Stop Paying Attention to Age

“I need a slow motion video, right now,” he recited bubbly when he answered my phone call. Most greet others with a hug or a handshake. Our special welcome is a rap ad-lib that we uttered no less than a thousand times in one day during the summer of 2011. We joked, drank, partied, and conversed during his one night visit to NYC. Most importantly, we needed a slow motion video for our plethora of shenanigans.

We met while I attended the best university at a “we have extra money in our budget so let’s host an extravagant buffet styled lunch” appreciation luncheon during the summer. His mother was then an administrative assistant in the Dean’s office and proudly introduced me to her soon to be fourteen year old son. His tall lanky frame, with over sized hands and feet, highlighted that was he in the midst of a growth sprout. His mom and my boss mentor suddenly disappeared into the crowed after the brief introduction, and we were left awkwardly together. Making small talk (Editor’s note: small talk with a teenager is top ten hardest things to do in life…don’t doubt me, just shake your head in agreement), I asked what he liked to do in his free time, and he tersely replied, “Play basketball.” I then invited him to hoop with me and some friends, not thinking that he would take me up on the offer. But he did; I still remember the phone call from his mother asking what time she should bring him to the gym. A couple days later, we were running up and down the court together. He was on my team because my big brother instincts wanted to protect him because neither my friends nor I knew if he could actually hoop since he was younger than we were and if he sucked it was only right that I shouldered the burden. Impressively, he held his own against the older competition and we won the majority of our games. More importantly, our friendship began.

We are six years apart, and being the elder I assumed the mentor role. We spoke occasionally about school and his social life; I mainly listened and offered advice when asked for it. After I graduated, our conversations continued, evolving as we each became more of ourselves. The frequency decreased each year, but we always made it a point to check in with each other ever so often. For example, when I found out that I was going to have a child at twenty-three, we spoke about it like brothers. I shared with him my anxieties and apprehensions, especially given that both of us had grown up without our biological fathers present. Likewise, when he was having a difficult time in college, we spoke about it like brothers. I encouraged him to continue his educational journey, and even sent him some money for “books.”

After all the pleasantries and small talk, he exploded that he connected with his biological father and siblings. The story seemed surreal; he went to college with his half sister and even met her a couple times because they shared a similar friend group. Only a few months earlier did she somehow connect the dots. I smiled when I heard the excitement in his voice about being a big brother and how he and his sisters are actively working on crafting meaningful relationships. And then the conversation became authentic when we broached the difficult questions about his father and their initial meeting. Undeterred and maturely, he detailed the work in progress of moving past the past and focusing on the future. I could hear, faintly, the hurt in his voice that he was actively moving beyond. He understood that bitterness would destroy this opportunity, so he decided to be happy and embrace the moment. During our two hour conversation, I learned from him. He showcased for me what letting go actually looks like. He demonstrated a strength and courageousness that left me in awe. I just kept saying in my head, “I want to be like him when I grew up” because he was handling tough situations in an admirable way that I wanted to emulate.

After we hung up the phone, some two hours later, I decided that I can no longer pay attention to age because it can not quantify one’s wisdom and maturity. I have met some older adults who act like children immaturely. Similarly, I have met some young adults who speak and act with a knowledge beyond what one would expect given their age. Thus, I am actively working to remove my assumptions about others based on their age.

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Real Advice for College Freshman

The time is here again:

Time for the future leaders of America to begin their prescribed path along higher education to their dream careers and relationships. After graduating from high school and enjoying their first summer, in which they did not have to read a book for their upcoming English class and countless trips to Bed, Bath, and Beyond and other stores advertising their college specials, soon-to-be-college freshman have been listening to a plethora of tips on how to have a successful first year. From the horny uncle who suggests to have as much “fun” as they can to the overzealous parent who has mapped out their academic classes for the next four years (or more including graduate/medical/law school), these incoming freshmen have heard all kinds of advice.

