All these emotions, they’re all pent up.
It took a while to figure out who I was. I had a mentor who would recite this Drake lyric to me: “Know your value, know your worth.” And it was true. When you take the time to get to know and realize your self worth, you’re not going to put yourself in situations that would compromise the worth that you have. You’re never going to regret doing what you love.
Being a Black man in America we’re labeled as ignorant, uneducated, ghetto, we can’t swim, all these stereotypes. It definitely puts a chip on my shoulder to defy those labels, to defy those stereotypes and to keep on pushing.
“Defying labels like that and creating this narrative of my own, that’s something that I look forward to doing.”
I’m 21, a collegiate track athlete at the University of Washington, Tacoma. I’m practicing all the time, training, just grinding. I don’t think anybody would even think of a young Black man in college right now on the annual Dean’s list — not once, for the whole year — succeeding, getting ready to get his Bachelor’s, not owing anybody, having that all paid off academic scholarships. Creating this narrative of my own and setting an example for the people around me, that’s something I look forward to doing. My younger siblings, my younger cousins, even my friends’ siblings, having them see somebody who’s doing something big, knowing that just because I have this color of skin, doesn’t mean that I can’t succeed and be successful.
It does sound like a tall task. I don’t really view it as pressure to me. It’s just motivation to keep on doing my thing and keep on rocking.
“All these emotions, they’re all pent up.”
I was blessed to have a community where I was able to share my feelings, where I was able to go to certain people. I was fortunate enough to be able to talk to them about everything going on with the Black Lives Matter movement and the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. But it was a lot.
Build a community of people around you. Be very intentional on who you have around you and who you let influence you. If you look at somebody who’s successful, they have community behind them that’s supporting them. And when they get pushed down, they’re there to pick them up. Nobody does it on their own.
“I feel like people should be in a position to listen more than they talk. From there we can receive a lot more understanding of each other. And we can can live in unison.”
“When we don’t know something, we tend to panic.”
We’re all human. Nobody doesn’t like to know what’s going to happen next. Being a Christian, having my faith, I just put it all in God’s hands and I focus on things I can control.
As an athlete, you train for the next event and everything revolves around getting ready for that next meet. With there not being a meet, I had to draw motivation from areas I didn’t even know existed. It was also hard staying focused because we didn’t know when we’d be running again. It forced me to change my mindset to where, instead of having to get ready when things are coming back up, let’s stay ready.
“I feel like there’s been like a positive trend in my mental health.”
This pandemic has forced me to do some things that maybe I haven’t been dealing with directly. Taking the time to focus on the things that I’ve been kind of neglecting. Having an increased amount of time, I used that to invest in myself. And now I’m reaping the benefits of it.
In this last year, I’ve watched people die. Nine friends.
I realized that I was uncomfortable when my life was not chaotic.