Echoes of your own voice.

A miniseries about discovering yourself,
Part I.

So, here I sit, in my new room, which actually used to be my sisters’ room (we swapped our living quarters while I was away at University), and at first, it felt like I was wearing someone else’s clothes, like a jersey with some other bozo’s last name. Even better, an entirely new number. Acquainting myself was troublesome, to say the least. I had to squeeze all my collegiate furniture into a tiny cube of space, even though the rooms by comparative size, were only off by half-a-foot, maaaaaybe. At first, it was difficult to sleep-in/fall asleep, since the front door ran adjacent — SLAM! — even though my old room shared a wall with the family bathroom and as most younger brothers understand, growing up with older sisters, the bathroom can and will share characteristics similar to a Papal Grand Tour running through Philly and DC. Furthermore, the sun would shine, bright and early, thanks to the brilliant thinking of an architecture who most likely thought, “Hm, this person will probably like to wake up at the butt-crack of dawn! LET IT BE SO.” The remembrance of my original sanctuary was running away and I felt as if I didn’t properly belong. What is mine now, really isn’t mine. A room is a personality, yet, mine felt blank.

** * **

Sports as a child was heavily mandated. It was a prerequisite as a Howard. Fall consisted of Soccer and Football, Winter consisted of Basketball and Spring was anything I wanted which usually consisted of basketball and soccer intertwining due to a chaotic, year-round schedule. With that, each new year, every child would be presented the opportunity to handpick a number of their choice to represent themselves for the upcoming season. So, whenever #12 scored a goal, you would know, “Oh, Robin scored that nasty corner — just like Beckham!” For real, that actually happened. One time. Maybe Two times.

queue music from the international score, “Bend It Like Beckham.”

Or if I drained a midrange jumper, on the occasional chance the point guards passed me the ball, you’d see #12 sprinting back on defense, “Yep, there’s Robin.” It also helped I was rockin’ a super gnar, Jew-Fro. Don’t hate the player, hate his game… and his jheri curls. Honestly, it’s like when you see #24 in that royal purple and majestic gold. You know that’s the Mamba, that’s KB24, Kobe Bryant. Like when you see #12 in that white/navy blue and red lining, you know that’s Tommy Terrific, The Golden Boy, Tom Brady. An established pedigree. These men sought and conquered their respective realms thus establishing their rightful claim to their identity. They controlled their destiny due to dictating their will amongst their competitors and more often that not, succeeded in historical fashion. In my eyes, that high bestowment of praise was further embellished and glorified due to their…ding ding ding…jersey number. I wanted that.

However; life, as always, plans things differently.

It’s my sophomore year, and to my dismay, I can no longer lay claim to my lifelong #12. Instead, I have to challenge Quinn Lee for my number, since he wants it as well.
- Robin “Terrell Owens” Howard

Well, shoot, of course I’m not going to beat Quinn and it’s not for a lack of effort. The guy was just straight up better than me. So, a 1-on-1 partakes and thinking back, the score was probably something like 4–11. Terrible. Quinn pretty much says, “I’ll take number 12, thank you very much, a-HA!” Damn. What a bummer and tremendous let down. I loved that number. I repped it my entire athletic career up until that point. No excuses though, I had to choose a new identity. Start over. So, I picked #2 and throughout the season, I would have to alternate between that and #22 since neither one was available for both home and away jerseys. The head honcho could supply jerseys for the McDonalds’ All-Star Team, but couldn’t supply #2 or #22 on both home and away jerseys for JV?
“$W@G, bruh.”

And for a time, even though it was just a number, it felt….totally unlike me. I didn’t feel like Robin at all, even though, I was the one still playing the game. I was still boxing out. I was still inbounding. I was still blowing lay-ups (pfft, j/k). It was taking an unruly amount of time adjusting to such a minor nuance. In my own hyperbolic mental-gymnasium, I was playing short-handed and all the equity I allocated into one single number, had suddenly been stripped from me. Naiveté, if I must say so.

Nonetheless, time’s most honest trait of steering the ship true began to take shape. Senior year would strike and due to an offseason containing a more concentrated and intensified training/conditioning lifestyle, I grew more into the role that the team needed me for. I focused on my defense, my foot technique, and although my offense was nothing the school records would show forth and brag about, my rebounding became a staple for my game. If you had twenty-thirty pounds and a few inches on me, but were undisciplined with your mechanics, I could maneuver around you and more often than not, come down with the ball or make your life a living hell in the post.

My confidence grew and sky rocketed. I felt like KanYe shooting out of a cannon and meeting some fine white lady, all prettied up and ready for me. I had proven myself. That was on me. Not my jersey numbers.

** * **

So, here I sit, in my room. I ease into slumber quite swiftly and naturally now, without having to toss and turn, thinking about all the “oohs and ahhs,” that everyone brags about or the “what ifs,” in life that I might have slipped up on. The thought that I might have changed or that something so simple could impact me greatly, turned into a laughable concept. Nelson Muntz might give me some flack, but the minor bumps and bruises that rubbed me the wrong way, simply strengthened my core. I became even more of myself than I would have, had I remained dormant.

The vessel erodes but the spirit and soul remains unchanged throughout.

You might be entering a new time in your life and feel as if, “Wow, this is completely freaking weird. I’m not comfortable with this.” Don’t panic. Proactivity is a virtue and a pillar that stands the test of time, day in, day out. Work through it and with it. If you stand idle, you won’t discover; Better yet, realize, the consistent and inconsistent variables that truly make up you. This follows suit with something as drastic as moving to a new city where no one knows you or simply changing jersey numbers, where you feel people won’t recognize you. Move forward and never lose: you.

Live the life you love. Love the life you live.