Here we go, you’ve been waiting for it and now it’s here. This is my story. Take it for what it is, but realize it’s nothing but the truth. I don’t have time to write up a story about a life I’ve never had.
Life is never what you expect it to be. It’s full of twists, turns, trials and tribulations. Ask yourself right now, how do I face adversity? Do you smile? Do you laugh? Do you cry?
We all handle situations differently and through my entire life it’s felt like a struggle. The fact is, I shouldn’t even be here right now for many reasons. When I was about nine years old I was taking swimming lessons in my home town of San Jose, CA. I was terrible at swimming. At the end of every lesson I was the kid who got the sad face sticker and wasn’t aloud to take a piece of candy like the other kids. I felt destined to fail. One day I watched some of the popular kids do some small backward hops off the cement edge of the pool. One day, I decided to give it a shot and prove to people I could be like every other kid.
I put my back to the pool and tip-toed to the edge. I bent my knees a little and hopped backwards. Just one problem, I didn’t hop back far enough and when I came down my jaw smashed against the cement edge shoving some of my bottom teeth through my lower lip. I didn’t lose any teeth, but I have a nice scar from it. I remember blacking out and then washing my mouth out in a sink at the pool. That’s all I remember…
Months later I was back at lessons and today was the day they had all the kids go off the tall diving board. My parents never took me to lessons, my babysitter did. I was terrified, but got in line like everyone else. When it was my turn I slowly got to the top and stepped close to the edge of the diving board. I remember the fear I felt that day. I held up the line for quite some time before I made the leap.
I hit the water like a fish who just whipped itself free from a hook. As I entered the water, I sank right to the bottom in the middle of the deep end…and there I stayed. I could see the legs of other people in the pool. I was in such a panic that I couldn’t move and I started to drown. I remember choking on water and for one split second I took a gander at the sun that was beaming down on me and realized in that moment that I was going to die. Something fired me up. I was a terrible swimmer, but I started walking towards the wall. Nobody noticed my struggles. I was just about out of breath when I reached for a hole along the pool wall and shot myself up to the top. I was gasping and gagging for air. I screamed “HELP!”…and that’s all I remember.
Why am I sharing something so deeply private? I’m an open book and this set the stage for the rest of my life. This event taught me two things. 1) Life is short, I should have died 2) Nobody was there for me, but I was there for myself.
Fast forward to life in public schools. Despite some bad experiences I had in school it was really the highlight of my life. I was that person that everyone knew. The nice guy who would do anything for anybody. I would buy various classmates gifts. The reactions I got were not what I expected. I took heat from everyone, but no matter what I could fit the mold of any group: jocks, goth kids, the popular kids and the not-so-popular kids.
Despite being able to fit in, I also stood out as the nerdy kid who was out of shape and unattractive. I think a good portion of kids go through this. Kids of all shapes and sizes. I know better than anyone else that it can put you in a very dark place. Because I was tormented at times in school I took it out on my brother. I suffered through some painful times and sorrowful nights. I had suicidal tendencies and lost perspective of life. What I’m telling you now, virtually nobody knows.
One day something happened. I thought deeply about the bad choices I made in life. Remember, the world is not separated by good or bad people. Their actions and decisions define who they are. I broke down one night when it dawned on me that I felt I had nothing and nobody. The only person who was a consistent part of my life was my brother and I burned that bridge about 100 times over. Since that breakdown I changed my attitude and my brother became one of my best friends again.
Through my twelve years in school I never had a girlfriend, never went to a dance, never went to prom…and let’s just say over those twelve years, it wasn’t because I didn’t try…I mean I tried my damnedest, but sometimes things aren’t meant to be.
After I graduated in 2001 from High School I started up college and worked part time at a grocery store. It was a turning point for me. For about a year I focused completely on my health and socializing with friends. I was fit, jogging six miles, pumping weights and was on top of the world, but I was still empty and after getting dumped from someone I was really into I took it hard. Shortly after I was chewed out by my boss for not being as “happy” anymore. My life sunk lower and lower. It wasn’t long before my Grandma passed away from lung cancer. Months later my uncle died from a drug overdose and his brother who had been in and out of prison most of his life was deported to Canada.
