Monday, November 29, 2010

Your Story: "Epiphany"

Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. There's so much to be thankful for. Remember to focus on what we have, rather than dwelling on what we don't.

This next story is about the fight. Phil's found his truth... his epiphany!

Email me Your Story at


Hi, my name is Phil. I'm a survivor!

I'm a survivor of hate and prejudice, of a society that believes beauty is skin deep, and a person's self worth is based on their appearance.

I’m a survivor of an abusive father and two suicide attempts. But more importantly, I’m a survivor of my own doubts and fears.

You see, I've always been the largest child / adult in a group and I can't really recall a time when I wasn't.  The sad things is that over the years I'd convinced myself that I didn't care about my size, and that I was happy and content with my life. I had tried in the past to lose weight, but whenever I'd failed (which I always did), I simply convinced myself that it didn't really matter, and that I was happy with my size. I was only doing it to please my friends and family.

So what changed? 

Really, my story begins in the summer of 2008. I'd rejoined Weight Watchers and had been following the plan for several months.  I'd been quite successful and had lost just over 50 lbs in weight. However, by mid-January of 09', I was feeling really depressed. Despite having some very close friends, I just felt so alone and unable to convey or communicate my feelings to anyone - so much so, that by mid March I was contemplating suicide. By the end of March, my feelings of self-loathing and hate for myself drove me to take an overdose Obviously, I failed. I also failed with my second attempt, which occurred in mid-April.  Despite these failures, my feelings hadn't changed and I was determined to end my life. Through all this, I just wouldn't talk to anyone.  At the end of April, I prepared for another attempt. No one at that time knew that I had attempted to kill myself, but my feelings of inadequacy and loathing continued to grow day by day.  I continued to become more distant from friends, and would deny anything was wrong when they approached me in concern. In my own head, I thought that they were just being kind to me out of pity. I wondered how anyone could like someone so disgustingly obese.  I was desperate and just wanted it to be over. 

So what changed?

Well, I saw a music video on YouTube.  Now it probably sounds silly that one song could have changed someone's path so radically, especially one so self-destructive. Certainly it wasn't the only thing that happened to divert my course, but it was the catalyst.  It was like a release. I watched the video almost hundreds of times, sobbing my heart out. I rang the Samaritans, and more importantly I told my friends. I confided in the people that I trusted the most and they gladly shared my burden.  On May 13th 2009, I walked into my Weight Watchers meeting, and for the first time got on the scales feeling that I was doing this for me. Win or lose, this was my journey, this was my climb, and my mountain to overcome.  The last 18 months haven't always been a smooth ride. There have been trips and falls along with all the successes, but more importantly, the journeys continuing. I'm not perfect and I hope I never will be, but I definitely had an epiphany.  Self Worth comes from within not from other peoples opinions!! We're all individual, unique and wonderful.

Oh and the song that changed it all for me  was "The Climb" by Miley Cyrus:
 "It's not about the Destination, It's about The Climb"


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Your Story: "More Than Meets The Eye"

This next story comes from a fighter who I know well. Not only is she an athletic fighter, but more importantly, she's a life-fighter. She mentioned it a little bit in her story, but this young woman has conquered (and still conquering) some very difficult times. She was forced to grow up too quickly, which has made her look at life through cynical, yet "all-knowing" lenses. She's had to portray such maturity and fearlessness in order to lead her younger brother and sister.

The day I met her, I knew she was special... I knew she had qualities most don't... I knew she was hiding pain... I knew there was more than met the eye.

"More Than Meets The Eye"

For a week or so now, I’ve started my story at the very least ten times. I’ve tried the metaphorical approach and the direct approach. I’ve tried going from future to past and from past to future. I’ve tried leaving my life out of it. I’ve tried focusing just on tennis. As I deleted my last attempt, I wondered why it was so difficult for me to write about. I’ve finally decided to start with why it’s hard to talk about.

It’s tough to talk about because my life isn’t how it used to be. My past self and I are two different people. So different in fact, I have a hard time relating to her. Not even different in the I-changed-on-purpose-to-better-myself kind of way. I’m different in the sense that I had to change to survive.

Childhood wasn’t easy. I didn’t get to do a lot of things normal kids do. I seldom had play dates for starters—so I seldom had friends. I played a lot of tennis tournaments, so I was gone most weekends. But even then, I didn’t do well enough in the tournaments to make a group of “tennis friends.” I went to a private school from kindergarten to fourth grade before my parents finally pulled us out and sent us to public. Being overweight and middle class wasn’t easy in a kingdom of skinny rich kids. I was socially awkward, blind to any sense of fashion, and had no idea what I wanted. All I knew is that I was not happy about going out and practicing tennis everyday after school.