Well, here is some advice from me (in no particular order):

  1. Don’t be the first one to be ems’ed during the freshman orientation parties. Slow down on the drinking, young grasshopper. Yes, you can celebrate your recent freedom from the tyrannical rule of your parents’ home, but no one likes a sloppy drunk; learn your limits…slowly (sidenote: avoid any drink from large vats or tubs or containing the words, “jungle,” “oil,” or “juice.” Oh and avoid mixing light and dark at all costs…your liver will thank you.)
  2. Do not sexile your roommate too soon (i.e. within the first month). That experience will put an unnecessary strain on an already tenuous and still developing relationship.
  3. Freshman fifteen (i.e. gaining fifteen pounds during freshman year) is a myth…as along as you stay away from heavy binge drinking and late night eating.
  4. Don’t buy all the books on the syllabus until you have talked with others who have previously taken the class, scoured the internet for the cheapest price, or formed a study group with other classmates centered on sharing materials. Trust me, you do not want to pay $115 for a book, only to be offered $4.25 when you try to sell it back to the bookstore at the end of the semester (hint: since most classes are not offered each semester, hold onto the book and sell it a freshman next year)
  5. Stay away from the bottom self in the liquor store. Those cheap vodkas (if it smells like rubbing alcohol, avoid) that cost $8.99 for a handle will only result in severe headaches, awkward conversations about the previous night, and regrettable decisions.
  6. Learn the dining room hours because you do not want to waste those food credits…even if you aren’t hungry, use your credit and stockpile your mini fridge (or let your homie/homegirl, who somehow has used their semester worth of credits in three weeks and thus are forever starving, borrow yours).
  7. Have an open mind and try different things: take a class, outside of your major, that interests you (sidenote: you may end up changing your major a couple times…and there’s nothing wrong with that. Heck, most people get jobs outside of their collegiate degree), join an extra-curricular club that highlights (or begins) a passion or interest (let your love for anime, for example, be welcomed and celebrated by other anime lovers), give people a try (yes all the dudes in high school who wore fitting, pink polos with popped collars were pricks, but this one in college may be different…you’ll never know unless you try…same for those Ugg wearers).
  8. College is not high school…it’s way more fun because of the independence and resulting responsibilities. Thus, stay away from constantly checking in on your old high school friends. Caring about who hooked up at the homecoming party is lame because you are taking time away from enjoying your present situation at college. No one wants to be friends with the person constantly on their phone, checking up on their still-in-high-school friends.
  9. This should have been number one: time management! You may believe that you are a  procrastinating perfectionist that works best under pressure, but you’re not, boo boo. Don’t do it to yourself and get yourself stuck under Herculean deadlines that could cause the Rock of Gibraltar to crack. As a result of your various meltdowns caused by your lack of time management, you can look forward to meeting regularly with psych services and/or academic deans (sidenote: use all the resources that are made available to you from writing centers to deans to health/psych services) (sidenote 2: you do not want to miss around with your classes because being placed on academic probation can lead to forfeiture of scholarships and/or work study or mandatory time away from school…both self-esteem shattering).
  10. Ask questions: of your classmates, your professors, your institution, your friends, your family, and most importantly of yourself. You will not be the same person after college, and you should be aware and in tune with your development and growth.

I am sure I forgot something. Please leave your advice in the comments section.

Difficulty with Making Friends Post College

One of my friends, a former co-worker, shared a link to a NYTimes about the difficulty of making meaningful friendships once over thirty. The article deeply resonated with me, even though I am in the latter years of my roaring twenties, a time when making friends should be easy.

It’s not.

Becoming friends with the opposite sex and/or the same sex is often complicated by the threat of sex, desire, and unrequited feelings. Undoubtedly, those wants can strain any possible mutual friendship. Additionally, when I talk about friendship, I am not referring to the “hey-we-just-met-let’s-become-Facebook-friends-and-follow-each-other-on-Twitter-or-Instagram” kind of relationship. In this social media world, the word “friends” has been thrown around with no caution, resulting in thousands of friends, who are really acquaintances or random people in your freshman year lecture styled biology class. Instead, I am talking about a friendship in which there is genuine concern for, trust of, etc.

*Time lapses*

I am having a difficult time writing this piece; I have started and restarted numerous times. Truthfully, I feel restless, needing something new and exciting to avoid dreadful monotony. Thus, I am re-examining my close friendships, which currently feels stale, and have found that I have not been successful in this category. For example, all of my closest male friends throughout my life are now absent, except for two, and each of those relationships are strained in some way. Time and distance is often the culprit, but breached loyalty has also been an issue. Honestly, those failed relationships reflect on me because I am the only constant in all of them.

