The Arena

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.Teddy Roosevelt

I have always been a big believer in the idea that creative inspiration does not flow in a continuous pattern. I feel that there are periods of time when my brain is itching to churn out new ideas and thoughts. It honestly has not been that way for the past couple months, mainly because my brain has been full of concepts and thoughts for school work. I find that when I’m stressed I often hit a creative brick wall. I am sorry for my lack of posts, but I truly do not want to waste anyone’s time writing things I don’t believe in. However, this morning, my brain said¬†we need to write this out,¬†and that’s where today’s post starts.

I have finally had a moment to begin climbing the great wall of Writer’s Block, as I am now in my last month of Graduate school. It’s hard to believe that almost 2 years ago, I made the decision to go back to school for my Master’s, knowing that I would be doing so while working full time. I was not even prepared for how difficult working full time and going to school would be, and I can say that I’ve gained a new sense of respect for working parents who go back to school. We have a dog, and at times it has felt overwhelming to me.

Since my brain has now had some time to take a breath, it’s been doing some thinking. The reason I referenced the Teddy Roosevelt quote is because my Dad always used to say this quote to me when I was in high school. He’d usually reference this right after an upsetting volleyball game, or band competition. While he wouldn’t quote the entire thing, he’d always say, “The credit belongs to the man in the arena”. I always thought this was a sports reference, in that the arena referenced a court or field. Now, as I’ve grown older, I’ve begun realizing: what if the arena doesn’t reference a specific area? What if life is the arena?

I think what Roosevelt (and my Dad) were getting at it here is that whether we know it, we’re always in the arena. Every night that I’ve stayed up late submitting homework, or chose to stay in to complete a project, I have fought within the arena. I’ve fought the pre conception that I wasn’t driven enough to complete an online based program. I think that ultimately I was fighting myself on this. As I’ve discovered, these programs and degrees aren’t to make employers or professors believe in you; they’re to make you believe in yourself.

When I cross the stage next month in my funny looking cap and gown, I’ll essentially leave the arena I’ve been fighting in for two years. But I’ve also realized is that anytime we leave one arena, we walk into another one. After leaving the Graduate School arena, I’ll enter another one with even more unknown than the previous. But as Roosevelt points out, “The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena” meaning that the real champions of these arenas are those who never stop fighting, and accept the fact that they will face disappointments and losses along the way.

My hope for myself and anyone who is fighting in an arena of their own is that we use the arena to propel our desires instead of inhibit them. I hope that we can all realize that the arena isn’t there to stop us, it’s to determine who will fight hard enough to climb out. And when we climb out, we’ll climb into a new arena, but we’ll take with us the knowledge we previously gained. So the arenas will get tougher, but so will we. My advice is to be the man (or woman) in the arena, and never stop fighting, and let us never be among those who never entered the arena at all.