Be You

Be You

This song popped in my head while chatting with a friend today. It’s a song that’s actually a Stevie Wonder classic that I’ve always loved since the first time I heard it watching School Daze when I was a kid.

Butterflies begin from having been another
As a child is born from being in a mother’s womb
But how many times have you wished you were some other
Someone than who you are

Yet who’s to say that if all were uncovered
You will like what you see?
You can only be you as I can only be me

Flowers cannot bloom until it is their season
As we would not be here unless it was our destiny
But how many times have you wished to be in spaces
Time places than what you were

Yet who’s to say with unfamiliar faces
You could anymore be loving you that you’d see?
You can only be me as I can only be me

Now when I was a kid, I may have just liked it because the college queen was being crowned to it and the guy sitting on the steps was just crooning away. But now I like it because it’s something that I really strive to live by. So many of us spend so much time trying to go against the grain of whom we are instead of identifying then leveraging our talents and skills and personality traits to the fullest. We spend lots of time focused on what we (or actually, most ofthe time, others) perceive as flaws, instead of focusing on the essence of ourselves. God made us who we are on purpose. That’s not to say there aren’t things in life we don’t need to work on, but we need to just be. How do you even know what flaws you have if you really don’t know what makes you tick or understand what is really important to you and what’s not. Be who is naturally you. And let me be me.

I think there are several people out there that have issues with the fact that I. Am. Always. Me. I can’t even help it. It’s just not in my make up to even give a thought about being something I’m not. In fact, the couple of times that I’ve consciously tried, usually specifically just to make someone else feel at ease, it was a mega disaster. I know I’m quirky, I know I do based on what I feel, I know I say what’s on my mind, I know I can be hot or cold–which just so you know, is directly related to the fact that I’m either all in or pretty much completely unconcerned and I’m very passionate or nonchalant. I have dabbled in the gray, but it’s not often–usually it’s black and white. I’m okay with that. Why? Because I know it about myself, and I’ve learned (and am still learning) how to utilize the natural characteristics I have.

You know what’s really difficult for me? Dealing with people who won’t be themselves. It’s much much worse than dealing with people who are themselves and I just don’t agree with them or like particular attributes. But the genuine sincerity of just being commands my respect. We’re all different so we won’t always agree or even click, but at least we can have a real conversation. I’ve encountered this in dating because I’ve met a couple of guys who wanted me to direct them into being who I wanted them to be. Well, I can’t. I just want them to be themselves. If you being you + me being me = compatibility, then great! If not, that’s ok. It happens. But who wants to live a life of keeping up a mask to make someone else happy? Does that make you happy? If it does, well, … alrighty. But I know I wouldn’t be happy with someone imposing their ideas of whom I should be onto me, so I can’t do that to anyone else. Not on purpose anyway. Dig it?

I just really think that we really have to look within and appreciate our good qualities and recognize opportunities to drive your own life using those qualities as tools instead of always being worried to death about flaws that may or may not be flaws and letting them inhibit us from our dreams and goals.

Well that’s all I have for you today. 🙂  I’ll be back later. Until then, hopefully, I, while being me, will bump into you being you.

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Broke-ology

Broke-ology

Wednesday night, I took a MUCH needed break from working long days (and nights) and went to see the True Colors Theatre production Broke-ology with my neighbors.

I didn’t really know what to expect from the title, but the play definitely surpassed my expectations.  Not focused just on the fact that the family was poor and how some things in life are just more important than how much money and possessions you have, this play explored many issues that hit close to home: how to take care of an illness-stricken family member, the responsibility of being close to home versus being limitless in chasing dreams, family planning, and even how people deal with death.

Since I want you to go see it (it’s at Southwest Arts Center until Sunday), I won’t get down into the details of the plot (except where it relates to my impending ramblings).  Suffice it to say that despite my sleep deprivation this week, I didn’t fall asleep for a second!

