You toss. Turn. Then jolt out of bed in a startled daze.
It was a bad dream. You felt paralyzed. Thieves had broken in and your impotent body could do nothing but sit there and watch them steal — you couldn’t even yell. You had to just watch, helplessly.
It’s too early to be awake. The sun hasn’t risen and the neighbors rooster is still too tired to crow. You had a horrible night of sleep, but you’re the furthest thing from groggy. A feeling of surreal intensity has been gnawing away at you — it comes in waves — and you’ve been trying your best to feel normal. So you sink back into the cheap mattress in the guest bedroom at Jamie O’Brien’s house and decide to thumb your way through the Internet for a little while. If your body won’t sleep, you might as well try and coax your mind into a quick vacation.
Dawn breaks. As you get out of bed, you promise you won’t allow yourself do the same. You are strong, you say to yourself. Unbeatable. Unbreakable. This is the last time you’ll be truly alone today, the last time a world of eyeballs won’t be staring at you, the last time you can’t feel the suffocation of all those opinions.
Fuck those opinions, you think, putting on your white Red Bull hat. Fuck them all. No matter what you do, nobody seems to give you any credit. The better you do, the harsher those opinions get. And now, as you’re two heats away from achieving your lifelong goal, all people are talking about is how you don’t deserve to be in this position. Fuck those people. They don’t know who you are. They don’t know where you came from. They don’t know what you’ve sacrificed to get here. They don’t know what the fuck they’re talking about.
You once again force yourself to shut it off. Unbeatable. Unbreakable. Just surf the heat.
But before you surf yours, you’ve got to watch Mick surf his. And as badly as you want to win, you don’t want Mick to lose. Mick is a true champion. You idolize him. You know what he’s given, what’s been through, how hard he’s worked, and you’ve used it all push yourself even harder. So you don’t want Mick to lose right now. You’ve worked for everything in your life and this isn’t a very good time to start expecting handouts.
He wins. Good, you think. My turn.
They explode with cheers at your very presence. There’s a huge Brazilian crowd on the beach — seems like half the attendees — and they are waving flags and shouting until the veins of their necks bulge like fleshy wrinkles. You appreciate the support, but at the same time you almost wish they weren’t there. You wish it were just you and the ocean. Just like it used to be. Because you’ve always considered yourself to be your only competitor. Plus, you’ve never been one for the limelight.
It’s a tough heat, but you find a way to win. You pride yourself on that. When there’s a way to win, especially when that way isn’t so clear, you find it. It’s that same sense of hope that you felt growing up — there is a way. There is always a way. There has to be. You weren’t born with the type of heart that could casually conceive excuses.
It’s time for the Semis now, which means you have to watch Mick surf again. Just like earlier, you don’t want to see Mick lose. Instead, you want to focus on what you need to do to win. Strangely, Mick’s heat seems to fly by. Now you’re in the lineup waiting for your heat to start. Soon enough, it does — right as Mick officially loses his.
Suddenly, it’s all on you. You’ve been the frontrunner in years past, but never at this point in the race. And in all those years, you always let it get to you. You always let it tempt you away from where you need to be. You’d start thinking about it, considering what it’d feel like to actually do it, and it’d distract you from thinking about what you need to do to get there. But this time is different. This time, it’s right there. You’re so close. You can already feel it.
No! You catch yourself. That’s how you lost all those other years. That’s the kind of thinking that cheated you out of what you believed to be your destiny. It’s time to turn it off. Turn those fucking opinions off too, while you’re at it. It’s time to just do what you do. There is a way. You’ve just got to find it…
The final horn sounds. It’s finally real.