When I graduated from Duke University in 1991, I wasn’t in a particular hurry to get back. To paraphrase Sal Maricano of ESPN, “Happiness was Durham in my rear-view mirror.”

I’d gone up there to play baseball and football, but ended up playing only a single season of baseball, and while I was on the football team all four years, only played in two games. Not at all what I’d imagined.

That was 33 years ago, and a lot has happened since then. Turns out the younger me just needed to be patient.

This week, I’m back for the last meetings of my second term on the Duke Divinity School’s Board of Visitors (ironically, only took a single Div School class when I was an undergrad), and while there I spent time with the new head football coach and spoke to the Duke baseball team (for the seventh time in the last several years).

Among other things, I spoke to the team about the concept of “mastery,” the idea that we can work to continually improve. It’s about continual growth, not finishing – we never fully arrive. We’ll always have room to get better, but we can also appreciate how far we’ve come. Celebrate our successes, learn from our defeats, and keep pressing on to improve.

That would’ve been a good lesson for the twenty-one year old me. I left town feeling like I’d failed. I hadn’t done what I’d arrived thinking I’d do.

But now, looking back, I’ve stretched and added skills in different areas. I’ve found other ways to contribute to lives around me. 

So, no, I didn’t return to find my name miraculously in the record-books as I’d hoped so long ago, but that’s okay. More than okay, actually. 

Because it feels good to be back on campus, just as I am. More like home than even way back when.

So keep growing. Keep pushing. You never know where the journey will lead.

Your story is still being written.

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