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Long and short way to happiness

Dixon's Simon Thorpe shares personality traits with assistant sports editor Christopher Heiemerman. Both strive to be perfect, and struggle when they don't reach that level.
Dixon's Simon Thorpe shares personality traits with assistant sports editor Christopher Heiemerman. Both strive to be perfect, and struggle when they don't reach that level.

PEORIA – We’re not so different, Simon Thorpe and I. And not just because of the shaggy-hair phase the Dixon senior is going through, one that I finally ended the day I got my college degree.

A few weeks ago, Thorpe shot me a compliment on Twitter.

It was a few days after Sterling and Dixon played their very last football game, with the Dukes headed to the Big Northern West next year.

Thorpe called my editorial well-spoken. I had to laugh. The morning after I penned it, I wished I could’ve trashed it and re-written it.

I disliked the column so very much because I made a good point very poorly. I didn’t want to dwell on the subject of the conference change, so I tried to touch on it, then shift gears. If I wanted to talk about it, I should’ve talked about it and backed up my points. Lamenting the decision with a glancing blow was callow, at best.

But to Simon, it was a point well made. Kind of like me watching him run and thinking he's not unlike a gazelle, no matter how he feels about the job he's doing.

I beat myself up for the column most of that Saturday. This past Saturday, I once again watched Thorpe beat himself up unnecessarily after earning all-state honors for the fourth time in as many years.

But Thorpe couldn’t see it as that incredible feat. Despite a steady wave of Dixon boosters lavishing him with praise and thank you's at Stall 16, he was stuck on the fact that neither he nor his team were the best of the best.

Perfectionism is a slippery slope, one that can bleed into every facet of life.

So, while his father was guarded about saying it, I'm going to come out and offer this advice to young Simon: Find joy in what you do.

Life is too short, and it could all be gone in the blink of an eye. You’ll go down as one of the most decorated athletes in Dixon history. When you elected to switch from wrestling to cross country, I gather your dad was 100 percent behind you, because all he wanted was for you to be great at whatever you do.

Mission accomplished. All-state is great. Not very good. Excellent. Exceptional, actually.

Maybe this ink is ill-spent. Maybe you already get it. After all, you said this:

“What I’ve learned through my 3 years is to let the things you can’t control go, and do whatever you can to better yourself. You’ve just gotta be yourself.”

But what coaxed me to write this column was when you said this:

“I can’t be mad at them for beating me. Everyone else ran a great race.”

That last phrase is a fire-engine red flag. The untrained eye might read it as a tip of the cap to your competition. But – maybe it’s because I speak perfectionese – I read it as “I didn’t run a good race.”

I can sit in my tower and levy judgment, because since my twin girls entered the world, I’ve begun cutting myself some slack.

But, Simon, you don’t need to wait for a life-altering event to realize it’s a wonderful life.

I hope you flat-out crush it in Charleston this spring. But if you don't find yourself atop the podium, there's no shame in being just one of the best high school athletes in the entire state.

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