I believe it takes a certain type of person to be able to play this game at all, let alone play it well. There is one main quality shared by every single player –– Resiliency.
Emotional strength is something I believe I have developed over the years, beginning as early as grade school. I was always a very unpopular kid growing up because I was extremely shy + quiet + excelled in an Accelerated Reading program (I even won a trophy for it! how nerdy is that??) + was seen/labeled as “uncool” from that day forward unfortunately. I then was also humiliatingly ridiculed by the entire school for a brave, yet naive expression of vulnerability when I confessed to having a crush on a longtime friend of mine who was popular, and he not only rejected me, but told everyone. Cool, bro! It absolutely sounds so silly now… and it’s all good now, honestly… but I’d be lying if I said that didn’t have a huuuge impact on me emotionally + socially as a kid. It didn’t help when I suddenly put on a lot of weight in middle school – it was just those awkward, chubby years most people have, but it led to more unhappiness. I hated running but I joined the cross country team + eventually lost the weight (and grew to love running). However, high school turned out to be the toughest challenge I would face growing up – I suffered from major depression for the first 3 out of 4 years.
During this time, I stopped eating and weighed only 90 lbs, faced a lot of heartbreak + observed my grandpa go through and ultimately lose a long, devastating battle w/ pancreatic cancer. This is always, always heavy + awful for any person, no matter the circumstances, but the way I grew up, we didn’t see friends very often, but we’d see our grandparents every weekend (minimum) + we have a very small family – all our relatives total somewhere around 15, and it is a nasty, evil, all-consuming illness. I still miss watching classic black + white movies w/ him + eating peanut butter out of the container. The best gift he gave me in addition to unconditional love was a deep reverence + gratitude for life itself.
My senior year of high school, I was able to overcome the depression and negativity and after never being placed in any type of honors class, registered myself for 5 AP classes + after being told I couldn’t handle it/would fail, passed all exams with at least a score of 4 out of 5. I didn’t go out socializing or spend time relaxing watching tv at home – I would be in school all day, get home + study/take notes all night until bedtime. Similarly, right out of high school, I applied to my dream school, NYU, but was rejected. I attended community college for 2 years, working hard in a ton of extracurricular activities, simultaneously earning straight As + was named 1 of 12 Outstanding Scholars in my graduating class. When I applied to NYU again, I got in.
Now for something completely different, (bc/ I didn’t want to take out $150,00 in loans at NYU), I moved cross-country on my own (from IL to CA) in my junior year of college, when I transferred to USC. This is definitely an experience I underestimated the toughness of, especially the effects of being without my family or friends/any support system.
After graduating college, I moved again, this time internationally –– from IL to Thailand. Obviously, this was at least 10x more difficult with the additional new challenges of physically adjusting to a new climate (extreme heat + high humidity), learning about a brand-new culture, + communicating through language barriers daily (learned very basic Thai phrases along the way, but never became semi-fluent as not only is Thai a tonal language, which requires more skill, but it is just one of the hardest languages there is to learn). Once again, I was without my family or friends and the time difference also made it difficult to reach them digitally. Here I really had to form new, strong relationships in order to survive + I’m positive these skills I developed will come in handy playing Survivor.
My early adult years, of course, brought their own unique challenges, including a relationship w/ mostly emotional but a few times also physical abuse, much more heartbreak, + struggling w/ alcohol (I finally quit completely, am ~7 months sober now). I’ve also just managed to pull myself out of debt (student loans + credit cards). At my current company, I created my own position that had never existed before––Creative Project Manager 🤠 and won 2 awards at our team’s Creative Coding Summit last year: DJ + Social Director (the closest I will ever get to feeling like a popular kid in school lol).
My story is not as raw or unique or tragic or beautiful or as fit-for-American-tv-narrative or even nearly as socially/culturally important as some other players’ stories, (ex: Ben, Adam, Zeke, many others) but it is mine. I acknowledge + am unbelievably grateful for my privilege + I’m also wildly thankful for all my pain, because the universe kicking me back down every single time I get up, if nothing else, has awarded me a Master’s degree in Resiliency. I am able and ready to play this game + play it well.
I’m 5’3″, 115 lbs + ready to be underestimated in physical performance. 😉💪🏻
I have strong confidence in my own abilities to make strategic decisions under immense pressure, know when to take risks, make big moves in the game + overcome a weak position or bad situation. I believe the ability to survive any conditions is to have found the perfect balance of listening to your heart + your mind.