I love when art causes me to slow down and self-reflect, which definitely happened Wednesday night. One of the characters went home to Kansas City, Kansas after receiving his graduate degree from UConn.  His brother never left home, and although he works at a wings spot, he has been instrumental in helping to make sure their father, who is suffering from MS, is okay.  The younger brother, the UConn graduate, has no idea just how difficult it has been for the family and is extremely torn about staying at home and helping out but knowing he will likely get “stuck” or moving back to Connecticut after a summer position with the EPA and following his desire to teach and do environmental research with his academic mentor. Can you say para-llel? I’ve often felt the same way–except not as torn just because I go home semi-regularly since I can drive there. I’ve considered moving back home sooner than later (I at least want a second home there), especially when I see how stressed my mom gets trying to help the rest of my family.  Or even when I think of every day things that I could do if I were there that I never have time to do during my visits, like playing spades with my family like the characters were playing dominoes or learning crocheting techniques from my grandma for more than an hour or two here and there. I love being at home, and I love my family more than anything. But I’ve always been the explorer. The adventurer. I’m not quite ready to lay my roots down there. As far as my career is concerned, I could make some small strides at home, but I’m really flourishing here in Atlanta and I’m not ready for a slight career change, a veer on the road if you will.  I could work for organizations who are my clients currently, but I like being the consultant, and I love working in different communities, seeing the different dynamics.  But I always have my family in the back of my mind. Wondering if I’m being selfish. But I know in the grand scheme, I’m not because I give back and help out in my own way. But is it enough?

I got a little sentimental, though, when the older brother who has been in Kansas City the whole while told his younger brother that if he moves, he will miss all the milestones of his baby that’s on the way.  I immediately thought of my nieces and nephews, who I can’t be as close to as their aunts and uncles that are in town. I write letters, keep up with them on Facebook, spend time with them when I go home, but I’m definitely not doing nearly as much or being as influential in their lives as I would if I lived there. But on the other hand, I think back to my own aunt Vernita. She was an explorer like I am. She lived in DC until she was murdered when I was in the 9th grade. I remember vividly being so excited to see her and spend time with her when she would visit.  Although she lived so far away, I didn’t care as a child.  I can still remember her smell and her smile, even her laugh, and I would just bask in her presence. I still think about her from time to time, and it hurt me to the core when she was taken from us. I never begrudged her being away–in fact, it inspired me. My mom has told me countless times over the years that I remind her of Vernita. And that makes me feel close to her, even though I didn’t spend as much time with her as some of my other aunts and uncles.

I would keep going, but this post is getting a little long. And truthfully, I’m getting a little misty thinking about my aunt.  So… I’ll leave you with this: Cherish your family, no matter where they are. And seek to be a part of solutions, not problems.  Happy Friday, people!

MLM: What’s Your Dream?

MLM: What’s Your Dream?

Well, my dream is to make a profound positive impact on the black community. And through Reads and Reels, I can see some of that coming to fruition.  This weekend, I led a group of 15 volunteers in New Orleans as we participated in the ongoing rebuilding efforts.  It was a humbling, educational, inspirational, reassuring, lesson-learning, comical, friendship-building time, and I’m so glad that I had the idea and acted on it.  I’ll definitely be doing it again very soon.  I’m uploading pictures and sharing stories over the next few days.

For Memory Lane Monday, though, I want to share this piece I sent to friends on May 4, 2007 after a sermon I heard.

“Look, this dreamer is coming!…Let us…kill him.” Genesis 37:19-20

What’s your dream?

Everybody has a dream.  What’s yours?  If you could do anything, what would it be?  Most of us don’t achieve great things because we give up, we fall short, we get off track, we settle, or we dream too small.  Only two things stand in your way: dreaming it, then doing it.  Have you dared to dream, really dream?  If something is within your apparent reach, it isn’t a dream.  If it doesn’t stretch you, cost you, or involve risk, it isn’t a dream.  Dreams change you even as they change the world around you.

Maybe you’re listening to critical people. Remember the story of Joseph?  He dreamed big dreams.  God-given dreams.  And what was the response of his brothers?  They said, “Look, this dreamer is coming!… let us… kill him.”  People who aren’t pursuing their own dreams are usually the first to criticize people who are.  So, who are you listening to?

Maybe you’re afraid to dream too big. You don’t want to fail.  Nobody does.  But “safe living” leads to regret.  Theodore Roosevelt said, “Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor souls who neither enjoy much nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.”  What’s the worst thing that could happen if you pursue your dream and don’t achieve it?  You could end up where you are now.  And what’s the best thing that could happen?  You could find yourself in new territory, enjoying new blessings, living the life God meant for you to live!