The night before my first day of junior high, my parents got in a fight, and we left our house to go stay with family friends. I remember grabbing my baby sister and brother, and hiding in the closet in the last room of the house. I remember the police officers looking for us, but we stayed where we were until discovered. I remember talking to them, and looking back, thinking this was the place in my life where I can point to that changed me forever! Not for the better, not for the worse... just changed.

From then on, my new purpose in life was to keep my brother and sister together. My focus was making sure they were okay, and got what they needed. At 13 years old, my job was to talk to the mediator, to work out a living plan that encompassed all of our extra-curricular activities. I cast tennis by the way side for a while to make sure we were okay, or at least to make sure we would be okay. It didn’t seem like a tough sacrifice at the time.

Eventually, high school came and I started messing around with tennis a bit more on my own. I played on the high school team, which helped me realize again how much I really did like tennis. For so long I thought it was something being forced on me, but I realized that I really did love it too. I did pretty well in high school, but more importantly I realized my passion for it. Well, maybe I had a little help from Dayne on sticking with it and striving towards a better attitude. To say I was a brat on the court is putting it nicely.

I’m proud of who I’ve become though. Tennis is an integral part of me. There isn’t a doubt in my mind that I would be partially dead without it. I’m no longer a brat on the court (all the time anyways, I still have to physically bite my tongue sometimes). I’m playing for a Division I tennis team at UCSB, which I love—but it’s definitely a struggle. I’m independent, paying my own way through college and learning to ask for help when I need it most—which because of my independence growing up, and even still today, is the single hardest thing for me.

My story isn’t over yet. Life isn’t easy. I’m still basically a kid. I make more mistakes per week than I can count on two hands. Bills pile up faster then ants on sugar, and I will never be able to “master” my life or tennis. But I’ve learned that life will never be easy. Mistakes will never go away. If I’m lucky, I’ll still be partially a kid forever, and there will always be another bill. It’s not about making your life perfect or achieving every goal. It’s about fighting your ass off to be happy. It’s about making yourself the best person you can be. It’s about having a purpose, something that makes you want to jump out of bed in the morning.

What makes you jump?


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Your Story: "I Dare You!"

This next story is soooo powerful! My jaw is still dropped, even after the 10th time reading it. It was sent to me anonymously in one long paragraph, as if he/she was venting without taking a breathe. I could feel the emotion and the pain it was born from... yet sense the power that's taken over in the end. This is exactly why I wanted you to share Your Stories. You won't be able to read it just once.

"I Dare You!"

While others shake in your presence, I rise up, and dare you to keep walking towards me. You have no power here; no sense of belonging. You're not welcome, and never will be again. Yes, I said "again," implying you once lived near by, but that was the past. 

Now is now!

You're powerless and have no venom left to strike with. I see you trying to intimidate. I remember the signs. This time, I'm wiser, ready to punch back. If you raise your hand to me today, you'll feel more pain than you can imagine. 

You see, I'm much different than I was in the past. I'm no longer weak and timid. I'm no longer sad and willing to be abused. I will no longer allow you to throw your hands, feet, or any other object in my direction. I'm unwilling to crawl in a corner and cower to your every bark.

You're my bitch now!

No, I won't touch you, like you did me. I'll simply walk away, speechless, yet powerful. My silence is my weapon. You can't make me scream anymore, as I now know this is when you smile. I dare you to try, though. I dare you to walk in my direction, look in my eyes, or speak my name. I dare you to even think about hurting me. A part of me wishes you'd become so bold again, as this would be the happiest day of my life. Please be bold. I dare you.

When you think of me, what do you see? Scared, right? That's laughable now. Close your eyes and think again. This time, picture strength. Picture me kicking your ass, day after day. Go on, picture it. I dare you. 

See me waking up every morning, stretching my arms, and looking forward to the upcoming day. I'm not alone when I open my eyes, either. I have a beautiful ray of sunshine always waking me up, my dog Sammy licking my cheek, and I'm guaranteed to be accompanied by my new found power!

Walk this way again. Open your mouth again. Raise your hand again. I dare you! 


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Your Story: "When One Door Closes..."

This next story comes from a gifted athlete, who once new she'd be playing high level collegiate soccer... or so she thought. The ups-and-downs she went through was obviously disappointing, but ironically resulted in helping her find her passion and career choice.

I'd love to hear Your Story, be it inspirational, painful, or something that forever changed you. Email it to

"When One Door Closes..."

My story starts when I was 5 years old and my parents signed me up for AYSO soccer. I was captivated by the sport, and by the time I was 9 years old, I knew I wanted to play in college. Before my freshman year in high school, I tried out for the better club team but didn't make it. I worked hard for 6 months and then in January made the team. It was my first taste of what it takes to succeed at the highest level in soccer. From then on I made a vow to myself that I wouldn't drink or do anything stupid outside of soccer and school. 

