The Man You've Become

As May 20th quickly approaches with my son Gibbs’ graduation set for that date, I thought I would take a little time for reflection.  Please indulge as I write with no outline or preconceived thoughts for this introspection. Four years ago, Frances and I took a scrawny, immature boy to Arden, NC’s Christ School.  Christ School is an over 100 year old boys boarding school located south of Asheville on 500 beautiful acres with panoramic views of Black Mountain.   After much contemplation and soul-searching, we decided on Christ School because of it being a small, all male boarding school focused on how to teach boys.

I will never forget the silent drive up that mountain as we delivered Gibbs late August, 2009.  No one said a word and you could feel the anxiety that hung in the air.  However when we arrived, I stepped out of the car with an inner peace that I had never felt and knew he was in the right place.  The other two passengers stepped out with much less confidence!

We left that boy behind that hot, August day amidst tears and guilt.  Frances cried for days and his emails and phone calls were heartbreaking.  I don’t think most of us can appreciate the discomfort that boarding school can cause those not 100% committed, and Gibbs fought the Christ School experience for the better part of two years.

He struggled in the classroom, but excelled on the football and lacrosse fields.  Lacrosse became a passion and a focus and it was apparent that he had a gift that he could take to the college level. The recruiting process for lacrosse begins the summer of your sophomore year and many of the top programs where academics are the central focus told him that his grades weren’t good enough.  A change suddenly occurred and the focus on school work became a priority.  By his junior year, he’d become a good student.

But Gibbs was still an immature, egocentric entity at the center of his own universe.  He was 17 going on 14 with a long way to go.  As his junior year melted away and scholarships were offered by many schools, we relaxed for what we thought would be a rewarding senior year.  What we didn’t realize was in the core of this young man there was a struggle that would turn our world upside down.

For those of you who have never dealt with depression, it is a paralyzing disease that can, as in Gibbs’ case, cause one to shut down completely.  He avoided friends, family, coaches and mentors.   He stopped eating and his good grades suddenly slipped, threatening his eligibility  to play in college.  An intervention revealed a kid in the grips of anxiety, with no self-confidence. However, what we found was someone desperately wanting to feel better and willing to do anything to achieve it.

With the help of great counseling and his own desire to tackle these problems head-on, a young man has evolved confident in who he is and equipped to attend the University of Albany this fall, matriculating as a student athlete who will play lacrosse.  A person who never read a book in his life is now a voracious reader.  He’s now a person who understands it is alright to be an introvert, but more importantly, what survival skills are needed to succeed as an introvert in an extroverted world.  He has studied famous introverts and has learned how they were successful leaders and how to lead by example.

So I approach this Sunday with bittersweet feelings.  I will always hold Christ School in highest esteem for being the launching pad for my son’s journey for discovery.  I will miss some pieces of that innocent boy I handed to them.  However, I wouldn’t trade anything for the caring, sensitive young man filled with inner strength I will hug Sunday afternoon.  As I did on that August day in 2009, I know I will look at those mountains four years later and feel that same sense of inner peace again.  Kudos….Gibbs McEachran….I love the man you’ve become.