The 14 newbies talk about the adversity in their lives that prepared them for the island
The biggest obstacle I had to overcome in my life happened two days before I got out here. I changed my wedding day to come out here. Is today Memorial Day? I was supposed to get married May 27 in the United States. And I got this call, “You’re on Survivor!” We’d done sent out invitations, we’d done done everything. And we took it all back. We changed venues, sent out new invitations, got new everything. And I got married two days before flying out here, just so I could come play this game.
That’s how much Survivor means to me. And luckily I have a wife — I can say wife now — who loves Survivor also. So any other thing that would have come up, it wouldn’t have happened. But yeah, that was a huge obstacle. It was the most stressful month of my life. I should have been training for this, but instead I was planning a wedding. I was moving into a new house. I was doing all this stuff that life happens.
My wife didn’t believe it because ever since we’ve been dating, I’ve told her I was gonna be on Survivor. And it’s become one of those things like saying you’re gonna win the lottery, it’s one of those chances. And she knows my love for the game. That’s what I told Jeff and those guys in casting. On Valentine’s Day, she would get me the buffs, and so I have the love for the game and she knows that. And all of our families know that. And that’s the reason I’m out here is because they made sacrifices also. Instead of me having to worry about it all, her having to worry about it all, they all made sacrifices out of their lives to make the wedding happen. So if the wedding didn’t happen, I wouldn’t be out here.
I have a really deep, personal connection with the game of Survivor. When I was young, seven years old, I lost my Dad to heart disease. And Survivor was there for me. It ironically aired the spring after his passing. And it helped me get through that experience. It was my escape growing up watching these competitors go through these mental, physical and emotional challenges and overcome them. And now being an adult, and being able to actually be here and play this game that means so much to me is a once in a life time experience. So I’m not afraid. If anything I’m just afraid that I don’t reach or accomplish what I’m here to do. So the bugs and stuff don’t worry me.
Dan “The Wardog” DaSilva
I think the biggest adversity would probably be my second tour. I was in Kandahar and the tour was tough, but more than that was that I ended up having to be in a different unit so the soldiers were people I didn’t know for that long. I’d known them for a few weeks or a month, and I had just gotten broken up with right before I went to the country, and then those first few months down there in that fighting season in May, June, AND July in the summer of 2012 when it was a big offensive going on, I think there was a lot of stress from the job and then not having that familiar face to lean on. So I think all that together, eventually I became, I found that I did have friends to lean and faces, but I didn’t have that initially, so those first few months were probably the hardest months of my life.
I grew up in the foster care system. I went into the foster care system at one and was separated from half of my brothers and then one of them went with me. Getting adopted at 8, that was still a big challenge because you go into a family who has basically saved your life. At the same point, you have to figure out how you fit into theirs and how they fit into yours. Then going past that and being more than just a kid from the foster care system. I wanted to be known for my intelligence. I wanted to be known for something more than just someone who was adopted.
Doing the whole school thing, because I’m going to be a first generation graduate out of my family. I’ll be the first one to graduate college. But I didn’t have somebody back at home, like a lot of kids did, to look over your shoulder and tell you what to do and what courses you should be taking and what extracurriculars and stuff to look good for college. I really didn’t even know how to apply for college until junior year and I didn’t know what SAT was, all that stuff. So, it was all new territory for me. But the way that I navigated it and had to work for it and really test myself to learn everything and learn my resources and how to use them and just get accepted to Duke, of all places — that’s the biggest accomplishment I think I’ve had. And getting a national scholarship, all that stuff, doing that because I didn’t have someone to guide me — that’s going to come in to play in this game.
I just can’t think of anything.
I’m a school teacher and I saw a TV show about schools in Harlem in New York City and I just had a feeling in my heart, and I went to New York City and taught there. It was really rough. They made a movie about it called The Ron Clark Story, and so I kind of lived through that. They don’t make a movie about it unless it was pretty rough, so it was a tough experience, but I overcame it and I have grit and fortitude and I didn’t want to give up and I think I’m going to try and use those qualities here as well.