My sophomore year, we went 11-0 in Coast Soccer League Gold, which moved us to Premier (considered one of the best leagues in the US). We had a rough season but it is where I got more looks from college coaches. In my senior year, I looked at a few Division I schools but decided I wanted to go smaller, so I chose a small private school in my hometown. Since I knew where I was going, my senior year was set. My high school team had the best season they had ever had. We were unranked, but made it to the Division II CIF final, and tied the number 1 ranked team for a CO-Championship. We were queens of the school! In the back of my mind, I knew that I would have an amazing college career. I never suspected that I would not have a college career. 

Throughout my senior year, my left knee had been bugging me. They thought I might have sprained my MCL, or maybe had knee cap issues, etc. Nothing kept the pain away, so I just played through it. Finally in July before my freshman year of college, I decided to have a "clean-out" surgery, thinking that would fix it. It turns out this would be the beginning to the end of my soccer career. The doctor ended up doing a completely different surgery, telling me 6-8 weeks, when I found out later it should have been 6 months. I came back too early, tearing my meniscus in that time, requiring another surgery in Feb of 2007. I had NEVER been out of soccer for more than a couple weeks, if that. 

I now didn't know what to do with myself. I was depressed, confused and unsure. I realized I had gotten all my self confidence from soccer and now had very little. After season (we had dry season), I started partying and drinking too much. I began to rely on my boyfriend at the time for WAY to much. When we broke up, I then turned to other guys for a solid two and a half years, whether I was dating someone or not. 

I came back for my sophomore year not in great shape, but wanting and ready to play. My knee was still a mess and it was a horrible season. I played better in the Spring, but had 2 serious ankle sprains that kept me out most of the spring. Little did I know that a friendly scrimmage, in which I had my second ankle fracture, would be my last one in my schools uniform. In my first summer practice back, I made a sharp cut and felt my knee give out. Pop! Left ACL gone. 

I had no clue what happened. I even tried to run and play on it a little. It wasn't until the next day, when I saw the doctor that I heard the news. This created a whole new can of worms for my Junior year. I now knew I was out for the ENTIRE season. At this point, I had learned to handle things a little better than my freshman year. I had to raise my GPA, making this my main focus. I wasn't allowed to go to practice or travel if my grades weren't up to par. In hindsight, I'm SO very thankful for my coach doing this for me. I ended up with a 3.5 GPA for the second 2 years of college. At this point, I don't regret going through this injury, as it forced me to grow up in areas that I had on not yet.

I was released on April Fools Day, ironically, about 9 months after surgery. I was stressed about having my appointment on that day, but was trying not to be superstitious. I was able to play and was so excited until May 18th, 2009. Yes, I remember every date that I had surgery or got injured. Just playing on the same field, in the same situation, a summer training day. I went to pass the ball, planted my left foot, and heard a pop and felt a slide. My knee gave out again! This time, way more painful than before. Not sure if it was more because I tore my meniscus too this time or if it was the fact that I knew exactly what had happened. I knew I had torn my ACL again. It honestly becomes this sixth sense... I instantly know when someone else goes down, if they've torn it. It becomes this weird club that you become apart of. It's the understanding of what it takes to recover from the surgery. 

It took me a long time to cope with the fact that I only played in about 20 games my entire 4 years in college. I still think about it, but know that all things happen for a reason. The result of all my struggles is the fact that I found my passion. I want to guide other athletes going through similar situations, specifically helping them cope with injuries. I hope to provide inspiration and guidance to them... something I wish I would have had more of when I was in college. Since my knee surgery in June of 2009, I'e had ankle reconstructive surgery, as well as shoulder surgery. Both pre-exisitng injuries I chose to ignore for quite sometime but needed fixing.

I learned quite a bit in college, two things specifically. First, I wouldn't have tried to pre-plan my life like I did. I had so much hope in the fact that I would have a successful college career, I unfortunately didn't focus on anything else. If I had it to do all over again, I would've had a more well-rounded approach. Secondly, I found what I want to do for my career. I'm going into sports psychology and want to work with high school, college and professional athletes. I'm planning on getting my Masters in counseling, with emphasis in sports.  

As always, I will continue searching and acting on my passions! 

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Your Story: "Proud Mama"

This next story comes from a very proud mama. I met Kristin this summer before I started working with her son, Matthew. I was told by his swing coach that he was an amazing physical talent, but needed a little "mental tweaking." I was shocked at how mature and mentally tough this young man already was at the early age of 18. After our first mental session, I was 100% convinced he'd be playing on the PGA Tour in the future.

