2020 Presidential Election

Mike Gomes from Lifeguard To Fashion Model


I first hopped on the stand three summers ago, the lifeguard stand that is, unaware and nervous of when I would have to make my first save. I had spent the previous two weeks receiving the proper training and obtaining the certifications necessary to become a lifeguard. Despite all the hours of testing, countless laps, and many rescues I made throughout my weeks of training, why was I still nervous when I went up on the stand for the first time? 

The last two words of that question are the most important, first time. No matter what anyone strives to be or achieve, doing something for the first time is always scary. Whether it be riding a bike, the first day at a new job (in my case) or going on a roller coaster, doing something new for the first time is bound to make anybody nervous. 

As I sat on the lifeguard stand in my expensive bathing suit, with my sunglasses over my face and my red whistle in my mouth, I’m sure I looked calm, cool and collected on the outside. However, on the inside, I was a nervous wreck. I mean sure, I had done drills and made practice saves over and over again for the past 14 days, but if ever and whenever the time actually came, could I do my job? 

One of the benefits about being a lifeguard is that I have the stand to myself. Since I sit about eight feet above ground level, I’m not really bothered. I have time to gather my thoughts as I keep a safe watch over those in the water. While I was sitting on the stand, those three words continued to pop into my head, do your job…do your job…do your job. As I repeated those words in my mind, my nervousness began to transform into confidence.

I began to realize that I wasn’t hired for any ordinary 9-5 job. My manager didn’t take a quick glance at a resume and hand me the job. I spent weeks pushing my body both physically and mentally proving that I was perfectly qualified to be a lifeguard and that I deserved to be the one up on the stand. 

The time began to pass by much faster than it did before; I was now confident knowing that the patrons could put their trust in me. I was not going to treat this job the way most people treat their own jobs, half- heartedly. I was a lifeguard for a reason; I was going to give the patrons my dedicated attention because they deserve to feel safe. Not only was my goal to be a great lifeguard but my goal was to be the best at what I do.

I mentioned earlier that the day in the lifeguard stand was just over three years ago. When I told myself I was going to be the best, I wasn’t just talking about lifeguarding; I was talking about my life. That’s how I believe I’ve lived my life these past three years, striving to be the best, looking to make the most of every opportunity that falls into my path. 

This past year I graduated from Maritime College in the Bronx, NY with a degree in Marine Transportation and received my U.S. Coast Guard Third Mate’s License. After spending close to 200 days at sea and spending years honing my skills in navigation and seamanship, I was finally qualified to sail as a licensed officer aboard any vessel. Unfortunately, the coronavirus had different plans for my career. Due to the rapid spread of the virus, ports around the world restricted entry to almost every U.S. flagged vessel. Additionally, shipping companies worldwide not only stopped hiring recent cadet graduates but also began laying mariners off. 

This was something that was very unexpected, and was a hurdle that I knew I would need to make the most of. While many of the other cadets in my graduating class are relaxing and enjoying their time off, I’m determined to make the most of the bump in the road and tackle every obstacle that comes my way. Just because I’m struggling to find a job, it does not give me an excuse to stop striving to become the best version of myself.

For as long as I can remember, people of all ages have told me that I should pursue modeling. Every time someone would tell me, I would either blush in complete embarrassment or shrug my shoulders with a faint smile and think nothing of it. I would always tell them I had no time, which technically was true; I did play sports throughout my entire childhood from grade school to high school, as well as lacrosse in all four years of college. While I was a busy kid and my free time was certainly limited, I was just making excuses not to pursue modeling. Why? Because I was scared. Scared of being rejected. Scared of not being good enough.

When it comes to modeling, height plays a big factor. Most professional male models fall into the 6 feet to 6’3 range. Even men who stand at 5’11 are considered to be short, and here I am, a mere 5 foot 10 inches with dreams of being the next big thing but am too scared to even pursue my dreams because of my size. I began to let my height, something out of my control, keep me from pursuing something I so desperately wanted to be.

A few months ago I began to reflect, and I realized that living my life afraid of rejection was only going to make me wonder, wonder what could have been. Because I was afraid of being turned down, afraid of failing, I thought the best answer would be to turn my shoulder on one of my biggest dreams. Giving up on my dream was not being the best version of myself. I was accepting failure before I even began. That’s not the person I was raised to be, and that’s certainly not the person I am.

Since the future of my maritime career is undetermined, these past few months I have been aggressively pursuing modeling. My mindset about becoming a male model has changed drastically from scared to determined. I’m now that same kid in the lifeguard stand three years ago ready to be the best he can be. Although I don’t know how far I’ll make it in the male modeling industry, one thing I do know is that I’m going to strive to be the best I can be, and make the most out of my journey.

While I believe it’s extremely important to be the best in what I do, I think it’s just as important to love what I do. As a lifeguard, I’m confident in my abilities and know that the patrons are safe when I’m on the stand. The safety of the people is our number one priority, which is something I greatly respect and appreciate. Additionally, I’ve also begun to appreciate the relationships I’ve developed with them. As I see the same faces repeatedly over the years, I’ve developed connections and strong relationships that I would have never pictured initially. That’s why I don’t see lifeguarding as a job, I see it as a blessing. It’s an opportunity to develop relationships and build lasting bonds with new people every day. 

Similar to lifeguarding, I absolutely love modeling. It’s much more than posing in front of a camera and shooting different angles of my face. Modeling is an art, both in front of and behind the camera. Making expressions in my bathroom mirror and working on my imperfections for hours is something I truly enjoy. It’s an opportunity for me to hone my craft, and be better than I was yesterday. Furthermore, developing relationships with the people I work with has been one of the best parts of this journey. For example, working with John Dowling of Model Citizens Magazine has been one of the greatest experiences of my life. He’s served as a role model and an excellent mentor. Modeling is not about the money, it’s about creating a memorable journey for myself and for those I work with. Even though my modeling journey is young, it’s been nothing shy of amazing and I hope to continue this journey for a long time.

Sadly, there are many young adults who give up on their dreams too quickly. I mean, I was almost one of them. Although I haven’t made it big in the modeling industry, I’m determined to work hard to accomplish my dreams. My height is just a statistic; it does not define me or my future. This journey won’t be an easy one, but it will be a memorable one. I only have one life, so I’m definitely going to make the most of it.

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