During my early teenage years, I somehow ended up being the Georgia State Champion in Blindfold Chess. I had three coaches that I worked with daily, went to two or three tournaments a week and even had a little, miniature chess board I carried around in my pocket to play. And because I loved myself, I decided to make this already seemingly impossible game even more complicated, by taking all the pieces away and basing every move off of memory and theories I had learned. Now the main difference between playing “chess” and “blindfold chess”, minus the absence of visible pieces, is that the strategy becomes completely different; the objective in blindfold chess is to capture the King, just like a normal game, however, you can also win if your opponent makes an invalid move. That key caveat is what makes blindfold chess hated by most. If you make a single mistake, you automatically lose.


I have lived the majority of my life by that standard. To me, my subjective idea of failure is just not an option. Jaded as that may sound, failing, to me, is something that I strive to never have: In my relationships, I try to stay in contact with all of my close friends, making it a point to call each of them at least once a week. At Impact Foundry, I try to stay on top of my work and then some, creating new graphics and contributing to the continual discussions and programs that we offer. I even accepted the opportunity to coach Berkeley’s Speech team and spend hours in the Bay, critiquing, editing and blocking speeches for these undergraduates. In other words, I do too much.


This program is starting to open my eyes and make me realize that I am 100% an achiever. I aim to do everything I possibly can, please as many people as I can and most importantly, I’m hurting myself because of it. A normal 24-year-old would not try and run tech for a YMCA Convention, single- handedly host 15 college speech and debate programs, play in 4 different soccer leagues, run the social media for 3 different organizations and be a newlywed. That’s insane. It’s no secret that I am a people pleaser. I always want people to be happy, and if that means at the expense of myself, I am more than willing to do it.


While I have been told it is never a bad thing to do as much as you can, I have learned that accepting more responsibility than you should is not a strength, but a weakness. While I try to do everything that I possibly can, if I try to do too much, it becomes devalued and I’m unable to give my full attention. Throughout my entire life I have been focusing and participate in most things that I have a passion for: chess, clarinet, soccer, speech. I was blessed with the opportunity to receive the proper coaches, teachers to aid in my passions. And while there will always be a debate about focusing and harnessing your skills and passions into a few, selective or broadening them even further, I have come to the conclusion that at the end of the day, if you’re happy with the end result, then that’s all that matters.


I’m tired. While I am attempting to complete so many tasks and help out every single person I come into contact with, I understand that sometimes, prioritizing your needs is a necessity. My yearning for having positive emotions from my friends and people I’ve met out here, while with good intentions, is hurting me. This may seem like something pretty basic to see and to understand, but coming from a background where I was taught to literally put other people first is a hard adjustment. I have become blinded by my desire to be a people pleaser to the point of physically and mentally exhausting my body. At the speech tournament I hosted, I didn’t sleep or eat for almost 60 hours, while editing and updating social media, then drove directly back and played two soccer games back to back, all the while trying to spend quality time with my wife. Learning a balance in my life is a huge necessity and I am improving on it. But the days of spreading myself out so thin that I snap is something that cannot happen anymore, and will not.


In blindfold chess, you play the opponent rather than the game. Instead of trying to take away the opponent’s most important piece, you instead make the opponent make a mistake. I have grown accustomed to playing the game. I continually try to win by ensuring that everyone around me is happy and that I help them in any way that I can. I know there’s nothing wrong with that, but unless I find a true balance with that, I will continue to be exhausted and feel like I’m being stretched to my breaking point. Prioritize and optimize is the name of the game. I’m just trying to get through it.




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