El Camino College Union

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The journey to finding my voice

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In the spring of 2004 I was chosen by my school to recite a poem for my fifth grade graduation ceremony at Watts Learning Center.

My initial attempt at reciting this poem for everyone at the ceremony was a disaster. I couldn’t remember parts to the poem which eventually led to me standing center stage all alone crying.

I was an 11-year-old kid who had never spoken publicly in front of a large crowd; the nerves, excitement, and uncertainty overwhelmed me.

Seventy-four percent of people suffer from speech anxiety, according to the Static Brain Research Institute.

Although I wasn’t aware of the moment that I began to cry, I wasn’t alone at all.

Many of the people who were watching me cry probably felt exactly what I was feeling at some point when they were speaking in front of a big group: scared and embarrassed.

Feeding off of the encouragement from everyone in the room, I gathered myself, took a deep breath and recited my poem from beginning to end.

After that moment, I never thought I would grace another stage in my life.

Identifying myself as an athlete, playing basketball and football throughout my adolescence, I never felt it was “cool” to write about your emotions and express sides of yourself others may not regularly have access to.

Then in 2011, my senior year in high school playing for the No. 2 ranked team in the state at the time, I quit basketball.

Days before our first game, and just weeks after talking with and sitting down with coaches from colleges discussing my recruitment, I lost my identity.

I was no longer an athlete.

I didn’t know who I was, so I began searching.

Many long days and nights went by where I had no idea where I was headed; the only thing I knew was that I wanted others to learn from my mistakes.

I didn’t want others to have to suffer the same agony that I was troubled with.

I had to recreate who I was and the only sure way I knew to do so was to begin writing because I felt you could create whatever you want when writing.

I knew if I could articulate my thoughts on paper, my everyday perspective would become more clear but it didn’t stop there.

My goal is to be impactful. It did me no good to write and keep everything to myself; I had to be heard.

As time passed, my desire for personal growth intensified.

I felt the only way for me to evolve towards promoting prosperity and growth in the world was to step out of my comfort zone.

On Sunday, June 11, I got on stage for the first time since I was 11 years old.

There were no tears shed this time, only an indescribable feeling of joy, excitement, and fear that I never once felt my entire sporting career.

I’ve played in championship games, state tournaments, and an NFL stadium but nothing could compare to that moment.

Four months from the first time I got on stage as a poet, on Sunday, Oct. 22 I will be one of the feature poets at Spoken Word Sunday in Long Beach.

I let my guard down, I stepped out of my comfort zone, and I didn’t give up when I heard a whisper to do so. I kept fighting.

Now I have 15 minutes on stage to use my voice as an inspiration to someone else.

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The journey to finding my voice