The family home

Growing up my siblings and I would make fairly frequent trips with our parents to my grandparent’s house up North. It was a drive usually done in the dead of night from Alabama or Georgia to Michigan. My grandparent’s house was always a welcome sight after 13 to 16 hours in a car. The great thing about the house was that it was the same one that my mother and her siblings had grown up in. It was very spacious with five bedrooms, three baths, and two kitchens. There was plenty of room for everyone and we never felt crowded. One thing that I specifically remember was the plush carpet. To this day I have never seen carpet so comfortable that you could easily fall asleep after laying on it for a few minutes. Often times these trips included my cousins. We would play outside on the playground in the summer and run around in the snow in the winter. My grandparent’s house became a second home of sorts. The great thing was that all 17 people in my extended family could stay in the same house comfortably without feeling cramped. When my grandfather died we all stayed in the house for week with additional people coming to crash for a few nights. While it was a sad occasion it was also nice having everyone in the same place for an extended period of time and since that time it hasn’t happened. I think having a family home is a great thing and as someone who likes a combination of stability and flexibility there’s a certain benefit to having someplace you can call home regardless of where you are in the world. It’s the best of both worlds without feeling confined to one geographical area. 

Roller Coasters

When I was younger my family used to make yearly excursions to Florida. We would enjoy the sun, shop and go to amusement parks. While I’ve never had a fear of heights, I’ve never liked the idea of falling. One thing about the amusement parks is that when we first arrived I would immediately get a game plan in place that would allow me to experience all the biggest rides in the most time efficient way. I would wait in line for hours with my dad and then listen to the instructions, hop in and then make sure that I was securely strapped in. Without fail, as soon as the roller coaster started ascending the first big hill or drop from the height, I would regret it. I would sit back and watch the sky get closer and closer while the people on the ground watching got smaller and smaller. We would creep to the top of the seemingly endless hill and then the coaster would stop for a few moments. The view from the top was gorgeous. You could always see for miles around. It was at this point that my anxiety levels skyrocketed because I realized that there was only one way down. That way did not include a soft and gentle ride to the ground. From the initial drop until the time that the coaster pulled back into the origination point my eyes would be squeezed shut. I would grit my teeth, plant my feed and wish that I had never gotten on the ride. The very minute the ride ended I would be ready to do it again. Life happens whether we like it or not. While we don’t choose to be born, we get to decide to stay alive. The thing about the roller coaster is that we don’t know what’s around the next bend. A quick turn can mean a hill ahead or a drop. There are very high highs and then low (or lower) lows. There are times where you have to grit your teeth and remember that everything isn’t permanent. That while things can change for the worse in the blink of an eye, circumstances can change for the better in that exact same period of time. I think it’s about keeping the end in mind and being able to live with the fact that you did your best and don’t have any regrets. You handled adversity with grace and courage and didn’t let the opinions of others sway you from your goals and purpose. Because life is a roller coaster and we all have to get off at some point.

Pieces of Me

This particular song has grown to be one of my favorites. Ledisi is an amazing artist with a voice that is so unique that you have to take notice. As with many songs, I associate this one with a particular experience. This song brings back memories of a road trip I did not too long after I moved to the West. I had lunch with a friend who convinced me to check on another friend who I had not seen in a long time. It was something that I was reluctant to do but had positive results. After that I traveled back to my parents house and hopped in the van for the road trip to Michigan. This song was on repeat almost the entire trip as my dad refused to give up the wheel and drove the entire night. It’s a song that I think is a classic. The lyrics show a level of transparency that is missing from a lot of the music today.

