“All I can do is be myself—because their fear is about themselves, it’s not about me.”
When I heard stories about America, growing up as a farmer’s kid living in Somalia, it was always nothing but good things. So when I learned our family was moving there, I thought I was moving to a paradise where no one suffers and everyone lives their best lives.
I thought America would be what I saw on television and in movies, with perfectly cut grass in pristine neighborhoods. But when I came to Minneapolis in November 1999, when I was 10 years old, I saw broken glass and homeless people. I saw poverty and people who couldn’t afford to eat in the city. It was like a giant bag of trail mix, some good pieces, some bad. It was not my vision of what I thought America would be, and that was one of the most shocking things for me to realize.
In the summer of 2000, just a few months after arriving in Minneapolis, I moved to Ontario, California, to escape the cold and live with my uncle and cousins. It was there, in my sixth-grade gym class, when my teachers realized I was good at running. The students had to run a mile, and with any additional time, we could play whatever sport we wanted. I figured, why run and walk when I could just run the whole thing in six or eight minutes and play basketball afterwards?
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