My favorite people in the world were dead or far away.
I continued to work at the grocery store for five years until they shut the place down. Not long after that one of the cashiers (young) passed away from a drug overdose and just recently Anna (27 years old) died from brain cancer. In between going to college and working part time I picked up some e-friends. One of whom was shipped out to Iraq and is currently serving via his National Guard unit.
After the grocery store I did some tutoring at the community college and then found a job at another store down the road. I wasn’t there long as a good friend got me hooked up with a fantastic job at an Internet marketing company.
That Summer I had quite the awakening. I was motivated to be healthier last year so I bought some bikes for my brother and I and we started biking. One day I suffered from severe heat exhaustion and was having problems breathing. It was so bad that I made the call to go to the emergency room. I was there for about 8 hours. The doc let me know that I was suffering from severe bronchitis and asked me if I had been suffering from Asthma, which I responded “no”.
It was at that moment when I asked myself, “this is how I’m going out?” You have no idea how painful that day was from a deep emotional level. Things really came into perspective for me. This is what really got me.
Relatives died from drug overdoses and smoking.
Friends died young from drug use.
Friend died from brain cancer.
A friend was fighting in Iraq and protecting us, the United States, me.
I got to the point where I was asking myself, “so this is how I pay respect to the dead and to the living?”
A few weeks after the incident I was back walking and biking and along the way I got shelved because I hurt my ankle while hiking into a filming location. Yes, I make movies on the side.
I sunk right back down the path of being unhealthy and in November I probably felt the most uncomfortable I have ever felt in my entire life. It was devastating from many angles. When you’re a bigger person with confidence problems there’s a lot that comes with it. For instance, you don’t like mirrors, you hate photos, you don’t like walking around in public, you’re afraid to look people in the eye, you feel insufficient, you get angry and sad easily and you feel some of the most intense lonely feelings that anyone can ever feel.
In December, I came to terms with my life and took ownership of my choices. I had two options work hard to live or die young.
I chose to work hard to live.
I found my true calling in the process and that’s to help other people in anyway I can because I wasted away more than 8 years of my life that I can never get back. 8 years that were supposed to be the best in my life. There are several people in my life who deserve a “thank you” for saving it. If you’re reading this right now, you probably know who you are and at some point I’ll thank you in person.
At the time of publishing this story, I had lost 20 pounds and 6 waist sizes. Over the next 8 months I dropped another 100 pounds and life was crazy. I started hanging out with new people, I took more risks and formed into the person who I would be for the rest of my life. I kept my routine going for about 3 years with some varying struggles. I took part in major running events, I explored the entire Columbia River Gorge. Life was awesome.
8 years later from the time I started my journey, I became engaged and while I’m nowhere near as healthy as I was, I’m still fairly active and love to get out and play some disc golf.
The point of this story is to show you that no matter who you want to point the finger at for your situation, you are in charge of your life and the decisions you make. You have to wake up and take ownership of where you’re going with your life. Listen people, you live once. Just once. Do you think I wanted to continue down that track I was on? Hell no.
Everyday is a struggle. You have to push yourself beyond your limits and believe in yourself. Sulking in the past gets you nowhere. Rise up against the odds and find the fuel to build your fire.
Knowledge is power, and through reading several books I had a new outlook on life. A book called “You Don’t Need A Title to Be A Leader” was one I picked up because I’m educating myself on leadership and business principles. Little did I know, that this book was full of life lessons and one stuck with me more than anything else which was “everything in life is an opportunity, not an obligation”.
You have the opportunity to be healthy, to be happier. It’s not an obligation. You are in full control! Take active steps towards being the person you’ve always wanted to be. Believe in yourself and you will achieve.
I share this story with you in hopes that it will inspire you to do something to change your life for the better. Thank you for taking the time to read this…and remember no matter what anyone ever says, you are beautiful. The world is yours for the taking. Go be the next President, famous actor, a supreme court judge; whatever you want!
~ Your friend, Jason