Milestones

It’s funny how fast time really flies despite the fact that it often seems that it is just creeping by. With all the graduations that go on in the month of May, I must admit that I felt a bit nostalgic as I thought about the few times that I’ve graduated from some program. However, today is semi-different as it marks four years since I graduated from college. The funny thing is that May 28th wasn’t the original date that was supposed to happen. Living in Alabama, severe weather usually occurred during tornado season. That year, there was a tornado that came through parts of North Alabama with some disastrous results. I remember my last class in undergrad (didn’t know it at the time) and how somehow it just felt so final. Around the time of finals a huge storm came through and left thousands (including me) without power. I must admit that living without electricity isn’t something that I particularly enjoy doing. A phone call made with my rapidly dying cell phone to my parents confirmed that they were enjoying 21st century living with hot water and electricity as the storm had missed them. Gas pumps weren’t working but thankfully I had a full tank of gas and slowly made my way to my parents house around downed power lines and hundreds of non-working stoplights. But I digress. Needless to say graduation was canceled (postponed) for two weeks. I remember the anticipation that led up to the day. It was the culmination of a LOT of hours of hard work, sweat, and tears. One thing that was reassuring was that I had a plan of what I was doing afterwards. I remember how hot the robe was and trying to concentrate as I marched so that I didn’t trip and fall. It was a very very long day that started around 6 in the morning and ended at 3am the next morning, but I wouldn’t change it for anything. I saw so many family members and celebrated with them. I had my name announced all over the arena and got the diploma holder that represented almost $100,000 in money spent for education and the hope that this degree would ensure that I didn’t live in poverty for the next 5 decades. Reminiscing is great, but the real question is what has been accomplished since then? That’s a sobering thought.

Missing Home

Growing up, Easter was always a special time of year. Not because of bunnies and rabbits or because of some of the religious traditions of Holy Week but because of Alumni Weekend. The time where my family and I made the relatively short trip to Alabama for the weekend. As a homeschooled kid, these trips were good great for seeing how “regular” kids were and just taking in the sights that only come with a large gathering of thousands. This trip was made every year without fail. Through multiple kids and carting strollers up and down stadium steps, my parents adapted and made it work. My family didn’t celebrate Easter however many family members made it a point to be present this weekend. From aunts, uncles, and extended cousins to people we considered family, it was like a huge yearly reunion. From childhood to adolescence to adulthood, this weekend is the second time in my life (the first being three years ago) that I’ve missed this event. I’ve attended as a grandchild and child of students who attended, as a student myself and then as a student who graduated. The routine is always the same with the exception of little adjustments. This weekend I’m feeling especially homesick as I’m missing the feeling of being in the familiar environment in which I spent 21 years or so of my life. It’s a habit that has become a tradition I don’t like to deviate from. It is a family reunion of sorts–especially considering the fact that I don’t go to my actual family reunions.  Everyone doesn’t have the chance to go to a college where their grandparents and parents, cousins and other extended family members either taught at or attended. I had an awesome college experience and while I didn’t believe when people said that college is the best years of your life, I believe it now. Not that there’s nothing to look forward to but there’s something special about living for four years with people you’ve grown up with and known for years and bonding over mutual experiences. I won’t live that close to that many friends at any point in my life again. Adulthood has happened and I have to adjust accordingly. I’m a fan of new adventures but sometimes it’s nice to visit where you grew up and catch up with old friends.  There’s no place like home and today I miss my college one. 

The Dream Continues

Today is the day where social media is inundated with quotes and pictures of Martin Luther King Jr. His words, his ideals, his dreams, and his sermons had a huge influence on a generation and a people who were struggling to be viewed as equals in a country that had previously enslaved them. He spoke against injustice and painted a picture of a world where everyone is equal and we all have access to the same opportunities. There has been some progress towards that goal. Signs that declare public places are for “whites only.” have gone. There are laws that make it illegal to discriminate against someone based on the color of their skin. There’s definitely still a long way to go. I live in a city that has one of the biggest MLK parades/marches (a marade) in the country. Thousands of people attend and there’s a program at the end with music and speeches and remarks. Typically this also includes some cousin or other relative of MLK who has been flown in to make some remarks about the specialness of this day. The news stations are there and try their best to get all the shots of black people standing next to white people in solidarity and unity for a common purpose. The sad truth is that we still live in a very racially motivated society in the States. Other countries have other systems that make one group of people superior to another group. Discrimination and prejudice happens everywhere–not just in America. I think that these gestures and services and speeches and sermons are great, but what are we doing the other 364 days of the world to advocate for people who can’t do it themselves? MLK did a lot for the movement. He dedicated thousands of hours of time and money to the advancement of a cause he felt was worth fighting for. However, I was reading not too long ago that he also died without a will and his family was in dire financial straits due to the fact that he had given most of his money to the cause. His wife left a promising singing career and also devoted most of her life to the work. His children also became vocal about continuing his legacy but drew enormous salaries from the center names in his honor and mishandled funds that almost bankrupted it. They sued each other for exorbitant amounts of money and publicly disagreed with each other on the best way to preserve their father’s memory. I say all this to say that there’s a need for all of us to recognize that the only way progress can happen is that we address problems on a systemic level.

