When I was a young man, I started to write a book about my life and how I had “made it” out of the impoverished and dangerous inner city of Milwaukee, WI. I had become “self-aware” despite the fact that I had an absentee father, lived in a poor household, and was black. While writing, I quickly realized that where and who I was in life was about so much more than my current or previous circumstances. It was about how I chose to interpret information (both tangible and intangible), what mediums of messaging I allowed to infiltrate my sphere of influence, and how I coped with perceived failure and rejection. It was about preempting foreseeable pitfalls (I get much better at this as I get older) and reacting to new experiences with realistic optimism. More than anything though, it was about recognizing how I could hold myself accountable in every scenario whether orchestrated by my own hand or someone else’s.
I stopped writing that book…
I stopped writing because I knew there was so much I didn’t know. I knew that I hadn’t gained the proper perspective because I was still on the front end of my pain and anger. I lacked knowledge and I was still projecting negative reactions in over 50% of my interactions. Lacking knowledge hasn’t changed much in the 10+ years since I decided to pen my thoughts, but my perspective certainly has and so has my state of depression. I started to write again because there are so many topics of life that I want my daughters to be aware of. Not necessarily so that they hold to the same convictions I have, but conversely, that they believe they have the freedom of thought and freedom of will to choose their own purpose and convictions without limitation.
At a certain point in my life, I associated my age with a growing list of perceived failures and rejections. As time passed, I tabulated how many goals and objectives I didn’t achieve. How many people I let down. How many people let me down. How many selfish acts I committed. How many times I gave up. I began to allow those moments to define me. Each passing “failure” or “rejection” put me deeper into a hole that I was unaware that I was in. I was not “making it.” On the contrary, I was in a state of self-destruction and degradation – degrading because I wasn’t meeting the expectations of others and degrading because I wasn’t meeting my own. I now look at those moments of failure and rejection as preparation and learning opportunities for future growth both attained and not attained. Along my journey there have been very specific experiences that have served as a harness to lift me out of the depths and I am forever grateful to Whom the harness continues to be tethered. The greatest gift I have been given is the example of my mother’s sacrifice and persistence to make sure that in the absence of divine intervention, NOTHING would stop her from giving her children a chance. This is the awareness of which I speak. The awareness that life’s moments and its infinite ability to teach through an infinite number of scenarios, can be extrapolated to one and only one end – our ability to Love.
Love is the unconditional selfless sacrifice primarily endured for the benefit of others, it is the most powerful force in the known universe; and it’s also the reason I say to you, “Oh, you’re black, get over it!” I could just as well be replacing the word ‘black’ with whatever “condition” you believe you are encumbered by. Are you ‘white,’ ‘gay,’ a ‘man,’ ‘depressed,’ ‘Asian,’ ‘feel like you are a woman but have a penis?’ You need to get over it too. We all have our insecurities and fears based on other’s preconceived notions, prejudices, and generalization; but if you want to get out of the cycle of poverty, which is the coupling of unrelenting disbelief in yourself and the conscious maintenance of a close minded view of what is possible, you must face truth. Your acceptance or non-acceptance of truth, is the lynchpin to your success. Truth, in and of itself, is difficult to come by particularly when a person begins the self-evaluation process, but the real breakthrough came for me when I chose to stay vulnerable after recognizing why I was not “getting” what I wanted out of life. When you discover, acknowledge, or realize the reason(s) why you aren’t doing, being, and having the things you want; then and only then can you convert the negative self-talk into positive action. The next and most difficult step is to hold on to that deep dark truth and capitalize on the anger that is sure to accompany it.
Today I would say that I am “making it!”
I’m not “making it” because I’ve done, said, or thought what I have been told to do, say, or think. I’m not “making it” because I have turned my back on my culture (although I have been told that more than once) to fit in with some other group. I’m not “making it” because I’ve decided that exploitation is an acceptable method for success. I’m not “making it” because I care what other people (aside from my children) think about me. I’m “making it” because I’ve decided that I can control how I choose to react to life’s lessons en route to the completion and implementation of my goals AND that the lengths to which I will go to protest in order to secure a recourse when that goal is not obtained, is contingent upon whether or not I followed the broadcasted protocol. It’s not that I have attained a certain status or have a certain amount of money in the bank or hold a certain amount of power over others. It’s not even that I am completely free of being susceptible to disappointment, depression, and sadness. I’m “making it” because I have the knowledge and awareness that I am free to work towards my goals without the impediment of acquiescing to others belief systems about what I am and am not capable of; that I can love and forgive myself when I don’t meet the high standards I have set for myself; and that I can forgive others when they don’t meet my expectations as well.
As an aside and perhaps a segue, I mentioned earlier that I don’t care about what others think about me, but that was only half true. What other people think matters. It matters when building relationships of reciprocal nature with people which whom if not for a need, you would otherwise not interact with. How you want people to view you, shapes your approach when mutually beneficial goals align and working together is the most efficient path to goal completion. This is by far the most important skill I continue to develop. There are many applications of this. For example, when you interview for a job, your approach is shaped by the desired outcome you wish to achieve which more than likely is to have the interviewer believe that you are not just the right person for the job, but the only person. In other words, you want the employer to think that you will be an asset to their company and that as result of not hiring you, they would be worse off. The secret, however, when cultivating and applying this skill; is that you should ensure your purpose and intent is genuine and not only self-serving in nature. Beyond this truth, I choose to be alone. Alone in the sense that I choose what defines me. I choose not to “fit in” with any group. I am not defined by race, religion, sex, or sexual orientation. I am not defined by creed, legal citizenship status, color, or socio economic status. I am concerned with, and defined by, only the principles, priorities, and protocols that I deem necessary for the attainment of my individual and unique definition of success and purpose.
My intention is to share, through this blog, the perspective of a man whom by all accounts and statistical measures, should not have “made it” (and should not be “making it”). You can throw almost every stereotype out of the window. I force the skill of full and thorough analysis in order to begin to understand my depth. Some people will read this post and some of my forthcoming posts with disdain and may even find them offensive. I am unconcerned with that. These will be messages you need to hear with no filter and with no expectation for you to acquiesce. Self-directed change begins with the knowledge that there is a better alternative to your current undesired condition. I do not claim to be the owner of someone else’s truth, but I will be the purveyor of my own. I hope that through dialogue progress can be made.