This last year has made me realize a lot of things about myself and my life. I have never been very good at speaking. During a long conversation, I almost always mess up and say something I didn't mean to. I ended up switching letters around in words, saying a word I didn't mean to say, mispronouncing something, etc. Over the past year, I've come to realize that no matter how bad I believe I am at speaking, I will always be able to write. Writing something sets your words in stone. It puts the hammer to the nail. Writing for me has become a tool that allows me to say what I cannot audibly portray, and something I think I can write better than speak is how blessed I truly am.
God has given me an unbelievable amount of attributes that have allowed me to form this identity for myself. I never had many friends growing up. At points, I was picked on and ostracized for my height. Being taller, other people took the view that I was older than I was acting. My mom still tells the story of how one day I threw a temper tantrum in the grocery store and a lady came up to her and asked her whats wrong with her 8 year old. I was 4 at the time. I didn't have my first "real" friend till 4th grade. The 2nd kid from the left in the picture above, Michael Keogh. He is still one of my best friends to this day.
Throughout the rest of my younger years, I used basketball as a means to meet people. Even though I was on teams with kids from my school, things weren't easy for me. I didn't know how to branch out and be myself around other people. I don't know if that is what made me an easy target for jokes and mockery, but I remember hating it so much that I would tell my parents I wanted to quit. It literally took a time where parents overheard what someone was saying to me for me to be set up on a "play date" with a kid from my team in 7th grade for me to gain friends. After that play date, I had a protector and a person to call my best friend who allowed me to be whoever I wanted. His name is Kevin Benjamin.
While I was always tall when I was younger, I was never big. I was skinnier than a rail for a very long time. I was very bad at defending myself, which naturally made me pretty afraid to get hurt in football. While I was basically scared the whole time while playing football, it allowed me to meet many new people. Ill be the first to say it, for a very long time I would be what most people call "immature." I would goof around all the time during football. I embraced that goofball identity as a means to make people laugh and fit in.
I was blessed with a "proper" upbringing. Both of my parents had good jobs, and they provided me with most everything that I needed, and a lot of things that I wanted. Although my parents got divorced when I was about 9, they were both very active in my upbringing. Having your parents get divorced sucks. It divides the family, and causes a lot of family problems. But that is for another page. I was able to attend private schools from kindergarten through senior year of high school. I would argue that my high school, Benet Academy, is the best private high school in the Midwest. I honestly wish I could go back there and have a few more years. It is there where I developed into who I am today.
To start, I did NOT want to go to Benet Academy. I went into the school with a horrible attitude, and hated every moment of my first year. I wasn't enjoying sports, I saw so many people forming friend groups while I had only a couple friends, and school was very overwhelming. By the time my senior year was up, I didn't want to leave. But it was my sophomore year when I began to realize who I am. It is then when I began to realize that it is more about standing out than fitting in. For me, that is very fitting.
It was at that point at the beginning of my sophomore year that I stopped caring about who the popular kids were. I stopped caring about how other people view me. I stopped caring about doing things that everyone else was doing. I began living my life in my own way. These trains of thought carried into other parts of my life. I started playing basketball how I knew how to play, instead of trying so hard to change my game for people to notice me. I took refuge in the gym. I started to refuse to take "not good enough" as an excuse to not try. I stopped complaining and feeling sorry for myself, and did what I could to make a name for myself. To stand out in my own way.
Through that I was able to form this small group of friends. Early that year, I met a kid who has become my closest friend since this year, Alex Flood (kid in the middle in the picture above), who now lives with me in Madison. His family and mine have become very close as well. His older brother, Dylan, turned into my basketball training companion when we are at home. I started becoming close with a guy from my grade school who I never really got along with before, Kevin Leszczynski (say that 10 times fast)(Also, the kid on the far left in the picture above). A friend who I had played basketball with since 4th grade, Joe Menconi (kid on my left in the picture above), rounded out the "Starting Five." They have been group of friends who have always been there for me whenever I have needed anything. The roster reads as:
SG- Kevin Leszczynski
SF- Michael Keogh
PF- Alex Flood
C- Joe Menconi
(The picture above is a two part picture. The top half is on our last day of High School. The bottom half is when the other four drove down to Dallas to be there for the final four. I knew they wouldn't have missed it for the world)
Through the years, basketball has been always been a big part of my life. But, basketball is not who I am, its what I love to do. I am the kid you see playing basketball. Throwing up goofy hand signs, blowing kisses to the crowd, etc. Thats me. While I do have that fun-loving side of me, I also have a fiery side as well. I refuse to accept the concept that someone else is better than me, and there is nothing I can do about it. Im a fierce competitor in everything I do. But I have learned how to have fun while doing that. No one likes a competitor who is an ass. In some cases, I've learned that the hard way.
I am an "off-brand" guy. I am unique in my own way. I am not afraid to do or say anything. Sometimes, I regret when I say or do something stupid (like saying the NBA is boring), but I am in to no way, shape, or form scared to live my life. If you didn't notice by my goggle/headband combo in games last year, I don't care if I look like the biggest dork in the world. I embrace who I am. I don't try and hide from it.
I like having fun. Plain and simple. Ill talk your ear off with random stories. Ill goof around and crack jokes. Ill voice my opinion in any situation. I will try to do anything I can to get what I want. Ill let people know I am mad at them. I am loyal to everyone and everything I care about. I will pour all my time and effort into something I enjoy doing. Im not afraid to make mistakes or piss people off. I realize that life is going to happen and not everyone can always be pleased.
I have had my struggles and fair share of problems. Things haven't always been easy for me. But, God has given me all the gifts in the world. I have a great family. I have a wonderful mother and father, and 2 beautiful sisters. I have the best friends who will always have my back. I've been blessed with the height and skills to be able to play the sport I love at a high level. I have the best teammates in the world who always support me and look after me. My biggest piece of advice that I would be able to offer anyone would be to find what makes you stand out. Don't be afraid to show everyone who you are and what you stand for. The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.