My dad is from Italy and my mom is from the US. The first language I learned was American Sign Language because my mother is deaf. I am a CODA. (Child of a Deaf Adult) I did not start speaking until I was about 2-3 years old. I would just communicate with sign. When I was enrolled in school, and during my entire K-7 years, I attended speech therapy because I did not learn to speak correctly. I grew up in a household that had a deaf mother and a father that spoke broken English and an entire household that spoke Italian. In the age range of 10-12 I weighed 220 pounds with a 36-inch waist and my nickname was "Fatboy". My father owned a restaurant and I spent most of my young years being there. As the restaurant started growing I couldn't hang out because it was too busy, so I started hanging out in the neighborhood where I
became the neighborhood punching bag.
I remember a few specific incidents from those days.
One time I was walking home from school and I got jumped by a bunch of the neighborhood kids. They started beating me up and some guy had to pull his car over to break it up and pull the kids off of me. Another incident was just a couple houses down from my home, I got put in a circle of neighborhood kids and they were punching and kicking me and I was stuck there until they were done with me and I could go home. Yet another time, I was
robbed by knifepoint for my lunch money. At least that time I didn't get beaten up that day.
I remember very distinctly a girl I thought was so pretty. I got up the nerve to tell her. She walked up to me and spit in my face and told me there is no way she would ever date or look my way because I was the most ugly, fattest boy she had ever seen. These are just a few events from my childhood years; there were many like that. So, I guess you could say I know what it is like to be bullied and put down.
I decided I had to do something to stop what was going on because I knew I did not want to live like this. On my thirteenth birthday I begged my mom to enroll me in Tae Kwan Do. I was so tired of getting bullied I had to find a way to defend myself. My mother did, so my life consisted of going to school from 7 to 3 everyday. Then I would walk straight from school to the Tae Kwan Do School where I stayed until 8 pm, Monday through Saturday. My life was nothing but school and martial arts to learn how to defend myself from the bullies. I went through a lot of changes during this point in my life. I had a bit of a bad attitude because of the hard times I had endured while being bullied and I made some bad decisions that really could have negatively impacted my life. Thank goodness I finally found myself on the right path again through my experiences with Tae Kwon Do.
I changed my attitude and ended up becoming more a protector to the other kids that didn't fit in at school and protected them from being bullied like I had been. I got very focused on school and Tae Kwan Do. During this time frame, I hit my growth spurt, stretched up and leaned out, and my physique matched one of an athletic teenager. About a year after starting Tae Kwan Do I qualified to go to the Jr. Olympics and I was a part of the Olympic team, in tournaments all the time. What motivated me was the anger and the, "I'll show you guys that I can do it". This around the time that I met former heavyweight champion Pinklon Thomas and added boxing to the Tae Kwan Do. I excelled in it so much I won silver glove at the age 15. Silver glove is the equivalent of Golden Glove for that age group.
After that change in my life, many other changes occurred and many other experiences happened that put me on the path that has led me to where I am today. I would not trade any experiences because all of these things have made me who I am today. What I realized is you have to take control of what is happening to you. A person has to be pro-active and make a plan to change what is happening in your life so that circumstances and other people are not controlling how you live and what you think about yourself. Having my Tae Kwan Do Master mentor me and teach me a skill that I enjoyed and gave me confidence made all the difference to my life.
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