Don’t Let A Bad Apple Hold You Down

As I entered high school, I felt confident about the transition and fitting in with my classmates. After a successful three years in middle school, I fearlessly entered high school in 1984, making friends and becoming somewhat popular. PHS (Pittsfield High School), here comes X-Man. I felt I knew something about everything. That sounds about how most High School kids act, right? At least the boys who have this bravado for no reason whatsoever. I was cranking my Beastie Boys and NWA, thinking Pittsfield High School was lucky to have me. There is a difference between confidence and cockiness. By my sophomore year, I was a solid B student (doing just enough to get by), on the varsity basketball and football team, and believing things were going my way. This feeling is giving me a false sense of who I am and what I could accomplish. Sadly, there are many examples of how this belief got me into some sticky situations, but none more than me thinking I could ride my bike from Pittsfield to the Albany Mall. For those who don’t know Western MA and Albany area, it is a 49-mile drive on two highways and takes about 60 minutes in a car. My friend “Spaz” and I wanted to spend the day hanging at a “cool” mall since Pittsfield’s mall was only a few shops.

So here is how an overconfident high school sophomore thinks.

  • I have been practicing football five days a week, so I am in shape.
  • A car gets to the Albany Mall in an hour, driving 60 MPH, and at the gym, I can ride the bike 30 MPS. So with that math, it should take us two hours to ride 50 miles. We practiced for two hours in football so we thought we could do it.
  • We don’t need a map (cell phones are about ten years away) because we will follow the signs we saw when my mom drove us before.
  • Sleep the night before at my dad’s because he never checks or asks what I do. I might as well take advantage of this time he is out of jail. God knows when he will be back in, and my mom would never let us do this.

SO, Spaz and I sleep at my dad’s. We stay up watching movies all night. We figured if we left at 8:00 am, got there for 10 am – hang out for a few hours and ride home for 4:00 pm practice. Mom will never know. Perfect plan. 

Well, not so much. Here is what us dumbos didn’t think about for each of the points above.

  • In shape to run and catch a football are very different from being able to ride 50 miles on the road.
  • 30 MPS on a stationary bike riding for 30 minutes is WAY different than riding an old beat-up 10-speed for 50-miles. Oh, and NO HILLS on the gym bike. They do call the area I grew up in “The Berkshire Hills.”
  • Bikes can’t go on high ways. Who knew. We didn’t. So no signs on back roads and WAY more than 50 miles.
  • Dad had no clue where we were, in this case, NOT a good idea.

Our 120-minute ride turned into 4+ hours of getting lost, riding on a rim (tire blew and didn’t have a spare), and no money since we spent all we had on water and food on this crazy journey. So, I had to make a collect call to my dad. Yes, that is a real thing, By the way. I was crying, tired, broke, and asked him to pick us up. If he left right away, he might be able to get us and back for the start of practice. His answer, one I will never forget. 

“They must have a bike shop at the mall.”

His answer was essential to get my bike fixed and ride 5 hours home in the dark, not knowing how to get home. After more begging, he agreed to come. He gets there in time to get us back for the start of practice. YES! Ummmmm, wait a minute, what is happening? He parks and goes into the mall. Spaz and I look at each other confused. He went into Applebees and saddled up to the bar. He had dinner and a few drinks. After his dinner, he threw the bikes in the back of the truck, and Spaz and I had to ride in the back too. Good call dad, two teenagers riding an hour in the back of a truck.

So, needless to say, I didn’t make practice; my mom called the police since I was “missing” because the coach didn’t know where I was, and my dad showed his true colors. Great day. And boy, was I grounded after that road trip.

The relationships in my life who had my best interests were worried and trying to find me, and the selfish relationship had a burger and a beer.

Besides learning the difference between cocky and confident, I realized that not all relationships are created equal. We have all had a “bad match” at work with a colleague or boss. My story is a reminder that a “bad match” or a bad relationship at work does not define you. I went on to college and since become successful in the field. My dad did not define me. To this day he never went to any of my three graduations. However, my drive to success is not held back by bad relationships (and I have had others like poor superintendents or colleagues). They only fuel me. What drives me are the people in my life who lift me up, NOT bring me down. My story urges you to focus on those around you who lift you up AND be that person for someone. Oh, and don’t ride your bike to a mall 49 miles away. 


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