Own The Arena

Forks in the Road

Back in the day – like 1988 – I was in my senior year of high school.  And like the many teenagers before and after me, I was faced with choices.  We all encounter the forks in the road…if I go right this and left that.  What makes forks in the path so vexing is that you can only see so far down the road.  The bends, hills, and new forks make for an unseen future.  And then, add in your fellow travelers…those that have been on similar routes and want us to travel the same.  Or not.  Advice abounds.

My senior year was extraordinarily difficult.  I was newly sober, lonely, and trying to navigate a life foreign to my peers.  Hell, it was foreign to me.  My parents were recently divorced, and my stepdad was MIA.  My mom in a shitfirefinancialstorm due to my dad’s shenanigans. It was a hot mess.

It came time for me to apply for college.  I was astounded when I was accepted.  “Me…with my grades?” Absolutely the grades could have been better – my high school career peppered with a couple of rounds of rehab and lots of teenaged rebellion – but the real underlying doubt was one of worthiness.  College is what other kids did.  Collegiate studies were for smarter students and kids that had it and families together. But down the college road I traveled.

The Arena

I LOVE the arena visual – maybe you’re familiar with Theodore Roosevelt’s speech

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

Love, love, love.

Daring Greatly

The early college years were ugly…scraping by on minimum effort, failed exams, missed classes and flying by the seat of my pants.

My own daring greatly moment was that period in college where I was either going to graduate or give up.   I could keep messing around – listening and believing the old non-worthiness tapes – or I could step into that arena and own my destiny.  But to graduate, I had to believe I was worth the challenge.  The enemy was me.

It took eight years in all, but I finally did get that diploma.

To this day, it’s still one of my greatest accomplishments.  Really nothing to do with the diploma – which is nice but still a piece a paper. It has everything to do with being terrified, feeling woefully unworthy, but sticking with it, face marred with dust and sweat, and daring greatly…and finally succeeding.


While muted, those old tapes aren’t dead and still manage to whisper self-doubt.

Last month I was checking out at the spa after a splendid massage…my hair a mess, face still creased from the headrest and an old nemesis walks in – THAT mom that has plagued me since my oldest was in Kindergarten – he’s now 21.

You might know the mom:
Me: Store bought
Her: Homemade
Me: Chips in a bag
Her: Kale Chips
Me: Lucky to get out of college
Her: Aces college

When she walks in, we acknowledge each other with the “Hey, how are you”, “Fine, and you?” and then I’m praying we’re done. But no…

Supermom asks “So…are both of your boys out of high school now?”


“Oh great! Where are they then?”

Me with the slightest hesitation – deep breath – shade’s about to be thrown.

“Blinn and HCC”

*sidebar – community college has saved us tens of thousands of dollars – just saying.

“Oh” – y’all know that “Oh” with the slightest eyebrow raise. I resisted rolling my eyes.

“Alrighty then – well – I have one out already – okay see you later.” as she escapes up the stairs for her appointment.

Own Your Arena

The whisper – “people like you – you suck as a mom – you have failed to raise your children properly”

The reality – I have been smack dab in the middle of that motherhood arena. I showed up. I mothered with all my heart. Back off bee-ach.

And yeah, the new tape: unfuckwithable (adj) – When you are truly at peace and in touch with yourself, and nothing anyone says or does bothers you, and no negativity or drama can touch you.

Unfuckwithable | DJ Ranch

Because here’s the downside of that arena – the spectators – and the scoffers. We call them trolls today. They are quick to point out what others are doing wrong or laughing at their efforts. Or looking down their nose in judgment. It’s easy to stand on the sidelines. It’s a whole other thing to dare greatly and be all in.

My most challenging arena continues to be my mind – it takes guts to make changes and hard work to re-record those old unworthiness tapes – but it’s so worth it!

What’s your arena today? Maybe it’s personal like mine. Or perhaps it’s a new career or endeavor? Maybe a big project at work or home?

The legal stuff – I’ll never write nor promote a product I don’t believe in…with that said, this post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links, I’ll receive a small commission – we’re talking small – like less than a dollar – these small commissions simply help me finance this blog.  Thanks for being here.

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Donna Matthews is a blog writer at the DJRanch where she strives to remain authentic while not taking herself too seriously. She is also the creator of Slay The Chaos (www.slaythechaos.com), where she writes about productivity and organization. She is a member of The Writers Guild and Write Space in Houston and is currently writing her first book.

2 thoughts on “Own The Arena

  1. Bob

    The arena! I just love your blogs. The arena really spoke to me. I struggled my entire career fighting the odds, taking risky transfers to strange cities not knowing what lies ahead. Uprooting my family countless times in an effort to have a better life. At the end it was all for naught. Nothing I did or sacrificed my family’s sence of stability really meant anything. I felt a failure in life. Through my faith in God and solice knowing I didn’t take the easy or safe path in the Arena I have found an inner peace like I’ve never felt before. Thank you for your words.

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