LOWCO PERSPECTIVE: Writing my way out of a hurricane

LOWCO PERSPECTIVE: Writing my way out of a hurricane

In the eye of a hurricane
There is quiet
For just a moment
A yellow sky

My fellow Hamilton devotees will recognize those lines immediately, and before long we’ll all be singing, “I wrote my way out.” That’s what I’m trying to do right now, as I type this.

When I decided to launch this column, I struggled to settle on a title that could capture what I wanted to do in this space, as well as a defined theme to help me hone my thoughts. 

I landed on “Lowco Perspective,” because I want to use this platform to lend insight that might help us understand more about the how and why — whether it’s regarding high school sports redistricting, coaching changes, or the status and future of this crazy grassroots sports journalism thinktank that has become a passion project.

What I hadn’t considered, is that I might also use it as a platform to provide perspective into the personal challenges — including my own mental health — that come with putting your heart on the line — and online — for a vision that is bigger than many people can comprehend, and trying to see it to fruition with limited resources. But here we are.

One of the hidden personal benefits of this horrible pandemic — a phrase that feels almost callous to even consider — is the opportunity it offered many of us to slow down and reflect. Those five months with no sports also gave me time to finally watch “The Wire,” one episode per night starting in March 2020, and that was life-changing in its own way, but it was the introspection that I valued most. 

What I found wasn’t necessarily pretty, and I’m still uncovering items in the debris. I plan to start regular therapy soon, and I recently saw a mental health professional for the first time in my adult life and was diagnosed with ADHD, which I now realize has affected me most, if not all, of my life. I tried one medication that was not a good fit and have started a second that I am trying to navigate now, but I was advised that the first month or so would be bumpy.

The timing has not been great, coinciding with the single most chaotic time of the year in my world. The crossover between winter and spring sports, followed by the deluge of events every night during the spring and combined with the start of youth baseball season — I coach my son’s rec and travel teams and serve on the Bluffton Youth Sports volunteer board — creates an annual Category 4 hurricane that turns my life upside-down.

Every year I think I’m prepared for it, but there is never enough time.

If you’re new to LowcoSports, you might not realize this is an independent operation, a solopreneurship aided by like-minded people in the community who share in the view that this is a community collective, and a resource that makes our Lowco community stronger. One person has pushed the button on every story that has ever been posted on LowcoSports.com — 6,327 of them and counting — and that person is me. 

I can’t remember the last time I took a vacation and didn’t work, usually every day. The churn never stops.

I’ve taken for granted the toll it takes on me, especially in the spring, when I usually haven’t come up for air since the start of the new year, and the weight of it all starts to become too much to bear. We can manage the spring season — we always have — but it takes incredible organization and mental discipline on my part, and I’m having a hard time providing either at the moment.

In retrospect, I realize this has happened to varying degrees just about every year since I started this grind as a small-town sports editor in Kansas in 2004. I come out of the holidays feeling borderline manic, brimming with creativity and new ideas, and bursting with energy to execute them. I ride the wave until it crashes, usually right after my birthday on March 1, and then grasp for chunks of the lifeboat to cling to until it rains for two or three days and I can catch up.

The sky is yellow. I can smell the rain.

I wrote my way out
Wrote everything down far as I could see
I wrote my way out
I looked up and the town had its eyes on me

After 20+ years of having bylines in local newspapers and putting so much of myself in print and online, I’ve grown a pretty thick skin and gotten quite comfortable in it. I’ve been intentional about connecting with who I am and who I want to be and staying true to that, and I wear it on my sleeve.

So when I’m drowning, even though folks might not be able to see me struggling beneath the surface, I find myself wondering what they think I’m doing out there splashing around alone in the deep water while all these games are going on.

The truth is, sometimes I don’t even know. 

This life I have chosen for myself is grueling. Don’t get me wrong, I chose it, and I continue to choose it. But it is not easy.

The tide comes in every day, but it never goes out on its own. I have to push it back, knowing it’s going to come roaring at me again the next day. The deadline pressure fuels me, a leftover relic of a time when daily newspapers thrived, and I run on adrenaline fumes until after midnight most nights, just to get up at 6:30 and prepare to take my kids to school before I start pushing against the surf again.

