On Marshawn Lynch and Boundaries

As a friend to people involved in the public eye, the eve before the Super bowl found me at a promotional event hosted by Marshawn Lynch.

Because I hate freeloading even when my friends invite me, I usually ask if anyone needs help as soon as I arrive. They ended up being temporarily short on a person to attend to Lynch, so I rolled up my sleeves to assist. I noted he had several unusual requests; mainly he was willing to pose for pictures at the product owner’s request, but would not be speaking or answering questions. He posed for pictures, muttered, “That’s enough,” and his family informed me he was to be escorted away at once. I get him to his roped off section, the borders of which immediately become inundated with fans taking cellphone pictures and screaming for his attention over the din of the music. Marshawn immediately decides he does not like it there anymore, and his group moves to the center of the dance floor. They form a protective circle around him, and spend the rest of the evening dancing and having fun. Occasionally he would pull someone in the center to dance with, but the majority of the evening he reveled with just his crew.

At some point in the evening between crowd control and making sure my friend ate something, Lynch decided I belonged in the circle. He proceeded to hook his finger on my belt loop and pull me towards him as I was walking away. I, not knowing who had grabbed me or who he was in general, instinctively whipped around and rather strongly insisted I was not the grabbing type. Lynch gave me a quizzical look, and then proceeded to continue dancing alone as his friends gently led me away from the circle.

We had no other interaction for the rest of the evening, as I eschewed the dance floor for the safety of the area he had abandoned. At the end of the night I fetched his coat (as, when he decided to leave he graciously thanked the event organizers and made a swift beeline for the car to wait for everyone else to catch up), and a member of his party thanked me for taking care of them. “He liked you”, he said. I nodded and thanked them, completely bewildered by the course of events. The rest, of course, is history.

As I watched interviews of him recently that perplexing evening made more and more sense; Marshawn respects a fierce declaration of boundaries.

He is a man that, though a bit brusque in the application, staunchly refuses to place himself in environments where he is not comfortable. And if he has to compromise and be present, whomever he is here for has to compromise as well and do it on his terms. While he is 100% here to do his job- the rest, for him, is optional. But is his approach really that revolutionary?

He is certainly not the only athlete to do it. As we speak, UFC fighter and media bad-boy Nick Diaz avoided pre-fight media day completely-which he is known to do- opting instead to let previous interviews and the upcoming fight speak for itself. In what is being billed as one of the larger-hyped fighting events in the UFC calendar, Nick has let the public know in no uncertain terms that while he puts his body on the line for our entertainment, he draws the line at his peace of mind.

And I started thinking; this may not be a terrible idea.

How many times have we stayed around people or situations that did not make us comfortable? Entertained “frenemies” for the sake of keeping the peace? Stayed silent when we should have spoken up? Compromised our peace of mind and ability to do our work well in order to bend to someone else’s way of doing things? Continued to date a potential suitor who patronized us or was otherwise subtly insulting? How’s that working out?

Now, I am not advocating losing your job or putting yourself in a dangerous situation. I’m saying if it is within your power to control, why not? A temporary inconvenience is definitely worth your sanity. See what happens when you gradually fade away from friends who speak badly of other friends behind their back or are always caught up in unhealthy gossip. Try going a few months away from that guy friend that always insults women that are not his personal preference. Don’t pick up the phone when the person that gives your tummy flip-flops (and not in a good way) calls again. Keep a water bottle and head to the kitchen less often instead of enduring the office chatty Kathy. Avoid that group get-together that is always attended by the four people you never want to speak to. Mute and block with impunity instead of engaging the follower that always wants to play “devil’s advocate”. Choose quality. Choose peace.

People may not like being reminded that they are not owed your time and do not own your body. But that is the entire point. Your peace of mind trumps their comfort. As far as I’m concerned, we could all use a bit of Marshawn in our lives.