What makes you, you?

By the time you’re reading this, I have probably already graduated. But I am currently sitting here writing this as the night begins on my final day as high school student. It’s kinda ironic how Golden State’s championship reign and my high school career, two things I thought would never end, could very well both be ending on the same day: Monday, June 10, 2019. Now if you told me I would be in this place one year ago today, interviewing pro athletes from all walks of life and starting a potential career path, I would have thought you were crazy. So, I had a few thoughts I wanted to share before I moved on to the next phase of my life.

Moment of Inspiration

About a bit over a year ago, I, like many other high school juniors, had no idea what to do with myself in the future. That was until one day, oddly enough, we were talking about this topic in German of all classes. Of course I raised my hand and asked the teacher, “What do you think I’m gonna do, Frau?” She replied back with, “Jack, I’m sure I’m going to see you on ESPN one day.”

Now many of my friends have joked about that simple fact just because I never shut up about sports, but this was different. Because she was dead serious. I didn’t know how to react, my whole life I was very into sports, especially the 76ers. I never thought that a lifestyle where my work was talking about sports was feasible until that moment. From that day forward, I finally knew what I wanted to do with my life.

Fuel to the Fire

That lit a passion inside me that I just found and began exploring every avenue. Writing up mock drafts and pieces and trying to begin what was my new found passion, out of dust. I tried every single thing I could do, and I put so much work into it. I was very proud of what I had accomplished, no matter how little it was. Just a few short weeks after this, I was given the opportunity in English to write about “What makes you, you?”

This was the perfect opportunity to show the world what was going to come of me. I poured my heart into this piece about how the 76ers and the Process that I had followed so dearly for years sparked something inside me in many walks of life. This ranged from helping recover from injury to inspiring myself in life. It felt like a surefire A, and being someone who never put effort into essays, I was excited to see the outcome.

Checking the online grade book all day, I anxiously waited to see what the result was. Finally, I got the notification of my grade. My heart sank; I got a D. The worst part about it was there was a note attached to it. The note said:

“Ok, now this writing piece is out of the way… not interested in reading a story about the 76ers, this has been done by sports analysts already.”

This crushed me. I wasn’t defeated by this, I was angered. How can someone tell me that what makes me how I am, is boring? You can’t just give me a D because you don’t agree with how I live my life. It was infuriating and something I will never forget. This drove me further than ever before. From that day onward I was determined to prove that teacher wrong any way I could.

This is not to say every teacher in my school was like this. Quite the opposite, in fact. Countless teachers praised what I was doing and helped me every step of the way, always believing. Every day I would have teachers asking me what I thought about the 76ers once they began to see my work and what I accomplished writing. They would ask, “What are they going to do next?”, “What did you think of the trade?”, “Do you think they’ll win the finals?” These teachers were genuinely interested in what I was doing and what I had to say. And it felt inspiring, like this is really something I can do in the future.

A Bright Future

It has truly been a crazy experience. In just an 11 month span, I went from not knowing what I wanted to do at all to interviewing an NBA player after a pivotal playoff win – in the locker room. To still be in high school and achieve that, I can’t wait to see what my future holds.

Also, I just wanted to thank those who deserve their names being said, so they can be appreciated for always believing in me. My German teacher who discovered this part of me for which I will always be grateful, Frau Zerfass. My math teachers who I never stopped talking about the 76ers with throughout the years, Mr. Grady and Mr. Greenberg. My high school security guard/fellow basketball coach Terill Henderson and Mike. My English teacher who always supported me and always talked Philly sports with me, Mr. Liguori. There are countless others out there, like Mr. Coleman and Ms. Lisa, and the list goes on. If you’re reading this, odds are you’ve made a positive impact on me.

Don’t Let Anyone Else Extinguish That Flame

The message of this story is sometimes there are going to be people in life who try to bring you down. The simple response to that is just flat out don’t listen to them. For every one negative person in the world like that English teacher, there are 100 others right there to pick you up. If I had given up after that lousy teacher basically said that what made my life what it is was boring, I wouldn’t be the same person I am today. Instead I just ignored them and followed what I believed in, and it led me down the path where I am today. Sometimes people don’t like what you have to say because it is different, but let your voice be heard. Sometimes it may be good to show them what you can do and prove them wrong.

I’ll leave you with one last story. LeBron James was interviewed and gave his own personal political opinions, which he is entitled to. Laura Ingraham of CNN, just because she didn’t agree with what he had to say, responded. “It’s always unwise to seek political advice from someone who gets paid $100 million a year to bounce a ball,” she said. “Keep the political comments to yourselves. … Shut up and dribble.” Now this is not about politics. However, it is another example of a time that someone had something different to say and was shut down because they didn’t share the same opinion and were seen as inferior.

In whatever you do in life, if someone tries to do something like this to you, don’t ever just shut up and dribble. Rise up and let your voice be heard. And to all my fellow classmates who may be reading this, if this is the last time I see you, I wish you the best of luck in whatever you do. Thank you.