In college, I missed out on creating and nurturing possible life-long friendships because I was too engrossed in my first serious relationship with my then-girlfriend. I rarely spent the necessary time or shared random experiences, the building blocks of relationships, with others. One of my favorite memories of college was the first couple weeks, staying up in the hallway or someone’s room just talking, getting to know each other. Unfortunately for me, those moments were rare once my focus shifted solely to my then-girlfriend (note: I lost myself). Those moments, however, didn’t stop for others. Hence, the reason I often feel like an a “near” outsider with my college friends. Once my then-girlfriend and I broke up, I was left without any close friends and college was over. Yes, I knew hella people and vice versa, but I did not have that meaningful connection with anyone in particular (sidenote: I left college with some wonderful friends, but no one who I would randomly call and talk to about nothing; no best friend). After college, most friendship circles close and solidify; thus, becoming close friends with my college friends after graduation was nearly impossible and futile, further facilitated by the fact that I moved half way across the country from most of them. Additionally, after-college, life happened; careers started, people married, babies were born. Therefore, responsibilities and expectations changed, often forgetting or forgoing “new” friendships.

*Time lapses*

I feel like I have not been a good friend to those around me (a la college); I feel like I missed out on numerous opportunities to be close friends with others; most importantly, I feel that I need to own my missteps in my relationships.

In Sir Robinson’s book entitled, The Element, Sir Robinson discusses this idea of finding similarly passionate people and the effect it could have on one’s life. While reading that section a few years ago, I remember desperately wanting to find that pack. I must not have been desperate enough because I still have not found them; I have not done the necessary work to find, build, and cultivate those relationships.

Maybe I’m ready now.

Slang from the 90s That I Still Use Today

The Way New Yorkers See The World

“Yo, B. It’s mad brick outside, son,” he would say with a semi-serious, semi-joking face. He disliked hated New York slang because of the pretentious New York contingent of students at [insert the best college here].  We, New Yorkers, always boasted and gloated about how amazing and special our city was, often, consciously or unconsciously, belittling the rest of the country, except for California. He hailed from a small city in Virginia and could not tolerate the elitist New York crowd. So, he took his disgust out on me via these random three minute monologues, sometimes joined by others, where he strung together as many slang words as he could.

“Yo son, dun, that’s stupid fresh,” he continued, pointing at some random object. “Word up, it’s silly fresh, B. Word. Yo, it’s crazy, dumb brick.” Brick was his favorite one to use.

While reminiscing about those nonsensical, comedic, often annoying moments, I realized that I still use a few of these slang words in my day to day vernacular. It surprised me because my slang is heavily influenced by hip hop culture, whose constant rush of fleeting songs that are only memorable for the moment (aka one-hit wonders) consequently produce forgettable sayings (and artists) like “wobble, wobble” or “a bay bay” or  a BX favorite, “lean back.”

Here are the ones that you will hear me use daily:

Hella–adopted from my Cali friends back in high school. It replaced my use of “mad.” I never vibed with the New England variant, “wicked.” It just seemed too…umm…wicked. No witchery over here, B.

Brick–this is a staple during the winter months, used to explained how cold the weather is. It produces a billow of cold air when used with a New York attitude, with the emphasis placed on the syllable.

Homie–instead of friend, I use “homie.” And my female friends are referred to as “homegirls.”  If you read this blog consistently, you would have met my lil homie. Yep, I really do use this one everyday.

Word–originally a term used by the Nation of Gods and Earths, also known as Five Percenters. The idea is that all Asiatic black men are gods (and the women are earths) and in godly conversation, one agrees with another by saying “word,” which a powerful term. I use “word” everyday because I agree with things I hear, but I also use it to question others as well (“word?”).

Dope–my absolute favorite slang word that was missing from my vocabulary for a few years, but has made a triumphant return. Anything that strikes my fancy is “dope.” When one of my friends in Chicago told me that she shared my blog with one of her black male students, my response was simply, “Dope.”

What slang words do you use on a daily basis? Please share in the comments section. It would be dope to hear what other terms the audience uses. Word.

 

 

The Thirst is Activated

The Thirst is Real!

The weather is warming up again, and the thirst will be abundantly flowing, freely, down these summer fling, reverse cuffing, dating streets. The thirst…well the picture perfectly explains the term. During the summer months there will be plenty of thirsty individuals wanting…umm…your water.

We nestle into a small diner booth located on the tiny block-city in Oberlin, Ohio. I had planned my visit to Oberlin college, not because I desperately wanted to go to the renowned, musically inclined college, but because one of my fine female friends from high school went there. And according to her, she had an additional fifteen fine female friends. Leave school for a couple days for an all expense paid trip to visit a college campus, and hangout with close to twenty freshman college women…yep, I had to make the trip regardless of where this school landed on my hierarchical college list. Don’t judge me!

Unfortunately, piss poor planning leads to poor performance. The weekend that I travel to the Midwest, my sexy friend and her sexy female crew had gone to a historical Black college in Tennessee for some music festival (read: wild college party). My friend felt terribly that the weekend I came to see her, she was out of town. That’s how I ended up with him, Cleveland, my designated host for the weekend. To this day, I do not remember his real name, not sure if he ever told me.

