Becoming my own man
Miko Malabute | Friday, May 13, 2016
I’m obviously not exactly a stud athlete, but I have a bit of a confession to make — when I play pick-up basketball, I’m not exactly the most confident player on the court. Even when I’m playing well, I don’t always start off with oozing amounts of swagger and belief that I’m going to make every shot I take.
So here’s what I do: I start off by passing the ball to my teammates. Driving and dishing, setting them up so they can knock down the open jump shots. Then they get more and more confident, and with their growing confidence I’m able to really settle into the game. Now I’m getting more confident by their own confidence — call it osmosis or something — and I can finally play my own game.
It’s a lot easier when I approach the game that way. When I try to force the issue myself, I get so in my own head and I start critiquing my every flaw. But seeing other people — my peers, friends, etc. — flourishing gives me the confidence and determination to elevate my own game. When I first got to Notre Dame, I tried to force the issue. Before I even stepped onto campus, I had a nice pep talk with my mom. She told me she had confidence in me because I reminded her of a chameleon — not the most endearing of comparisons, but she explained it was because I could fit right in anywhere.
But at first, I didn’t want to fit right in, I wanted to be the man. I forced the issue. And I tangibly struggled with trying to stand out amongst my peers. So I finally stopped trying to act like I was trying to be something, and just sat back and tried to figure out how my peers fared. And as I saw them succeed and grow into their own, I got the confidence to grow into my own — to be my own person.
My brother told me before I got to Notre Dame to trust a man who is good and honest with you. I’ve been blessed to have met some of the best, most honest and most trustworthy people. Like any good team, at my time of need, I faltered, I leaned on my peers to bring me back on my feet. My father passed away early in my sophomore year, and it truly brought me to one of my lowest — and what felt like one of the longest — points of my life. But the Notre Dame community brought me back on my feet. They allowed me to get through it, both on my own and as a second family. The amount of support and love was unreal: people who said prayers for my family, the administration and professors sent me cards of support and love. I can honestly say I never expected that level of support and comfort, but to the people at Notre Dame that’s just what you do. It’s natural.
Looking back on the past four years, I never thought that I would be the man that I am today. No, I am obviously not perfect — spend even ten minutes with me and I’m sure I’ll joke about my latest goof of the week — but I can safely say that I am proud of the transformations I’ve made as a student of the University. And I never saw it coming, because it wasn’t until I saw everyone else grow into their own that I was able to settle into the flow of life in South Bend; it wasn’t until I was able to see the strides my peers made that I was able to play my own game.
The best part about becoming my own person, becoming my own man, these past four years is losing myself in the Notre Dame tradition and making it my own as well. The Grotto trips, the Alma Maters, the ripping up of The Observer and raining journalistic-confetti at basketball games and, of course, the football games, were things that I became very much a part of me as they did for countless other students in the past — and as they will become for the countless of fortunate students in the future. But as they became more and more a part of me, they became experiences of my own — and I grew more and more into the man that I am today.
I don’t really know if I can recite to you what I learned in my sophomore year class, but I can tell you that the stuff I learned while at the University wasn’t always what was in the books. It was how I learned to be my own man, which I learned from watching my own peers figure out how to become their own man or woman. And for me, that was the perfect game plan.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.