7 Stories in 7 Days: Day 7 - Personal Fulfillment in Competition and Fitness, David Shaffer's Story
My story starts off a little different than the rest of the 7 stories as I absolutely did NOT start my life off in sports. But it sure has ended up there. My participation in sports growing up was one of collecting every single baseball and football card I could find and studying the back of them for hours on end, learning every statistic I could. I was a numbers geek for sure. But that wasn’t the only geeky thing about me. I was born with a body different than the other kids. And they never let me forget it. As I made it through 4 elementary schools in 5 years due to APS constantly redistricting and a new house, there was no consistency there to build those types of relationships so I stayed in my zone of being on the outside away from the popular crowd, and studying but not playing sports.
At the end of elementary school, I was legally adopted by my step father and hoped that getting a new last name before Middle School would be the change I craved and needed. Changing my last name when I got there didn’t help like I had hoped it would. I had hoped to start fresh where nobody would know or recognize me, i would not be made fun off and i could just show up and be “normal”. However, The new kids at middle school quickly figured me out and joined in with all the other kids who I have ever known and made fun of what they called a physical deformity off my body. There was no way that I was ever going to go to gym class, so constant ditching kept me in constant trouble. It also didn’t help that in middle school there were two teachers who joined in with the kids because they wanted to be considered the cool teachers. I’ll never forget those 2 for publicly ridiculing me, every single day I was at middle school, in front of the girls in some sick way to impress them. High school could not come soon enough. Until it did. And more of the same continued. The change I hoped for there with another fresh start never materialized, I grew my hair long, rebelled, got kicked out and started living in an apartment and working construction at the age of 16.
A very long story (for another blog!) happened from there until I was 27 years old, as I continued path of no path, searching for my place and what people thought of me. But then my life started to change when my son was born. I now had a “purpose” and something to focus on. As Brandon started learning new things and starting his own path, I wanted to make sure that he had the opportunity that I did not have growing up and I also felt that for me to be able to do that, I needed to walk the walk of the talk that I was saying. But that whole story could take several more pages (and I could talk about Brandon and our life together for DAYS) and maybe are not quite relevant for this particular piece. But this part is.
When I turned 30, a co-worker of mine said “hey you love hockey, we are joining an indoor soccer league that’s new to Albuquerque. It’s just like hockey!” I laughed because I had never kicked a soccer ball in my life but I sure did love hockey. So I joined and gave it a shot. After 1 game, I was hooked. The speed, physicality, and cardio was something I had never experienced in my life and running in that game, doing something I had never done, focused me like never before. I wondered why I was so stoked. At the end of that first game I looked up and saw that not a single person was judging me for my physical appearance, who I was previously in my life, or judging me for anything else i had ever done. Admittedly, they WERE saying “What the hell, has that guy ever played soccer before??” But I loved it.
I looked at this new thing, competing in adult sports, as a way to move forward in my life from my youth. Not a single person knew me. I could use sports and the work out that went along with it, as something to focus that excess energy on and self destructive thinking that had plagued me for 30 years. I had specific goals of getting bigger, faster, stronger for each sport I then started playing, outdoor soccer, sand volleyball, adult competitive kickball (yes, it is a badass thing go WAKA). The fire of competition, the fact that I could compete while learning new sports against people much younger than I was, gave me a renewed sense of self and pride. I’ve never looked back. Playing and competing in these adult sports gave me the mental focus on something other than my limitations, whatever those may have been, and gave me goals.
Fast forward from that day at age 30 to age 55 now. Playing sports and setting weekly goals of making sure I am doing something, ANYTHING everyday absolutely keeps me sane from a 50 hour work week and the stresses of everyday life that we all have. Stepping on to an indoor soccer field to make sure I can keep up and still handle cardio knowing that it is helping my heart and lungs, laying on a yoga mat in 90 degree humidity in a hot class before moving through a series allows me to shut my brain down and practice focus, lifting weights in my home gym keeps me in “check” to make sure I am still feeling good about myself in a physical way, getting my shake on during an on-line Barre or Pilates class humbles me and keeps me looking for that next level of improvement as it kicks my ass every single time. The list goes on. I am proud to say that I have been a member of countless championship teams in both indoor and outdoor soccer leagues, Kickball and volleyball. Always being the oldest person on the team. I attribute that to my own hard work, but also to people like my son who I saw take a passion and turn it in to something he is proud to do. And that certainly rubs off on us all. It keeps me grounded and the mental focus of making that weekly 7 day work out schedule and then trying to follow it is something that helps keep my brain coordinated and in line. It gives me something to look forward to after work. A wonderful, daily goal. Of course, life gets in the way of that sometimes and one does have to go to a concert or two every now and again, but I think that the scheduling of TRYING to do it, and then doing what you can, is half the battle. After being diagnosed with Hashimoto’s and a few other things over the last few years, keeping this weekly regimen has become even more important to me as it gives me something to feel better with and count on for my physical and mental health.
And because of this, this forum that my son presented to me to say what working out and staying fit means to my mental health, I’m able to still continue to grow by discussing these things that have affected me my entire life. Many of which I’ve never discussed before So, thank you my son. Your father loves you very much. Oh, and I still do love sports statistics very much.