Year: 1989 (7th Grade)
Location: Serrano Middle School (Bathroom)
In my life, there has been a handful of people who have influenced my travels. Some of these individuals directly affected the way I went about relationship, careers, and friendship. Some of these people had no idea the effect they had on me. Some of these people’s hold on me took years to completely shed the negative impressions. However, many had a positive and influential impacts. I still face some issues, but I use these issues to help others, by giving speeches on hard life topics, such as growing up, love and insecurities
When I think of impact, I refer directly to emotional and physical properties. Early in life, I knew I was different from other kids. This is not to say I was better than those around me, but I stood out like a sore thumb in groups.
I spent a lot of time in my head, some would reference this to overthinking, creative introvert, however, sports changed me, but that’s for another story. I worked hard to solve my own problems without my parents or friends. Answering my own questions gave me power and resilience.
The fact that in the first year or two of middle school looking back most kids went through times of feeling socially insecure and emotionally vulnerable. I was in-between those, but weirdly I could perceive things better and break down situations rapidly. I wasn’t always right at what I saw or analyzing information correctly, but my brain was working overtime and fast. This is very different from being smart in school because I had trouble in math and science and things that actually required brainpower.
I was the worst at submitting to being one way or to hang out with a specific group. I knew that who I hung out with would come at a cost. I remember having a conversation with a young boy at lunch in junior high, and I really didn’t know him, but I thought he was entertaining. He was in a group of what one would refer to as a school gang, and I swear he was a recruiter.
At this time, I was very open to exploring new things and experiencing what I wouldn’t ordinarily do. I was inquisitive, so I asked this young boy to share with me what gang or group he was in and what they did. I wanted to understand his path or what made him so eager to recruit the worst dressed and the awkwardest kid in the school, I just wanted to know why I was unique and special for his group.
He quickly got up from the seat, and he told me to follow him. I remember looking over at the table across from me, and everyone was looking right us, it was extremely awkward, and the bells in my head went off, but I simply ignored them. I was so confused, but wholly enthralled in this adventure, I was inclined to find out what in the world was so awesome. As we walked up the stairs, I notice my P.E teacher and coach standing by the office. He locked eyes with me and with a destained look, shook his head no. I ignored the signs of this episode.
I continued walking and quickly glanced back. Mr. Munson was still looking at me, I started to wonder if he was trying to tell me something. I kept walking with the mysterious boy, and we ended up in the bathroom. That would be the third ignoring signs of directional change or path.
As we all know nothing ever happens good in the bathroom, according to every teen movie. We stopped, and he turned around and looked at me in the eyes. In a shallow creepy voice said, “To be one of us, you have been like us, believe like us, behave like us, go along with us, look like us, like us best, and not do better than us.”
It was at the moment I started to feel uncomfortable and little weirded out. I stepped back to get my distance because I wasn’t sure what was happening or going to happen. The boy looked possed. His dispostion was intense.
As I was about to reply, Mr. Muson walked in the bathroom and with a deep and angry voice yelled, “Hardt, get out of here now!” I walked out quickly, but Mr. Munson stayed behind. I wasn’t sure if I was to stay or leave. I knew one thing that this situation wasn’t going to end well for the boy trapped in the bathroom with Mr. Munson or for me.
Mr. Munson later strolled out of the bathroom, grabbed both of my shoulders, and looked down at me from his 6’5 stature. And said the words that would forever stick with me.
“Hardt, this is not your path.” His angry eyes dimmed to slightly connected supportive engagement. He pointed out into the lunch crowd and said in a very stern and effective way. “Take this path back to where you came from, trust me Hardt.” I looked up at him, and internally I wanted to say, “Why, coach?” But something, possibly fear made me back up turn around and walk away. That young kid never spoke or even looked at me again. Later down the road, it was very clear what Coach Munson was keeping me away from. This young boy turned out heavy into drugs, drinking, and had an arrest record.
What I didn’t see my coach could foresee. I just wanted to understand and see this young boy’s perspective. The question is, would I have possibly gone down this road, most likely not, I had set my goals high, and everyone knew from elementary I was a kid-focused on being kind and always clean.
Influencing people can have enormous consequences or rewards. Mr. Munson, on that day, changed me and possibly my path. He encouraged me to stop or pause and think things out. This also taught me it’s okay to hit reverse and go back to where I was and do a redo. Sometimes we don’t get redo, but I did with some help!
Have you went down and path only to quickly find out that the road back is the best path forward.
More stories and experiences to come!