I grew up in Huntington Beach, California. I was the freckle-faced kid at school who got made fun of, not only because of my freckles and sun-bleached hair but I think my favorite my red suspenders flagged me as a “nerd.” To make matters worse, both of my parents were principals. Thankfully not at my school, otherwise live would have even more miserable. But, I still felt like an outcast and struggled with fitting in. I was an eager student, which was great for teachers, but not so great for making friends. My neighbor hated me so much that he kicked me and bit me on many occasions. It was terribly painful!
I was always the outlier, the easy-target, the kid who never got picked for sports teams. My mom felt so bad for me that she bought me a basketball of my own, but it didn’t change the fact that I had no one to play with.
One day, after being hounded all the way home by a group of bullies, I locked myself in my room and cried nonstop, while Don’t Worry, Be Happy played on my CD player, over and over again. When my Dad came home and found me, he’d had enough. He looked at me with pity and declared, “Ryan, we’re going to enroll you in Karate.”
I will remember that moment forever when the tears stopped.