Email me with Your Story:

"Proud Mama" 

I'm choosing to write about my son. I wanted to share his story “so far,” because it has been an incredible ride, watching this child grow into a young man in pursuit of his dreams. Perhaps he was destined to be in that 1%, I can't say for sure. What I DO know is that his life has lead a very consistent and direct path from a very early age. So far, he has been achieving everything he has set out to do.

He found golf through my husband on the driving range, just banging balls... and he loved it. Next, he started going to a few junior camps, which immediately got him hooked.  By age 9, he started playing tournament golf. He wasn't very good back then, but it didn't stop him. I remember taking him to his second junior tournament at age 9 in the 9-11 year old division, thinking he was pretty decent. So I thought “what the heck - lets try another." It was Cypress Ridge (MUCH harder golf course). I recall he shot about a 97 on 9 holes (not good). I was rather mortified for putting him in the field, but he didn't get discouraged. In fact, on the way home he was very matter of fact about it, saying “boy I really need to get to work and practice more." Right then, I started to see just how committed he was.

At age 10, after being drafted to majors for baseball, he told me that although he didn't really enjoy playing baseball, he would finish out his commitment (which was thru age 12). He would then quit baseball for good, and focus only on golf and soccer, hoping to play golf in college. Being 10 at the time, I thought he was quite cute... yet, he was dead serious, and never wavered from that statement.  

So I became a “golf mom." 

My job, I felt, was to do the best I could to provide him an environment where he could hone his golf game, and compete and grow into the player he wanted to become. I had no idea at that time what that would mean. It started off being pretty easy, just taking him to local junior tournaments in the summer. By age 11, he was starting to show that he was pretty decent, and by the recommendation of a friend, was directed to go out of the area to compete. He started off by doing some events in Northern California, which meant bigger fields, better players, and better competition. We always sought out a place where he would get beat, but not annihilated, in order to help him understand what he needed to do to get to that "next level." This went on from about age 12 to 15, before things really changed. 

A good friend and mental trainer told us Matthew's head was fine, but if he wanted to pursue college golf, was going to need serious help with his swing. Soon thereafter, we found swing coach, Don parsons... another big time and money commitment. It was about an hour and 40 minutes each way to reach Don, but it was the best thing we could've done. In 15 months, Matthew went from a “not very good player,” according to Don, to qualifying for the US Junior Amateur. His golf life changed forever the summer of 2007. He was being recruited by many Division I golf programs, was playing in big junior events, and doing very well. 

This son of mine has been able to accomplish so far more than I ever dared to dream possible. He has made it into 3 USGA events, got a hefty scholarship to UC Davis (where he's in the starting 5), climbed up the men's amateur rankings, and become a sponsored athlete by Nike. 

I honestly have to pinch myself, as it's been amazing to watch. He was never pushed by his father or myself. He was always self driven. This kid would choose to practice on a Saturday in the rain, rather than play video games. This kid spent his summers traveling to compete, rather than lie on the beach with friends. This kid did fitness exercises alone in his room every night, in order to get stronger. This amazing kid!   

Am I proud of him? You bet.  Am I excited to see what is to come? Absolutely!!!  

Do I believe he is the 1% Dayne always refers to? Sure seems so!!! 

Thanks for letting me share my son's story... future PGA tour player, Matt Hansen. 

-Kristin Hansen

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Your Story: "Is Perception Reality?"

This story is about hope. The words don't say, "hope" but the message screams it. She was and is scared, searching and fighting a battle that many, many fight daily. She's winning! This girl will always win, because that's how she's built. She, as we all do, grind and claw our way through personal barriers... but she routinely kicks those walls down with full force. 

As you read, don't feel sad for her... feel happy; happy that she's conquering her villains. Simply by emailing this story, she's won. She's looking in the mirror, being honest, and doing something about the challenges she sees. This type of honesty is what makes people like her special... and 1%!! 

"Is Perception Reality?"

Does anyone else find it odd how we go to school to learn information, and to sculpt our minds…yet very few people actually grasp that the difference between understanding information, and understanding how we perceive that information? Then, there’s the understanding of yourself, as well as all the thoughts which reside in your head? 

I hadn’t given this much thought until I started noticing my own perceptions of things and started listening to that little voice that most choose to ignore. This is where my largest obstacle lives: Within me, in my head - my mindset. 

