An Above Average Story Written by an Average Guy

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Booksie Classic

This is an English project, but it is a summary of my life and lessons that can be taken from it.

An Above Average Story Written by an Average Guy

By: Ethan McAlister

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Introduction

No, I’m not a professional athlete, a wealthy businessman, or a notable figure, and according to most people I am still a kid. Heck, I’ve only been on this planet for sixteen years, and by now you’re probably thinking to yourself, what could I learn from this guy? According to most I’m just an average guy, but that is the beauty of it, I have had the experiences that most normal teenagers have been through at some point. I’ve also been through the highs and lows that most people my age have been through. By the end of this autobiography I hope that you will be able to see that you can pull inspiration out of every corner of your life and that there is always something to learn from every moment of your life.

Early Years

In October of 1998 Ethan McAlister was born in Our Lady of the Lake Hospital in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. If you haven’t figured it out that’s me. Now, I was born after my parents had split up as they were never married. My father was in France, but of course he rushed home as soon as he heard that I was born. My mom was still living with my grandparents in Maringouin, Louisiana while she was in school getting her nursing degree, so they practically raised me when I was little. I am thankful that my grandparents were there for me when I was a toddler. They raised me right and again I cannot thank them enough. They said I was a happy child, I rarely cried, and was always laughing, and truthfully that was probably because I was around them most of the time. I have fond memories of running through the field behind their house, chasing our neighbor’s donkeys on the RTV, and helping my grandfather wash his car (which usually ended up with me spraying him with the water hose). Arguably these were the best years of my life, and I would give anything to get them back.  So when you have kids just let them be kids. The world’s a cruel place, and life seems a lot simpler. Please allow your children to have that childlike mentality for as long as possible. Certain things happened to me in my life, and I was forced to grow up fast. Trust me you do not want to be in a hurry to get older.

Then when I was about four my mom got married, and we moved to Baton Rouge. My grandparents followed us out there because they wanted to be with us. A short time after their marriage my sister was born. This event was a huge moment for me because I was now a big brother and excited to be one. However, I was about to be five at this time, and that meant I was about to start school.

 

School is in Session

I had been in preschool before, but now I was in the big leagues, Kindergarten. My parents put me into a private Catholic school because they wanted me to grow in faith and knowledge. For this I am very thankful. I do not think I would be in the same place if they didn’t care about me that much. Even from the start of Kindergarten I was expected to make exemplary grades. Luckily I had an awesome kindergarten teacher so I got by. I remember being scared to death in fourth grade when I had a “B” on a progress report. I waited until my mom was in a good mood before showing her, and she was not too happy with me, but somehow everything surprisingly seemed to turn out all right.  School always has been easy for me, and it still is now in high school. I’ve never had to study for anything; instead, I just pay attention in class, and I learn everything I need to know. I get lectured all the time on how I am setting myself up for failure, and that college was going to be brutal for me. I guess they know what’s best for me, and I should probably listen.

There are a few things that I have learned in school, and one is to question everything. In sixth grade on the first day of class in social studies our teacher handed us a piece of paper and on it she said was a brief synopsis of the history of the United States. She told us all to read it so I did, but I started to notice something weird about it. For one it said Jefferson Davis was the 16th President, and the Confederacy had won the Civil War. It included similar mistakes from the 1700’s all the way up to present day. I knew something was wrong, but I didn’t say anything and neither did the rest of the class. When everyone had had ample time to read it, our teacher asked us what we had thought of it. So I raised my hand slowly and I said something like, “This paper isn’t factual at all.” Soon a few of few of my classmates said, “Yeah, he’s right.” My teacher then congratulated me. She told us to never blindly accept something from someone in higher authority (in our case a teacher) and question everything. I’ve kept that principle in my mind, and I have gotten in trouble for asking a teacher or my parents to explain themselves, but I guess it was worth it. So remember, do not ever blindly follow something if you ask why, and you get a response like, “Because that is just the way it is.” Do not accept that as an answer.

