It was the fall semester of my freshman year when it happened.
I was sitting on a classic wooden bar stool in the only non-general education class of my early college career. The class — Architectural Design 1. It was the only class I chose because of my desire to be there (and not for the sake of meeting some degree requirement). And yes, I’m talking about you, every math class I’ve ever taken.
We had our first big project due later that week, our first shot at a 3D model. You see, these models take a long time to physically build — at least for first-time architecture students. So, most of us came to class early each day that week to work on them.
While we worked that day, a few of my classmates started gathering around one another and pulling out these long, slightly see-through pieces of paper from their portfolio binders and began to pass them around. They started to laugh, talk and generally have a nice time.
Naturally, as part of this cohort, I felt curious about what was happening and figured I’d join the fun, so I made my way over.
When I got there, I saw the papers they were passing around were drawings — which seems standard in an architecture classroom. But these weren’t renderings of the next great skyscraper to mark the New York City skyline. Nor were they takes on the great bridges of the world. And they definitely weren’t anything similar to the collection of chicken-scratch squares and lines that outlined my eventual first 3D model (which earned me a pitiful C- from my professor).
These were pieces of art.
Paintings of beautiful landscapes, flawless portraits and a black-and-white drawing of Mickey Mouse that is permanently seared into my brain.
I was in shock. Everyone in that room was an artist, except me. As I stared at one drawing more beautiful than the other, I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know what to say. So I didn’t, I just left.
In that moment, I realized something about myself — and not just that I wouldn’t become an architect. I realized something much scarier. I had no idea who I was.
Why did I ever think pursuing a career in architecture was a good idea? Besides being obsessed with the TV show “How I Met Your Mother,” where the main character was an architect, I had zero connection or understanding of the career. So much so that I failed to realize that architects — who are paid to design beautiful structures like libraries, bridges and skyscrapers — should have at least enough artistic skill to complete a Bob Ross video tutorial.
The questions came flooding into my head. Who am I? What do I love? What am I going to be when I grow up? Am I going to be a disappointment to my parents?
That last one killed me. When I was 3, my parents packed up our lives in Brazil and moved us here to Central Florida to give me and my brother a shot at a better life. To think that I could take all they sacrificed for me and not do something special with it just destroyed me.
That’s when “it” happened.
I decided to get to know myself.
I know that doesn’t sound crazy, but when I say “get to know myself,” I mean it in the most profound way possible. I spent the next year or so intentionally analyzing everything.
From the macro sense of asking and answering questions — Am I happy? What do I truly love in this world? What do I believe in? To the micro, like trying what felt like 100 different Chipotle burrito variations to determine which is my favorite (it’s double white rice, both beans, half chicken, half steak, sour cream and cheese). Oh, and if I’m eating at home, I’m putting ketchup on it. Feel free to join everyone I’ve ever shared a meal with in judging me; it’s a crowded bunch.
Not only did I go through this exercise, but I wrote all of it down.
Every time I felt happy, I wrote it down. Every time I was in a bad mood, I wrote it down. Every time anything made me feel any sort of way, I wrote it down.
And yes, I know I’m more than 700 words in and haven’t mentioned sports, but I’m getting there. I promise.
Eventually, I learned enough about myself to start answering some of the big questions. The first was that torturous one we ask children who barely know how to tie their shoes: What do you want to be when you grow up?
When I tried to answer it, I realized that what I wanted most out of life was to be happy — which took a while, a whole lot of prayer and a beautiful blessing from God named Sarah, my now wife. And to be happy in my life, I probably needed to be doing things I loved. Other than my faith and the people I love, there were two things 19-year-old me loved: Music and sports.
And although I could handle my own on the guitar and sing well enough to not get kicked out of the church choir, I knew that what I really wanted to do — make music — was never going to pan out because of, you know … general lack of talent.
I chose sports.
By that time in my life, after years of being a mediocre athlete, I never felt like playing was even close to reality. What I loved about sports, even as a kid, was to talk to my friends about it. I still remember those classic talk radio arguments at the lunch table or on the bus. I remember coming home after school and immediately turning the TV to ESPN to watch my favorite commentators and see the highlights from last night’s games. I love sports.
So, I thought, “How hard would it be to become the next Stephen A. Smith or Scott Van Pelt?” Turns out, it’s really hard. Those two are incredibly talented and extremely hard workers.
But regardless of my lofty expectations as a starry-eyed teenager, terrified of becoming an adult and of the rigors of this industry, I stuck with it and have had some amazing experiences and opportunities. I got my start in sports as part of Orlando City SC’s grassroots marketing team. Later, I broke into sports media as a producer for ESPN 580 Orlando and then left that job to pursue my master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University — or as I like to call it, the Hogwarts of journalism — or most recently spending the last two years in South Carolina covering high school sports for the Spartanburg Herald-Journal.
But of all my amazing opportunities in this industry — because of that moment in that architecture class and that ridiculously amazing but equally frustrating Mickey Mouse drawing that haunts me to this day — this one, that brings me home again, is the one that makes me feel the most blessed.
I am honored to be the next sports editor of OrangeObserver.com, the West Orange Times & Observer and the Southwest Orange Observer. I look forward to sharing stories about the amazing athletes in our community.