Matt Villegas, SPT (student physical therapist) here with one last hoorah as a third year student in my third and final clinical internship before I become a full-fledged Doctor of Physical Therapy.
This is a different kind of post to share more about who has influenced me because… one of the things that leads to depression is when you stop being enchanted by stories… and unfortunately, that happened to me quite a bit throughout my experience as a Doctor of Physical Therapy student, especially during my clinical internships (but I am deeply grateful for my Clinical Instructors who were amazing clinicians and people helping me grow as opposed to the horrible CIs I hear about from nightmare stories shared by classmates and fellow DPT students). I will be the first to admit that these are men who I looked up to as role models going through difficult times. I state this because there are most definitely excellent female role models, including Maya Angelou, Ellen Degeneres, Anna Akana, Kina Grannis, Sandra Bae, Oprah Winfrey, and Amelia Earhart (I went to an elementary school named after her). I am willing to share my story now because, unlike the people I looked up to who were… too patient, I am not going to wait until all is “said and done”. I’m willing to show my blooper reel so that people begin to understand the deep struggle and allow them to influence me by emphasizing and magnifying my highlight reel. I sincerely welcome you to share about your influences in the comments section because this is definitely a dialogue worth sharing and a mindset worth thinking.
Before I get into the meat of this post, one story I want to share is the thing that sparked me to dial back into my academic studies during college. The keynote speaker for a medical conference at University of California Irvine shared a story (it wasn’t his) with the intent of encouraging youth to pursue careers as healthcare professionals. The story was about Miasma Theory and John Snow… the physician who grew up poor yet actually knew something (Game of Thrones joke). By challenging the old-fashioned notion that “bad air” caused illness in the poor parts of town, John Snow became a founder for modern epidemiology by exploring the true root cause and investigating water sources, notably wells within a specific area. The reason why I share this is because… if this had not happened, I might not be here now as a DPT student about to graduate who had known about the profession of Physical Therapy all his life. I knew from hearing that talk that I had something of value that to this day scares me shitless because I knew that I could grow into the type of person it takes to become a role model for individuals facing the darkest and dire of struggles. My mission is to disrupt the current state of mind of Physical Therapy and our internal biases, especially in the Pediatrics setting in which we should worry about teenage parents with kids living with different abilities yet don’t give any ounce of thought for the boy with the brachial plexus injury who, like his mom, learned to hide his pain from growing up in an unsafe home to the point that he could fool mandated reporters of child abuse.
On a happier note, first and foremost amongst my influencers, Gary Vee is a genuinely generous entrepreneur who advocates for offensive positivity and being productive so that actions align instead of complaining about the world yet sitting on the couch watching Netflix. He grew up poor as an immigrant yet hustled his way to the top through sheer hard work. It’s not for everyone but that’s how he did it. I could say much, much more but he pumps out a ton of content so go check it out if you are interested. Here’s a good example:
Next up, Frank Shorter is an Olympian gold medalist in the marathon who immigrated to the United States when he was young. Unfortunately, his father was a highly-regarded physician who abused him and his siblings. This was revealed in a 2011 issue of Runner’s World. The timing was critical because I was going through my own rough period during college of struggling through the journey as a Pre-PT student trying to make up for past mistakes of failing a class and dial back into my roots of distance running (I ran all 4 years throughout high school during the Cross Country and Track & Field seasons), tackle the bucket list challenge of running a marathon, look up training plans online, and overcome my personal anxieties with being homesick and constantly made fun of when running outside. I never ran a race after my high school years yet something rekindled that fire and knowing Frank Shorter’s story was just the kind of motivation I needed to push on through my bouts of injuries and facing challenges I never experienced before… like going out on a 20 mile run for 3 hours straight.
If there is any super hero I would like to be, it’s Professor X as played by Sir Patrick Stewart. He was the wise mutant who battled through the pain from other people’s minds and his own in order to bring hope amongst the outcasts. Patrick Stewart has been a huge influence in my life, especially during the days of Star Trek: the Next Generation with Commander Picard demonstrating what it meant to be a leader. Why? The first video below features him revealing the horrors of growing up in a violent household riddled with domestic violence and the second video showcases his response during a Q & A Session.
