During my early childhood, sports and physical exercise never played any real significance in my life. My father grew up as an intellectual and graduated with multiple undergraduate and graduate degrees from a university in Canada. My mom never played a day of sports in her life. During the summer after my second grade, my father ran out on our family and my mother was thus forced to raise me alone. My only real exposure to sports during this time was occasionally watching Chicago Bulls basketball games on tv and witnessing the world go crazy for Michael Jordan.
In hindsight, my Mother was super insecure about raising me alone. She always felt that I was missing something with not having a Father around. For that reason, i feel that she was compelled to enroll me into as many recreational sports leagues as possible.
Sports never came natural to me as they did the other kids on the teams I was assigned to. I mostly found difficulty with understanding the rules to the games and the jargon that came along with each sport, obstacles that the other boys I played with never encountered given they most likely had someone at home to teach them these things. I also struggled with childhood obesity so I never was as conditioned as the other kids, getting winded easily and being forced to sit out early before making any meaningful contributions.
It wasn’t until about the 7th or 8th grade did I show some promise playing basketball. Since I was a bit thicker compared to other kids my age, I was relegated to playing power forward. And honestly, I loved it. I loved posting up on smaller kids and had a knack for getting rebounds. I even developed a pretty consistent 3 point jumper. I made my jersey number “8”, since that was the number of my favorite NBA basketball player at the time, Kobe Bryant. At the end of my 8th grade season, my coach encouraged me to try out for my high school’s freshman team.
Although I felt I had the requisite skills and experience to make my high school’s freshman team, I was too embarrassed to try out because of my weight, something I regret not doing to this day. I spent a couple of weeks here and there on my high school’s cross country team and outdoor track teams, but I mostly joined to try to lose weight and I quit as soon as I realized I couldn’t keep up with the other players. Because of this, my high school experience was spent mostly going to school, doing the occasional non-sport extracurricular after school, and then going home to study. Don’t get me wrong, the focus and discipline that I spent on my schoolwork is what eventually led me to receiving an ivy league education and then matriculate and graduate from medical school, but I often regret not applying that same amount of discipline to sports, especially to basketball, which I had enjoyed so much playing.
The transition to college was the final realization of freedom for me. With my father’s departure, my mom chose to hold me tighter than ever. Although my mom gave me some allowance to participate in extracurriculars, she did not give me much room to go out into the world, to make friends, and to discover myself. Matriculating to college meant finally being able to grow and develop myself as a person. One of my roommates during my freshman year was an avid ultimate frisbee player. We spent most of our free time during that year running, throwing and catching a frisbee across Old Campus of Yale University when the weather was nice. With that increased activity, I lost weight. And with that lost weight, I gained the confidence to go to the gym to exercise to lose more weight. Eventually, I lost 30 pounds by the end of the year and my confidence soared. Eventually, my goals of exercise shifted from “improving my aesthetics” to working towards running faster and jumping higher so that I can have more fun throwing and catching a frisbee with my roommate. Eventually, I joined my school’s Ultimate Frisbee Club team and have loved playing the sport since then.
Before these changes in my body and mindset happened, I had completely absorbed society’s negative perception of “fat people” and ingrained it into my reality. I thought I would always just be that person. That year taught me about the true plasticity of my body and my mind. I not only learned that my current reality shouldn’t be influenced by other people’s perception of me, but also that I could change my current reality through rigorous discipline and hard work.
Throughout medical school my weight and physical capabilities have fluctuated as a function of mental health, lack of discipline with exercise and diet, and the rigors of medical medical school training. Now that I have graduated, I am putting in the effort to integrate regular exercise back into my life and am planning for ways to continue with that throughout residency. Although my physical looks and capabilities have undulated throughout my life, I now see myself as a dynamic process that can be molded into anything I want it to be. That is what sports and exercise have taught me and why I hold so much gratitude to them.
Thanks for reading Day 1 of my goal to write a blog post everyday for 5 days.