I have been living, for as long as I can remember, very unhappy and unsatisfied with my body. I've held it all in, letting that little voice sabotage each thought and comment made about myself. This dissatisfaction, however, remained an uncomfortable topic for some years before I decided to “do something about it”.  My “doing something about it” started off as more exercise…then more exercise with more healthy foods. Doing small steps, I heard, was the only way to lose weight, or “get in shape” (as I would tell family and friends). A year past and I still was unhappy and getting more unhappy and desperate. I tried only eating healthy meals and increased exercise to everyday. However more and more quickly, I would get fed up with all this work I was doing, seeing no results, and quit.

It was a gradual change, starting sophomore year of high school, but slowly I began cutting things from my diet altogether. Starting with less obvious things like candy, chocolate, breads, and sugars. I began cutting more things with a caloric value of more than 90 in a single serving. All the while, I was being guided by my thoughts of how much better I could be if I were skinny. I began skipping meals, slowly… lying about how much I was eating. I got good at lying. The easier it became, the more I would not eat. 

Very end of junior year, and into senior year, I still hadn't dropped much weight... which further heightened my desire to look like who I thought I was on the inside. I made a drastic decision: Each day, I wouldn't eat more than 400 calories. If I ate more, it would be considered a binge and I would need to purge myself clean!

I became part of support website, where people would talk and encourage each other to succeed in their quest for a pure soul. I labeled myself as EDNOS (eating disorder not officially specified). I began to believe everything my head was telling me, and started to self-loath. I adopted sayings that would repeat over and over in my head: "Those who skip dinner end up thinner." "Think thin." "Nothing tastes as good as thin feels." "A moment on the lips…forever on the hips".  I started missing out on social occasions with friends because they involved food in some way. 

However, all this time my life was slowly spiraling into itself, I had lost a good amount of weight... yet friends and family said nothing! I would occasionally eat with them so they wouldn’t become suspicious, but no one became worried. I felt mixed feelings about fooling them. I felt a bit victorious because they hadn’t caught on yet, but at the same time, a deep depression, thinking they knew but just didn’t care. That launched a whole new motivational urge for me. If they didn’t care, then I didn’t care! I lived like this for a long while. 

In the middle of senior year, I started working out with a class of women. The instructor was highly qualified and also a working nutritionist. She had noticed how tired and unmotivated I was during class, and asked what I had eaten for dinner. I was caught off guard and said I had not eaten yet, but was eating after class. She believed me, but only that once. Each class from then on, she would ask me what I had to eat that day. After a few weeks she figured it out. I began working with her as my nutritionist, and she gave me a very strict workout and meal plan, guaranteeing I would see results after 3 months. I could soon stop punishing myself for failing. 

After a few weeks of eating relatively normally again, I instantly felt physically better. More alert, focused and had energy. However my mental side still hated me for eating so much. Still, I went through the three months and saw no change. I was very frustrated and fed up with everything. I gained back every ounce I had worked all those years to take off. I was sad, but I understood that I had to eat even though I didn’t want to. I strived to eat as healthy as I could. 

I decided that I was going to make a new plan: Eat enough to get me going, eat healthy, workout and smile. I am old enough to know better, but also too young to always care. I am 18 years old and a first year in college. As cliché as it might be for a teenage girl to go through this, I would recommend not brushing it off as a “phase”. It messes with my mind every day. I wake up to the mirror, I often face meals like they are the enemy, and I fall asleep feeling full. I had grown to love the feeling of emptiness, and the feeling of hunger. I now live relatively on my own and have to admit that I do occasionally slip up. I, once in awhile, will visit the old websites of “thinsperation”, or skip a meal here and there. But it’s a work in progress. 

I am still unsatisfied with my body, but I’m working at it! That’s all I can do, right? My mind is a different matter. I have to force myself to enjoy what I see in the mirror, or purposely tell myself I look good, but I’m doing it. I look back at two months ago and see a difference in my attitude towards myself. As long as I’m moving forward, it doesn’t matter how small my steps are... as long as their pointed in the right direction. 

~Anonymous college freshman 

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Your Story: "So Much Pain"

When I asked for Your Stories, I knew there would be a few heart-wrenching reads... this is one. As I read, I could almost see her clenched fists, her gritted teeth, and her tears. I could feel her heart breaking with every word typed. There's so much pain in this young woman's life, yet she hasn't quit. She's a fighter, and now a teacher!

Thank you so much, Lauraa. I've read Your Story 7 times already.

Email me Your Story at Keep 'em coming. You send them... I'll post them!

"So Much Pain"

When I moved to Australia from New Zealand, my family consisted of my mother, father, sister and myself. My mother has a severe case of borderline personality disorder, along with various mental and physical conditions that burden her daily existence. 

My mother has been suffering with depression since childhood and became an alcoholic from a young age. She resorted to various drugs to ease the pain of her difficult lifestyle, and even resorted to numerous suicide attempts (ever since her adolescence). My mother’s mental illness is unavoidable and overwhelming for the whole family. 

