This was me. In 2013. On my first day of eighth grade at the newly opened high school. The school was so new in fact that we had to utilize a small upstairs space in the Okatie baptist church.
In this picture, you can see my disarray. Belt crooked, backpack open, papers flying everywhere, textbooks not even in the backpack, shoes untied. This external disorganization actually represented what I felt on the inside as well: lost. Floating.
See as a kid, I had often mirrored other people in an attempt to be relatable. I copied others' interests; I did what other people did in order to feel like I had some semblance of a social circle. But really, I always felt lost because I was neglecting the one thing that truly mattered: my own self.
When I look at this picture, I see a kid who is trying so desperately to be happy, a boy who just wants to be heard, understood, and talked to, despite some awful things happening in his life outside of school.
8 years later, I have found myself.
I'm now a faculty member at this very school. I've developed into a man with a profound appreciation for passion and excellence. I've learned to be true to who I am. The people who genuinely appreciate and want to talk to me do. The ones who don't, don't. One might say that this sort of maturity is bound to just "come with age" but I don't think so. I think it's something that is forged by the magnitude of our internal willpower.
It is hard to feel alone. It is hard to feel like your interests are odd and don't fit the bill. Even as an adult, I have been tempted to fake interest in certain things in order to have meaningful social connections. But it is in that thought process that I realize the true pitfall of those who do such things.
So, today I stand, 8 years later. Belt straight, backpack closed, papers organized. Getting here has been a road fraught with hardships and self-doubt, but I think determination has brought me this far. And determination will propel me into the next chapters.
I am beyond grateful for the lessons of my past. They, and those around me, have empowered me to become the best man I can be... the best version of myself... and the best leader and mentor for those around me.
I'm excited for what the next few months hold. I am teaching a new curriculum I've designed called "Multimedia Storytelling." It is going to be the largest media arts class ever offered at JPII with 3 sections and a total of 30+ students.
I'll also be expanding my role... taking over as Yearbook advisor, athletics photographer, and will even be dusting off my old, barely-existent baseball skills for a chance to compete in the first-ever Alumni baseball game at our brand new home field.
The future is bright. But the future is only possible because of the sacrifices and lessons from the past. Stay humble and don't ever forget where you come from. That is all. 🔥