I don’t want to say I’ve lived a charmed life, but I kind of have. I don’t know, I’ve had a really typical suburban life. I went to high school, did really well, got a full scholarship to college. Graduated valedictorian of my college, have an apartment now. I have pets. I don’t know. Everything’s good. I mean, silly things like relationship problems. But my parents have a happy marriage. I’ve got a brother who lives close. My grandma’s 93 and lives down the block from me. Everything’s pretty good.
There have been things, certainly, that have been challenging. I think being a dad, I think being a husband, I think all those things are extremely challenging when you’re trying to be good at it. But you know what? I feel fortunate. I’ve already won. I already feel like I’ve won the jackpot in life. I’ve got this amazing family, these incredible boys, all this support at home. I think I’m poised. I think I’m ready for the challenges. None of the physical stuff scares me. The being hungry, the sleeplessness, I worry about missing my kids, but other than that I feel like one thing I have is grit. I feel like I’ve got a little more grit than the average person and I think that will help me.
So my dad passed away 27 years ago in a tragic accident and it’s been a long time, so I’ve had a lot of distance from that experience; but I still feel like one of the reasons I’m even out here is due to him. He just had this incredible passion and drive for life, and kind of taught me never give up on your dream. And I feel like this proves that point because I’ve been applying on and off for 17 years and even my own daughter said “Mom, stop sending videos it’s never going to happen, they’re not going to call you,” and sure enough, here I am. So I feel like it’s a good lesson in life.
I’ve lived such an easy life. Everything’s been pretty easy. You know, typical, getting out of the bad friend group in high school, getting into a better group changed everything. Those guys I got out of are great now, but I haven’t had that many obstacles. This will be the stand -out in terms of difficulty, there’s no doubt about it. Even if it’s the easiest season ever, it’s going to be the hardest thing I’ve done. Well, parenting’s tough.
I was a division one collegiate athlete. I played soccer at Baylor these last four years, and when I was recruited, I was just so excited. I was like, this is the fairy tale, everyone wants to be a college athlete. And so I expected my college career to really mirror my high school career, storybook. And my freshmen year, I tore my ACL, and just I couldn’t play my sophomore year, and then I was really ridden with injury until my senior year. And, I think that was something that not only did I have to overcome physical adversity, I had to overcome the mental adversity of watching something that I assumed would happen and that I expected would happen not happen. And I think that both the physical and the mental adversity that I overcame are really important and are something that are really going to translate well to this game.
Probably the most common quote, right, it’s like, “You always have a plan until you get punched in the freaking face.” But there’s another one that I like. It’s “A bad plan’s better than no plan.” So, good, bad, I’d rather have a bad one than none at all. I think that the key word out here is, Adaptation. You’ve got to adapt and you’re gonna think things are going one way and someone pulls some crap on you that they’re just thinking they’re the best player in Survivor ’cause they just blindsided your alliance. But that’s the game, it’s what we all signed up for, and adaptation is the key to victory out here. So if I can figure out my role in that, it’s gonna be game over.
I honestly don’t see my life having obstacles in the normal sense. Yeah, I’ve gone through a lot in my life, but the way my mom brought me up, it’s really like she taught me you can do anything basically is the mentality that she gave me. So, anytime I do have an obstacle, let’s say, I treat it like anything else and I overcome it so I don’t see them as obstacles. I don’t know. Is that a weird thing to say? I guess you would say I’m always positive, but my mantra is things always work out. So I don’t stress about money. I have money troubles like everybody else. I have troubles like everybody else. It’s just I always see it like it’s going to be okay.
My boyfriend’s the opposite of me and he’s like, “What are we going to do? This and that, this and that,” and I’m like, “Calm down. Take it easy.” Then when it ends up working out, I’m like, “Look, it ended up working out and you freaked out and I didn’t.” I’ve never had an instance of things not working out, probably because I’ve worked so hard so things can work out. It’s not like things are just falling in their place or anything, it’s because I’m working towards it working out.