In front of me is the mass dark blue ocean water as I tread on this 6’4 Rusty shortboard-style surfboard wearing my 2 millimeter, black Oneill wetsuit to brace the 60 degree waters in a beautiful 75 degree day. To my left before the landmark of the Huntington beach pier with the Ruby’s at the end are tons of surfers looking at the same never-ending body of water called the Pacific Ocean just as I. To my right an even longer line of surfers consisting of young bucks, newbie’s, and OG surfers on those long wooden boards seen in Surf’s Up. Every inhale is a salty yet fresh aura of animal feces, homeless man piss, sweat, tears, and pure love for what we all are sitting in. The swell is picking up and the current is slowly drifting everyone out into the great blue. Instinctively, surfers turn around and paddle back into position. This time… is peculiar, peculiar since every time the current gradually drags you the paddle back is still met with the drag. This time the current switches course and I felt pushed. About 15 seconds later I am under shade and all I hear is ”MAVERICKKK!” 3 seconds later I am so far under the water if I had not had a nose , I irrevocably would not have known which way is up. Disillusioned, I am searching for sunlight but empirically the sun seemed to KO immediately as if the sun had finally blacked out from to much human intoxication. The sound of bubbles was the first signal to me which way was up. Water had already flushed through my nose so much and the wave fell upon me at such a screeching pace that I was near being completely discombobulated with survival slipping through my grasp.
Fitness has changed my life to the point where I still surf even after that episode because had I not been a 2 mile ocean swimming, 2012 marathon running, stamina-based young man I would not have seen the light of day. I tell you these achievements not to prove my physical state but to illustrate the foundation to why I work out; the intangible asset of discipline and being uncomfortable. My whole life I lacked discipline for the most part but was constantly uncomfortable since I was bullied due my hairstyle and me simply being an outlier. I had locks growing up and the classmates in elementary and middle school constantly ridiculed and ostracized me. My self-esteem was sleeping on the floor and it wasn’t until my 8th grade year that I began running to blow off steam. Many run to lose weight, for me I was running away from confusion, bullying, familial hypocrisy; I was an extremely deep-thinker so I wouldn’t like to talk about my thoughts since they were so assiduous to the point where I couldn’t even comprehend for concise explanation. Running gave me an escape and it made me genuinely feel better, this is even supported by Christina Hibbert, Psy.D from the National Alliance on Mental Illness stating “Exercise improves self-esteem, which is associated with greater mental health. Exercise has also been shown to increase self-confidence, self-efficacy, self-acceptance and self-concept. When we exercise, we feel more loving, positive and confident.” All I knew was that running helps my depression disappear for now.
This simple habit to run right when I got home from school turned into me joining Students Run LA at my middle school, Dodson Middle School in Palos Verdes. At the time the bullied had slowed down since I was losing weight, decided to cut my hair off, and get into calisthenics. At the time though, all i knew was that push ups, pulls with varying grips will make me stronger and I will feel less weak. I loved and still love when I am sore; it lets me know I have grown stronger. I ended up running in the LA Marathon near the end of my middle school journey but still I felt unfulfilled, ostracized, and an outlier. Going into high school in my freshman year, I was somewhat of a bodybuilder. I was working out six days a week alongside the bodybuilders in the local gym I was in. We would superset everything and to me I just took it as, “If i workout hard enough, I will fall asleep and not have to think about stuff. I didn’t realize that this was backed by science and the good folks at 8fit agree by stating “Regular exercise has been shown to improve quality of sleep.” What i didn’t realize was that I was numbing the symptom to my pain. Little did I know I had a massive demon inside of me that I fed 3-4 times daily and 7-10 times on the weekends. This demon grew in size and grew in shadow in terms of hiding my confidence. Yes, I would still attract women but I would never finish the deal and growing up in the inner city of Harbor City everyone; hormones were screaming to be released.
I would always be on and off when it came to the gym since I hated taking public transportation since they would be late and throw my day off but also because I would get discouraged by those around me for the most part. My low self-esteem led to constant comparing. In my 10th grade year is when my life picked up not only in pace in terms of sentimental relationships but also in terms of my depression, delusion, and dynamic fight with the question “Who am I?” I just transferred out of the inner city to a better, higher academic standard school and it was the final 3 years of my high school career here the truly carved a large part of that answer out for me. I assiduously enjoyed soccer, I enjoyed the stamina and grit needed to survive a game. I loved staying after practice to hit some more sprints and coming early to practice to take some shots on goal. I looked forward to hitting the gym early in the morning to bench more, squat more, and back row more. 10th grade year I was on frosh-soph but by 11th grade year I had worked my way up to varsity. Being the small fish in the pond gave me more comparisons but these began to drive me. I was upset by a significant relationship I had going on in the process though and to sum it up; I could not date her because I was black, her family never explicitly told me but she inexplicably told me by her indecisiveness. I did self-harm myself but once again, fitness came to the rescue. I would run until my shins were crying, my abdominals were sobbing, or my achilles heel felt like it was being broken. Running once again gave me a way out.
