“I look up to the people others look down on” – Chinese proverb. I am extremely grateful that at a young age I was instilled with values that I fully embrace, continue to develop, and put into practice today. I was raised by a single mother who worked in a stressful job as a social worker, and this left me under the care of my retired grandfather. Essentially, he was the person who most influenced my identity. My first volunteer job was cleaning the local Baptist church I attended with my grandfather on Saturday mornings. He would check behind me after every cleaning task and incorporated Bible stories to teach me life lessons along the way. The day was structured as a typical workday with a one-hour lunch break during an eight-hour shift. I realize this had a major impact on my choices and my identity. As I have gone through life’s changes, positive and negative, I always find myself referring back to this identity of a hard-working Christian man who helps out others in the community.
The ethics I treasure most in those close to me are loyalty, honesty, and free-thinking. These values exhibit the exact foundation on which my identity began. During those cleaning sessions, so many life lessons and pieces of wisdom were passed down to me that truly began the foundation of my identity. Throughout life’s travels, many people have explained that their identity did not begin to surface until they got older. My identity, however, was fully formed as a young child and throughout the years developed into a beautiful soul. The experiences of harsh life lessons have taught me to use what I learned from growth and motivation. I have learned how to make lemonade out of lemons.
I have had some monumental life experiences that have had a major impact on the molding of my identity. I truly believe that if I am not changing each decade, then I am not growing as a person. I want to be well rounded and consistently nurturing my identity. For years, I battled a drinking addiction that completely went against my identity. I went from being able to identify as a homeless, dumpster diving, non-hygienic man to a person who is asked to teach Sunday school and sponsor a child in Africa and who is a co-parent, motivational speaker, and honor’s student in college.
After being so fortunate to receive the proper medical and psychological help I needed, I now make it a life’s mission to help others who struggle with the same illness. I attend 12-Step Fellowship meetings and reach out with open arms to anyone new, helping in any way I can. I give these newcomers rides to meetings, buy them literature, and take them out to dinner to instill hope. I feed the homeless, and on holidays I speak at treatment centers. I now live with the mindset that I am blessed to give not have. I now sponsor a family in Africa. I realized if I have money for Starbucks, NFL pay-per-view, and Green Bay Packers apparel, then I have the finances to help a child have adequate drinking water. My identity has grown from a church attendee to fitting a motto of being blessed to give not have. I think people who go through identity crises do not know their reasons for being here. For me, it could not be any clearer; having the great fortune of being taught at such a young age truly had a profound impact on my fundamental identity.
One of my strongest identity traits is one of being extremely passionate about everything I am involved in, especially when it comes to children. This was most evident in an experience I had when I first became a Sunday School teacher. I noticed that most of the children were not paying attention and gravitated towards their cell phones. Therefore, I made a rule that no electronics were allowed during class. What they are learning in my class will help them better prepare for life. For example, if you learn to follow the rules as a young child then will not have to face harsh consequences as an adult. If you listen to the wisdom of your parents, it will help you in your adult years of life. If I do not have their undivided attention, it could spell trouble for a lot of the youth.
I am truly on a positive mission in life and have never been so motivated. My hard work during the first semester of college turned into the fruits of a 3.3 GPA. I made academic honors. Unfortunately, due to two of the classes being remedial courses I was unable to receive the proper weight towards my GPA. I was the first student in the entire semester to finish the self-paced math class. My goal this semester is to receive the prestigious honor and invitation of Phi Theta Kappa, which requires a 3.5 GPA. With my drive and determination, there is no question about my long-term success. There is no greater feeling than to know I can make an impact on others, which in turn affects the world. I can begin impacting others at a young age.
This is why I am sharing my story. There was a time in my life when I was ashamed of my identity. Through the years, I have realized I carry positive traits, and we are each unique with special gifts to offer. I realize my identity will forever change but only in an upward climb as I build upon the foundation of my truth. Like a student who achieves the highest level of education with more degree titles to his name, I want an identity with multiple initials indicating I have helped to change the world in an extremely positive manner. “It’s not how you start; it’s how you finish” – Unknown.
To learn more about Frederick S. visit his website The Message.