The beginning:

Childhood trauma and stressful experiences

I was born in Seaside, CA, and at the age of two, my parents divorced. I moved to San Diego with my mother and older brother. Raising two boys proved challenging for my teenage mother, especially as she had to work late and start early, so my brother moved back to Seaside with my dad. This left me in San Diego, alone to fend for myself throughout the week as my mom was gone most of the time. At the age of just seven years old, I would wake up alone, prepare my breakfast, pack a lunch, walk to and from school, attend the afterschool program, come home to an empty house, make dinner, and put myself to bed.

On weekends, my uncle, a security guard, would sometimes take care of me. He was unkind and sometimes cruel, handcuffing me and forcing me to face a corner for hours while he watched TV. On one occasion, he threw me down the stairs, resulting in my hospitalization. In addition, my mother's many boyfriends were abusive towards both her and me. As a child, I lived in constant fear and stress, leading to many sleepless nights and bedwetting until I was eight.

Despite the chronic exhaustion and relentless trauma at home, I managed to understand and complete school assignments with ease. At seven, my teachers tested my IQ, resulting in my enrollment in gifted classes across town. This encouragement and positive acknowledgement of my individual worth gave me hope, and I began to realize that my circumstances needn't be permanent, and life could eventually change for the better.

The summer I was eight years old, my mom asked if I wanted to go on a bike ride. Loving bike rides, I eagerly agreed. Soon, I found myself dropped off and in a van with a group of adult cyclists who I did not know, embarking on a journey from Yuma, AZ, to San Diego, CA. Each morning began with the group reviewing the day's route. My eight-year-old self couldn't grasp the map's details or their conversation, so this resulted in me navigating the desert alone for hours in the scorching heat above 100 degrees. During the journey, I woke up each day in the open desert, just hoping that I was on the right track as I traversed mountains and endless roads: my Bugs Bunny shirt and 501 jeans soaked with sweat. After 14 days of relentless cycling and nights under the stars, I arrived in San Diego. Through that harrowing experience, I realized that change in my life would be up to me, and no one else.

At eight years old, I began persistently asking my mother if I could go live with my father for a year. She repeatedly declined, but I remained determined. Eventually, she consented, and I departed for Seaside, CA, sensing that I would never come back.

Seaside offered a world unlike any other I had known before. Now that I had the chance to get to know my other side of my family, the once reserved and timid child in me began to thrive. Our large Filipino family of fourteen squeezed into a modest one-story house, and it was tight, but it also was enjoyable and loved consistently having other people around me. Some nights I slept on the floor, and others on the sofa, yet it never bothered me. I was just grateful for the sense of family and togetherness. As I grew up and thrived in this new environment, I continue to excel in school. I took up sports and I started to embrace my newfound identity as a budding "comedian".

Nevertheless, a different type of stress for me arose in this new life situation. In the 1980s, the city of Seaside was plagued with drugs so severely that the National Guard would patrol the streets with tanks during police drug raids. More than ten individuals I knew were killed in drug-related events during these years. Attending middle school at Seaside's Martin Luther King Jr. High was tough, and the social environments were new and challenging to navigate. Yet, it was there that I learned how to survive, and developed my coping skills, social intelligence and comedic abilities.

In high school, I had the opportunity through sports to attend a high school across the peninsula: the prosperous Monterey High. Attending this school opened my world and opportunities even further, and I became friends with a wide range of people from different backgrounds. My father, who worked as a street sweeper at the time, had a modest income. To blend in with the more affluent students in my social crowd, I took jobs and, regrettably, occasionally shoplifted clothing from the mall. My view of my future opportunities also expanded in this new environment, and I made it my paramount ambition to continue my education after high school graduation, and to become the first in my family to earn a college degree.

The next chapter:

"Change begins with you - transform your stress into the fuel for your progress."

-Ricky Del Rosario

Making Progress:

“Look at things from a different perspective, embrace change, look out for opportunities, and you will feel much more in control.”

– Steve Backley

I was accepted into Sonoma State University and moved north in the Fall of 1992 to begin my post-secondary education. Unexpectedly, this is the time in my life when my stress levels reached their peak. During this first year, I somehow managed to take a full college course load, juggle multiple jobs, play college football and acclimate once again to a new environment and people. Playing college sports was both difficult and also completely unexpected. On day before the fall quarter begin, I was passing by the SSU football field when a stray kick whizzed past my head. By sheer luck, I caught it one-handed. The wide receiver coach saw this and asked if I had played before. After I shared my high school experience, he had me run some routes, and just like that, I became a college football player. In addition, my new surroundings also led me to try something else that was new: standup comedy. I was always known as the funny guy amongst my friends, and I thought I was pretty funny too. After trying a live mic event at a local venue, I learned quickly that I really wasn't as funny as I thought- not on stage at least! As time went on, I caught the comedy bug, and made it a goal of mine to really hone the skill of a stand-up comedy. After 25 years of stand-up experience, I still use those hard learned skills today.

In my sophomore year of college, I received a letter from the university saying that I would no longer be receiving the financial aid that I had relied on so heavily to pay my tuition and housing. This forced me to drop out of school for a year. The challenge to regain financial footing without assistance was overwhelming: I wasn't earning enough to afford college and living expenses, and there weren't enough hours in the day to do everything. I felt like I was on the brink of collapse - and the responsibility was all on me. I was already working multiple jobs and even slept in a roller-skating rink office at times between different jobs and school. It would have been easy to give up. Instead, I chose to channel my stress into motivation, digging deeper and finding a way to reformulate my plan. I searched for an alternate path and dedicated myself to driving my success forward, step by step and day by day.

This change in mindset, in the end, led me down a new path to the worlds of television, radio, and travel. During those years, I became a speaker for Pepsi Co, flying in a helicopter to speak to Bay Area youth, and also joined a morning radio show as an on-air personality and comedy producer for one of the nation's largest stations. Eventually, I graduated from SSU with a degree in psychology, and continued pursuing new experiences and goals, including appearing on 5 national comedy shows, hosting a TV sports program, becoming a professional kickboxer, and writing a children's book.

Mission accomplished: What's next?

“Much of the stress that people feel doesn’t come from having too much to do. It comes from not finishing what they’ve started.”
―David Allen

At last, my life began to stabilize through education and these various experiences, and the stress that I experience came under my own control. In the end, I have achieved many of my life's goals an dreams and, I also was able to experience some great joys in life: I met the woman of my dreams, got married, had two amazing daughters, and launched my own business. My stand-up career persisted and grew over time, leading to appearances on more TV shows and many exciting opportunities. Then, I ventured into acting, which has flourished and has become a rewarding career for me.

Embracing the mindset that stress is inevitable and omnipresent has aided me in managing it successfully. While stress is commonly viewed as detrimental, the appropriate mindset and techniques can transform it into a catalyst for enhanced productivity, innovation, and resilience. Recognizing that my journey through stress could benefit others, I immersed myself in studying it. Armed with this knowledge, I aimed to disseminate it, so I returned to public speaking. Addressing stress has bolstered me financially, emotionally, and professionally. When you use stress as your fuel, you'll never run out of energy.