By C.J Peterson @SFBAYCJ
A life of “normalcy” has always eluded me.
But what is “normal?” I’ve always asked myself… Or told myself to make me feel better.
I’ve always needed interaction with people, whether they wanted to interact with me or not. But as could be expected, that drove a lot of people away.
I didn’t understand the basic rules human interaction even though I desperately sought it.
For the majority of my years in elementary and middle school, I was, for a lack of a better term, a loner. No friends and no social skills to even make any.
I was the punch line to the jokes and the forgotten person for everything important.
I remember once being left at a school field trip once because the people I drove with “forgot” I was in their car.
The one safe haven I had was the swimming pool. When I had first been diagnosed with Tourette’s, my parents put me on a swim team to “stay in shape” due to the medication I was taking to combat the condition.
I could get into the water and just go. No one yelled at me or called me obscene names. It was just the water, and my sheer will.
The only problem was that swim season only came around in the summer. And once that was over in August, I was back to the living hell that was my life.
By the time I was in high school, I was neck deep in depression. My only goal was to figure out how to get people to like me.
I tried to dress like everyone else and talk like everyone else. I cared about nothing besides the approval of my peers, which never came.
I began to flunk the majority of my classes and was placed on academic probation by my second semester.
I almost ended it. A hand full of sleeping pills was all it would have taken, but I didn’t. I couldn’t.
Then spring came: swim season. It was the first year that I tried out for my high school’s team.
I made the varsity roster and became a key member of the San Leandro High School swim team.
My specialty was distance events, which worked out well because it game me more time in the water to get away from life. I could escape the very thing that drove me mad for the past seven years. I was home.
But the same problem came back; once season ended, I fell back into depression.
But then, perhaps the most pivotal moment of my life happened. Someone reached out to me. My teammate, Jeff Engler, introduced me to the sport of wrestling. No, not the fake “WWE,” but real folk-style wrestling with singlets and headgear.
On the mat, I unleashed all of the pent up frustration and anger that I had accumulated for all of those years.
The next fall, I joined the football team. I clung to sports like the lifeline they really were.
For the first time in my life, people accepted me. They didn’t look down on me for my lack of ability to communicate or make fun of me because I couldn’t sit still. Instead, they valued my contributions as an athlete.
But my reliance on sports came from a deeper place.
Sports weren’t going to cancel on you because they found something better to do. Sports weren’t going to call you names. And sports weren’t going to leave you alone at your twelfth birthday party even though you invited 25 people.
Athletics made me happy. They made me whole. And for the first time in my life, I could say I was truly content.
That was until the summer heading into my senior year. A torn ACL would derail my athletic career and render me useless as an athlete.
But instead of sinking back into the depths of my own mind and wallowing in my self-pity, I channeled that energy into something else.
I became a sports encyclopedia and eventually a sports reporter. And as I consumed everything sports related, my relationship with athletics grew even deeper.
It became a part of my DNA. Sports and C.J. Peterson became synonymous.
If it weren’t for athletics, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I would have no reason to be on this earth.
Everything in my life is shaped around it. And without sports, I don’t think I would be alive.