Dear Younger Me

This week was the last week of full classes for the Rockwall-Heath High School Class of 2016. So the last normal day of high school for us seniors.

As I sat through the last installment of the 9-period, 45 minute schedule I’d known for so long, I couldn’t help but think back to my first day of high school, August 27, 2012. I remember sitting out in the car with my dad and brother in the school parking lot, waiting for 8:35 to roll around so we could go inside and start our four-year journey. I remember feeling anxious, but I couldn’t really put my finger on why.

Naturally, as my thoughts progressed, I asked myself, “What would I change if I could go back to that time? What would I want my little, scrawny freshman self to know?”

If I could write myself a letter, it’d go something like I’ve written below. Some of the specifics my be only personally applicable, but I believe the central message can be related to by all.

 

Dear Younger Me-

As hard as it may be to believe right now, high school does in fact come to an end. It goes by faster than you think, too.

Right now, you might be thinking you’re ready coast through these next four years, grow up, and do the bare minimum classwork. But really,  over these next four years, you’re going to learn so much more than you could ever experience in the classroom.

My first piece of advice is to be diligent in your studies. With your attitude as a freshman, you’re destined for failure. Sure, you’re in all Pre-AP classes, but you’ve got to put in the correct amount of effort to be successful in those courses. It’s extremely important to seek help when you don’t understand. God has placed you in a situation with a supportive family and a wonderful opportunity for education that others in this world simply don’t have. Don’t take it for granted. Set your pride aside, it’s O.K. to go to tutoring. No one will think anything less of you. It took me almost half of high school to come to this realization, but I advise you take it coming in.

I advise you to take risks. Don’t be afraid or hesitant to try out for that team. What’s the worst they can do, say no? You’re far from defined from your athletic ability. And mind not those who are mean to you because you’re not as good as them at sports. It’s really not that important. Relish in opportunities to go somewhere new with your friends or try new things. These new experiences are accentuated when you’re around those who you care about. Take that class that the students in the grade above you said was too hard. Experience those type of things for yourself, and grow in that new knowledge. Don’t be afraid to make new friends and start new relationships. Ask for her number, but be respectful about it. As golden as you might think your intentions are, others might not be as open to them as you are, and might not fully understand. And when you inevitably face rejection, don’t let your emotions hinge on their decision. Rather, place your faith in God’s plan and refrain from questioning his actions.

Realize that you are blessed. So far in your life, God has blessed you with the best family you could ask for, and a very healthy situation. If you have the opportunity to go somewhere or do something special, take it. That being said, don’t take it for granted. Use your blessings as a springboard to spread Joy, placing Jesus first, Others second, and then assessing your needs last. Go out of your way to spread God’s love. Hold the door for classmates you might not know. When you’re friend is in a bind, offer to cover their lunch.

Embrace the changing nature of High School social life. Fortunately, your core group of friends will stick around until the end. However, certain individuals will head their separate ways, and new friends will come along. Capitalize on opportunities to meet new friends. Don’t be upset or indifferent about this, but rather enjoy it, as the friends you end up with are pretty great.

Avoid hate at all costs. This is a tough one. Perhaps the most tough of them all. Especially in a situation with fellow students who might not grasp this concept. You’re inevitably going to fail, but do your best to refrain from judgement, no matter what the situation. Remember that you’re just as sinful as them. It might come as a news flash, but people are going to be mean to you sometimes. They might going to ignore you, reject you, or say mean things about you. Don’t let them disturb your peace, for the peace you have with Christ’s love overwhelms any other emotion. It is also of the utmost importance that you do not reciprocate their anger in response to this. Hate towards others is simply not worth occupying your thoughts, and impeding on your joy.

Most importantly, I implore that you develop an elevated sense of trust. One of your greatest weaknesses is your lack of trust and disposition to give into anxiety. Plan as well as you can, but ultimately accept the fact that God has a plan for you that is so much more beautiful than anything your weak mind can comprehend. Hitch your wagon to God’s plan, and abandon all-out faith in the plan of your own.

I know in reality you’ll never get this. And that’s part of the beauty of life. We can’t go tell our past selves what’s going to happen, and what to change. That being said, the decisions you made over these past four years have helped make me the man I am today, and I think if you could see yourself at this point, you’d be proud.

Guess I’ll see you in the mirror one day.

Love, Your future self

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Chronicling the recent struggle that is Texas vs Toronto

Sunday’s brawl between Rougned Odor and Jose Bautista caught the nation’s attention. However, the rivalry between the teams has been brewing for years now.

I have been a Texas Rangers fan since June 2008. At that point, I wasn’t yet as into sports as I am now, and really the only sports I watched were NASCAR and the NFL.