No more

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Have you ever been in a conversation with someone that you wanted to end but didn’t want to appear rude? I like this picture because it’s a reminder that there are certain things that waste time. Time you can never get back. One thing I want to do is maximize my time and I can’t do that if I’m stuck in meaningless interactions with people who share the same characteristics as parasites. People will always want something from you but their demands should never dictate your life.

Being non-realistic

One of the most common pieces of relationship advice is to be what you’re seeking. If you want someone mature, be mature. If you want someone clean, be clean. The thing about this whole train of thought is that life isn’t always that simple. While this might work in certain contexts, it’s not an absolute rule. Opposites attract, people change, life happens. One of the things I knew that I couldn’t expect or require in a significant other when starting my doctorate was a similar education attainment as me. I’ve met so many people who’ve used their education as a crutch for their loneliness. This has been especially true of women. The fact of the matter is that complementarity is more important than mirroring. If it was that simple we would just clone ourselves. I don’t expect my future significant other to have a stupid amount of degrees. I’m not necessarily requiring even a bachelors. There are so many other factors that matter more. I’m more concerned about fathering skills, ability to provide, family dynamics, and genuineness than a piece of paper saying that some program of study was completed. Because at the end of the day, that’s not a challenge or an issue unless someone in the relationship makes it one. A significant other should make you want to be the best version of you as possible and sometimes that route includes education. Mutual respect and a teamwork mentality will go a long way. We get so caught up on the physical and what they do for a living that we forget about the daily characteristics and habits that make them who they are as people. The truth is that an educated man can beat you just as hard as an uneducated one. And while that example may be a bit out there, the point still stands. Stop trying to find a human mirror and look for someone whose dreams, goals, and ambitions mesh with yours. Values should be shared but you want a different perspective that complements your own. These impossible standards have to be re-evaluated.

Lost and Found

Lost and Found

i rarely read a book that I think would be interesting to a lot of people. Reading autobiographies has always been a favorite of mine since childhood. This book is definitely geared toward a faith-based audience but it’s also a great read for anyone who has ever struggled with meeting the expectations of others or has overcome adversity. Sarah describes a life of living under a microscope as a child of a well known individual. She describes how an unplanned pregnancy at a young age and an abusive marriage helped shape her into the person she is today. There are countless people we run into on a daily basis whose lives we have no clue about. Lost and Found describes a coming of age experience in which Sarah tells her story of facing challenges and how she found her way.

Travel by Plane

One thing that I love about traveling is that it usually involves airplanes. As a child, my parents did not believe in the time saving ways of taking an airplane for transportation so we were always stuck in the back of some van for a 12-20 hour road trip. All this was fun and dandy, but as a child all I wanted to do was to see what it was like to fly in an airplane. I finally got my wish and flew for the FIRST time in an airplane when I was 17. I absolutely loved it. Airplanes are a great way of transportation and they allow you to get to places fast. As I was flying into Chicago last week I noticed that it was a beautiful day above the clouds. The airplane was cruising right among the clouds. However, as we started descending into the airport, the sun wasn’t shining any more and the weather was downcast, windy, and cold. It made me think about how many times we are blinded by our current circumstances and forget to consider the bigger picture. The sun always shines–whether we see it or not. And while I’m not necessarily an optimist, I think that looking at the bigger picture and even life in general can be helpful for some people who are so wrapped up in their current circumstance that they lose sight of the things that really matter. It may be dark but acknowledging the occasional beams of light that shine can help us to not get so caught up in our own situation.

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