That significant relationship mentioned above actually never really ended, we were on again and off again. In between us being on and off, I would try to date other women but it only made my insecurities worse and depression worse. Going to the gym had concepts that I just now understand, one of the essential concepts is the fact that I was strengthening my discipline muscle. Back then I would go to the gym as an escape reality so I was only working on my discipline muscle so-so. By the time I graduated high school, I was went from 140 lbs to around 160lbs of pure thigh and calf muscle; my fastest mile was 5:45. My depression eased as my consistency in the gym grew. All throughout my high school career, I was a lifeguard at my local pool and worked my way through the ranks to becoming supervisor. To say I enjoyed swimming was an understatement, I was a true pool rate. By the time I got into college, I had learned how to surf and matter of fact it was a blessing of disguise. Once again fitness somehow walked into my life iterated. I would sometimes go swimming in the ocean because I enjoyed getting in the swimming frame of mind where every time I breathed I would see straight blue so it felt like it was never going to end. I went from swimming 500 meters in the pool to being able to train with some of the ocean lifeguards. The longest I ever swam continuously was a little more than 2 miles. Surfing and swimming was a new type of stress reliever for me since it incorporated my love for the water while including uncertainty, these were two things that were an innate driving force. Surfing made me forget about everything and increased my shoulder and abdominal strength monumentally.
Surfing is a type of fitness that incorporates less of a working out focus and more of a focus on being able to keep composure, concentration, and confidence in a fast-pace environment. This changed my life but little did I know that it would change my life in such a dramatic fashion. By the time I was in my second year of community college, I had already been surfing for a year and this physical trauma that was a true catalyst to who I am today was preparing me for the mental trauma I was going to experience. I remember in front of me is the mass dark blue ocean water as I tread on this 6’4 Rusty shortboard-style surfboard wearing my 2 millimeter, black Oneill wetsuit to brace the 60 degree waters in a beautiful 75 degree day. To my left before the landmark of the Huntington beach pier with the Ruby’s at the end are tons of surfers looking at the same never-ending body of water called the Pacific Ocean just as I. To my right an even longer line of surfers consisting of young bucks, newbie’s, and OG surfers on those long wooden boards seen in Surf’s Up. Every inhale is a salty yet fresh aura of animal feces, homeless man piss, sweat, tears, and pure love for what we all are sitting in. The swell is picking up and the current is slowly drifting everyone out into the great blue. Instinctively, surfers turn around and paddle back into position. This time… is peculiar, peculiar since every time the current gradually drags you the paddle back is still met with the drag. This time the current switches course and I felt pushed. About 15 seconds later I am under shade and all I hear is ”MAVERICKKK!” 3 seconds later I am so far under the water if I had not had a nose , I irrevocably would not have known which way is up. Disillusioned, I am searching for sunlight but empirically the sun seemed to KO immediately as if the sun had finally blacked out from to much human intoxication. The sound of bubbles was the first signal to me which way was up. Water had already flushed through my nose so much and the wave fell upon me at such a screeching pace that I was near being completely discombobulated with survival slipping through my grasp.
I almost died but, had I not been in condition by running and swimming consistently I would not be typing this essay. A few months later, I saw death once more and this time I saw him even clearer. That off and on relationship resurfaced and reminiscing on it now, if I had not internalized working out as a part of who I am I would not be typing this right now. I had gotten blocked by the girl on Instagram after I responded to her direct message to me. I responded with “I’m good, how are you?” The amount of confusion, delusion, and anger that I felt after she did that was too much to handle, to the point where I wanted to take my own life. I was self-harming for 2 months straight but in that I found who I was and that’s when I was born with anew. That’s how D’Angelo Ziy is here; I created him. Fitness is a catalyst to getting me out of that dark whole. I don’t look at working out as necessarily building muscle or losing fat, to me my overall discipline muscle is strengthened when I go to the gym. I look at fitness as me forcing myself to be uncomfortable in order to grow mentally so I am prepared for more unexpected circumstances.
Fitness gave me the certainty that value does not reside in in the perception of others but in the perception of my soul to myself. In simple text, whenever I run in the morning or workout when I don’t want to or do anything that makes me uncomfortable I see as me getting stronger. With discipline comes from consistency, vision, and the fruition of any desire. Fitness has made me the man I am today and I use it everyday. Fitness has helped me find who I am, a tenacious, conscientious, competitive, unjustifiably optimistic, helpful mentor, and ambitious, entrepreneurial visionary who believes he is destined for greatness. Working out has not only helped me with my bicep curl or my squat or alleviate my stress or depression but has helped me work out the plan to be achieve my goals and visualize my dream of becoming a successful trader and philanthropist.
Hello! Thank you for taking out your time to read my essay. I am D’Angelo Ziy (pronounced z-eye) sophomore finance major at Howard University. I previously attended a community college in Compton, California which is also the city where I grew up. As a Manhattan beach surfer, I also was a mentor for the Principles of Success Program at USC for 3 years. Alongside this, I was an arm-bearer for my church or in other words I was the only assistant to the pastor which granted me access to his car and private office. I am a 2012 Marathon finisher and have been blessed to speak for my high school graduation in 2016, Mayfair High School, not because of my grades but because of my story. I was selected as the motivational speaker and was given an extra slot. I enjoy mentorship, reading, and proactively finding ways to better myself but, all of this was achieved through 5 letters I received when I was young; I.A.C.T.E. which stands for I Am Changing The Epidemic. I am focused on changing the epidemic of being a young man from Compton since where I should end up is either the grave, behind bars, or in a gang shooting people who look like me simply due to the colors they wear. This is my life philosophy that I live through and will name my future business after.
- “NAMI.” Home, https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/May-2016/Exercise-for-Mental-Health-8-Keys-to-Get-and-Stay.
- 8fit Team. “Exercise and Happiness: How Activity Affects Our Mental Health.” 8fit. https://8fit.com/fitness/exercise-and-happiness/.