may seem a bit exaggerated, however I think you can tell the difference between the three. For anyone reading this that has ever met my grandparents, they are the most loving and nurturing people I have ever met. My grandmother spent a great deal of time raising me when my mom went back to work when I was born. I speak fluent Sicilian because of her. Conversation 2 would probably have been the least likely to have happened. They didn’t’ worry about details like that. You can buy a used set of golf clubs in the retirement community for $10. That leaves us with Conversation 1 and 3.
Conversation 1 is one that one might imagine occurs more often than Conversation 3. Maybe not so much with younger children, but with adults. My grandmother has a very strong personality. My grandfather didn’t as so much as my grandmother, but I cannot envision Conversation 1 happening. My grandparents were very supportive with everything anyone in my family did. I never heard one negative comment said to my parents from them about a decision they made. They were always very supportive. I can’t see my grandmother having that talk with my grandfather. The optimist in me is going with Conversation 3. Maybe with a little bit of Conversation 2 intertwined in there.
For anyone that has ever been to Boynton Beach, it isn’t quite as flashy as South Beach or West Palm Beach. Scattered throughout the city are dozens of little retirement communities, the intercostal, and miles of beautiful beaches. If you aren’t a go to the beach for 8 hours a day type of person, or you don’t like relaxing by the pool all day, things could get boring for someone. Enter learning how to play golf at 68 years old. My grandfather made friends that he would enjoy his afternoons with, get some exercise, and enjoy his time. If you take golf out of the equation, things might get a little mundane. I’m not sure what his expectations were when he learned, but after playing for a few months he was able to beat my brother and I pretty handedly. He didn’t hit it far off the tee, but when the longest hole on the course is 125 yards, you don’t need to. He would drive, chip, and putt. My brother and I sprayed balls all over the course. I cannot tell you how many balls we lost on hole 4.
My grandfather joined a new community of people he had never been associated with before. He wasn’t a member of any clubs or organizations living in Rochester. He took care of his family, had immaculate landscaping, and copious amounts of fruit trees in the backyard. They welcomed him in with open arms. It was quite a sight to see my grandfather playing golf with a few other guys in their 80’s and 90’s. They taught the young new guy how to play.
The story of my grandfather resonates with me even more today. He wanted to try something new, didn’t have any reservations about it, found a community that welcomed him, and just did it. I’m not sure he put that much time into making the decision. I’m also not sure he calculated the potential risks involved, or the time it would take. In essence, he did what was going to make him happy. Maybe it was easier for him because; a) he was living in Florida for a few months a year, b) he wasn’t afraid to try something new, c) nobody told him no, or d) he was retired and wanted to invest the time in a hobby.
Every time I think about what I may be experiencing or going through, I think about him. What might my grandfather have done in this situation or that one. How would he have handled it. I’m not talking about day-to-day decisions, but life changing decisions.
Deciding one day to spend more time on a hobby, or learning a new hobby, in most cases isn’t that life altering. Maybe it gives us a chance to meet new people, share ideas with others we may not usually interact with, or just gives us an escape from reality for a few hours a week. What possesses someone to start a new hobby? Just pick something up out of the blue. To take a risk (calculated or not)? How does one come to terms with their decision? How does someone make a decision to chase something new? How does someone chase their dream? What does that look like?
For some, now is the time to start thinking about and making those life-altering decisions. The time when high-school seniors make the decision to attend a specific college or university. Now, we are in the midst of recruiting season. In the middle of recruiting season, I think about those questions a lot. What perspective does one come with when deciding what college or university to devote the next four or five years to. How do I make a decision between college A and college B? What should I be weighing most, how do I make a decision that is going to stay with me (depending on the outcome) for the rest of my life? How do I make the decision to chase my dream-what direction should I go?
My grandparents’ dream was to come to the United States to give my mom and uncle a better opportunity at living a happier, more rewarding life. A life better than my grandparents had in Sicily. That is a life altering decision. Not speaking the language, understanding cultural and societal norms, and walking into the unknown of whether the decision is the right or correct one.
I share the story about my grandparents, my grandfather in particular, for a couple of reasons. One, it is a story of chasing the American dream. One of which a parent attempts to give their children an opportunity at a better, more fulfilling life. They were chasing something. Something better than what they already had. They were, indeed, chasing their dream.
On multiple occasions this winter I have heard prospective student-athletes talk about chasing their dream or deciding to go to a certain school because it has always been their dream. A high-school senior told me that yesterday afternoon. They told me that it has always been their dream to attend Nazareth College. With AC/DC blaring in the background while standing in the weight room with this potential student-athlete, I asked “Well, what is holding you back?”
Awkward silence, even though Hells Bells was blasting in the background. What seemed like an eternity was probably more like three or four seconds. I was wondering what she was thinking. Without thinking about it, I challenged her dream. I put her on the spot. She was accepted. All she had to do was put down a deposit to take the first step. Maybe the thought of actually following through is scarier than that initial first step. Could thoughts of failure have been running through her mind. She could have been thinking, “Wow, I did get in. Now what do I do?” Well, you have to make a decision.
Then I think to myself, well maybe coming here really isn’t your dream, but becoming a (insert career here) is.
When push comes to shove, what holds you back?
She said she was still thinking about it, and that her decision was between Nazareth College and two other colleges. One school out-of-state, and another is a 2-year community college. As I drove home yesterday, I was thinking about her dream. Her dream could become a reality. Attending your life long college number 1 choice. However, she was still unsure. I wonder, in that moment, she probably wasn’t expecting the question I asked her. I’m still not sure if she will be attending Nazareth College in the fall. Reflecting back on it now, what might be holding her back?
But it makes me wonder…..
When you tell someone what your dream is, and you have the opportunity to move forward and make that dream a reality, why don’t you pursue it? What holds you back? Is it fearing the unknown? Is it the decision itself?
Was it actually a dream to begin with…..
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Dr. Charles Infurna
Charles Infurna, Ed.D., is the owner and lead coach of Forza Athletics Track Club. Dr. Infurna has coached National Record Holders, National Champions, All-Americans, and Conference Champions at the Post-Collegiate, Collegiate, and High School level.