I was recently asked what I was passionate about. At the time of the question, I could not think of a proper answer.
I know that some people can provide an instant answer to just about any question that is asked to them, but I have never been that type. Depending on the question, I usually take a moment or two to think about my answer and in the case of this question it was well over a week before I felt I could actually answer it.
And so, I thought I would write about my passions (plural!) here.
For starters, I am passionate about my job at PPL. If I wasn’t, I would not be here day in and day out. I have had a job since I was 13 years old (I am currently 35) and in my 22 years of employment I have covered a variety of careers. I worked in retail a few times, I was a chef for multiple years, I have been an office assistant/manager, a furniture delivery driver/mover, and an overnight security guard at a drug and alcohol rehabilitation clinic. I lucked into being a librarian in 2007 and the itch to be one stayed with me from that point on. While I have been good at every job I have held, none have felt the way being a librarian does. Out of the whole slew of jobs I have had, being a librarian is the only one I feel I am actually good at. Believe me; I have bad days, and plenty of them. Every person has bad days but – at the risk of sounding like I am full of myself, I feel like I crush it on a daily basis. I have loved PPL since I first came here as a child and it still blows my mind that I actually get to make a living by working here. My first job was at a video store and now, as the head of the A/V Department, I basically run a video store, a fact that most definitely blows me away! My job is never dull or boring and I find new ways to enjoy it day in and day out.
When it comes to non-professional things, I really only have two passions, both of which I care enough about to have permanently tattooed on my body: The Incredible Hulk and the Chicago Cubs.
I won’t go into great detail about The Hulk, other than mentioning that I have one of the biggest Incredible Hulk collections in the state of Indiana. That may sound like hyperbole, but based on what research I have done and all the people I have talked to regarding it, it is fact. I don’t collect any other sort of comic book character; I collect only Hulk. I have loved The Incredible Hulk since I was a small child, but in 2012 I purchased a small Hulk action figure which then set in motion a passion and desire to collect as much stuff as possible. 7 years of collecting and my passion shows no signs of stopping. Not until I have everything Hulk! My passion for the Hulk is so large that I am known simply as “Hulk Guy” at multiple comic book stores and I have had strangers give me Hulk items due to the fact that they learned, one way or another, that I am such a fan.
But as much as I love the Hulk…my heart truly lies with a little baseball team that resides on the North Side of Chicago.
A lot of people become sports fans once a team starts winning, simply because they hear about their success or the fact that so many people are suddenly talking about them. My love of the Cubs started when I was born. Sure, I may not have known at the time of being a newborn in the early 80’s that I would become a fan of them, but my birth made it so.
My grandma was a Cubs fan and she babysat me often when I was little. Television channels back then were found with an antenna and grandma and grandpa only got around 5, one of which was WGN. The first Cubs night game was on 8/8/88. In 1987, the year I first recall watching baseball, all Cubs games were in the daytime (unless they were on the road). This meant that days spent at grandmas meant watching the Cubs when they came on in the afternoon.
I knew what baseball was by age 3 and could throw things quite well, but I knew nothing about baseball. I didn’t know what balls or strikes were, what a batting average was, what a pop up was, etc. I learned everything about baseball from watching the Cubs play the game and from hearing Harry Caray announce. Baseball is a game of patience and I learned to be patient real quick! At grandma’s house, if the Cubs were on, you were quiet and paying attention to them. If the Cubs won, it was a good day. If the Cubs lost then there was always tomorrow. “Wait until next year” was a phrase I came to learn very early in life and would then repeat to myself year after year.
I know that many people consider sports to be stupid and a waste of time. I have never understood that mentality because sports require a lot talent and a lot of effort. If you are a fan of sports it translates across every bit of life, as sports fans are no different than any other type of fan.
If you have a favorite author and you read every title he/she writes, that makes you a fan. If you have a favorite actor and you see every movie he/she makes, that makes you a fan. You follow that person and you pay attention to what they do and you get endless enjoyment from them. The same goes for sports teams. You follow that team and get endless enjoyment from them whether they win or lose. If you are a fan, you are a fan.
Throughout my life the Cubs never stood a chance, but I remained a fan through thick and thin.