 

 

“Take the Word Can’t Out of Your Vocabulary”

 

I was fortunate enough to learn the value of hard work from my father and my grandfather. Since I was about six my dad, little brother, and I lived on a cattle farm East of Baton Rouge. I have spent many hours putting up fence, working with a shovel, and doing many other things. When I was about twelve, I hated working out there. I usually wanted to go inside and play video games, but that was not an option, when there was daylight outside and works to be done. Most Saturdays I had to get my butt outside and get to work. At the time, I didn’t think anything of the work I was doing, but in the long run I learned many things. I don’t know many people my age that can drive a tractor, handle a herd of cattle, or build barbed-wire fence. Now I’m truly thankful that my father made me do this, and that I learned the value of true hard work.

My other grandfather owns a Bar-B-Que restaurant. He started it up when I was about seven. It was right by LSU so I met many of the 2007 Football National Championship team members because they came to eat their often. Four of them even came to my house and played Super Smash Bros. on my old Nintendo with me, and it was great. However, when I was about ten my grandparents closed up the shop to open a new one about ten miles away. When I first saw the building they were moving into I thought, how could this be a restaurant? The building was an old bar room, and it looked as if a tornado had gone through it. I was eventually recruited to help restore the building. Work started by scraping tile off of the floor. My grandfather said that we should be able to get it all up before dark. In that moment I said, “We can’t do this.” My grandfather looked and me straight in the eyes and responded, “Take that word out of your vocabulary.” I asked reluctantly, “What ‘can’t’?” He looked at me and said, “Yes can’t, you can get anything done if you set your mind to it, and you’re gonna start by helping me scrape the tile off of this floor.” We finished working that day with two or three hours to spare. He taught me something that day that I will never forget, and I will remember that for as long as I live.

A Possum of a Problem

Since my grandfather owns a restaurant, I have been fortunate enough to work there for the last five years, and I’ve made decent money doing it. However, there is never a dull moment in the BBQ shop. Every time that I am over there, something strange is bound to happen. Yet, they do not compare to a fateful day last summer. What started out as a normal day quickly took a turn for the worst. I was cleaning the counter upfront when I heard a shrill cry that came from the kitchen. I ran back there, and one of my grandfather’s employees was pointing at the stove. Upon further investigation, I realized that there was a tail hanging down from under the stove. I looked a little more and I saw that a possum had climbed under the grates of the stove somehow. I called my grandfather into the kitchen to take a look. We decided we needed to get rid of it no matter what. We armed ourselves with thick fryer gloves and a Styrofoam ice chest. The plan was to grab the possum’s tail and to throw it in the ice chest so that we could release it later. I had the job of holding the ice chest and then quickly shutting the lid on it. Somehow the possum had lodged itself between the flat stove top and the grates on top of it. Since it was an industrial stove, the grates were pretty heavy, and it was even more difficult trying to dodge a possum with razor sharp teeth. Finally, my grandfather was able to grab the back of his neck. He grabbed it and said one two three and threw it towards me. Luckily, I caught it, and I was able to get the lid on the ice chest on time.

 

A Few Humbling Moments

 

I am fortunate enough to say that I’ve been able to meet my great-grandfather, and really get to know him. He just made ninety years old, and you wouldn’t believe me, but he works harder than any young man I have ever seen. He still works with over a hundred head of cattle today. Born in 1924, he lived through the Great Depression. He told me that he had seen two grown men go out into the middle of a street to fight over a possum someone had run over with a car. I have never seen him waste anything that he has, and I imagine that is part of the reason why. He is one of the toughest and most humble men I’ve ever meet, and I am glad I got to know him.

My grandmother grew up in a family with six children, and she was the middle child. Her two older sisters moved out of the house when my grandmother was young so she was left to care for her younger siblings. She had to cook dinner for her sisters, which was usually macaroni and cheese because they did not have much money. Although her sisters told me that my grandmother made macaroni soup for them, she tried her hardest to take care of them. She told me that she remembers having only a few peanut butter crackers for supper some nights. I then realized how lucky I actually am. I’d go to bed every night with a full stomach, and hardly ever think of how fortunate I am for that. I had known that people were hungry in my community, and I had even participated in food drives, but this story really hit home. I hope that I never take any meal that I have for granted knowing that some people don’t have any clue what their next meal will be.

 

Are You Rich?

