Monday, September 26, 2005

Defining Moments

Americans live for an average of more than 70 years. Most of those days are marked by routine, repetition, and tedium. It's hard to define a life by the routine. Instead, it seems to me, that a life is defined by a handful of defining moments that shape who you are. It is at those moments that we are the most "us" we will ever be.

I recently regained contact with a young woman who played high school soccer while I was the sports editor of the Las Cruces Sun-News. She was extremely talented at the sport, but she was also a pretty amazing kid. She was bright, friendly, dedicated, and a joy to be around. During her senior year, I had a lot of fun covering that soccer team. Shortly before the season ended, I took a job with the Albuquerque Journal. At that time, it seemed important to be moving up in my career, to be moving to a bigger paper.

The soccer team made it to "state" that year. Before moving to Albuquerque, I drove out to the practice fields one last time. Several members of the team were there after practice, and they gave me a "LCHS Soccer" T-shirt in thanks for my work covering the team. I had already accepted the job in Abq and submitted my resignation in Las Cruces. But standing there on the edge of that field was a defining moment for me. If I close my eyes, I can see that day as clearly as if it were yesterday. The green field juxtaposed with the sandy brown dirt and the evening sun creating a reddish glow on the Organ Mountains more than 10 miles to the east. In truth, those girls and their coach gave me far more than I gave them in a few column inches of coverage. And standing there on that sandy dirt road, I felt that slipping away for the first time. Raised as a boy in America, I usually have no trouble holding emotion at bay, but I struggled at that moment. In our recent e-mail exchange, the former soccer player also remembered that day. This made me realize that perhaps humanity is defined by the intersection of defining moments.

It was a defining moment, all right. And I chose career advancement. Although I did not realize it at the time, I traded real human relationships for black and white prestige on a resume. It's true, I guess, that even mighty Casey strikes out.


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