“I’ll have a glass of apple juice,” I tell the waitress while I scan the menu quickly since Cleveland did not even bother to look at it. When I put the menu down, I see his head bending over the lip of the glass, sipping water. When his neck muscles retract, his head pops up, causing him to push his glasses back onto the bridge of his nose.

We engage in small conversation: I share with him my list of colleges and how my senior year has been going thus far. After a few minutes, he abruptly states, “You look like you get a lot of girls.” Caught off guard, I grin, buying time to think of something to say. Before I can respond, he says, “I’m not that attractive, but I get my fair share of women.”

Wait, what? Still not sure what is happening at the moment, I just smile and listen.

Cleveland precedes to share with me the culture of freshman life; the parties, the drinking, the sex, the interaction with upperclassmen, and the interaction among other freshmen. He briefly stops when our food is brought out by the visibly tired waitress, who must have had a late night, early morning. We eat for a couple minutes and then he picks up where he left off.

“Hold your water,” he casually states, while he puts down his water glass.

Wait, what?

I politely interrupt him for the first time during our breakfast conversation. “What do you mean, ‘Hold my water,'” I repeat, making sure that I heard him correctly.

“These women are going to be thirsty when you get to college, if they not thirsty for you now,” he begins to explain. “You cannot give your water to everyone who comes to get a drink from you. In fact, the longer you hold your water, the more valuable your water becomes because the thirst will always increase because it never ends.” I instantly understand and nod my head in agreement. “Give ’em sips,” he chuckles. His comedic laughter causes me to laugh as well.

I never saw Cleveland again, but I always remembered his wise words that he shared with my seventeen year old self.

So well the thirst is activated by the raising temperatures, be mindful of Cleveland’s seemingly nonsensical words, “Hold your water.”

Do what you want. Hold it. Spill it. Share it with all. It’s your water. And remember, no judgement from me.

The Case of College Admission

“Why should I congratulate you,” I question a Latina student, seated at the same lunch table with me, after over-hearing her friend congratulate her.

She looks around, and whispers, “I got into college.”

With a huge smile on my face, I extend my congratulations. Excitedly, I ask her, “Which ones?”

Once again, she looks around. She leans forward, as if she does not want others to hear, and rattles off twelve highly selective colleges and universities, grimacing when she shares that Yale is the only one that rejected. I can easily feel her discomfort with sharing this seemingly exciting news in a public setting like the cafeteria. I remember that feeling over ten years ago as I sat in the same cafeteria, wary to update my classmates with my collegiate acceptances.

This time of year on high school campuses, specifically independent schools throughout the nation, students of color are stressed. They, like all students, are anxious about receiving their college admissions letters. Those letters that come in the big packet (congratulations!) or the small envelope (we are sorry to inform you…) seemingly dictate the rest of their lives…or so they are made to believe. Additionally, there is the added stress of sharing their news, especially their excitement, with members of their community. The reaction of their White peers often sound like:

“She only got in because she’s Latina.”

“He only got in because he’s Black.”

These phrases are painful because they completely devalue the student and his/her accomplishments. These phrases devour the student’s hard work over his/her high school career and burps a lame reason of race and quotas.

Meanwhile, there is limited conversation about those students who are legacies, or athletes, or whose parents coincidentally gave a significant donation to the university. Why are those students’ merits not questioned? Why are students of color often the only ones questioned when they receive acceptance to top colleges and universities?

This disparity in merit questioning is due to ignorance about affirmative action. The media has painted affirmative action as a policy that allowed for under-qualified people of color to gain admittance to higher education and professional jobs; meanwhile, they were taking these positions away from the rightful better-qualified White students or professionals. Thus, many imagine that affirmative action was about quotas, and the infiltration of academia and consequent professions by poor, unintelligent people of color. See the conundrum that many students of color face during admission letter time. Their friends classmates, courtesy of societal training, are inundated with the wrongful perception that they, the students of color, are not capable and, more importantly, do not deserve those big packets stuffed with news of acceptance.

Additionally, the media does not share that White women actually benefited the most from the policy.

Ironically, the country is still in need of affirmative action, which according to President Kennedy meant  “to ensure that applicants are employed, and that employees are treated during employment, without regard to their race, creed, color or national origin” (Executive Order 10925, 1961). President Kennedy recognized that the country had to take affirmative action to right its stained past.

