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The Hardest Thing I Have Ever Done: Being Alive

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Dave Wilber

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I walked into the Lobby of the Embassy Suites with my heart racing. I was meeting with Ron Whitten, the author of a bunch of great golf books and all the architecture stuff for Golf Digest. Ron had asked me to meet him and tell the deepest personal story I have. And while I have told bits and pieces of it here on TurfNet, this is another level of exposure. And I wanted to run. Away. Far.

whitten_article.jpg"You are a fucking disaster, Wilber", my head screamed. Loudly.

Three hours later, I emerged from Ron's fifth floor room with my head like a vacuum. He drained it. Got it all. I had to tell my story in a way that I never had been asked to. And to say that Ron Whitten is a good interviewer is like saying that Jimi Hendrix was an OK guitar player. Whitten is a master at getting to the story, a talent one builds when spending a lot of time talking to full-of-themselves golf people. The October issue of Golf Digest Magazine has this article, entitled, Silent Struggles.

The whole thing was born out of one of a Twitter troll taking a shot at me, liking me to  "a Kardashian". And then telling me that I wasn't an expert at anything just because I had a Twitter account. Whatever. I get that stuff all the time. Social media is a cesspool at times.

But in this case, it was on the heels of a proposal for GIS 2020 being turned down. Not my proposal, but Paul MacCormack's proposal to have a panel discussion with some folks who have dealt with depression and anxiety. The GCSAA Conference Education Committee didn't go for it. They wanted it refined. And for a moment, I was fine with that. Until I was called a Kardashian. And later a Snowflake. So I decided to battle the battle bots. 

A 16-tweet thread later (my 16 tweets), two phone calls (one with a GCSAA staffer) and the second being a very "direct" convo with a super, and I was in full grizzly bear mode. I wasn't about to be told that telling the story of my largest life struggle (my life itself) was an attention-seeking whore move. Nah. Just No. And Hell to the No.

I wasn't about to be told that telling the story of my largest life struggle (my life itself) was an attention-seeking whore move.

You see, here is the thing. I've been talking about depression, anxiety, suicide (including my attempted suicide) from a very raw and real place. But I've been doing it mostly among friends. Because of people like Paul MacCormack and a group of others who aren't intimidated by the stigma, there is a dialog going on that wasn't happening just a few years ago.

When all this was going down on Twitter, some super tried to tell a few of us, namely Kasey Kauff and Jason Haines, that we were "Snowflakes" and just had a case of the "Mondays". And then I really lost it.

Since my second attempt at killing myself in 2015, not a day that goes by that I don't think that things would be so much easier had I succeeded. I was badly under-insured, and the health care system drained me of pretty much all my money and my credit rating. I barely worked in 2016 because, after repeated organ shutdowns, my body was in full-on rebellion and I couldn't handle the travel required of a full time turf consultant. And I had to get my head straight. To deal with the problems and not the symptoms was the only way to get better.

Life remains hard.  I often wonder why I messed up killing myself.  Many days there doesn't seem to be much in it for me, at 53.

And then, I get a chance to help someone. Somehow. And then another. And another. And that makes we want to stay around. 

So when Ron Whitten wanted to tell my story and that of others to 1.6 million subscribers and another 20 zillion online readers of Golf Digest, I had to take all my pain and my angst all the way out of the equation. And I had to ask myself what the value of helping someone really is. The rationale: if I at age 24 had read something as powerful as the story I now had to tell, written by someone who knows the business, would I have made some different choices? Yes. Hell to the Yes.  

As this article broke, I had to get in front of it on social media, taking to Facebook and Twitter to explain to the masses about why this happened. Thankfully, I found that some people get it. I've gotten a lot of words that have allayed my fears about having to live in a van down by the river as this comes out. And yes, there are are few, who should thank their stars, that don't get it because they haven't see the darkness that I, and many other have.

Since 2015 I have tried to get well. Really well. And it's working. Things that used to not matter suddenly loom large. And vice versa.

I'm not the "don't give a fuck" Wilber any more. I wanna make a living. I wanna stay in our biz. I like you all. I even love many of you. This new dialog about what is affecting our personal lives is a good thing. I'm in a good position to advocate for better decisions by owners and committees because so much maintenance has been deferred for the last decade. My Agronomy Mojo is strong again. I feel real. And not like I have to kowtow to anyone.

