#BigThingsComing Part 3, Who Shaped Me?

It’s March again, which is Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month. I like writing this kind of thing in March to give people a chance to hear my story and how I deal with having CP.

I had originally written this several March’s ago and forgot about it, so I decided this March I would come back to finish it off.

The last time I wrote one of these, I was a senior in high school with zero ideas about where I wanted to go to college. If you missed those click here for part one and here for part two.

I ended up at the University of Central Florida where I’m currently a junior. I’ve been interning with the athletic department for two years now where I have met so many amazing people and they’ve become a second family.

I don’t want this to be about me and what I’ve done like the first two. I want this piece to focus on some of the people who have shaped who I am because, I didn’t just become the guy you see – or read – by myself.

There are a lot of people who will be left out because if I mentioned everyone this would be a 700-page book; we’ll save that for later on in my life.

My mom, dad, sisters are all the easy answers because they continue to push me in everything I do. I want to instead start with a story about one of my closest friends, someone who is a brother to me.

Mike Walker and I only lived on Fort Belvoir together for a year, but in that year we created an unbreakable bond. Mike was my first friend to really challenge me. He pushed me in ways I hadn’t been pushed. He never once let me use cerebral palsy as an excuse not to do something. Back then, when I was in middle school, I would.

There was a basketball court that was a third of a mile from my house. It was down this pretty big hill and tucked behind an abandoned building. That distance was and still is a pretty big distance for me to walk. But Mike wouldn’t let me say I couldn’t do it. He’d tell me “let’s go to the court,” and we’d walk on down. We made this walk at least three times a week.

Another thing that made him different was that he didn’t take it easy on me. Most kids at 13 would take it easy on me, and let me score because they felt bad, but not Mike. The dude played one-on-one like he was prime Kobe Bryant.

Was it fun losing 11-0, 11-1 every time? Absolutely not, but it taught me that I have to overcome on my own and no one is going to take it easy on me in real life. Eventually, I got to the point where I was getting five or six points on him. I was still losing, which sucked, but I was getting there.

Mike pushed me to my limit seemingly every day, but he was also the first one to defend me against someone making fun of the way I walk. I knew he had my back through it all.

Once I moved to Florida, I thought I would lose touch with him because that’s how it went with most of my friends in other places up to that point. Not Mike though; we talk daily still, visit each other, and he even takes the time to come support my little sisters. He’s family.

At the time, playing whatever sport we decided to play that day was just friends hanging out, but looking back on it eight years later, there were a bunch of life lessons taking place on the basketball court and in the parking lot where we’d play football. I think he’s a huge reason I work so hard in literally everything today.

Let’s talk about my time in Tampa. If you’re reading this and from my high school, or been around me while I was in high school, you know who I’m about to mention. We’re synonymous with each other.

We were quite literally each other’s shadows in high school, and frankly still are even though we go to two different colleges. I guess we can start with the fact that I lowkey bullied him over his fashion choices during our sophomore year before we were friends. That wasn’t where the bond was created and I don’t know where or when we clicked, but once we did there wasn’t anything breaking that bond.

Like Mike, he also never let me make an excuse for why I couldn’t do something. If he was doing something and wanted me there, I was also doing it.

I don’t have a specific story with Austin because if there’s an Alex story from high school, it’s almost certainly an Austin one too because we were always together. Whether he knows it or not, he really shaped who I am today by knowingly, and unknowingly challenging the way I think and act.

Then there’s Kane and Cam, my other dawgs from high school who I’m still insanely close with today, one of whom is currently my roommate.

Kane was and is the friend I can call at 3am and know he’ll answer the phone. That’s happened a few times. Cam is the one I send all my insanely hot takes to before the world sees them – he still has a few that will never see the light of day. I think.

If I need someone to go to war for me, it’s for sure Tyler – few people are as ride or die as he is. He became a Knicks fan because of me – so I guess he owes me for putting him through Knicks fandom. He’s been my biggest supporter since we became friends. I remember when part one of this series dropped he texted me that it motivated him to go work out and “get his life together”. I don’t know how much a junior in high school needs to get his life together but that’s Tyler for you.

I also have a huge group of uncles and aunts from my dad’s days West Point who I have no blood relation to but are family just the same. From the time I was seven years old living in Rhode Island until now, they have challenged my opinions on everything and made my ability to debate sports, music, or anything else that much better. Without those debates at my Uncle Scott’s house every Sunday watching NFL games, who knows if I take up writing and talking about sports?

Then there are the present day, here-and-now folks.

I’m going to lump everyone in here at once because I don’t want this to be a book but Grace is killing things at Washington State now and few people challenge me as much as she does but at the same time few people support me as much as she does.

Then there are the SID’s I intern for. Megan (who is about to text me and say she hates me for mentioning her), Collin, Dan, Kenny, Sean. All of these people have taught me so much, they’re the reason I changed what career path I wanted to go down. They’ve become my UCF family.

Lastly, the Forgotten 5 family. I can’t thank Nic enough for not only taking a chance on some 16-year-old kid who had only written (not well) for three months before and allowing me to use his platform to write these kind of pieces.

Blake, Scott, Kevin, Chase, Daniel, and so many more, these guys have become family to me and have not only helped me grow as a writer, but as a person.

All these people, and many more, have had a huge affect on who I am today. Without them, there is no me. They deserve shine too.

With that being said, this March I encourage you to donate to the Cerebral Palsy Foundation. I know money is tight for a lot of people right now but if you can, I’d greatly appreciate it.

You can donate by clicking here.

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