Years of futility reached new lows in 2012 when they were the absolute worst team in all of baseball, with over 100 losses. Even though they had reached truly embarrassing levels of being bad, I did not give up on them because my love for them, my passion for them, has never wavered. They rebuilt and improved upon that horrific season and by 2015, for the first time since 2008, they once again made the playoffs. They were exciting to watch and showed a spark they had not shown in years, only to again fall short in the playoffs. But it was different! At least, it felt different for the first time ever in my lifetime.
When the 2016 season started, it instantly felt magical. I still cannot adequately describe it but something – everything – was definitely different that entire year. The Cubs straight dominated all of baseball that entire season and then did the impossible: they not only made it to the World Series for the first time since 1945, they WON the World Series for the first time since 1908!
I, as did all Cubs fans, have only ever dreamt of such an occurrence. The 2016 World Series was emotional for me and my family as my grandma passed away the night they beat the Dodgers to officially make it to the World Series. Because of grandma’s passing and the fact that the Cubs were suddenly doing something I had never seen before (and grandma had never seen since 1945) I was more emotionally invested in them than ever before. Which is, to say, a lot.
It was a long, roller coaster World Series that went 7 full games and then, because the sports Gods can truly be cruel, into extra innings in that game 7. But after 11 innings of baseball on the night of November 2nd, 2016 the impossible actually happened: they won it all!
Some may think it dumb to call such a moment the highlight of one’s life but that is accurate for me. I have never felt such pure raw joy and emotion as I did the second Kris Bryant fired the ball across the infield into Anthony Rizzo’s glove for the final out. I literally jumped up in down in front of my TV screaming “They did it! They did it!” while openly sobbing tears of joy. I am not ashamed to admit that either. I will even italicize it to make it more emphatic: I literally cried when the Cubs won the World Series. You can judge me if you would like but that is the truth and I will forever embrace it!
My grandma was buried a few days before that final game and I had to work the day of the Cubs celebration parade through the streets of Chicago, so I did the only thing I could think of: my first day off after the win I drove to Chicago and made a personal pilgrimage to Wrigley Field.
Wrigley Field has been my absolute favorite place on the planet since the day I first walked into it when I attended my first Cubs game many years before, and I just simply had to be there. Nothing was actually going on there, but I still needed to be there! Thankfully, I was not alone in my thinking, as there were thousands of like-minded fans wandering around the streets outside of Wrigley celebrating. I walked around the entire outside of the stadium, taking picture after picture of everything around me.
On the night the Cubs officially made it to the World Series, fans used chalk to draw on one of the brick walls of the outfield. This was not malicious or any sort of graffiti: they were messages of support. Because of this, others added to it, and it grew throughout the entire World Series. By the time I made it to Wrigley – 3 days after the World Series ended – every wall along both sides of the outfield was fully covered by chalk. Initial hopes and wishes had turned into “thank you’s” and messages of celebration. I stood and read and admired as many as I could and then decided to add to it. I reached up as high as I could, found what little available remaining real estate I could, and wrote “They did it, grandma!” I did not take a picture of it, or tell anyone about it. It was just my personal tribute, lost among the thousands sharing similar sentiments on the same wall. As wonderful as it was for someone like me to actually witness the impossible finally happen, my grandma and thousands of others Cubs fans never got to. But thanks to the help of some chalk we (Cubs fans) at least had a way to share it with those that couldn’t be there.
I continued my way around the stadium, got my picture taken standing under the marquee with the frozen words “WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONS” that stayed on it the entire offseason, and then did the same for other fans that also wanted their pictures taken. I also hugged an awful lot of total strangers that day, something I have never done before. None of us could help it! Our historically beleaguered team did the impossible and we weren’t about to let anything hold any of us back from celebrating it together and sharing the love with one another!
While the Cubs may have “choked” again in 2017 and 2018 by making early exits from the playoffs, I am still with them. I will always have 2016 and my fandom is for life no matter what they do. And, to paraphrase the song by Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder, “Someday we’ll go all the way…again.”
So that is the answer that took me over a week to properly think of. I don’t have just one passion. I have three passions: being a librarian, The Incredible Hulk, and the Chicago Cubs.
I, quite simply, would not be me without them!
What is your passion?