To the Little Boy I Killed
A heartfelt and open confession of a murderer
Think back to when you were a little boy or girl. Your parents asked you what you wanted to be when you grew up. What did you tell them? An astronaut? A ballerina? A unicorn?
My earliest memories were wanting to play in the NBA. If you know me now, you’ll know that that dream doesn’t sound so far-fetch, me being so tall and all. But as a little boy, the numbers of people who make it in the NBA are so microscopic. As a child, though, we never let that stop us.
For me, I wanted to be a professional basketball so bad that everything I did and thought revolved around the notion. I ate Wheaties with Michael Jordan and the other members of the Dream Team on the box. I became obsessed with the Charlotte Hornets, involving them in everything from my wardrobe to my themed school supplies. My room was painted in purple and turquoise, the official team colors, with a Charlotte Hornets border all around the top of my room.
After dad put up a basketball hoop at the edge of our driveway, I spent nearly every waking hour outside perfecting my craft. Some summer days it seemed like I was outside dribbling and shooting the entire time the sun was up. Even after the sun would set and the darkness would surround me, I’d flip on the outside garage lights and start shooting in the dark.
As I would shoot hoops outside, I would always imagine I was Glenn Rice knocking down another clutch three, just as time expired. Or I’d be Baron Davis weaving my way through the lane as I flipped up a reverse layup, then yelling, “AND ONE!” after it spun around the lip of the rim and fell down in.
BEGINNING OF THE END
Somewhere along the way, as I grew up and began to find new things to draw my interest, my dream of playing in the NBA died. Maybe it was the realization that I was a 6’6”-6’8” (depending on the timeframe) white kid, which would put me at the size of an NBA wing player and further decrease my chances of making my dream come true.
Or maybe my dream died because I just gave up on it too early. Maybe if I’d have kept working and kept shooting the entirety of the time the sun was up, it could have happened.
One thing I know for sure, I didn’t have the definiteness of purpose in my life anymore. I didn’t put all my thinking and all my energy and effort into reaching my dream. Thinking about it now, I’m wondering if it was my dream that died, or if it was the little kid inside me who passed away.
NOTHING IS FUTILE
When you’re a kid, it doesn’t matter what you tell people you want to be when you grow up. A doctor. A cowboy. A mermaid. Unless they are heartless, most people will give you a smile and say, “Anything can happen! Work hard and you can accomplish anything!”
As an adult, if you tell someone what you want to do when you grow up, the first thing they’ll tell you is that you’ve already grown up. Then they’ll tell you it’s probably too late for that now. They’ll tell you it’s impossible. They’ll probably laugh at you. At best you’ll get a, “I’ll believe it when I see it.” and a roll of the eyes.
Or the worst thing they can say to you….nothing.
Saying nothing to you is almost worse than saying something negative. At least if someone laughs in my face and sarcastically tells me to keep dreaming, I can use it as some sort of motivation to prove them wrong. The negativity can be used as fuel.
But nothing?…Saying nothing is a dreadful thing to “hear.” Nothing is lifeless. The silence actually speaks volumes and does more harm than a pessimistic attitude.
I used to believe the mantra, “If you’ve got nothing nice to say, then don’t say anything at all!”
That’s some of the lousiest advice you can give or receive. Of course I’m not talking about bullying, but more speaking to feedback. When someone gives their opinion and it goes against what I feel or think, I used to think that they were rude or negative. It used to hurt my feelings. I can’t say that it still doesn’t from time to time, but I’m working on changing my perspective.
Now I see how valuable their true opinion is. It may hurt at first, but at least you know where they stand and you get a feel for how you’re perceived by others. Again, not that we should care so much about what others think, but if it’s someone we respect and care about, we know they’re telling us the truth out of love.
Some people hide behind the concept of constructive criticism and use that to imbue their negative attitude. They’re really just critical people. Those who give constructive criticism do it out of love. People who don’t give feedback out of love are just cynics.
THE LITTLE KID
One thing I would tell the younger me, having learned what I’ve learned these past 15–20 years, it’s to keep dreaming big dreams and keep reaching for them. If it’s your dream to play in the NBA, keep all things that will get you there in the forefront of your mind. Have basketball stuff everywhere. Keep shooting. Keep training. Keep working to perfect your craft. Keep believing that you can reach all your goals and dreams.
I’d tell the younger me to block out all the noise. Block out all the things that distract you and throw you off course. I would tell myself to not let the silence of your family and friends discourage you and make you want to question if it’s all worth it.
If I could talk to the younger me one last time, I’d tell him to never kill that little boy inside who believes anything is possible. Don’t suffocate that kid inside who has a blind faith.
If I could only go back and tell the younger me all of this, maybe that little kid would still be alive inside me today.