When I was younger I was riding home from school with my grandmother. We have always been close as she helped raise me when I was a kid. We’d talk a lot, and have many thoughtful conversations. She lived in a big house so one day I asked her if she was rich. “Yeah, of course I am,” she responded. I followed by saying something like, “So you have a lot of money.” What she told me then really got me thinking. She said compared to some, yes, but that “rich” was not the rich she had on her mind. My grandmother told me she was rich in kindness, love, family, and many other things. I had never thought of being rich in that way. I never asked anyone else if they were rich after that day. I learned you really had to get to know people to see the qualities they were rich in and not the amount of money they had. I discovered that day that the richest man in a monetary sense can be poor, and on the other hand a man without a penny to his name could be richer than you or me.

 

Use your Head, but Know How to Work with your Hands Just in Case.

Growing up on a farm, I have done my share of labor intensive tasks. I’ve dug channels with a trencher from six in the morning until midnight and then got up in the morning to go again. Now I’m not trying to say I work harder than most people by a longshot, but I would venture to say I have worked harder than most teenagers my age. Luckily, my grandfather on my dad’s side lives close to us, so he will help us out time to time. He always told me to use my head first, but I should also know how to use my hands just in case. I agree with him 100%. I’d much rather work with my head, but knowing how to use your hands makes work a whole lot easier. However, living on the farm does have some benefits. We always have farm raised beef in the freezer, and I am essentially a carnivore. I can ride four-wheelers over two hundred acres, and I can hunt all that I want during open season. However, if there is one thing that living on a cattle farm has taught me, it’s that if you have a bull stampeding towards you make sure you have a tree to jump behind.

Just Reel Your Problems in, They Might Not be as Big as You Thought

When I was younger my father, grandfather, and I would go fishing in Grand Isle (a popular fishing spot on the coast of Louisiana) for a few days every summer. We’d load up our gear, hook our small bass boat up to the truck, and head out early on a Friday. It would take us about three hours to make it there, but we wasted no time when we arrived making sure we headed straight to the water. The day seemed promising, but we hadn’t had much luck at all. We had only managed to pull in a few saltwater catfish, which are decent tasting, but I was hoping to find either a redfish or a black drum. After being on the water for five hours, the three of us had gotten discouraged, and we were ready to call it a day. We settled on all casting one last time, and any fisherman knows that “one last time” means about five more attempts to cast. After a few casts I felt a huge tug on my line. I started to reel it in, but the fish was strong, and I had a pretty hard time. As I was fighting the fish, I saw in the distance a huge alligator gar breach the water. I then asked my dad, “Is that what I’m reeling in?” He told me he didn’t know, but I should hurry, and reel it in. Eventually I noticed my line was getting short, and I feared I would pull a prehistoric looking fish into our boat. I finally got the fish out of the water, but it wasn’t the fish I was expecting, instead it was a very sizeable black drum. I was thrilled and relieved at the same time. It was the largest fish I’ve caught to this day. I realized that day, I had made something look worse than it actually was, and I had driven myself crazy over something that was not even there. Don’t ever fear things that you don’t know everything about. The unknown is feared by many, and as humans we tend to think of the worst possible outcome, and I believe that is somewhat instinct. However, all you have to do is think that, whatever happens I’ll power through it, and make the best of it. Fear is only an emotion, according to Merriam Webster’s dictionary, and because it is an emotion we have the power to overcome it in every circumstance.

 

Oh, Procrastination? I’ll Tell You About it Later

We’ve all been there. It’s the night before a huge project is due, and you think, that project is due tomorrow. What ensues is usually a frenzy of trying to pull off a great deal of work in about thirty minutes. I cannot function like that. It either results in subpar work or a missed assignment. I’ve learned to have a game plan always and for everything I do no matter what it is. It’s just like running, if you start full speed, you’ll be tired within a few seconds. However, if you pace yourself to get the job done you will find that you did a great job, and you might have some time left over.

