Dark Horse: How I Learned To Embrace My Unconventional Nickname

When I was younger, my nickname was Dark Horse. For most of my life, I hated it. It didn’t reflect the person I wanted to be seen as, and it wasn’t even accurate—while we were growing up, I was anything but the dark horse. I recently had an epiphany about why my friends gave me that nickname in the first place: they saw things in me that others refused to acknowledge—my will, my inner strength, and my potential.

A dark horse is someone who excels in an unexpected field. In the world of horse racing, a dark horse is any horse that’s not being considered a favorite to win the race. It’s also used to refer to people who do unexpected things or succeed in fields where they weren’t expected to.

I never had a nickname until my first day of summer camp. As soon as the counselor introduced me to my bunk mates, they proceeded to tell the whole group how they needed to watch out for me because I was going to be difficult. Immediately, all the kids laughed at me. I felt like I wasn’t worth anything. The tears rolled down my face and onto my pillow that night as I cried myself to sleep. However, it got better when many of the counselors took note of my maturity and self-reliance, and began giving me compliments. From then on, I became the dark horse.

I was given this nickname because my perseverance is overwhelming. The greater the adversity and odds are stacked against me, the more I’m willing to do anything to succeed. In many ways it’s a curse, but it also has its advantages, like being able to accomplish things that others wouldn’t dare try. I earned my nickname by never giving up on myself or others no matter how bad it got. The nickname might sound negative or insulting, but like anything else in life, what matters is what you make of it.

It took me a long time to come around to embracing my nickname but now I’m proud of it! We live in a society where conformity is encouraged and individuality is discouraged—but I’ve lived a life of being different from everyone else, in seemingly every way. I don’t dress the same as others, talk the same as others or do things the same as others. And, that’s just fine with me!

The image used in this post is a self-portrait, taken in September 2022. This piece was inspired by a recent conversation I had with my wife, Amelia, about rolling pigeons, and wolves, and their symbolism.

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