Focus Determines Your Reality (by Alexes Lopez-Shaw)

I don’t remember much of my childhood. In fact, I tend to forget a lot of things, but some memories stick with me as if they happened yesterday. I remember, for example, playing soccer with my brother and younger cousins in the backyard of my grandparents’ house when I was seven or eight. My cousin would kick my butt and it made me eternally frustrated and determined, which pretty much sums up me in a nutshell. The frustration and easily flammable passion I got from my father, who on more than one occasion was quick to show his anger but just as quick to show patience where it was necessary. He had to. Being in the Marine Corps wasn’t a cake-walk, and I had the pleasure of immersing myself in the USMC’s hard-work ethic and traditions while at the United States Naval Academy.


“Everything is proceeding as I have foreseen.”


I went to USNA with every single intention of becoming a Devil Dog because I was proud to fall under a family of many, but I met some setbacks. After three years of going from classes to soccer and back again I watched my grades deteriorate, and I struggled. Boy, did I struggle. But my parents kept my head up as best they could from 3000 miles away, after all we like to make the joke that I was the test child. I had to struggle so that Mikey had the path to success when he came through.


“I’ve got a bad feeling about this.”


I should have realized earlier on that having not-so-great grades was going to come back and bite me in the rear-end. Halfway through my 3rd year at the Academy I decided to retire from playing soccer after spending an entire season on the bench because of an injury. My reasoning was that it would allow for me to boost my grades back up, focus on the requirements (both physically and mentally) for being a Marine officer, and hopefully mend some of the relationships I had in my Company because being away at soccer had seriously frayed my image to everyone else. It was my turning point.


“Never tell me the odds.”


I had some serious work to do. My GPA wasn’t great but it was somewhat redeemable, I still had three semesters to make up for it as I set my sights on being able to say “Oorah!” on Graduation Day. Eventually over time my grades skyrocketed, I was able to take on two different leadership roles in my Company and I was slowly making it back onto good terms with everyone. I was proud, despite missing being on the pitch with the girls I was legitimately proud of how everything was turning out.


“Great, kid. Don’t get cocky.”


Another setback. This one was by far the worst I had to face while at the Academy. In December of 2013 I had my Senior Chief call me into her office, it was fifteen minutes before we were supposed to have our Service Selection ceremony and I was already in the mindset that I had gotten Marine Corps. But that’s when she dropped the bomb, that I hadn’t gotten my first choice…nor my second, third, or fourth. That was so far down my preference sheet I couldn’t even remember what I put but it didn’t matter because I wasn’t going to be a Marine. After spending summers dedicated to enhancing my ability to become a Marine, dropping soccer just to get my grades up, and overall working my backside off I was absolutely devastated. I had to leave her office to go back to my room because I couldn’t stop the tears from falling. That was the first time i broke the 10 minute rule, as my roommate dragged me to the Service Selection ceremony that I didn’t even want to attend because my fate had already been sealed. As my classmates cheered everyone on I got complete and utter silence, because every single last one of them knew how badly I wanted to be a Marine.


“Strike me down, and I will become more powerful than you could possibly imagine.”


It took me nearly two years to get over it, as my parents tried to hammer home that maybe the Marine Corps wasn’t for me. Were they serious? Not for me? I know for a fact I’m not the strongest when it came to physical requirements but I had heart, playing soccer and being a Lopez-Shaw taught me some friggin’ heart. I remember my mother one day telling me that the Service Selection I had been picked for sounded as though it fit my personality better, as well as my strengths. I was so hard-headed and upset that I didn’t want to believe her, but during the latter part of my years at the Academy I had to re-focus. I had to stay on target. Her determination was what brought me around. It also was the reason I decided to completely show-up the people who didn’t choose me to be a Marine. I was going to prove they were 100% wrong. Sound familiar?


“Ready are you? What know you of ready?”


As I’ve grown older I’ve learned a very simple fact. Everything is relative. Pain, triumph, hardship…it’s all relative. If you live an easy life, then the smallest of setbacks will seem like an enormous hurdle to overcome. However, if you live a life full of difficulties, then just about anything that gets thrown in front of you is merely an anthill, if not expected. My mother and father had been right, of course. The Marine Corps was not for me, and as stubborn as I had been then I realize now why they had been so poignant on making sure I didn’t give-up. I have so much more to give, and with every year that passes I’m still learning about myself, what I’m capable of, and what kind of resolution and fervor I have.


I can assure you, that without everything my parents had endured, without their stubbornness to give up, and without their unbreakable bond I would not be where I am today. Neither would my brother. He’s even more passionate and determined than I am, so imagine what he’s capable of. But the two of us, him and I, we are the best (and quite rarely the worst) parts of our parents combined. He has an easier time of putting his head down and working nonstop, whereas I think I have the edge on being able to use my brainpower to my advantage. It’s something we humorously argue about all the time, whom out of the four of us is the smartest. I love all three of them to death but I’m the most clever (and I’ll never back down from saying it).


Moving forward I know I have the tools and capabilities to be successful. I owe it all to my parents, as well as my brother, for having the kind of confidence in me that didn’t come quite as easily as it did to my younger sibling. They push me, they encourage me, and more importantly they tell it like it is. As infuriating as it might feel sometimes I owe it to them for telling me to pick it up when I should be doing better, if they weren’t honest I wouldn’t be on this already tough path. Then again…we wouldn’t be the Lopez-Shaw’s if it were easy, would we?


“The circle is now complete.”


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