Growing up, I was loved to the point of disadvantage. The bombardment of love and protection forced me to lust after the high of instant gratification. This seemingly harmless desire for gratification transformed me into a professional people pleaser, a goody two shoes who tried to reinforce his sense of worth through acts of service. Eventually, that turned into suppressing my frustration and anger while striving to be perfect. 

I've found joy in this suffering.

— Robert Sanders, Jr.

The continued suppression of my emotional struggles carried over throughout high school and college. I was perceived as a model student-athlete with superb self-control, but I was constantly anxious. 

I graduated from high school in 2018 and my anxiety followed me into college until the summer of 2022. During this summer, I had an encounter with the Lord that completely changed my life. I was never the same. Since then, I’ve endeavored to never grieve the Holy Spirit and not care what anyone else has to say about it, which has freed me from being a people pleaser.

This past year has been difficult. I’ve learned who I am, but at a significant price. I’ve learned that knowledge and wisdom comes only through suffering. I’ve learned the futility of friendship, even that of deeply rooted ones. I’ve learned that even when you’re brave enough to reach out to the channels meant to serve you, you can be dismissed, overlooked or ignored. 

Nevertheless, I’ve found joy in this suffering. Nothing else could have beautifully conveyed this life lesson aside from the transition from a student-athlete to a student. 

So don’t pity me, be happy! What better circumstances could have been the basis of my condition? I could’ve easily learned this as a 30-year-old college dropout, living the rest of my life in prison because of a split-second decision. This very real reality for many of my peers is not my own. Because of a miscommunication that nearly resulted in missing my opportunity to receive a diploma five years into college, I have learned this. I was blessed to have a learning curve that was greatly shortened because I trusted in the counsel of seasoned, faithful men of God who encouraged me to maintain my composure and stand firm amid chaos. 

I’m a firm believer that everyone must choose the pain they wish to experience in life, whether it be the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. During the fall, I had to sacrifice and exhibit discipline more than I ever thought. Even in all this, and by the grace of God, I was still able to get all A’s while completing an internship credit, starting a nonprofit organization and business. In retrospect, I don’t know how I managed to do even half of these, but I was fortunate to succeed. 

Life is really a gift and opportunity to showcase the glory of God to your peers, family and community.  No matter your circumstance or issue, trust that in the end everything will work out for your good. Your only responsibility is to take the first step of honoring God and then taking the right steps in that direction. 

I recently asked myself what I want my legacy to be. I want to be remembered as a man after God’s own heart and a man that lived his life as a vessel of honor, useful to God and prepared for every good work. 

I want to be remembered as a man who was unafraid of death or his convictions; a man willing to lay down his life for his family but passionately embraced each moment that he had with them until that day came. I plan to live the rest of my life pursuing that glorious outcome. 

Life is a gift. It should be your goal to live life to the best of your ability. If you choose not to, you are doing the world a disservice by bankrupting such a costly investment. Redeem it!

Sincerely, a minority young Black man.