Shortly after I commenced High school, my family broke apart and my parents divorced. My parents, through no fault of their own, considering the circumstances, placed a lot of the tension on me. Me, being an impressionable, nervous and homesick 13 year old, similarly began to spiral along with them. This is where my cycle of depression, body dysmorphic disorder, and recurring bouts of eating disorders initiated their godforsaken presence within my life. After they separated, my mother could not withstand the pressure of another break up in her life, once again turning to alcohol as a result. I lived with her alone at this stage, as my older sister couldn't cope with the burdens of my mother's illnesses and suicide attempts. Therefore, from the age of 13, I became my mother's full time caretaker, stopping her from meeting fate through her own means, or as a result of her numerous heart conditions, etc.

Anyway, that's the basis of where I am today: A young girl with a bitter distaste for the world, and with a debilitating fear of growing up. Maybe that's because, through my experiences, I was forced to age beyond my biological years. Or maybe it's because I feel as though I wasted my entire youth being terrified of the world and hiding away. Either way, it's debilitating.  
I read a quote today that made me really think:

"Don't regret getting old; It's a privilege denied to many."

Because I've spent the last few years hiding away in my socially anxious bubble, getting older and graduating has really, really unnerved me -- to be honest, it's something that relentlessly gnaws at me. It means that I'll be forced to go out into the world. It means I have to get a job. It means I'll have to get tertiary education of some sort. It means I have to leave my feelings of security behind.

I feel as though this could possibly make or break me, 'cause at the moment, the mere thought of these things gives me palpitations. 
Maybe I need to be forced, because I don't particularly trust myself with my own life. Something needs to change - all I do at the moment is think about it. 

I really need a foundation to get myself going. In all honesty, attempting to articulate "my story" in the length of an email and battling writer's block, I've come to the realisation that I still do have a chance at life.

I am only 17.

Only 17.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Your Story: "A True Transformation"

I can't say enough about how blown away I am with the stories I've received. Thank you all for the honesty and vulnerability you've shown. Please keep them coming by emailing 

This next story proves that age is only a number. At 19, she is mature beyond her years. I couldn't have imagined looking at myself in the mirror at 19 and being so courageous, admitting my flaws, and more importantly, doing something about them.

A True Transformation:

I never thought being 18 years old would be so challenging…

 I came fresh out of high school at 17 years old feeling confident and prepared for my next step known as COLLEGE. That word always freaked me out in high school. I had absolutely no idea where I was going and what I wanted to do with my life. Yet somehow, through all this confusion, I felt ready. As hard as it was going to be, I was ready to leave beautiful Santa Barbara and head to another city to begin a new chapter in my life. 

By the time moving in rolled around, I was 18, and feeling more like an adult than ever before. Right off the bat, college absorbed every part of me. I was surrounded by people I wanted to impress and girls I felt I had to compare myself to. I was constantly worried about my image and trying to find my place in this orange county private school. My roommate suffered through an eating disorder and self-image issues, and took me down with her. I imitated her lifestyle choices because I was constantly comparing myself to her and feeling the pressure of the social scene. I got drunk for the first time in my life and felt totally ashamed. I felt like I was in a little box, being thrown around by people surrounding me and letting them shape who I was becoming. I was letting people take control of my decisions and letting boys control the way I felt about myself. 

Tennis was an ongoing struggle, trying my hardest to constantly be the best that I could be. My relationship with God was experiencing high’s and low’s. I went to church and joined Fellowship of Christian Athletes, but I just wasn’t walking with the Lord at this time. Fortunately, I found my best friend through all of this, and she was someone I could truly be myself around. We went through all of freshman tough times together and I can’t even tell you how many nights we would just cry over boys or whatever it was that was bothering us at the time. Yeah, I chose my college and made some decisions on my own, but freshman year was a year in which I let people influence my decisions.

Once freshmen year was over, I came home to the best friends and family a girl could ever ask for. I spent almost every day with my best friends, and they were the most memorable times of my life. They take me for who I am and accept my weird and crazy self. Soon, FCA camp rolled around, and being a leader to 8 high school girls forced me to grow in my relationship with God, helping these girls through their personal struggles. I felt God using me as an example to them and a teacher to them - something I’ve never had the opportunity of being. I grew so much in this week, and after recommitting myself to Christ at camp, I knew a better year was in my future. 