I remember throwing the ball outside with my parents. We threw for about an hour, and she threw me some ‘pop fly’s’ to catch. I had played some little league baseball, but it never really sparked my interest until that night. We went inside, and flipped through the channels trying to find the Texas Rangers game. That was the first baseball game I ever watched on TV, and I was instantly hooked. I started intensely researching the sport and the team, watching games over the next few weeks until my mom bought tickets for our family to go to a game, my first as a fan.

In that first game I ever watched on TV, the Rangers were playing the Toronto Blue Jays at home. Little did I know at that point that Toronto would become my least favorite team in all of sports and form a budding rivalry with my Rangers.

Every diehard sports fans have teams they inherently hate. For me, it is unquestionably Toronto. I CANNOT STAND the Blue Jays. It started around the 2010 or 2011 season, when the Rangers were contending for a World Series crown and the Blue Jays were one of the worst teams in baseball. No matter how bad they were, or how good we were at the time, it just seemed like Toronto would ALWAYS win the season series. It was the most frustrating thing to me. I dreaded seeing ‘TOR’ with that agitating bird come up on the Rangers schedule, because I figured it’d be an ugly series to watch as a Rangers fan.

This is evidenced through a variety of trends. In the 2010 season, a 90-win campaign for Texas that resulted in a World Series appearance, the Rangers went 3-7 vs. Toronto. In the 2011 season, where Texas again reached the World Series, they went 4-6 against the Jays in what was a mediocre 81 win campaign for them. The Rangers took care of business vs. Toronto in 2012, but in the 2013 season in which they won 93 games, they went an abysmal 1-6 against the Jays. Following a 2-4 record vs Toronto in the disaster that was the 2014 season, the Rangers finally righted the ship with a 4-2 win in the head-to-head series leading into the fateful 2015 American League Division Series in the MLB Playoffs. (credit to ESPN MLB Standings Grid for the info).

The culmination of my disdain came in game five of that series. Texas took the first two games of the series, but in typical Blue Jays vs. Rangers fashion, Toronto roared back and tied the series up at 2, leading to a Game 5 in Toronto. After a game full of booing Toronto fans, beer cans being flung out on the field in response to some questionable calls, and the longest seventh inning in MLB playoff history. Eventually, with the game tied at 3, Toronto RF Jose Bautista smacked a three-run home run that would go onto be the game-winner. Bautista then proceeded to stare down Rangers RP Sam Dyson for no apparent reason and arrogantly toss his bat towards the Texas dugout.

Speaking generally, many Rangers fans took the playoff exit fine, as Toronto was definitely talented last season, winning their first division pennant in over 20 seasons. They won the series pretty cleanly, and the Rangers overwhelmingly exceeded initial expectations of preseason baseball analysts. However, the vast majority did not take Bautista’s bat flip well. Many saw it as an unnecessary act of arrogance and disrespect. Personally, I give Bautista props, it was a big home run, he got a great pitch to hit and he did just that. However, I thought his bat flip was obscene. I took it as a proverbial middle finger to the whole Rangers team, fanbase, and franchise.

In an article with The Player’s Tribune, Bautista later defended his actions, claiming “It wasn’t out of contempt for the pitcher. It wasn’t because I don’t respect the unwritten rules of the game. I was caught up in the emotion of the moment. Some of the Rangers took exception to it, which I can understand. They were on the other side of that emotion. I’ve been there before. I know how it feels. I’ve been pissed off on a baseball field plenty of times. I’m no angel. Is it out of disrespect? Of course not. It’s because you’re upset and want to win so badly. That’s just part of the game.” (check out the full article at http://www.theplayerstribune.com/jose-bautista-bat-flip/ ).

No matter what his intent, the Rangers did not forget about Bautista’s ‘epic moment.’ As the teams met for the first time in the 2015 season for a series taking place May 2-5, nothing immediately was done in retalliation to Toronto from the Texas side. However, Toronto took 3 of 4 of those games from Texas, despite having a record below .500 coming into that series.

The trend continues. Sigh.

Two weeks later, Toronto traveled to Arlington, TX for a weekend series with the Rangers. In game one on May 13, Toronto took an easy 5-0 win. On Saturday, Rangers OF Drew Stubbs’ heroics led Texas to a 6-5 win in extra-innings. At that point, the series was tied 1-1, with the season series still favoring Toronto, 2 games to 4.

And then came Sunday, the last game of the series, and the last time Texas and Toronto will face each other in the 2016 regular season. The last chance at retaliation for the bat flip.

In the top of the 7th inning, with Texas leading 7-6, recently called-up Rangers relief pitcher Matt Bush nailed Bautista in the ribs with a 97 MPH fastball.

