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Experiences That Shaped my Passion for Fitness

(In 1500 words or Less)

Let me set the scene for you. It is a Tuesday night in Florida. The air is humid
and sticky. The bands of sweat run down a young boys forehead and slowly merge
into a pool tears as the sweat approaches the dark, bushy brows on the boys face.
Pale white skin line every limb on this boys body as sprinkles of freckles adorn his
fragile skin. His faded blue jeans brush against the cool steel of a 1992 Ford Truck
bed camper he happens to be sitting on. The night creatures play a peculiar melody
of random buzzes and chants and howls in the distance. Patches of grass greener
than dollar bills and gray colored dirt surround the adjacent areas. He runs his
hands through his course, jet-black hair. Desperately thinking introspectively as to
why his current situation is the way it is. His eyes burning and red. Swollen from the
profuse crying. Planning his getaway. Disoriented thoughts of leaving this crappy
town. Distraught and clearly hurting. His emotional sanity on err. Hurt by his
familys lack of concern for him. Hurt by the insults and constant teasing he
receives daily. Hurt by the pain hunger inflicts on his stomach. Achy feet from the
daily 4 mile walk to and from school because his family cannot afford more than 1
vehicle. Trapped in the vicious cycle of poverty. A pre-destined fate that is hard to
evade and cripples many dreams before they even take root in the ground. The boy
mutters prayers. Aspirations of a better life to anyone willing to listen. He harbors
feeling of deep resentment. Anger towards those who do everything to squeeze
every penny out of the poor, middle-class and wealthy alike to maintain their luxury
cars, 10+ bedroom homes and time-share condos. Frustrated by the profound
power of skin color. A mere child with slight awareness of how the world works.
As the boy grows older. He begins to learn the ways of his environment.
-Be wary of white vans and suspicious vehicles.
-Do not take anything (rides, food, help) from strangers.
-Avoid eye contact on the streets at all times.
-Do not walk outside alone once the sun has set.
-Stay away from the southwest neighborhoods.
-Be wary of white police vehicles and flashing lights.
-Avoid eye contact with the police and keep conversations brief and vague (you
didnt see or know anything).
The boy becomes introverted and afraid of social interaction. He fears sharing his
views with others for fear of not being understood. A shy person. Depicting a rough
exterior with an insecure interior. Labeled a thinker by his teachers. His mind
shaped by the insight from his mothers experiences and his fathers laborious line
of work. Obsessed with perfection because he thinks that is the only he will ever be
accepted as a person. Diving his face into school books because he doesnt have
many friends in his neighborhood, a product of his phobia: being rejected for being
himself. School grades and punctuality have earned him various school accolades:
perfect attendance, teachers honor roll, principles honor roll, student of the month.
Elated by his accomplishments. Not because of what they actually signify, but
because his parents promised him any meal on the Burger King menu if he did well
on his academics. A real luxury for a family of 7 who dependent on the income of a
construction worker.
Its around this time that everyone finds a niche that keeps them distracted
from reality. Something that eases the struggle and allows you to cope with your
state of living. Activities that make you forget how torn and old your pair of Nikes
are. How youve overgrown your clothing. How grateful you should be for all the
non-profit organizations that have given you donations quite often. The young boy
happens to find several passions that allow him to drown out his sorrow and pain.
He becomes in love with sports. He excels at anything that involves quickness,
endurance and physicality. It is one of the rare times growing up that others fight for
him. The team captains in physical education are quick to pick him. Salivating over
his value and the increased odds of winning the game of the day. The boy just
happy to finally feel as if he fits in. He enjoys displaying his physical talent and
tenacity for victory. Always willing to put his body on the line if it means helping his
team. In the moments when he is sprinting away from a crowd of rowdy red team
members in a game of capture the flag, he feels free, powerful, filled with
adrenaline and most importantly, care-free. His other passion is art. Not so much
going into a museum full of complex blends of colors and shapes, but rather
creating art. His favorite is free-hand sketching, illustrating whatever comes to
mind. His attention solely devoted to #2 pencils and vast blank pages of artsy
potential. The craft bringing him tranquility and peace, decreased aggression and
once more... praise. Praise for his ability to create. And a sense of learning to
express himself without putting himself out there. His last passion is reading. A
passion disguising his eagerness to learn. He believes reading will give him the
knowledge to see how the world works and expose its flaws. He averages about 2-3
books/week around this time. Being captivated in the fictional stories of Atticus in To
Kill a Mockingbird, non-fiction publications on various kinds of animal species the
boy never heard of. Fascinated and intrigued. Interested in complexity, novels where
you reason what happens after the undisclosed ending occurs. Bored by simplicity
and all its predictability. And suddenly, one-day afterschool... he finds his brother
using what he calls a bench. Performing what is known as a bench press...
That day becomes etched into the young mans memory. Replaying the
steady motion of the barbell dropping to his brothers chest and rising. Muscles
emerging and disappearing in a rhythmic fashion. A new desire to learn more about
that craft awakens. After some research, the young man begins exercising at the
age of 13. His routine is basic: push-ups, body squats and sit-ups. His vision is to
build a foundation. Within a few months, drastic changes take place. His frame
broadens, strength and stamina vastly improve, his confidence is beginning to build
and need for social assurance fades. Slowly, the emerging young man flirts with the
idea of self-approval. Becoming desensitized to all the pain and struggle in his town.
His empathy for others subtly recedes. Coldness and concern for his immediate
family and himself manifest. Does not believe in kindness from the heart. In his
mind, everything is done superficially, to abide by some mandate in society. Aiming
to use education as a way out of his town: Immokalee, the ghetto of southwest
Florida. Where athletics succeed, but everything else doesnt. Suspicious of
anything and everything. Questions others intentions. Witnessing the many wrongs
done to his family are to blame. From multiple break-ins to the renter homes his
family occupied, to hearing how his older brothers were robbed of their bikes in
broad daylight, to a few encounters with bad luck himself. The blaring sirens that
break the nighttime silence a constant reminder of the time his father was assaulted
and stripped of his belongings. His love for fitness the only thing sustaining his
candle in the abysmal darkness.
Good karma finally begins to set in as his begins his from high school. His
father has earned a well deserved promotion. My mother begins working full-time in
an environmet
Those are the memories that bring me gratitude for how far my family has
come as a whole. 2 college graduates, 1 vocational school student and another a
current college enrollee at Florida International University. My sister and I being the
first in our family (cousins and relatives included) to graduate college. There are a
millions instances in life in which I reflect on daily and
An Athletes Guide to Inner Excellence
Written by Gary Mack and David Casstevens

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