IF you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise: If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: 'Hold on!'
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
' Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,
if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!
Most of the reason I've been thinking about this poem has to do with some stuff in my coaching life. I know this site is mainly a writing one, and the idea of a novelist/football coach is a contradictory one, but as Walt Whitman said, "Do I contradict myself? Very well then, I contradict myself. I am large, I contain multitudes." Still, the concepts behind "If" are very much in my mind recently. I see lines like "If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,/But make allowance for their doubting too;" and "Or being hated, don't give way to hating," and "If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken/
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,/
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,/And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools," and very much see where I am now. I find myself starting to grow a shell around me--a shell that will protect me, but will also cut me off from the world. I find myself seeing people in ways I do not wish to--petty, vindictive, mean, and base--and it is coloring my day-to-day life. To dedicate one's life to service: in my case, service to young people, and see that dedication not only mocked but questioned and derided, is wounding.
Maybe that's the best word for it. Wounded. I've been very much wounded by the last two years, not the least because the attacks have been mostly cowardly ones from the yellow veil of anonymity. Unsigned hate mail (I'd guess somewhere on the order of 12-15 pieces in the last two years) that has attacked not only my basic competence but has claimed I am a racist, a poisoner of young people, and a hateful person.
Worst of all is that the wounds are starting to scab over. I can feel myself changing the way I see others. I come to work each day dreading another letter, another attack, and the way I am starting to deal with it is closing my ears, my eyes, my heart. Whatever joy there once was in what I do has been steadily, remorselessly drained away.
I hope this is not irrevocable. I desperately do not want to become a hard-shell old man, railing against the world.
If I can do what Rudyard Kipling says I need to do, then I will regain my joy.