Day 6 “The Student”

morehouse graduation

Just six pounds and fifteen ounces and barely 20 inches long at birth, he came into this world a little dynamo with his fist balled up and screaming without waiting for the ceremonial slap on the behind by the doctor.  Boy was he loud!  But he was healthy and had just fought off earthquake like contractions for 4 months trying to bring him into the world ahead of schedule.

At exactly 40 weeks he made his debut.  Small and happy, not sure if he liked breast milk or preferred formula before finally settling on breast milk; at least for the first 6 months that is.  After that his appetite was too much and needed to be supplemented with formula. He wore his love of food like a badge; unlike a lot of small children who balked at eating vegetables like peas, broccoli, sweet potatoes, collard greens; heck he even loved carrots.

By the time he was in pre-kindergarten he was a happy, adorable cherub faced little boy who everyone loved kissing on his “fat cheeks”.  He had an electric smile that would light up whatever room he was in while showing off dimples in both cheeks and a twinkle in his dark brown eyes that made other people laugh whenever he did.

But then something happened….. we noticed a change in his outgoing confident personality by the time he started middle school.  Sixth grade at a new school with kids he’d never seen nor had they seen him before proved to be daunting.  He was suddenly the “fat kid” and developed a huge complex particularly when it came to gym class and changing clothes with other boys.  He was often teased but never bullied (he was much bigger than most kids his age)so kids would often whisper behind his back.

When he was 14 he abruptly announced “I’m quitting the soccer team” he exclaimed one afternoon after a tournament game; when asked why he simply replied “I’m tired of being taunted on the field, tired of having to defend myself for looking like a linebacker instead of a soccer player”.  High school ushered in a host of new problems; low self-esteem and self loathing.

It was heartbreaking that nothing his parents tried to do to encourage him and help him to lose weight would work, no amount of positive reinforcement would help nor leading by example including  joining health clubs as a family.  It was all just a exercise in futility.  The one constant he had was his good grades.  In some weird way being a really good student help set him apart from all the other kids at school.  He could feel superior to the “dumb jocks”, or the “slackers”.

With graduation right around the corner he was a candidate for a dual diploma; he has so many credits that he can graduate with both a technical and a honors diploma.  “Thank God high school is over” he would often say, and was enjoying the summer before he would go to a local private college.  But this was short lived, being a math and science enthusiast he was offered the opportunity to come to school during the summer for a 10 week apprenticeship and earn some pretty good money in the process. Of course he accepted the offer.

While living on campus during the summer, along with the other 24 recipients of the STEM scholarship (his first time away from the loving environment and protection of his parents) he discovers that he hates being on campus. Hates the expectations that he places on himself only to fail over and over again when he chooses to sleep in rather than  going to the gym with a group of dorm mates.

He finally comes to terms with the reason why he sabotages himself; he has a fear of being the “fattest guy in the gym” and this starts a year long rebellion that finds him skipping and dropping classes; pretty much just barely holding on.  Then one day about 3 o’clock in the morning my phone rings.  He’s on the other line and says he needs to talk to someone; someone nonjudgemental; someone that he can trust to be his confidant and wouldn’t let this conversation go any further the the two of us.

He tells me that he has had an “epiphany”.  He tells me that he is not happy with his current choice of major and is afraid to tell his parents who are so proud that he is studying Bio-Medical Engineering.  He says “I am miserable and I feel like I’m dying here”, “like I am just going through the motions”.

After a little bit of soul searching, crying and some laughing we hung up with him feeling like he could make some sense out of his life again and me feeling like I had help make a difference in a young persons life.  Now more focused than ever, he was excitedly awaiting the beginning of the fall semester.  It was like he was a man on fire; on fire for life.

He switched his major from Bio-Medical Engineering to Philosophy and minored in Psychology and became one of the brightest students of his graduating class. His new zest for life gave him what he needed to finally lose those fifty pounds and keep them off. With his new stealth physique and bold confidence he became unstoppable.

Often taking the lead during group projects, volunteering to give the presentations and helping to tutor students that needed help with essay writing and public speaking.   Yes he had become a new person.  No longer filled with guilt and shame, or self pity and self loathing.  This young man had remade himself into an ideal student.

But one of the many bonuses of him growing into this confident, loving, caring human being has been that he has learned to love himself as well.  And that is probably the greatest accomplishment he could have made.  Recently, we had a conversation about how much he has changed and he told me something that I will never forget.  I am writing this post with his permission.

He told me “I just want to make the world a better place, a more accepting place, a place where no matter what size a person is, he or she will feel valued.  He or she will feel that they matter.  I don’t know how or when I’m going to do it, but I am going to make this my life mission; to teach people to love themselves and their neighbors”.

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8 responses to “Day 6 “The Student”

  1. I am crying tears of joy right now. You did a superb job of building his character. I cry because of the VICTORIOUS ending. You made his character the champion in the midst of adversity. I absolutely LOVED it! My goodness…what more can I say? Job well done? That doesn’t seem to be strong enough.

    I look forward to much, much more from you. You have a new follower! 😀

    ~ Angela

    If you are interested in my Day Six assignment, you can find it here: http://putittogether4u.wordpress.com/2014/06/09/my-senses-were-assaulted-day-six-blogging-university

    Like

    • Thank you for taking the time to read my post. I appreciate your kind words. It took me a minute to figure out who I was going to write about but then I thought about this amazing young man and I had to share his story!

      Like

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