So, what’s your dream?  Are you pursuing it?

From the Archives: Dream Big

From the Archives: Dream Big

I posted this in my old blog on 6/11/2007.  I gave a speech (or a sermon as the pastor wanted to call it) on 6/10/2007 at Light of Life Church in College Park, GA for their Youth Day.  I just felt like sharing today.  Hopefully, it inspires someone.

I started by telling a story of a little girl with huge dreams to be successful in school and go on to become some sort of leader—maybe a judge, maybe a scientist, but definitely someone who would make a difference in the world. The little girl experienced extreme hate from her 5th grade math teacher, who berated her daily and told her she’d never be anything and that she was dumb and not as smart as people thought she was. Her ma gave her some wonderful advice that she can’t let negative people have a negative effect on her life, and eventually the little girl got her grades back up and started turning the teacher’s discouragement into encouragement and made the decision to prove the teacher wrong. The little girl ended up graduating from high school at 16, earning two bachelors degrees in math by the time she was 20, and has a Masters degree <now 2 Masters degrees>. And now she’s giving speeches. Imagine that. I told them, of course I’ve gone through many trials and tribulations since then, but that particular experience was an early lesson in how to handle people’s negativity and just the world in general.

I encouraged the audience (congregation) to pursue the dreams God gives us, no matter how big or impossible or crazy they may seem. I told them a story I heard Joel Osteen give once–there was a man who went fishing, and he saw another man fishing and noticed that every time he caught a small fish he kept it, but each time he caught a big fish, he would throw it back. Finally after watching this for awhile, the man decided to ask him what’s going on. The guy told him that he only had a 10″ frying pan. We have got to throw away our small frying pan and invest in some larger ones. We can’t limit God, so we shouldn’t limit what he puts in our spirits to do.

The underlying tool we need to pursue our dreams is faith–we have to trust God and the Holy Spirit and have faith that ALL things are possible. Sometimes the trouble is that the idea just seems odd. When God told Noah to build the ark, they had never seen rain ever before. They had no clue what it would be like for water to fall from the sky, let alone water coming so much that it would flood. I’m sure Noah was like what the heck? You want me to do what? Build a huge boat in the middle of the desert?! BUT he had faith and he did what he was told, and it came in handy, eh? You can’t let the size of your dream intimidate you.

Sometimes we’re worried about what other folks say. I can only imagine how much Noah was made fun of. But those people ended up drowning. You can’t let people stop you from making the mark God intends for you to make on the world. You have to stay true to God and yourself. Don’t change your dreams for your critics!

Sometimes the trouble is low self-esteem. We underestimate ourselves. God told Moses to go tell Pharoah to let his people go. Moses said what the heck? I can’t do that! I stutter! And to that, God replied, who made your tongue?! God doesn’t make mistakes. He put you in the life you’re in for a reason. And he equipped you with everything you’ll ever need to conquer all your storms.

Then I shared 6 pieces of advice.

1. Make it a habit to talk to God when you get up in the morning and before you go to bed at night. Read your Bible, for it will equip you. You can’t receive your dreams and assignments from God if you’re not in touch with him. Pray for guidance and help in being in the right place at the right time to meet the right people.

2. Plan ahead! Proverbs 14:16 says “The wise are cautious and avoid danger; fools plunge ahead with reckless confidence.” When I’m going somewhere, I don’t just hop in my car and start driving, I have to look at a map or get directions. Same in life–we have to know how to get to where we’re going. Once you make the choice to pursue the dreams God has given you, you have to do your research. Find out what is needed to go to the college you want to go to; find out what you need to get that internship; ask someone what you need to start a business; find out what you have to do to become a minister; find out who you need to know to work on a political campaign. Get an idea of where you’re going before you start walking.