Sophomore year began and I could tell right away this year was going to be different. Over the summer at FCA camp, I met someone who changed my life, and is now such an amazing friend to me. She chose to transfer to Chapman and her boyfriend is the leader of FCA here on campus. I knew I wanted to become involved in the club more now that FCA had given so much to me over the summer. I immediately became a leader in FCA, continuously went to church, watched God answer my prayers, and take my life in a completely new direction. I'm at a point now where I'm confident, because I know that God has complete control and has a plan for me. He has absolutely transformed my life this past year, and I continuously watch Him work in wonderous ways in my life and those around me. He brought me the best support system, the best of friends, the best opportunity to teach others about Him, and most of all,  an indescribable relationship with Him that is growing everyday. I made a commitment that I will completely knock out all things in my life that steer me away from Him. This includes drinking, swearing, and participating in things that do not set a good example. 

I'm a leader on campus for FCA, and have a responsibility that reaches farther than just in club meetings. More importantly, I have a commitment to God in that I will completely give 100% of myself to Him, and follow Him in everything that I choose to do. Why would I ever do anything that went against Him after all He has done for me? I now focus on making sure that God is the center of everything in my life.  He truly does take care of you and stand by your side through everything. I'm always in awe of what He has blessed me with, and wish I could put it into words for you the love He brings.

What separates this year from last? It’s not that I'm a year older or because I’m no longer a freshman. The difference is my mindset! I'm no longer the insecure 18 year old who gives into pressure and the OC image. I'm no longer confused about what I’m meant to do on the Chapman campus. I'm no longer lost in my faith and alone. I'm no longer focused entirely on my looks and actions…

I AM 19 years old. I AM a leader. I AM a follower of Jesus Christ. I AM confident. I AM beautiful. I AM a best friend. I AM an athlete. And most importantly, I AM ME. 


Monday, November 1, 2010

Your Story: "The Comeback Kid"

This next story simply made me say, "wow!" Bendigo's journey is painful, yet completely inspirational. I hesitate to put my words in front of this story, as it couldn't do it justice. When we think we had it tough growing up, read this over again. I've read it 3 times already, totally in awe of his strength.

Add Your Story by emailing me at Again, I don't have an 'end date,' so... you send it, I'll post it!

Enjoy The Comeback Kid...

When I was in 7th grade I had meningitis. It was bacterial and they were unsure if I would live through the ordeal. I lost 40 pounds and missed most of my 7th grade year. To say that it was a scary time in my life would be a lie. I was oblivious to the danger associated with this illness. I was a kid and my
thoughts were limited to when I would see my friends again, when I would have to go to class again, and more importantly when I would be able to play sports again.

After a lengthy stay in the hospital (weeks) I was finally told that I was on the road to recovery and could go home. My parents were, I'm sure, happier than I was. They would no longer have to take turns at the hospital watching over me day and night.There was always one or the other of them either in my room or in the waiting room. They wouldn't let them sleep in my room, so the waiting room became a temporary bedroom for one of the two.

So I get home and I am unable to walk. Weeks in a hospital bed fighting for my life had left me with not much in the way of muscle mass. I had shrunk from 110 lbs to around 70 lbs. I am a big boned person, and for that matter I was a rather big boned kid. Never tall, but what they would usually call husky. I didn't know fat till I was an adult (or at least late teen). I was able to hide the fact that I was so thin by wearing sweaters if I had to. Without a shirt though I look emaciated. There is no better way to describe the skeleton that was me without a shirt to hide my ribs.

I had to learn how to walk again. I developed strength in my arms fairly fast, but I had no coordination, and my brain didn't tell my legs to work the way they should. I became a monkey of sorts, simply dragging myself from couch to chair to table to get around the family room and kitchen. It wasn't through any great
will power on my part to be able to walk again except for the promise that my father made to me. I once asked when I got home if I would be able to play football next season. His answer was simple: If I could run and do all the things every other kid my age was able to do, AND if the doctor said it was ok he would allow it. My father told me later that there was no way he was going to let me play football after all that they had been through with me. I accepted the answer and began my own private rehab. I would sit on my bed at night and stand myself up. Sit back down. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Thousands of times I did that just to get some strength in my legs. It worked fairly well, and soon I was able to get to the bathroom without hollering for someone to bring me in (now that is freedom).

A home tutor was brought into my house and I began my schooling once again. Mrs. Moreno was my teacher -  an angel in disguise. She gave me no pity, and didn't accept my BS excuses for not getting something done. She told me that I could do it or give up. It didn't matter to her because she was paid all the same. If I wanted to quit that was fine with her, she didn't expect much more out of a boy anyway. Well that was all I needed as far as motivation went. She pushed exactly the right buttons to make me want to excel. Not just because I wanted to get better, but I wanted to prove to her that I was no quitter. I struggled daily with the lessons, and she was there to offer help when she knew
I was in over my head. She quietly helped me through the hardest hurdle in my young life.

