There have been some times in my life when I’ve felt like a bit of a loser. I suppose the feeling came from comparing myself to others, for whatever reason. I’d like to think I’m not alone here.

For example, I didn’t learn how to ride a bike until I was nearly eight, partly because of the thick gravel driveway sloping toward our house that made peddling on it difficult, if not impossible, for beginners. Even so I felt like a chump. I didn’t learn how to swim until I was six or seven, though my older brother Matt had swum his first race at the scrawny age of four. And when I finally joined the swim team I was the only one of the six of us kids who didn’t qualify for the “A” championships. Dud. I belonged to a family of incredible athletes, but it wasn’t looking too good for me.

Furthermore, I didn’t know how to whistle, couldn’t skip, was allergic to cats, sucked at shooting baskets and was known by my siblings as a whiner, even though they were often the catalysts taunting me, hitting me and playing dirty tricks like making me lick uber-hot Chinese mustard off of a toothpick hidden by sesame seeds. My brothers and sister teased me for having a big nose, stringy hair, big butt and a potbelly. I was a nose picker and my eyeteeth came in all crazy—ended up in braces, rubber bands and full on headgear. Nerd.

When I was in grade school I went to my girlfriend Lidia's birthday party at our local bowling alley. I scored a perfect game. Zero. Complete gutter balls. The girl with the best mark unwrapped an oblong box that revealed a shiny gold chain necklace. As the loser, my prize was a pair of pale pink ruffled underwear. I thought it an odd, somewhat humiliating gift, but those feelings were way overshadowed by the fact that I loved that underwear! Wish I had a pair just like it now.

At the same time that I was feeling moments of being a loser I was also coming into my own. I spent a lot of time alone and proudly taught myself how to write cursively when I was just four. I learned that I was a talented illustrator like my brothers Steve and Alan. I could run super fast, was amazing at hide-and-seek, became a top-notch student, was good at making friends and at keeping a secret.

With a colossal amount of stick-to-itivness I learned how to whistle with two fingers louder than anyone I’ve ever heard. I made it to the “A” team excelling in high school and college swimming, was voted most inspirational and team captain, both twice. I became what I thought was an expert cyclist, looping across the college campus as if my bike was an appendage. After college, though some tried to dissuade me, I backpacked through Europe and Turkey for seven months, hooking up with interesting new friends along the way. I eventually took my drawing skill into apparel design at my dream company, Levi Strauss. All this in great part due to the fact that I learned to embrace being a little different, channeled that energy into pure passion, hard work and focus for what I wanted to achieve, and stopped listening to naysayers and doubters. My sister used to always tell me that I could accomplish anything as long as I desired it enough and didn’t give up on my dreams.

So, perhaps I wasn’t as much of a loser as I thought, just needed to find my niche, find what turned me on, meant something to me—like writing this blog. I’ve still got a soft spot in my heart for that skinny little tomboy with the stringy hair. And today, nerds and geeks are some of my most favorite people, as long as they are honest, kind, real, true to themselves and don’t give a rat's ass about what other people think.

Love this drawing by my brother Steve, 1978


  1. Oh my, what an endearing child! I smiled a big smile as I read the whole description, probably identifying with some of it. And see what a remarkable person you turned out to be!!! We're so glad we met you, and through you, Calvin. You have both enriched our lives.