Game. Set. Match. Touchdown. Huh? 2 Replies Let’s just say today’s blog starts with a heated game of tennis – literally. Sun shining down. No shade. 95 degrees. Peak humidity. It was Father’s Day, and my mom’s side of the family gathered in my grandparents’ hometown to celebrate. Despite the heat, a group of us, including my uncle and cousins, decided we should play tennis. Even my grandfather – the patriarch of our family – expressed his desire to get out and play, despite his 86 years and the fact that he is currently receiving treatment for cancer. You’ve never met such a spit fire – and it runs in the family. The interesting addition to this story is none of us actually play tennis. That’s the kind of stock I come from… Let’s try something new. Let’s do it even though we don’t really know how. Let’s have fun doing it – no matter how hot it is. Let’s try our best. And let’s laugh at ourselves. As we attempted to volley back and forth – succeeding some of the time, in fits of laughter during the other times – I was overcome with a sense of appreciation for my roots and the influences of where I come from, that have shaped who I have become. After our hour in the hot sun – chasing yellow bouncy balls – we couldn’t help but acknowledge the level of commitment and focus it must take for competitive and professional tennis players. The hours and energy they devote to training and that they exert in a single tournament. The precision that is required. The force. The concentration. The athleticism. The ability to overcome frustration when the ball doesn’t go where you want it to go – which happens to even the best of the best. And speaking of the best of the best – I recently had the opportunity to briefly meet Peyton Manning – 2-time Super Bowl Champion, 5-time NFL MVP and recently retired quarterback of the Denver Broncos – at a local media event where he was the keynote speaker. (For those of you who recognize the gentleman in the photo with me, this is the part where you can breathe a sigh of relief and let go of the embarrassment you feel for me because you think I might’ve thought Peyton Manning was a tennis player.) I was refreshed to find this NFL champion, elite athlete and celebrity to be a seemingly down-to-earth, humble, approachable guy. And did I mention funny? I was in tears, hearing him tell the story of how it came to be that he was knocking off kids with nerf footballs during a Saturday Night Live skit (http://www.nbc.com/saturday-night-live/video/united-way/n12129). And even funnier was his description of the mortification he felt explaining it all to his mother! During his appearance at the media event, he took a series of questions from the audience, one of which asked for advice for young athletes as to what he attributed his success. His answer demonstrated his modesty as well as his connection to his roots. He attributed much of his success to the people who supported him along the way – every coach he ever had, his parents and family, all of his teammates and his friends. He hadn’t left it all behind. He brought it all with him. Each relationship, lesson and influence leading into the next. (He never even mentioned the freakishly dynamic genes that apparently run in the Manning family.) I was shocked when he shared that he goes back to every one of his high school class reunions. That really resonated with me. I had recently attended my 25-year class reunion, which was a stretch for me. My high school years are not something I cared to think about. Most of my memories, at least toward the end, were of hurt and loss. My connections to friends during that time in my life, a distant memory, if a memory at all. But I found that in re-connecting with friends and familiar faces – some of which I had not seen since I was 18 years old – I identified with what Peyton was saying. Once the initial, “Oh my gosh, it’s been a long time,” wore off, it was like no time had passed at all. A bit of a time warp. An odd, yet supportive and comforting familiarity. These were the people of my youth. My connections and influences as I was being shaped into the woman I am today. Whether I liked them, didn’t care for them, adored them, admired them, didn’t really know them, dated them, was hurt by them or was a teammate, a classmate, a friend or an acquaintance – they were all, and still are in many ways, a part of me. And that deserves acknowledgement. It deserves appreciation. As I take Peyton’s advice and think back, even reminisce on my life – all the people who have come in and out, all the joy, all the laughter, all the gifts, all the lessons, all of the experiences, the victories, the losses, however I perceived and defined it along the way – it’s all a part of me. Now the Adventure really begins! What will I do with this new-found appreciation for everything that has led up to this exact moment in time? What will you do? The (tennis) ball is in your court. The (foot) ball is in your hands. Share your game plan in the comments below! And remember to take the TAL Weekly Adventure Challenge.