Advocate, both verb and noun. The more I roll this word around on my tongue and in my brain, the more motivated I become. We often hear of advocacy in political or other weird terms for some wingnut strategy. When I look at our Turfhead world, I don't see many people advocating for a better quality of life. Or for truth in what a shambles many golf operations are really in (a coming blog post is going to address this, head on).

advocate.jpg

My life isn't so quality, sometimes. I'm being honest. It's a struggle being me. But when I forget about me and my ego and think of higher good, and greater things, then I get it so much more. Was the interview with Ron Whitten hard? Yes. Was it the hardest thing I have ever done? Oh, hell no. Being alive takes that spot.

BUT...

While more difficult than I want it to be, living life with appreciation and seeking joy in all things gets pretty good. I have made insane strides with my health. I smile a lot. I dream. There are friendships. And music. And love and experiences that I would never have had had I taken the "easy way".

While more difficult than I want it to be, living life with appreciation and seeking joy in all things gets pretty good.

So don't let my tale of the past keep you from seeing that there is life worth living. For sure. I learned to trust my helpers. And not be so determined to do it all myself. I have faith. My own version that works for me. And I revel in the fact that I get to spread some Truth and Love and Fun. And honest talk. Hell, yes! Hell to the Yes.

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I can't believe I am the first comment here, Dave.  There must be others in the que that have not been registered.  You are not alone, and many, most, all, of your readers understand.  I have been consulting now for over 30 years after having been a superintendent for 15.  I have never seen such trauma in our profession as I do now.  The expectations far exceed reality, and that translates to stress, anxiety, depression, and a feeling of failure or impending failure.  We are at a breaking point in this profession.  If something doesn't give, there will be many more superintendents for Ron to interview.  It doesn't have to be this way.  I am so proud to have been your friend all these years.  Keep speaking out, and keep helping.  We have that in common, and that is why I keep going.  You do the same.  Superintendents need you.

 

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Thank you Dave for continuing the fight. We need Dave Wilbur in this world.You have so much to offer those whom you come in contact.

The turds are turds that we hopefully can just flush away. Easier said than done at times. You and others are doing a great service laying your life’s  book open for all to see. You will/have helped save lives and families through your selfless discussion about your struggles and how you are working to come out the other side! Bless you brother

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Hey all. Thanks for reading. Really.

It's been an overwhelming week. For me and for the others mentioned in the article. I may be a bit more used to being looked at than they are. Kasey got a call from Ben Crenshaw, "just checking in". That has to be overwhelming.

Joe and Jon, I appreciate your words here more than I can say. And I was told today that a few non-turf civilians tried to post here and couldn't. That's pretty cool.

I'm gonna take it easy this weekend. Do my taxes and reflect on what an amazing bunch of people are my friends.

 

Thanks.

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You probably don't remember me however, I will always remember you.  You helped me on so many occasions here in Northern California that I would not have lasted as a Superintendent for as long as I did without your input.  I am one of those that was forced out by a General Manager who had no idea what we battled out on the course or how awesome my team was, we rocked it.  The corporate world got the best of me and sent over 22 years in the business and education down the drain.   I loved it, and I miss it now.  We did great things, many challenges were done great because of you and I talking turf.  All that is ok now but I too struggled with the pressures of the turf industry however....you my friend, made life on the course worth living and you made it fun and exciting! So, thank you for being there not only for me, but for the thousands of others that benefited from your wisdom.  Dave Wilber is the MAN!  Hope to see you on the course.   

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On 10/1/2019 at 1:31 PM, Kevin Reguera said:

You probably don't remember me however, I will always remember you.  You helped me on so many occasions here in Northern California that I would not have lasted as a Superintendent for as long as I did without your input.  I am one of those that was forced out by a General Manager who had no idea what we battled out on the course or how awesome my team was, we rocked it.  The corporate world got the best of me and sent over 22 years in the business and education down the drain.   I loved it, and I miss it now.  We did great things, many challenges were done great because of you and I talking turf.  All that is ok now but I too struggled with the pressures of the turf industry however....you my friend, made life on the course worth living and you made it fun and exciting! So, thank you for being there not only for me, but for the thousands of others that benefited from your wisdom.  Dave Wilber is the MAN!  Hope to see you on the course.   

Kevin....!!

Of course I remember you. And I remember the amazing  job you did in Redding and I always wondered what happened to you. Where are you now? I'd love to catch up! send me a note to davewilber@yahoo.com

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Hell to the YES! 

Thanks for what youve been doing.  The recent discussions on these topics have been helpful to many of us. 

 

Its hard to not react to the loud minority, but that is all they are.  You nailed it with this one - "And yes, there are are few, who should thank their stars, that don't get it because they haven't see the darkness that I, and many other have." 

All the best to you and yours

 

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