Building Mental Toughness on the Court and the Track

From fifth grade until eighth grade, I played basketball, and loved it. Up until eighth grade it was just a game, but when I got there, I was in for a rude awakening. The first practice of that year told me that we were going to take things very seriously. There were only seven of us, as we were a very small team. Because of our small numbers, our coach believed that we needed to have more endurance, and strength than anyone who challenged us. I ran enough suicides to make even an Olympic coach happy.  If you have ever played sports you have hit “the wall” once or twice, and you know how much you want to give up at that very moment. Well, I hit “the wall” at practice after running for God knows how long. I just wanted to quit, and then I heard the words, “Come on keep running!” I knew I couldn’t give up so I summoned all the strength I had and started running. All my pain fled, and the rest of practice was a breeze. I knew that I had to get it done, and I did.

I had been running since I could walk, so the next year in high school, I decided to join track so I could put my skills to the test. The first few days were easy; however, the tide turned quickly. We started running for greater distances, and we all ran much faster. Once a week at practice we started running six two hundred meter sprints. By about the second sprint I would feel terrible, but as we keep running and get closer to finishing, I’d start to feel much better and more energetic. I have to thank all of my coaches for putting this steadfast attitude in my mind.

When it comes to working hard, your greatest enemy is yourself. You can not let the weakness of your mind force you to give up. Once you pass that mental barrier, you can do things that you did not think possible. Allow your heart to take over, and let it drive yourself to become better.

You Will Never Appreciate What You Have Until it’s Gone 

Fortunately when I was younger I also got to spend time with my grandmother on my father’s side. Sadly, when I was around six my grandparents divorced each other for various reasons. My dad was on my grandfather’s side during the divorce, and sadly I almost never got to see my grandmother for the next five or so years. I feel like now that my dad was punishing her for my grandparents divorce, but it also punished me too. I took for granted seeing my grandmother on the weekends, and now that luxury was gone. I only saw her on Grandparents Day once a year at school, and I was ecstatic to see her every time. Luckily, when I was thirteen, my father and her put aside their differences and were reunited. I was overjoyed with our reunion. A little later my grandmother had gotten sick, and we were not able to take care of her. So we did the next best thing for her, and went to look at assisted living places with her. Luckily she liked one. She lived there and made many new friends there. Sadly, about a year later she passed away. We were all distraught, and the only thing I regretted was not being able to spend more time with her than I did.

Power in a Name

Last year after taking first semester exams, I was heading to my father’s house to spend the Christmas holidays with. It was about an hour drive out there, and it was a cold and rainy day so the roads were slippery. I also had not had much experience driving in the rain since I had only gotten my license a couple of months before. I had almost made it home when I came to a “T” intersection, and when I to put on my breaks to turn. When I did this my tires began to skid, and I was seconds from plowing my truck into a small car. I do not know why I didn’t think to honk my horn because he could have easily moved out of the way. One million thoughts were racing through my mind. They were things like, I’m about to hit this guy, and he’ll sue me, my parents are going to kill me, and I am never going to get to drive again. However, one thought overshadowed every other one. I kept repeating, “God help me! Oh, Jesus don’t let this happen. When I stopped skidding, I was about six inches from the car. I was in shock for a second until the driver of the other car yelled at me to see if I was alright. I said yes and apologized multiple times. He said it was fine, and that I should be safe. We then went our separate ways. I think if I hadn’t called on Jesus I would have hit the man. That was a close call, and I do not doubt that Jesus was the only reason I made it out unharmed.  

God is truly an Artist

Growing up in the country, I had a lot of time to be outdoors and to enjoy the wildlife of Louisiana. My father turned me into the hunter I am today. My dad fostered my shooting ability as well, and now I am a crack shot. He also taught me to always be ethical, to never kill anything I wouldn’t eat and to respect everything and everyone I came across during the hunt. When I was younger hunting consisted of sitting at the base of an old tree, being in a state of complete bliss, and eventually dosing off. Since I’ve gotten older, I take hunting a little more seriously now. I have bagged countless squirrels and just recently a very sizeable deer. Being in the woods has truly allowed me to learn to respect nature and my surrounding. I always wondered how other people could see creation so beautiful and then doubt that some higher being created it all. No, I’m not trying to convert anyone, but the next time you go outside, whether it is in a city or a rural area, just take a moment to look around. Try to appreciate all that’s around you, and see that your surroundings were truly made by an artist’s hands.

 

 

 

 


Submitted: April 24, 2015

© Copyright 2020 Ethan McAlister. All rights reserved.

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