Patrick Stewart on Violence Against Women
Patrick Stewart with a Passionate Response at a Q & A Session
Chef Jeff Henderson is hands-down the most amazing individual in this post who showcased his story in his biography Cooked: My Journey from the Streets to the Stove. He literally transformed his life from being a drug-dealing felon to working his way up the ranks the legit way as a chef in Las Vegas. His story resonates with me personally because I met him in person when I was a college student at University of California Irvine taking on leadership positions, especially joining an Administrative Internship seminar program and learning more about on-campus events and opportunities. Secretly, I admired Chef Jeff’s story because I understood what he meant about privilege and wanting to be more. The deepest reason why is because… I never committed crimes beyond a speeding ticket or “earning” detention in middle school for not having a textbook cover yet… I would have nightmares of being arrested with the crap I went through as a kid who too often felt excruciatingly uncomfortably in the wrong place. Selfishly, I wanted to learn how he became successful and learned to live with himself.
In a slightly different light, Ishmael Beah shared his personal story in his biography A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier. When I was in high school facing the fresh horrors of my past yet striving to be more when all I felt was… something less than human, this story resonated with me on a frequency that I rarely ever experience. How could someone who grew up killing others live with himself? I felt so horrible knowing the things that I knew yet I didn’t feel comfortable sharing anything at the time and I still get extremely uncomfortable now… even after pumping out blog posts and podcast episodes to elaborate on my story. Again, Ishmael Beah is a prime example of a powerful individual turning his life around for the better. I discovered his story when I used to watch Comedy Central’s the Daily Show with Jon Stewart, especially when my Advanced Placement (college-level) Government class sparked my interest in politics because of my tainted past with my paternal grandfather who was once the corrupt mayor of Manila (the national capital of the Philippines).
What are the “shareables” that you can watch right now? 3 movies: Good Will Hunting, Antoine Fisher, and Finding Forrester. Good Will Hunting is a popular movie starring Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, and Robin Williams. Will Hunting is a young genius janitor with severe PTSD who catches the eye of a highly regarded advanced mathematics professor yet… through squabbles and troubles with the law… ends up with a therapist who was the professor’s college roommate. Despite a rough past with present struggles, Will manages to change his life and pursue his love… a girl he met at a bar who traveled across the nation for medical school. Antwone Fisher features Derek Luke and Denzel Washington in a true biographical drama film covering the journey of Antwoine who… despite growing up abused and molested, pushes against all odds to come out on top by joining the Navy, undergoing therapy (after his temper gets him into trouble), journeying into a romantic relationship, and finding his biological family (who he lost contact with because his father got into trouble and was murdered). Finding Forrester features Rob Brown (who plays Jamal Wallace) and Sean Connery (who plays William Forrester) in the story of a smart athletic boy who loves reading yet hides his passion in order to fit in amongst his friends. On a dare, Jamal sneaks into an apartment building, finding William Forrester, an elderly gentleman who enjoys privacy and although he secretly is the author of a well-known novel, he did not publish another book. In a series of events, Jamal pursues education at a prestigious school with a basketball scholarship while developing his writing skills with Mr. Forrester. Amidst struggles and conflicts, the true talents of Jamal Wallace are revealed challenging the racial biases of a bitter professor.
Last, but definitely not least, Sungha Jung is literally a rockstar who may be younger than me yet is exceptionally talented at playing the guitar. Him going out there and sharing videos of great covers and his own musical talents inspired me to push myself when I would take guitar lessons in middle school and high school. On top of that, he was the epiphany of what it meant to me to be the cool, humble, talented Asian dude. Honestly, if it weren’t for him pumping out so much content for me to listen to and dream of playing on the guitar, I would have had an extremely tougher time during my rough years as a kid, especially when I was deeply depressed. “Livin’ on a Prayer” by Bon Jovi resonated with me as Sungha precisely fingerpicked each note.