christian kirksey cleveland browns

What is your why?

Do people still watch Hard Knocks? I have an on-again, off-again relationship with the series. One where I’m fascinated by football culture but also turned off by how formulaic the show has become.

All I have learned from the current season with the Oakland Raiders is that Derek Carr has kids. I wasn’t aware he had children, nor do I particularly care about him having children. But they are shown so often I wonder if I’m supposed to care about his children. Truthfully, there are only three moments I remember from 12 years of watching Hard Knocks:

  1. Joe Hawley getting kicked out of a scrimmage for fighting
  2. “Let’s go eat a goddamn snack!”
  3. Cleveland Browns linebacker Christian Kirksey

Kirksey was featured last season. The man was so motivational, he was practically given his own episode. He played the drums in a dorky moment only Ray Lewis could enjoy, but then had one of the more thought-provoking moments of the series.

Before a team meeting, Kirksey posed the following question to his teammates: “what is your why?” He asked everyone to post their “why” in their dorm rooms as a reminder for why they get out of bed each morning before entering what’s essentially a car crash.

Every morning you wake up, that’s gonna be the first thing you see. And before you go to sleep, that’s the last thing y’all see is your “why.”

When it’s tough, you always gonna remember every morning–You wake up, every night you go to sleep, there’s a reason why you do this shit.

I’ve heard all the reasons why football players agree to do something so blatantly adverse to their health. Money. Family. The love of the game. Some of these guys are just like Boobie Miles from Friday Night Lights and wouldn’t know what the fuck to do without football. In the end, “there’s a reason why you do this shit.”

That got me to thinking: why do we do this “shit” called life?

And yes, depending on the life you have, it can at times feel like absolute shit. In the same way one has to be a certain type of crazy to hit and be hit by other human beings, we have to be a certain type of crazy to insist on living life.

At the very moment I’m writing this, I have $160 in my bank account, rent due in 14 days, a job where management alters my hours, lack of sleep stemming from social isolation and stress, and the high probability of having an offer letter rescinded because I lied about still being at a job I was fired from just to give myself a chance at an interview.

You are probably dealing with some shit as well. It probably smells worse than my shit. I don’t want to assume I own the market on life feeling crappy. Yet unbelievably, we’re all going to roll out of bed tomorrow and put ourselves through this thing called “life” for another day.

Why?! Is it out of necessity, the realization that the only other option is death? Cause I don’t know about you, but I’m too afraid of the dying process to remove myself from this planet. And God doesn’t seem that interested in revoking the life he gave me, so I’m stuck here.

Is it because we don’t know what else to do other than live life? I can’t imagine not existing, even as I understand death is my final destination. We can’t fathom or embrace an idea like not doing anything at all. All we know is football life!

But this isn’t our “why.” These are mitigating factors, but we have the option to put a stop to life the same way an athlete can elect to stop being concussed or tearing ligaments that require surgery by finding a new profession.

The “why” is hope. Just like those formerly 0-16 Cleveland Browns hope to get something out of football, we’re hoping to get something out of life while we have it. We get out of bed each morning in hopes that today will be better than the days preceding it. That one day, life won’t have to be some “shit” we do.

It’s hard for me to remember that life doesn’t always suck. It is filled with moments worth loving and cherishing. It’s just–maybe sometimes we don’t get enough of those moments. In the process, even whilst knowing that life will always be a struggle and fight, it can feel like this thing we have to drag ourselves through.

We have all had a moment in time when we’ve said, “I don’t want to keep doing this.” This is usually at a time when we feel our most defeated and patience has worn thin. Here’s the thing to keep in mind: we don’t want to keep doing this, this current version of living. There is a alternate instance of life we would love to do. Every day, we’re just trying to figure out how to get there.

The “why” is the hope of what can be without the evidence. We step out on faith that in light of a bad day, there is something good on the horizon worth reaching.

I can’t promise that I will post my “why” in my room to serve as a reminder. I’ve gone eight years without decorated walls. There is no need to switch things up now. But even as hope seems scarce in my life and I wake up each morning halfway wishing I didn’t, that small percentage in me that wants to see what my life could be if I turned it around is still there.

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