I went from being a chubby middle school kid to a towering 6’ 1” in less than five months. This growth spurt occurred at the end of eighth grade into my freshman year of high school. The problem with this growth spurt is that it hid my potbelly developed from years of neglecting my body. I now could fool people in thinking I was in shape visually but physically I was a very unhealthy boy.
Attempted To Be An Athlete
Due to my new height I was determined to play a sport. I always wanted to play football so I decided that my freshman year I would play high school freshman football. You couldn’t get cut so I liked my odds of making the team!
It was an interesting experience to go from coach potato to actually running sprints in football pads. Due to the mental block in my mind, I was convinced I should play on the offensive line. I kept thinking I was an overweight kid when in reality I should have been a wide receiver or tight end due to my new body.
I didn’t have confidence in my ability when compared to the others on the team who played since they were six years old! As a skinny offensive lineman I was definitely over matched! Lack of confidence also led to the coaches never knowing that I was the only player on the team without a playbook.
The two times I missed practice were the moments that playbooks were being handed out and team photos being taken. So there’s no proof that I played freshman football. No family or close friends saw me play. Only people who knew were my teammates.
One and Done
Well my high school athletic career did not last that long. During the third or fourth week of football practice I ended up injuring my knees. I did not even get hit or tackled. It was a fluke injury in which I just jumped and landed on my knees awkwardly.
What happened next was a pain that I’ve been experiencing for the rest of my life. I immediately knew something was wrong because both knees had pain in the same exact place.
I went to the doctor and got the news that I had sprained ligaments in both knees. Due to the severity I was told to use crutches for the whole first month of school. I kept that to myself and avoided the crutches. I ended up missing the last week of practice before school started.
The next time I showed up to practice was the first week of freshman year. I told showed the coaches my doctors note (which only stated I would need one week to heal). Due to this being week two I was told to go out and try to practice with the team.
I remember crying in practice because I was in so much pain! Teammates and coaches thought I couldn’t take getting hit. But the hits were not the cause of the pain. I felt like my body just gave up on me and my knees were in constant pain. I went to every practice and attempted but I was only 10% healthy. Feeling pressured by the coaches to “step up and be a man” is one of the biggest regrets in my life.
Due to the bad experience of the coaches (who thought I was lying all the time about my pain) and my knees never properly healing, I never attempted another sport while I was in high school.
Looking back I should have stayed in the football program and used them as a way to get into lifting weights. By lifting weights at that age I would have made my knees stronger as well as other parts of my body.
Additionally, I should have at least tried one more sport. For a sports fan like myself it’s sad to see the young me never taking a risk. The current me would gladly go back in time to smack this young version in the back of the head!
Still Smart and In Advanced Classes
I was always an outsider when I was in school because I was always placed in advance placement classes. In my freshman year I took a schedule that most upper classmen had therefore I had a lot of juniors and seniors in my classes.
I kept up with my theme of being friends with teenagers older than me. When I was in my own grade level class it was very hard to relate to students. I was so use to being around older crowds in my personal and school life; I just couldn’t connect with them.
When I was in classes with seniors, they were just average teenagers. Nothing advanced, just seniors doing the minimum to graduate. Most of them didn’t take school seriously, so I was selective in whom I would actually talk to. I had to play quiet Mike. I was stuck in this world of always feeling like an outsider.
In my advance classes I started noticing a pattern. This pattern had been developing every since I was in elementary school. I ignored it than but it become more obvious during my high school years.
I noticed that I was always one of two black male students in the class. I rarely had more than one other black male student. There may have been one to three black female students as well. Outside of the black students there may have been three to four other minority students in a class of 30 students.
I noticed that our curriculum always centered on European philosophy and history. I would rarely hear tales of the other races in our classes. If I’m in advanced classes why did my all projects and reports have to deal with people who disrespected my ancestors? Why does everyone always want to look at me when we rarely talked about slavery?
It was very tough to relate to most of the majority of the kids in those classes because they were not consciously aware yet. The majority of the kids in my advanced classes had a mom and dad at home. Whereas I was in a household of a single mother raising kids on her own.
I would see their parents buy them the latest computers, cars, video games, CD’s and clothing. The kids who were not financially wealthy appeared to always be in the “normal classes” not those advanced classes. That made me feel even more of an outsider among the advance group.
Knowing that I was ethnically and financially different made me want to stop being in the awkward situations I was in though out childhood. Due to growing up in that type of environment, it effected my decision to avoid the majority of engineering colleges in Virginia. I didn’t want to go to an Historically Black College, but I did want to go to a college that was ethnically diverse among all races.