You have taken me to places people can only dream of going, but this journey has been arduous, to say the least. From the 5am wake up calls to terrible heartbreak, being chauffeured to hell and back would be an understatement. Since the young age of four, I have tried to perfect your ways by analyzing those before me, studying how they cultivated your essence and laid the groundwork for my generation. You are practiced around the world in almost every country; each one adding its own flavorful style. As a young African-American, you demanded more from me. Not being naturally gifted with the technical flair and finesse that some use to make you beautiful called for countless late nights practicing with you. Despite your fair rules, I was treated unequally due to the color of my skin because in my region, it is “unnatural” for a black kid to excel, let alone take part, in your activities. As an adolescent, the constant name calling, sometimes from adults, kept me up nights with only you and my tears to keep me company. “Don’t show them any weakness” was our nightly mantra. You taught me to keep my mouth shut and drown out the noise. As I got older and began to perfect your ways in my own individual manner, I let my actions do the talking for me. At times you completely drained me physically, mentally, and emotionally to points of literal illness. Broken legs, sprained ankles, and countless scars come at the cost of loving you so passionately, so single-mindedly, I rarely ask what you have done for me to keep giving you my heart. You, above all, never left my side while I was in my worst places. At the age of ten, when my parents went through a nasty divorce, I began to hate almost everything in my life, but there you were to teach me how to love again. Who would have thought that an eleven year old could fall in love, especially with you? It’s crazy to think that you’ve been there for me through literally everything in my life. Not long after that traumatic event, you took me to Brazil for two weeks to practice a different style of your ways. In that time, without family, you taught me lessons about life, which I found necessary heading into high school. You taught me to never squander any chances that come my way, to appreciate opportunities I have that others don’t and make the best of them, to always remain strong and humble. You always know how to console me at my lowest points. On July 1st of this past summer, when Grandma passed of cancer, I hated the world for taking her away from me. She and I had plans of her watching me work with you once I got to college. You may not have known it, but she was one of the biggest supporters of what you and I accomplished together. This hate I harnessed inside of me was one I never before felt, and you were one of the few to be able to mend my emotional wounds. You would make me go on runs to clear my head of this anger, and when that didn’t work, you would allow me to take it out on you. Shortly after her death, you took me to New York to explore what she would’ve wanted me to experience while defeating those who doubted the black kid from the Inland Empire. You created opportunities to visit universities I may soon call home. Alongside my parents, you helped shape the man I am today by just putting a ball at my feet. For this, I owe you my love and gratitude. Thank you, Soccer. To some you go by “the beautiful game”, but to me you are my best friend, my guide, my life.