Friday, April 10, 2009

Young at Heart

Thomas Boswell’s Strokes of Genius was my first “favorite” book. I was about 12 when I found it lying around the house, and having just started to play golf, the timing couldn’t have been more perfect. My dad’s passion for the game was in my DNA, and reading about the great players, famous courses and prestigious tournaments only drew me in deeper.

While I probably re-read the whole book 100 times, the chapter that was the most special to me was the one about Augusta National Golf Club and The Masters Tournament. Titled “Cathedral in the Pines,” it painted the scene of a mythical, magical setting carved out of the Georgia woods, with rolling hills and emerald green grass; a timeless place where the soul of the game was at its purest.

Even at such a young age, I was fascinated with this spiritual element of the sport, and getting to The Masters became my holy grail. Simply hearing Augusta-related terms like “Magnolia Lane” and “Amen Corner” would send tingles down my spine. I’d sit in class and draw pictures of the famous 12th hole. Every putt I hit on the practice green was to win an imaginary Green Jacket.

As I’ve gotten older, this dream has remained in my heart, though my inner demons have tried their best to pry it out, throwing me off track, diverting me down life paths that have made me question at times who I really am and what I really want.

But every year, when the first full week of April – the tournament’s traditional date – rolls around, and I see the azaleas blooming and hear “Augusta on My Mind” playing (yes, The Masters has its own theme music), everything becomes clear again, because I’m reunited with the most authentic version of myself:

My inner-child.

The unreserved, uninhibited spirit in all of us, the inner-child is our foundation, the most innocent, genuine aspect of our being. And no matter how mature we get or how much money we make or how powerful we become, it’s always there, whether we choose to acknowledge it or not.

As a kid, your relationship with the world is simple. An unwritten book, you are unconcerned with society’s rules and expectations, seeing everything through unprejudiced eyes. Keeping up appearances is the last thing on your mind, because you don’t even know you’re supposed to care about what other people think. All you want to do is play and have fun and be yourself.

But as you grow up and go to college and get a job, you have to slowly bury this part of you, lest you project anything but a cool and buttoned-up demeanor. There’s no place for this child-like wonder in, say, Corporate America, where the powers-that-be have determined that enforcing a dress code and a “professional atmosphere” is the recipe to get the best out of people.

What they seem to forget, though, is that the inner-child is where the imagination tends to reside. Just look at how creative kids can be. My childhood was spent dressing up in homemade costumes and playing out make-believe Super Bowls on the living room carpet. With the freedom to imagine, the realm of possibility was limitless. And no matter what happened that day at school, I always had the energy when I got home to visit my dreamland again.

Unfortunately, that’s too seldom the case anymore.

Being an adult is exhausting. If you’re not working your life away (who came up with the lopsided 5-to-2 workweek – weekend distribution anyway?), chances are you’re probably stressing about money, love or lack thereof.

That’s why it’s essential to make the time to act like a kid. Un-tuck that dress shirt and go shoot baskets. Dance freely to the song only you can hear in your head. Drop trou’ and shoot the “moon” out of your car’s back window. You might be surprised at how something so silly can take the edge off and soften your perspective on things.

More importantly, though, losing touch with your inner-child is to lose touch with who you really are.

So if you’re feeling lost or are in a rut and can’t figure out what to do with your life, do as my mom-the-therapist suggests: think back to what you loved to do as a child. Because even though you might not have known that two-plus-two equaled four, you did know what made you happy.

For me, that was always playing golf; learning, growing, challenging myself every chance I got, racing the sun to the 18th green. The Masters is my yearly reminder of what’s still possible, that my dreams are still out there.

I just have to let my guard down long enough to let the little boy inside me lead the way.

1 comment:

  1. I feel like i am left completely speechless when i read your posts... i want to comment, but cannot put into words what i want to say. Thanks for the inspiration!


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"It's not a lie, if you believe it." Those were the words of one of my generation's great sages, George Costanza, and the more of life I experience, the truer they ring. And while I still haven't found what I'm looking for, the search for my own personal "truths" is never-ending. Care to come along for the ride?