3. Don’t believe everything you see! Proverbs 13:7 says “Some who are poor pretend to be rich; others who are rich pretend to be poor.” Don’t pursue other people’s dreams because of what you think they have. Pursue what God has especially for you. You don’t know what people really have or what they had to do to get it. Some people who drive fancy cars and live in big houses may not have it made like you think. For all you know they’re on the verge of losing it. And don’t judge the poor looking man on the corner trying to tell people about God or handing out flyers for his new business. The rappers and folks on TV look like they have it all, but you don’t know what goes on when the cameras stop rolling. Don’t believe everything you see, but do believe what God has said to you.

4. Know that everything does not come easy. You HAVE to work for it! Three verses here:
Proverbs 13:4 “Lazy people want much but get little, but those who work hard will prosper.”
Proverbs 13:11 “Wealth from get-rich-quick schemes quickly disappears; wealth from hard work grows over time.”
Proverbs 14:23 “Work brings profit, but more talk leads to poverty.”
We’ve all heard that saying “don’t talk about it–be about it.” Don’t spend your time talking about your dreams and waiting for success to find you! Once you’ve received your dream, once you’ve done your homework and figured out what you need to do to achieve it, go do it! Know that there will be rough times and everything won’t always seem to work out, but remember that God has a master plan. Your trials and pitfalls are there for a reason, a reason you’ll find out later. So thank God in advance for the lessons you learn and for divinely setting up life to get you to where you’re supposed to be. Be diligent. You can’t stand on the sidelines. You have to stay in the race for God to get you to the finish line. As my ma told me, in order to enjoy the rainbow, you have to endure the rain.

5. Hang around people who can help you and who know more than you do. Proverbs 13:20 says “Walk with the wise and become wise; associate with fools and get in trouble.” Proverbs 14:7 says “Stay away from fools, for you won’t find knowledge on their lips.” Surround yourself with positive people who also strive for success. Take advantage of the adults in your life. Listen to their experiences; ask them for their advice; ask them if you can help them with a project in which you’re interested; get to know them. You never know who people know, what opportunities they may know of, or who may be willing to write a letter or make a phone call for you. Stay away from folks with a 10″ frying pan, who think small, who are negative, and who don’t know any more than you do. What can they offer you but bad advice? Don’t get stuck thinking you can’t do something or making wrong decisions. Hang around people who will keep you moving forward.

6. Accept constructive criticism and loving guidance. Do not reinvent the wheel–learn from others! Proverbs 13:18 says “If you ignore criticism, you will end in poverty and disgrace; if you accept correction, you will be honored.” People have been where you are. Even when you feel like NOONE can POSSIBLY understand what you feel, what you’re going through at home or at school, chances are someone does, and God will put them in your path. Those people who love you just want to help you avoid some problems and help you out of others. But you have to LISTEN. Don’t get angry if someone tells you there’s a better way to do something. Don’t get an attitude when someone tells you something you did was wrong. Hear them out. Don’t get wrapped up in the fact that they may be fussing–listen and consider what is being said. You’ll probably be better for it!

I finished by giving them a quote by Benjamin E. Mays:

Every man and woman is born into the world to do something unique and something distinctive, and if he or she does not do it, it will never be done.

And I’ll finish this post with a song by one of the best bands of all time, Earth Wind & Fire.

For you, here’s a song to make your day brighter
One that will last you long through troubled days
Giving your heart the light to brighten all of the dark that falls in your way

Be true to you.

Be true to you.

I got an extremely random set of text messages today, and it got me thinking. I want to share with you my conclusion from the exchange.

Lesson of the Day:  Be true to yourself. Consider advice from others, but make your own decisions. Follow your own heart and conscience.  At the end of the day, no one will live with ur regrets but you. So why be bound by other people’s opinions?

I was blessed to have parents who believed in letting me be me.  When I was faced with the decision of whether or not to skip my senior year of high school and start college at 16, my mom said, “This one is on you.  I’m not going to make this decision for you and have you resenting me one day if you don’t do what you really want.”  I will always remember those words.

I truly believe everything happens as they are supposed to–but how we feel about all of everything depends on several factors.  Attitude and perspective (during and after the fact) are part of it, but our regrets play a major role as well.

Listen up.  You only have one life.  Live it the way you’re led to live it.  Don’t depend on anyone else to bestow upon you the dreams they have.  Accept the ones God puts inside of you, and pursue those.  Don’t wait for anyone’s permission.  DO YOU.