It may be hard to believe, but the simple act of acceptance is hard for many.
I have been bullied for my entire life. In fact, for whatever reason, it continues to this day.
I can recall kids come up to me and calling me every vulgar name one can think of. As I got older, it became more of, well . . . no longer would the bullies attack me to my face, but they would do so on the Internet.
In these days of social media, something like that is extremely easy to do. I've also had people who I thought cared about me and were there for me do much the same.
Because of this, I went through much of my younger years with low self-esteem. I started believing what the haters were telling me. I felt absolutely worthless.
But, as I soon realized, I wasn't.
When I started with the Vancouver Giants, I didn't have many close relationships in the organization. I knew who people were, though, but only well enough to say hello and goodbye.
So, for many months, when it came to attending games, I didn't want to go through the front office. I didn't know many people from the office, so I didn't feel comfortable. I didn't know if they would accept me.
“What if they think I'm a disturbance?” I'd think to myself. “I better just leave them alone.”
Instead, I entered and left through the main doors of the Pacific Coliseum. Then one night, I was dropped off at the rink before the doors were opened to the public.
So, I had sent a text message to Sheldon Arsenault, the manager of ticket sales and service, who I knew and with whom I had a good relationship.
“Hey man, can you come out and open the door here?” I wrote.
“Just come through the office,” he replied.
“Are you sure?” I wrote back.
I was hesitant.
“Yeah, man,” he replied.
So, I did. To my surprise, I was accepted with open arms.
“Why didn't you come through here for so long?” people in the office asked.
“I don't know,” I replied, not wanting to answer the question.
As time went on, I developed some of the closest relationships. Some of these people, I can say quite frankly, I consider to be family.
There's one particular game every season that causes me to reflect and think of all the strong relationships I have built.
It all started on Jan. 20 2013, when the Giants were scheduled to play host to the Everett Silvertips. Word had gone out days prior that there was going to be a big event happening during the game.
What was it? No idea.
I usually get to the rink two to three hours before puck drop; it's part of my pre-game routine. When I got to my seat in the press box, I could see students gathered together in one section practising a dance.
'What's going on?” I asked Josh Barkoff, who is the Giants’ DJ.
I was confused. But I didn't want to ask questions, so I just sat down in my seat and listened to the teachers yelling instructions to the children.
It soon was revealed was it was all about.
The Giants were trailing 2-0 to the Silvertips, and there was a stoppage in play. There were four minutes put on the scoreclock.
All of the sudden, Barkoff played “What Makes You Beautiful,” by the boy band One Direction, and a bunch of children got up from their seats and started dancing.
Those children weren't just fans who bought tickets in order to attend the game; they were students from elementary schools all over the Lower Mainland.
It clicked with me.
A flashmob was happening in support of anti-bullying. They all had pink shirts with 'Acceptance' written on them.
As it turned out, this wouldn’t be the only time this would happen.
It has turned into an annual event, most recently when the Giants played host to the Moose Jaw Warriors on Feb. 18. Students who took part in the flashmob had an opportunity to take a break from class for a day and witness the Giants defeat the Warriors 3-2 in overtime.
Even though the last two flashmobs have been less of a shocker to me, it is still something I'm extremely proud to be a part of.
I have three words I live by: live, laugh and smile. I'm a better person because of them.
I'm a different person now.
I don't care about the things that don't matter anymore.
That's not to say that I don't still have days when I lose confidence and go back to having low self-esteem. That's not to say that there haven't been times where I let what someone say get to me and cause me to feel worthless.
It happens. That's why there are emotions. I've had times this season where I've felt like that, whatever it was that was getting to me.
That being said, it's important to never dwell on the situation for too long, and I try to make sure to come out of it a better person. It sounds like a cliche, but it's true.
I have gone from being a youngster with low self-esteem to someone who has found his true self.
The Giants have been a big part of that.