From the title, you're probably wondering what one word could possibly change your path. You are probably skeptical that any single word could affect your life so much. Let's start at the beginning. From the time we are little kids, we are asked the question over and over, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" Our grandparents asked our parents, our parents asked us, and we will probably, if we haven't already, ask our kids. I think part of the question is adults being curious about what the hopes and dreams of their kids are. It's human nature to want the absolute best for kids and to want to help to guide them in a direction that we see as being successful. No one can fault an adult for wanting to help steer a kid away from a career path that may be more difficult financially. We hope that they can learn from our experiences rather than having to "learn the hard way".
I was born April 11th, 1978 to David and Melody Bowling in Flagstaff, Az. I was their first child and the first grandchild on both sides of my family. My mother's dad was a military man a farmer, and the epitome of hard work. From a young age, I felt a lot of pressure to be successful, to be hard working, to be an example for my family. I felt like I was supposed to set some kind of standard for my siblings and cousins. I got asked the question a lot as most children do. "What do you want to be when you grow up?" I remember sitting in class and the teacher asking all of us what we wanted to be when we grew up and hearing the smart kids in the class answer things like, doctor or lawyer. I remember kids answering police officer or fire fighter. When it came time for me to say what I wanted to be, i had no idea. I just blurted out what the cool kids in the class wanted to be. I remember being in grade school and thinking that everyone else had it all figured out but me.
As the years went on in life, I still didn't have it figured out. I wanted to be a professional athlete, but that wasn't in line with anything the generations before me really viewed as a career choice. I would get the question, "yeah, but what do you want to do if that doesn't work out?" I floundered for a while after high school. I was lost and had no idea what I wanted to be. All of my friends had gone off on these career paths and gone to college and were finding their way in the world and there I was, still stuck in the 6th grade class with that question over my head of what I wanted to be when I grew up. My parents were patient with me but even they got frustrated at times. They knew I had potential but I had no drive to find that career path.
My mom and dad both worked so hard to provide for us for all those years and there I was, the guy who had graduated high school, was working in a restaurant, wasn't paying bills, and was living at home. I didn't have my own car, i relied on my parents to live. They wanted more for me than to have to live in their house and eat their food and make money and spend if frivolously. They tried to be parents and help me to learn about life. They co-signed for me on my first car that I was irresponsible with. They watched as I tried to follow my dreams of becoming a professional athlete. They supported me, they gave me tough love, they kicked me out of the house, they let me back in a year later. They did everything they could think of to try to push me to do something more with my life. We fought because I just couldn't see it.
One night it came to a head. My mom and I got into a shouting match. She told me that she just didn't know what to do for me anymore. She said that all she wanted for me was for me to be able to find a path that would make me happy. I was overwhelmed because I still just didn't know what that path was. As the arguing went back and forth, she asked me the question, "What do you want to do with your life Nick? You can't just be stuck doing this forever and living at home." As I broke into tears and screamed at her, "I DON'T KNOW MOM!!!" i finally let it all out. I told her, "I know I am a huge disappointment to you and dad and to our whole family. i know that I haven't been what you all wanted me to be. I know i haven't set the example that you wanted me to set, but you know what? If you go out into the community and ask anyone you meet who your son is, you can be proud of their answer. I treat people well, I am friendly, and kind. I try hard to help people when they need help, and if you ask anyone who knows me, they will say that."
In that moment, my life changed forever. I had never actually thought about it that way. It didn't matter to me WHAT I wanted to be when I grew up. To me what mattered was WHO I wanted to be. That one simple word in my thought process changed me forever. That one shouting match with the woman who i love more than anything in the world changed my course for forever. From that day forward I no longer focused on what I wanted to be, but who I wanted to be. I started volunteering to coach soccer and volleyball. I started really trying to make genuine connections with people. I started checking in on people that seemed to need a friend. Teaching and coaching came as a natural fit for WHO I wanted to be. I wanted to help people. I wanted to help young people. It's amazing how that simple change in mindset sent me on a different path. I had been so ashamed of myself for so long because I didn't know what I wanted to do with my life. In an instant, I started to feel pride in who I was.
My parents fought WITH me to fight FOR me. They never gave up on me, and they never let me down. As I have come into who I am in this world, I realize that all of the best parts of WHO i am come from my family. From the people that loved me through the hard times and cheered me on in the good ones. I'm not perfect, heck, no one is. I sure do give it my best effort to make sure that the people in my little world get the best of what I have to offer that day though. Some days it's more than others. Some days I need help just as much as the next person, but EVERY day, I try to go to sleep happy about how I approached the world that day. I try to just be proud of who I am one day at a time. We can't go back and fix our mistakes in life. I hurt people that I love and cared about along the way, I know it. I can't change that. All I can do is make sure that each day moving forward every person I am surrounded by gets the very best that I have to offer that day. Because the WHO to me is much more important than the WHAT.