The Rangers thought they’d pulled even with Bautista and the Jays, but then Bautista pulled an act way out of line- literally. Following a routine double-play ball, Bautista slid into second base, and appeared to initally do what all baserunners are trained to do- break up the double play. However, as he neared the bag, Bautista changed his direction, specifically on a course to nail Rangers 2b Rougned Odor’s right knee. This was a dangerous  type of play that the MLB has recently scared baserunners away from with the threat of a suspension.

Odor immediately confronted Bautista, giving him an initial shove. This, in typical baseball fight fashion, cleared both dugouts as players and coaches alike ran in defense of their teammates. Before players could restrain either Odor or Bautista, the stout Rangers infielder nailed Bautista in the jaw with a strong right hook. Bautista’s helmet and sunglasses both flew off his head, and he flew backwards upon impact with Odor’s fist. Things quickly escalted, as reigning American League Most Valuable Player Josh Donaldson of Toronto came flying into Odor with fists of fury, but Odor fought him off as well. Players and coaches alike were eventually restrained, but Odor’s punch remained a burning image that has since been seen by many over the internet and sports media.

image

Phot credit: New York Times.

Watching this game, I was fired up. As many of the Rangers did, I immediately recalled Bautista’s bat flip. It finally felt like the teams were even. 

Sure, in the grand scheme of things, I would’ve liked Odor to represent my favorite team a little better than that, and contain his anger. However, after reading Bautista’s article, I can’t help but think- couldn’t Rougned Odor take the same defense for his actions that Bautista did? Look back at Bautista’s quote.

“It wasn’t out of contempt for the pitcher. It wasn’t because I don’t respect the unwritten rules of the game. I was caught up in the emotion of the moment.”

It seems to me like the exact same situation applied to Odor, which means that the Rangers have finally pulled even. After years of frustation with Toronto culimnating with Jose Bautista’s bat flip, Rougned Odor’s punch offered Rangers fans a bit of closure and sparked a new rivalry.

I believe in J.O.Y.

For my last High School English assignment, I was told to write a one page essay on “This I Believe.”

        My beliefs are pretty straight forward. I believe in the pursuit of true Joy. It can be summarized in a simple acronym- J.O.Y. J, standing for Jesus, putting God first, and seeking out his will, listening and understanding his plan, loving others, giving thanks in all circumstances, and learning from his actions and his holy words. O, standing for Others, serving and loving those who hate and are in need, and Y standing for You.  I had the option to title this paper anonymously, but I chose not to, because I am not ashamed to share my beliefs with others. Nonetheless, here in 2016, in a self-obsessed, image-crazed and information seeking era, it’s not hip to be religious.

         First of, the J, standing for Jesus Christ. The messiah, the one true King. Jesus’ glory is why I don’t care for politics- no man can compare to the power of Christ. Speaking generally, the most common belief in the world is to acquire things, money, and personal glory as much as you can before you miserably die. But I couldn’t disagree more with this philosophy. God tells us through his word that there is no redeeming quality in things, money, or personal glory through his word and that to achieve true JOY and meaning to our life, we need to give up the worthless pursuit of earthly goods and whole-heartedly turn our lives over to God. As soon as I understood this with the help of my family, friends, and through my Church, I bought in 1000%. I felt truly liberated from the misery and subjectivity of this world, and felt the passion of Christ in my being. God sent his perfect son Jesus to be the embodiment of this transformation- shedding our shame sin and becoming perfect in the eyes of the Lord. I believe the only pursuit worthwhile in this world is seeking out the heart of God, and representing him gloriously in everything that I do. In addition, when we turn our hearts over to God, our physical death isn’t the end of us- rather it’s just the beginning, as we are guaranteed a spot in his perfect kingdom of Heaven where there is no hate, no judgment, so suffering, and no pain. That’s something worth putting your belief in.

        Second off, the O. Again speaking generally, being a Christian is often stigmatized in the eyes of others today’s culture because of the progressive nature of our society’s beliefs. Often times, because of certain scriptures in our Holy Bible, many view Christians as hateful people. Speaking on behalf of many Christians, we have failed if our fellow people see us this way. At the basis of our religion is love, and if we are showing hate towards anyone, we have failed our God. We must love all, even those who hate us, to achieve true Joy. We must reaffirm what God says in the Bible while not being hateful. However, its human nature to make mistakes, and when this inevitably happens, God’s gift of a perfect son puts us back on track. His sacrifice covered our past, present, and future sins. What a wonderful feeling.
        Finally the Y- you. I am third. Just because I don’t want to put my faith in this world, it doesn’t mean that I dislike everything about this world. I love my family, friends, and sports. However, none of these things compare to the love Christ gives us, so his will trumps all my Earthly loves. Today, many doubt religion today because they cannot see evidence. However, that belief couldn’t be further from the truth. God’s love is all around us, we just need to be looking for it. I believe that there’s no better JOY than when we give our life up, just so we can find it in Christ.