Saturday, October 14, 2006

Why am I doing all this?

As many of you have noticed, I haven't been posting very often lately. I've had every intention to, but my life has been a true rollercoaster ride lately. In many ways, I feel that I'm just along for the ride, having little control of things around me. Fortunately, things are finally starting to calm down (THANK YOU JESUS!) so I'm returning to a more normal schedule.

Throughout these trials and challenges, I've often had to take a time out and ask myself "Why am I doing all this?". Why am I so hell-bent on pursuing my education? Why am I more concerned with making a positive impact in the community than making six figures and livin large? Why do I often drop my quality time for the sake of keeping stability in my family? Why am I considered "the strong one" when I feel so helpless and lost at times? Why do folks in my family automatically assume I've got it together and can help them? Why does my life feel so segmented and segregated right now? Is it my fault that it's this way? Why can't I just say "screw you all", disregard my responsibilities, and live life completely for myself? Why do I feel like I'm living the life and responsibilities of a 40 year old at age 24?

These questions have constantly surfaced these past few months. When they surface, I pray and reflect on my past for answers.
Thinking about my past, and what I've had the pleasure (and displeasure) of experiencing in my short life, gives me the strength to move on and do big things. Here are a few of my motivating factors:

1. Finishing my undergraduate degree

I can honestly say that one of the most important days of my life was when I graduated from the University of California, Davis with my bachelor's in Exercise Science. I was the first of my lineage to walk across that stage, and believe me it was a STRUGGLE. In college is where I learned what being a responsible, honorable, and goal-oriented man is all about. Despite the struggles and trials I endured (and OHHWWEE i had quite a few), I'd never give a single day of my college experience back. I learned the true meaning of "digging deep". I am so much of a better person because of the life lessons college forced me to experience.

My graduation weekend (had 3 graduations) was so many things...the first time much of my family stepped foot on a university campus, the first time my entire family got to see where I spent 5 years of my life, the first time more than 10 black people congregated on the UC Davis campus and the police weren't called :) Above all else, it was a turning point. At that moment, I realized that I was CHOSEN to do great things. Having my ENTIRE immediate family and best of friends showing me the most absolute love solidified this for me. I have been blessed to do great things, and it is my duty to live up to my purpose. Too many people and too many circumstances are riding on my success to make me want to say "screw it all". Too many people have sacrificed time and energy, done without luxury, and struggled financially for me to half-ass my potential. I work my hardest not only for myself, but for the people who have worked their hardest to support my efforts.

2. I've seen and heard too much to want to settle for mediocrity.

Again, I've been blessed with so many experiences that have had a profound impact on how I think about things. Despite the fact I never have been "privileged" by our country's standards, I've had an opportunity to see the world, had a chance to connect and learn from some of the brilliant and influential minds of our age, and been exposed to so many positive, uplifting environments.

One of my dreams was realized at age 13 when I was selected as a student ambassador to Australia as a People to People Student Ambassador. Wanting to travel the world was a pretty bold statement for a young man of my means, but the fortune of being hand-picked for such a prestigious opportunity, coupled with the utmost support and encouragement of my parents (it took my parents 5 YEARS to pay for me go overseas, y'all), allowed my dream to become a reality.

That trip overseas did more for me than I could ever imagine. On the positive side, People to People allowed me the chance to see what's beyond our borders, establish an independence of my family at a very young age, and confirmed for me the importance of thinking big. On the not so positive side, People to People facilitated my first brush with blatant racial discrimination. Being the only chocolate boy in a delegation of fifty White and Asian kids, in a foreign country not accustomed to Black Americans, was a trip for real. It was all good though....i learned very early that challenges face Black kids who dare to dream and act big. We have the responsibility to bring our A game because some folks will automatically assume we don't belong. I've carried the lessons from that experience to this day, and I still conduct myself with that in mind.

While it has been great experiencing the good things, going through the not-so-good stuff has been important too. Dealing with the suicide of a close friend made me realize that life is a precious thing and is worth living. Watching my brothers and sister struggle because they made poor life decisions early in age keeps me focused on leading my life with integrity and purpose. Being unemployed for 6 months after I graduated (and quitting the first shitty job after a month) allowed me to see how expendable and unappreciated you will be unless you can make a worthwhile contribution to our society. Lastly, just growing up poor as hell, going to school being gainfully employed and still BROKE, and preparing to subject myself to 4-6 years as a BROKE ASS Ph.D. student has led me to believe that being broke SUCKS, and is NOT FOR ME. :)

3. I've been given the opportunity to do what many haven't.

When I think of #3, I think of my parents. I've said this before, but I TRULY LUCKED OUT with the parents I received. Many in my extended family didn't take to the whole "Raise the hell out of your kids" philosophy my parents did. My parents used all of their resources to ensure that my siblings and I had everything we needed, and just enough of what we wanted.

All of what I'm doing for my family now, in a way, is to show my appreciation for everything they've done for me. My parents have always supported me 100% in all my endeavors, and I didn't understand how rare that is for folks from my background until I hit my college years. Hearing the sob stories of so many people, especially Black men, living in single parent households, dealing with neglectful, abusive, and obsessively controlling parents, etc. etc. etc. And here I am, with parents that were willing to go broke and deny themselves the few luxuries they could afford to indulge my overachiever endeavors and provide support for an education they never had an opportunity to experience.

What kind of person would I be if I didn't do my very best to live up to my potential? Especially after so many people worked their asses just so I could have half a chance? It's my duty to ensure their efforts and hard work are not spent in vain.

4. I want to do big thangs!!!

I'm dead set on making my impact on this world. I've never been one to want to "blend in" and just "survive". ALL HELL NAW! Living is a beautiful thing, and I plan on doing just that. I wish for more than my parents had, so that I may provide my future family (pray for me!) with opportunities I never received. Trust, I ain't raisin' no spoiled brats, but I want to be able to provide my kids and partner with the best.

And let's not forget about me! I wouldn't mind driving a nice car like this one:

I want to travel the world, see all there is to able to put some kid through college with a scholarship...own my own house and maybe a vacation home...see my name on something, whether it be a patent, a building, etc...leave a nice lil' legacy to my future generation. I can't do these things if I plan on being a scrub or half-assin'. I don't want to be a statistic, or a "ohh wow it's a damn shame, he had soo much potential" case. I want to inspire others to do the damn thang, so I must set the example by working my ass off and handling my business. It's that simple.

So yeah, when I start resenting my current position in life, I remind myself why I do what I do. Without fail, I re-gain my focus and draw enough strength to keep it movin.'

What keeps you motivated for success? I'd like to know.