Just Give Up, Son

“You can’t beat the system, son.”

 “You’re not good enough.”

“Just give up. You’re never going to make it.”

That’s what I was told. I was made to feel that all would be better if my life were not happening.

As an elementary school fourth-grader, I was tasked with preparing breakfast for my third-grade brother and me. My specialty was bacon, eggs, and dry toast and we ate that most days, occasionally adding a bowl of apple cinnamon oatmeal to the rotation.

I would cook the bacon in the oven and remember setting no less than nine oven towels on fire removing the cooking tray. I never burned down the house, but thrice burned the skin off my pinkie finger. I somehow would extinguish the blaze without much damage, but the resulting smoke would awaken the adult person designated as my father. 

My less than professional-level culinary skills were the beginning of the ridicule, to the best of my memory.

I do know that the insults continued well after my performance on the high school basketball circuit generated over 300 recruitment letters from small colleges around the United States.

These types of displaced comments, projected onto us by people whose cowardice belies their words, will replay themselves in our heads until we believe them, causing us to be afraid of the wind, if it blows hard.

But someone’s opinion of you, or your future, does not have to be your truth. There will always be at least two perspectives of you: how others see you, and how you see yourself. Your own view of yourself matters most; design an impressive spectacle. 

In response to the denigration, I created this image of myself as a 6’4” 225 lb. hulking genius of a man. I used that imagery on the playing field, and later in the business negotiations, until three years ago when my 6’2” son stood looking down at me as he beckoned for twenty bucks.

Though I was forced to acknowledge reality, it was too late; I am a giant—in all the ways that matter.