Rick Archer's Note: I believe there is more
to this world than meets the eye. I can't prove it, but I
really do believe we are put on this earth to learn lessons.
With this in mind, I
believe everyone is born with a set of talents and handicaps.
It becomes our job to put our talents to work and find ways to
overcome our handicaps.
In my case, I had
two wonderful talents. I was given a healthy, athletic
body and I was given a sharp mind.
I was also given the
gift of a marvelous education. Through a series of
intricate moves, I was given one of the finest educations
America can offer. I had a full scholarship at an
exclusive private high school in Houston (St. Johns), a full
scholarship at an elite Eastern college (Johns Hopkins), and a
full scholarship to graduate school (Colorado State University).
I consider my education the great miracle of my life.
I was also given
some pretty serious handicaps. I was an only child born to
two parents who divorced when I was nine. When I say these
two people were perhaps the least nurturing parents imaginable,
that is no exaggeration. I was forced to practically raise
myself. This had both positive and negative consequences.
On the one hand, I learned to be self-reliant and independent.
On the other hand, I was vulnerable to depression and
I had two physical
handicaps. I cut my left eye out with a knife when I was
five. It was my own fault, but then what parent
allows a child to play with a knife at that age? The
loss of my eye would be significant because it prevented me from
playing sports in high school. This cost me the chance to
make friends and feel like I belonged at my rich kids school.
Instead I stayed on the sidelines throughout my teen years while
the other boys caught the passes and the cheerleader's smiles.
My other handicap
was even more devastating. I developed one of the worse
cases of acne any a kid has ever suffered. What happened
is pretty gross. One night my mother decided to attack a
mild case of pimples with a sewing pin. Somehow her
intervention allowed an infection to develop in my lymph gland
system. Overnight my face bloated to the size of a
balloon. It would take ONE AND A HALF YEARS to solve the
problem. During this entire time I had the face of a
leper. Imagine what this did to my self-esteem.
Even worse, when we were done, the acne scarring had turned my
face into pockmarked moonscape.
were devastating. I never dated in high school. Not
only was I the poorest kid in school, now I was the ugliest kid
in school. I stayed a hermit the entire time.
Whenever there was a party, I stood in the shadows and watched
while the other kids danced. I cannot begin to explain the
anger and loneliness of those years. Nor can I even begin
to explain the bitterness and the insecurity that grew within me.
College was better,
but it too had its up and downs. I was given a full
scholarship to a men's school. Now don't get me
wrong - I really appreciated my college education. But it
did have the frustrating effect of postponing my education with
women for yet another four years.
By the end of
college, I occupied a very strange life space.
On the bright side,
my face had cleared up to point where I was at least tolerable
to look at. I wasn't pretty, but I was okay. It
didn't hurt that I had the physique of an athlete. Too bad
I didn't have a personality to match. Nevertheless,
I made some awkward stabs at flirting and was beginning to make
progress. Slowly but surely I was developing at least a
semblance of confidence around women.
Best of all, my
incredible education had gained me admission to graduate school.
I had every reason to be very optimistic about my future.
Maybe I could finally begin dating in graduate school and take
the final step towards my career as well.
On the dark side, I
had some serious character flaws. Having basically raised
myself, I was extremely independent. While in some ways
that is good, it meant that I was fiercely resistant to being
told what to do. I had serious problems with authority.
If someone tried to boss me around, I would puff up like a
I did not handle
criticism well at all. If someone chewed me out, I would
immediately begin an argument. I was the proverbial angry
Worst of all, I was
politically ignorant. I did not understand that
there are times to keep my mouth shut and there are consequences
to speaking my mind.
character flaws didn't cause any major problems in high school.
Starting in the Fourth Grade, I went to the same school for nine
years. By the time I reached high school, my teachers were
quite familiar with my problems at home. Because they felt
sorry for me, they used an unusual amount of patience with me.
They understood how touchy I was and treated me with kid gloves.
Realizing just how desperate I was for any sort of warmth, I
received nothing but praise, compliments and encouragement.
That worked like a charm. Just show me some kindness and I
would do ANYTHING they asked. Consequently I thrived.
Nor did my rough
edges cause the slightest problem in college. Why so?
Because everyone left me alone. No one ever criticized me
in college. No one ever told me what to do. Since I
was already used to being on my own, I simply went to class for
four years, did my homework, took my tests and graduated with a
Although I was
lonely as hell during college, I suppose the absence of women at
least allowed me to study harder. Mostly I spent my
college years thinking about the meaning of life, playing a lot
of pickup basketball and dreaming of the day when I might have a
Then came the magic
day when I was accepted into
graduate school. Now I assumed I was set for life. I had no
idea what was about to hit me.
So here we go. Let the games begin.