On Tuesdays, you can find me at the Dan Cook Youth Center. Mr. Cook was a sports writer here in San Antonio for 51 years. The most famous line he ever typed is, “The opera ain’t over ‘til the fat lady sings.” But he’d stopped writing years before I got here, so my appreciation for him centers on a different chapter in his 81 years of life. It’s this building named in his honor. Monday through Friday, about 75 kids come here after school. They’re 5-13 years old. Many come from broken homes and they all could use 1 on 1 attention when it comes to schoolwork. However, I’m the only volunteer on Tuesdays. So, while the employees try to stop the room for turning into a battle royal wrestling match, I help small groups with their homework. Last week I took a few youngsters to a little room to work on math. As we were finishing up, a 5th grader named Natasha said, “Thanks Kevin. The other teachers don’t help us like you do.” If she only knew, they’re helping me way more than I’m helping them.
I moved to San Antonio from College Station almost 2 years ago. Not only was it the biggest break of my career but it also couldn’t of come at a better time. While I got to cover some great stories and games at Texas A&M, the working environment wasn’t ideal. So, I applied for a bunch of different openings. I was a finalist for a job in Austin but didn’t get it. Instead of letting that discourage me, I forced myself to keep grinding. I put my all into making the best resume video I could. I watched YouTube videos of unique standup ideas and then shot (and sometimes re-shot) them. I searched for compelling stories and sought out advice on my work. A few months later, KABB’s news director called to tell me I was his new sports reporter. My exact words were, “Don’t play with me, man.” He wasn’t playing and, shortly after, I started working at the Alamo City’s FOX affiliate.
I hit the ground running, both at work and in my social life. While I don’t drink, I made it a point to go out and meet people. Shortly after, I started dating a truly special woman. We hit it off better than anyone else I’d ever met and soon she was my girlfriend. I had everything going for me. A fun job, a great lady and plenty of money for ice cream Snickers bars. At least, that’s how it looked to everybody else. I mean, that’s what my friends on Facebook saw. Yet, inside I was panicking. Deep down in my core I was filled with doubt about whether I could handle a real relationship. Sure enough, the first sign of trouble I reverted to my old ways. I let one bad night with my girlfriend lead to messaging other girls and, just like that, I was single again.
There are two choices when you cause situations like this in your life. You can laugh it off and continue living as you were. Or, take some time to really look in the mirror and ask yourself those tough questions. You know the ones like, “Do you sabotage relationships because of your own emotional insecurities?” The ironic part is I get paid to interview people. Yet, answering those questions is a whole different ballgame. Regardless, I decided the buck stops here. Heck, I was almost 30 years old and hadn’t once told a girl I loved her while truly meaning it. I couldn’t of, because I didn’t truly love myself.
Around that time I met my sports director for a drink (cranberry juice, on the rocks). That night we talked about the challenges of moving to a bigger market, not as an employee but as a boyfriend or husband. He said it just magnifies who you are. If you’re a jerk, you’ll have more opportunities to be deceitful. If you’re a good person, you’ll have more chances to show it. I left that night hydrated both physically (I think I put away 4 or 5 glasses) and emotionally. I challenged myself to look inward. I took time to be alone but I also made time for others. I volunteered as a reading buddy for a couple second graders once a week. The sessions were only an hour but Jordan and Taegan improved drastically throughout the school year. They were both reading a grade below where they should’ve been when we started. Yet, by June they were ahead of the game. This only made me want to do more.
That’s when I began looking for places where I could make a bigger impact and work with more kids. I found the youth center and began volunteering for a few hours every week. Meantime, the aforementioned young lady and I were back together. For once in my life I gave my all to a relationship. I made sacrifices I’d never made before and we became an integral part of each other’s lives. I was in love for the first time. I also, finally, loved myself.
We almost made it to our 1-year anniversary before the relationship ended. Certainly the kind of situation that would’ve crushed me in the past. Shoot, the old me would’ve gone out to clubs to collect phone numbers and boost my ego.
Yet, two days later I was at the youth center. Little Natasha, April and Dakota all needed help with their math homework. As for me? Well, I needed them, too. Being around these kids reminds me of the many blessings in my life. I still have a great job, I never have to worry about going to bed hungry, and I have a mom and brother to support me when times get tough. Big Bro and Mama also motivate me to never give up on my dream. It’s a message I’ll continue to pass on to youngsters no matter where my career takes me.
With that said, I’m ready for future challenges. I stood in the mirror and answered those tough questions. I completely opened myself up to someone and, even though it didn’t work out, I won’t let that deter me from my path. Furthermore, I wish her nothing but the best. While that sounds cliche, I honestly feel that way. I’m at a point in my life where I understand we all have different opinions on the importance of certain things. Instead of worrying about what I can’t control, I’m focusing entirely on staying positive and persistent.
Now, whether someone believes in me enough to give me my next career break remains to be seen. Regardless, I won’t stop pushing the kids at the Dan Cook Youth Center or myself. I’ll continue teaching them about math and they’ll keep teaching me about life.