Growing up I was a severely overweight child with glasses and braces. To say I was bullied physically and mentally would be an understatement. It was so bad that I had to move schools several times. Kids can be downright cruel.
After I turned 13 I lost the weight, got contacts, and got my braces off. This was a very interesting experience for me because I was able to see firsthand how cruel people can be at such a young age. This taught me one of the most important lessons of my life … Be your own person! All of a sudden the popular kids wanted to be my friend. I decided to go in opposite direction … I refused to choose just one group of people to hang out with, but rather multiple groups to fit different aspects of my personality.
I had my intellectual friends, my party friends, my goofy friends, etc. This was wonderful once I entered college, but unfortunately it was social suicide in my teenage years … by not choosing a social group that is. I was still bullied in other ways, but I just chalked it up to challenging teenage years.
I did attend this incredible boarding school in Rhode Island right on the ocean where I was fortunate enough to live on a 70 foot sailboat with eight other classmates tagging sharks and turtles, and learning about Marine Science for a semester. It was probably the highlight of my high school career.
When I turned 14 the wild side of my personality started to shine through for the next 10 years or so. I like to think that I was “Responsibly Irresponsible.” I got myself into all kinds of trouble, but always respected my mother’s wishes, and made sure I would call her to tell her I was alive, doing all right, and where I was in the world. I lived for the story… I always knew something terrible in life could happen being exposed to so many different cultures and atrocities around the world. So, I always wanted to live every day like it was my last. Yes, I probably got into more trouble than most teenagers in the world, but I had a damn good time doing it.
I went so far as to defer a year or two after high school and hop on a plane over to China at 17 years old. I don’t know what possessed me to do this, but it was the most interesting and culturally rich experience of my life. I even managed to land myself in jail at the ripe old age of 17 with my then Italian kickboxing instructor up in northern China. This will be a blog in and of itself!
I participated in wilderness survival programs in New Zealand, Australia, and other locations around the world for 4 to 6 weeks at a time. I would be in the middle of nowhere in potentially life or death situations with a group of people. I learned leadership skills, survival skills, and learned how to “convene” with nature as they say.
“Old fashion throwaway cameras to take the most incredible pictures in the
Australian outback during a Wilderness Survival Trip”
Whenever I was living in the city and I would feel overwhelmed with life or I was getting to snooty for my liking … I would participate in these wilderness survival trips to ground myself.
Once I started college in California for the first two years of my education I was definitely & completely out of control. I was partying at the Playboy mansion, clubbing five nights a week, and engaging in all kinds of nefarious activities. However, the one stipulation my parents put upon me was that they would help me with college, but I had to maintain a very high GPA. As long as I maintained my grades, because this was my “job” at the time, I was free and clear. I’m not quite sure how I did it, but I managed to completely go off of the reservation, and maintain the appropriate GPA.
After two years in Los Angeles I decided I needed to get to grip with getting serious with college and so I transferred to the University of Miami. Yes, I transferred from Los Angeles to South Beach … I have no idea what the hell I was thinking. I still maintained my GPA average, participated in many different business plans competitions as my major was entrepreneurship, but I still managed to rock it out on a regular basis.
I will conclude by saying that I probably took full advantage of my teenage years as best I could and when I look back I only have the fondest of memories of everything I did (even in the most craziest of times!)