Walking was pretty normal now and I was able to visit friends. Well, they were able to visit me. I wasn't let out of my parents sight for more than a few minutes at a time unless I was in "class". Eventually, I was allowed to get out in the front yard and not long after, was playing catch with a friend. And then
me and my dad were playing catch again. That in itself was one of the most awesome feelings in my life. The first time my dad heard me ask if he wanted to have a catch, he told me that it might not be a good idea yet. I explained to him that I had been playing catch for a couple weeks and thought he might want to join in finally. Reluctantly, he accepted and the smile on his face the first time I threw the ball back was from ear to ear. It didn't take but a couple of days of this before we were playing burnout again (throw it back and forth as hard as you can till somebody drops it).

In no time, I was back at school to finish up the 7th grade. I got to be involved in the last quarter of the year. I might add that I had 4 F's a D and an A that quarter. My wonderful home teacher had begun teaching me from the wrong place in our books, and I was completely lost. I didn't care though. I was just happy to be
back in school. I should also explain that my one A was in Physical Education. I was able to play all the sports that everybody else did, and I promise I was dressed out for P.E. every day.

Summer came and we were pretty much back to normal. I got tired sometimes, but not enough to notice. I was also still doing my silly stand up sit down exercise, but now I was doing it from the ground. I also added a jump to it. I would sit on the ground and then stand up, jump as high as I could, then sit back down. Over and over again, I did these in the bedroom before bed. It was my one way to exercise in private without anybody knowing I was doing it. I wanted to be ready to try out for football, and this was something to help - or so I thought.

With a month of Summer left, football sign-ups came. I asked my father if I could try out and his response was NO! I called him a liar, and ran out of the house. He chased after me and yelled for me to come back. I would have no part of that. I ran out of the cul de sac and down the street, with my father trying to catch up. After about 3 blocks I got tired and started walking. I turned
around and my father wasn't following anymore. I figured I had a little time before he caught up so I wasn't too concerned. I was just mad that he didn't do like he said. Not more than a couple of minutes later there was my dad in the car telling me to get in. I didn't say a word I just climbed in. We drove straight to the family doctor (yeah there used to be those guys back then). He
gave me a physical and told my dad that I was as healthy as you could hope for. The next Saturday I was signed up for football!

I was scared during those first weeks of tryouts. What if I couldn't keep up? What if my coordination wasn't back? What if I just wasn't good enough anymore? I made the team, and was put on second string. Now normally I would have been pretty upset by that. I had always been a starter before this, but figured that
maybe I had lost a step since I was so sick all that time. It didn't take long for me or the coaches to see that I was still the same player I always was. I was moved up to first string before the first scrimmage, and there I stayed.

The first game is the only one I can remember from that season. I was petrified. I hadn't been face to face with another team since before I was sick. All those doubts came back to me in a flash. What if was everywhere. Our coach huddled us up and told us all the normal pre game garbage. Pumping us up and getting our
blood boiling. We all broke out of the huddle in a frenzy, ready to kill anything and everything. My coach grabbed me and took me to the side. He explained to me that I shouldn't be nervous. I didn't know it showed, but he obviously saw it. He told me I was ready, slapped me on the helmet, and let me go back to the team.  My blood pressure had to be reaching stroke level by this time. I made my first tackle, making everything ok after that. I was calm and back in my element. The game went by fairly smoothly for the first half. The second half came and one of the coaches told me I looked tired, and was taking me out. The head coach would have none of it. He told me if I was tired to get off his field. I told coach I wasn't tired and wanted back in. That's all he wanted to hear. Out I went, ready to prove it. First play, they tried to pass. I was a short guy back then, and most quarterbacks tried their luck against me. They didn't figure I was fast enough or tall enough to intercept their passes.....WRONG! I interecepted the ball and ran back about 30 yards before I was tackled. That was the icing on the cake for me. We won by a ton that game, but I don't even remember the score.

At then end of the season, we were at our party to see who would get the awards for best offensive and defensive players. Top rusher and all that good stuff. Coach came out and told us that he had a special one to present. He called me up front and gave me a plaque that was presented to The Comeback Kid....I received
the most inspirational player award that day. No award before or since has meant more to me than that one. He told all the parents and players that day that he was inspired by a 7th grader who gave everything he had to be a part of this team. I was embarrassed by all of the goo he was slinging, but I walked away with my award, and my head held high. Nothing is impossible if you believe enough...

There's always Hope.

This is a story that I'm told is worth telling, and was truly a defining moment in my life.  To this day, when things are a bit tough, I can draw on this experience, and remember there's always hope. While it was nice to have so many others who supported me, I realized that at the end of the day, believing in myself and what I was going to do, made the difference.

Hope is an awesome thing.