Be yourself. Never think you’re alone. Embrace differences. Take a stand for others.
Week 1: San Diego- Being yourself.
The first day of the ASA High School Tour started with great energy as the students rushed out and crowded around the ramp. You could feel the excitement from the anxious students as we warmed up on the ramp, giving a small preview of what was to come. As I stopped for a quick water break I overheard a student talking with flatland BMX rider, Trevor Meyer. “You’re amazing! How long have you been doing this?” the student asked. “Thirty plus years!” Trevor said excitedly. The student just sat there with a stunned look on his face. Trevor then explained that he has been at this for pretty much his entire life and that he wouldn’t have it any other way.
When you put a person in their environment doing what they love, they have the opportunity to simply be themselves and let their light shine. You get the best version of that person and all of the students were witnessing Trevor at his finest.
We do these demonstrations with ASA to show students that being yourself, even if it’s outside the box, is all right and completely acceptable. It’s the way it should be. The sad truth is sometimes being yourself can cause some issues when trying to fit in to the main crowd. However, the issue with fitting in is that once you accomplish the goal, you disappear. You essentially end up blending in with everyone and you lose that magic that makes you, you.
All of us athletes on Tour have experience with this issue but we have persevered through all of it and remained the best version of ourselves. It’s a road much less traveled and may seem very difficult at times but trust it; the foundation is well worth it later in life.
Week 2: Orange County – Never think you’re alone.
It’s week two of the ASA High School Tour and we’re rolling into Orange County. With the hustle and bustle of the Knott’s Berry Farm and Disney amusement parks nearby, you realize just how many people gravitate to this area of California.
The week started out smooth with great interaction from the faculty and students. Mid-week something interesting came about when we had an anonymous note left under one of the chairs at the autograph table. The letter was from one of the students. What started as note taking during the show transitioned into a journal log entry. The student poured their heart out through graphite, carving into the once blank pages of their notebook about their troubles and hardships. It’s incredible to see how quickly the message we share during the demonstration hits these students.
The student’s journal log had a consistent theme of feeling alone and misunderstood from incidents of bullying. They felt as though no one, not even their own parents, understood who they really were. In a city with a population of nearly 3 million plus, I could imagine the hardships of feeling alone and misunderstood would be heavy. These students are young, impressionable and learning who they are. The last thing they need is friction from the rest of the world against them as they’re coming into their own being.
Loneliness can lead to isolation and may cause depression and social anxiety. That’s why this journal log, whether it was left under that chair deliberately or not, was a significant moment of someone reaching out to be heard. The next time you ask someone how his or her day is coming along, be ready to listen, I mean really listen. You never know what someone may be going through on the inside even though they might look all right on the outside. You might be the difference between creating a moment for someone where just for a few minutes; they will feel like everything is okay and balanced in life. Be conscious and aware of your impact on others.
Week 3: San Francisco – Embracing differences.
Monday started off great as we pulled up to the school and saw students outside anxiously watching the ramp getting set up while in their gym class. We usually have some down time to interact with the students before the show begins and today I thought it would be fun to hop in a pick game of basketball with the students.
As I jumped in I began to notice how wild this scene was. It was the most diverse groups of students playing. Height, age and gender were not a factor for this game and it made for a great time. I could see that the faculty at this school did a great job embracing students for who they were. It was such a breath of fresh air being able to witness and be apart of that moment leading into the show.
It just goes to demonstrate how well the youth will respond to differences if they are shown that they are natural and they actually make the world a much better place.
Week 4: Sacramento – Taking a stand for others.
It is the last week of the ASA High School Tour and we’re in Sacramento. We have had such an amazing tour over the past few weeks and were excited to finish in a city that packs a punch between the history it brings and the progression it strives for.
Monterey Trail high school stood out to me this last week with a specific situation that I witnessed. As we were finishing the show I overheard two students getting into an argument because one of them had been experiencing a situation where he was being bullied and the other student was essentially telling him to suck it up and get over it. It slowly turned into an argument and as a faculty member and I began to intervene, a student stepped in frustrated explaining how he wanted the two guys to just get along. He stood up for the one being bullied saying it was healthy to speak out and told the other student that he might never know what someone is going through and that he shouldn’t just step on other people’s feelings and dismiss them so quickly. The tough-guy student was a bit reluctant but came around to the idea and the two of them shook hands and made up.
The teacher next to me and said it was great seeing first hand how one of the students stood up for a peer he clearly didn’t know and gained resolution with the situation. Sometimes all it takes is one person being bold enough to see the bigger picture. We’re together in this thing called life so we might as well work together. Teamwork makes the dream work. -Mykel Larrin
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