I have become a creature of habit and routine, however chaotic they may seem from the outside, and my Circadian rhythm changes with the season, as the sports and schedules that guide my calendar evolve. It takes a couple of weeks at the start of each season to find that new rhythm and adjust, and it’s even more difficult during the crossovers between seasons, when two different rhythms are competing to pull me in different directions.

The tide starts coming more often and with more ferocity, and I don’t have time to build any defense against it in the form of preparation and organization. It eventually washes me under.

That’s where I’ve been this week. The convergence of the full onslaught of spring sports, combined with trying to continue to lay the foundation for the future of Lowco and my increasingly busy life as Mr. Dad for an 8-year-old gymnast and an 11-year-old who is dedicated to baseball, has me lying in the surf gasping for air. My arms are flailing, but I’m not going anywhere as my brain pings from one overdue project to the next while new challenges pop up to meet me along the way.

I only know one way out.

I’ll write my way out
Overwhelm them with honesty
This is the eye of the hurricane, this is the only
Way I can protect my legacy

The thing about “writer’s block” is that it usually doesn’t prevent me from writing, just from writing what I’m supposed to be writing. This is the second piece I’ve written spontaneously this week simply because it was weighing on my mind so heavily that I couldn’t write anything else. The other was equally transparent and therapeutic, a note to my fellow travel baseball parents sharing our family’s own personal struggles with the ups and downs that come with sports and life, and a vow to help these 12 young men navigate the mental side of the game the best they can, which will help them in ways they haven’t even realized yet later in life.

I don’t know why I’m publishing this piece other than feeling compelled more and more to seek greater understanding in this crazy world and perhaps help others do the same.

I truly believe I’ve found my purpose here, reporting on the successes of the teams and athletes in this incredible place, watching Dixie Youth All-Stars grow into high school standouts and keeping up with them when their careers are over, all while trying to build the foundation for kids in the Lowco to have a brighter future. 

I love my life. I’m relentlessly positive. But I still fight my own battles with self-doubt. Sometimes the ideas come at me at 700mph, but with no time or bandwidth to execute them, they begin to fade into silhouettes of what might have been and feel like so many failures forming mountains around me.

I have a big vision for what Lowco can be, but I realize more and more that not only can I not build it alone, I can’t sustain it alone for much longer. Not without some adjustments.

We’ll be feeling our way through some of those adjustments this spring, and we’ve already started dabbling with compiling more game results and stats into sport-specific roundups to get information out in a more timely manner and reclaim time for more feature stories on deserving teams and athletes making newsworthy contributions as they represent their schools and communities. 

And perhaps reclaiming a little time for self-care.

The harsh reality is that I started this venture as a journalist, not a businessman. A friend recently pointed out to me that almost every company that has had a meteoric rise had both a visionary and an executor. I’m well-positioned to fill either role in this particular situation — and I’ve had to wear both hats for the past 4.5 years — but I’ve come to accept that the future of Lowco depends upon me transitioning to visionary full-time. As I have often said, I need to figure out how to move from being the white-knuckled pilot to air traffic control.

Figuring out how to make this labor of love more profitable, so I can bring the incredible Wes Kerr on full-time and start planning to add more staff is my top priority. I have a few ideas kicking around on that front that you’ll hear about soon, but our biggest resource is you: The people who see the value in what we’re doing and want to make sure it is here to stay.

We need you to support our sponsors and refer us to your friends. We need your financial support, if you’re able, through a monthly pledge on Patreon. 

But most of all, we need your patience and understanding. We’re pushing a boulder up a mountain, but we’re determined to reach the top, even if we have to take a break for a minute.

If you are in need of mental health resources, visit the National Institute of Mental Health or the South Carolina Department of Mental Health.

LowcoSports founder Justin Jarrett brings things into focus with his column Lowco Perspective,
providing insight into the local sports scene and a behind-the-scenes look at LowcoSports.

Local sports content that is not sponsored is now available only to LowcoSports.com’s Patreon supporters. Pledge your monthly support here for as little as $1 per month to ensure you have access to all of our grassroots LOCAL sports coverage!

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