Why Every Writer Needs Two Educations
Marcus Burke, author of Team Seven and a former college athlete, learned from Carter G. Woodson that teaching yourself is just as important as being taught in the classroom.
Even if you’re not “a writer”…you - all of you - should read this. Marcus Burke, ironically a Central PA native, like myself - has a story that parallels some of my experiences in life and it’s one that I believe will resonate with a lot of you.
I’ve played basketball since the 5th grade. It was a way for me to be more social amongst my peers, and to demonstrate my ability to create beyond the drawing board with my art. I practiced all the time, attended Shippensburg and Syracuse University Basketball Camp for 2 years, York Suburban (my high school) Basketball Camp for 2 or 3 years, then, as I moved from local/community league basketball teams to Junior Varsity to Varsity, I continued to participate in my high school’s basketball camp as a manager and a coach. I loved working with kids.
Because of the “jock/student athlete” mold I merged myself into, literature and STEM weren’t areas of my life that took center stage or were viewed as importantly as they are to me now. Especially, because I didn’t have anyone around me (family, friends, peers) encouraging me in any other area besides sports or my art (sketching, writing).
However fun it sounds to have had a dynamic athletic career throughout public school, I suffered greatly from the abuse I took from coaches. These men were supposed to be my mentors, my elders, people I looked on with respect because they “had my best interests in mind.” I used to hear: “The day I stop coming down on you is when you should be worried.” Yeah, I was screamed at. That’s a part of sports and the demand put on the players at times. But I was demoralized. I was verbally abused repeatedly, breaking me down to a puddle of my own tears and guilt for not being this or that type of person or player. I watched as others, who were not nearly as honest with themselves as I was, and who had not put in half the work I had, rise up the artificial ranks and praised as golden children. Other parents noticed this, and other parents - not my own - came down on the coaches and told them what they were doing to me (or not doing) was wrong.
Beyond the visible lack of playing time I was getting, behind the scenes, I was verbally beaten by the coaches, these men, these father figures, I was expected to look up to and trust. One of them was even let go for his actions against me because my teammates must have communicated what was going on to their parents, who took it to the school board. When I got out of high school, instead of “never looking back,” I came back repeatedly to manage and coach that same basketball camp, and during the summer, I played ball with many of the kids I coached and watched grow up and progress into high school. I taught them things through my own actions and I ran little clinics so-to-speak at the local park on my own. The most important things I taught those kids was how very little that sport mattered in the scheme of things, and if they weren’t having fun, to get out.
Hypocritical advice coming from someone who stayed and endured the abuse I dealt with. I did drop off the team halfway through my junior year, only to return the next season. What a waste. My art and creative writing came back to me and broke through the mental walls of all the years I internalized what I had been going through. It didn’t help that I was raised in such a big, loving, family, who - due to their highly religious (Christian) fundamentalist upbringing - only could offer me the seemingly solemn advice of “asking God for direction,” and “to pray.”
It’s been a long road since being enamored with basketball and the roller coaster battle of self-confidence, self-doubt, anxiety, and depression. It was inevitable that I would return to my love for art and my ability to create, which eventually brought me to the social media forms of Facebook and Tumblr, by which I became able to conceptualize my thoughts, emotions, and watch them pour from my fingertips onto this digital platform as I am now, and to share them - for better or worse - with well, the world.
Read the above article. I can’t offer the “don’t ever give up” cliche, because I’m a realist. And sometimes, the best thing you can do in certain situations is to actually give up and when the figurative dust settles, the act of giving up or letting go may expose to you certain undeniable strengths, weaknesses, assets or negative influences you may not have had revealed to you otherwise.
Stay curious everyone.