Wait, what? You do not understand why the country still needs affirmative action. Please peep the following video:

The video clearly illustrates the multi-generational advantage that White people have had since the country was invaded in 1492. For over four hundred year, people of color were restricted in their starting blocks, while their white counterparts freely ran around the life track uninhibited. Similarly, even after people of color leave the starting blocks, discrimination, housing segregation, the school to jail pipeline, amongst many other things have limited people of color America from living up to its initial founding words, “We the people…” Instead, the country continues to employ various systems (educational, judicial, financial, housing, etc.) to ensure that White people, specifically heterosexual, land owning men, continue to win the race…easily.

Thus, those moments of joy felt when that big envelope sits on the dresser or on the kitchen counter are fleeting because they are unnecessarily followed up by negative comments, which are designed to make the owner of the congratulatory letter feel less than or ill-prepared or undeserving. More importantly, those comments reinforce a system that is designed to produce those feelings. Unfortunately, the system works.

Fear of Missing Out

This past weekend, a few friends and I were at a bar. I honestly do not remember what was the topic of conversation, but she responded to a question by saying, “FOMO.” The conversation immediately stopped and there was pin drop silence. Excuse me, I thought. We all looked at her. She did not bat an eyelash at the sudden hush, and plainly stated, “FOMO: Fear of Missing Out.”

As a little kid, I hated to sleep. I lived with my grandparents for a few years and I always remember being up early with them, cleaning or preparing for the day. By 3pm, my Caribbean grandparents would say, “The day done.” Hence, we always tried to accomplish our daily goals before the impending mid afternoon deadline. Because we went to bed early, I fondly remember waking up in the middle of the night to watch wrestling, then known as WWF, with my Papa. My grandmother would furiously ask him, “Thomo, why do you have that boy up so late, watching that foolishness,” as we nestled on the oversized couch in front of the television. Undeterred, my Papa would calmly answer, “Because that’s what he wants to do.” I would skillfully avert my Granny’s fuming eyes and return my gaze to the comforting blue glow of the television set. With only a few hours of sleep, I would be up the next morning, running around, being an active kid.

FOMO

As a teenager, my hatred for sleep continued. Truthfully, my poor sleeping habits can be traced to being an enthusiastic early riser. This energy to greet the new day was definitely acquired from living with my grandparents. Everyone in my immediate family loves to sleep. My mother is a sleeper. She loves to have pajama days where she relaxes in her pjs all day, embracing the whimsical temptation to cuddle with her pillow and return to dream land. My brothers, forget about it. They have no recollection of Saturday morning cartoons because they are opening their eyes at the time when all the best cartoons are done. I blame the rise of cable television and the ever present channels that play cartoons non-stop. They did not have to worry about waking up early to satisfy their cartoon fix, like I did, a child of the 80s. They can have their four hour cartoon binge in the middle of the day or late at night or really whenever they want to have it.

I digress.

Late in my high school career, I did not go to sleep until two or three in the morning. Senior year, that late bedtime was the direct result of my first real puppy love crush on this beautiful multiethnic girl from Brooklyn. One time, while talking into the wee hours, my mother had gotten up to use the bathroom. As her heavy foot slid past my door, she heard my voice, and peeked in to see what I was doing. I was crunched up in a laundry basket, talking on my private line, a cordless phone, engaged in a trivial conversation, filled to the brim with nothingness. She sleepily stated, “You know you have to get up for school in a few hours,” and closed my door. At 6 o’clock, I was up. The first one in the bathroom. The first one ready. All done with energy to spare.

My teenage friends were perplexed by my constant, bright disposition in the morning. One day, on the school bus, a close friend leaned on my shoulder and thoughtlessly asked, “Why don’t you sleep?” I prepared to list the things that I did late at night, which mostly consisted of talking on the phone to my lady friend from Brooklyn. But I responded, “I fear that I’m going to miss out on something while I sleep.”

FOMO

During my freshman in college, I worked in a bakery. I had to be at work from 5am till 9am and then I attended class until roughly 3pm. Next, I played basketball and then ate dinner. In the evening, I participated in play practice until 8pm (once again check out the picture at the end of the post). Then…well it was freshman year, so I was not in bed until the early morning hours. During the summer between my sophomore and junior years, I read The Da Vinci Code, and in my true nerd fashion, looked up all things related to Da Vinci.
This was the first year or so of Wikipedia, so I got lost in a WIki vortex, a place where time is suspended while you click from link to link to link, finding out more information than you originally intended.

Click. Da Vinci only slept for three hours to maximize the hours in the day, which he desperately sought to do in order to complete his many different passions.
Click. Our body sleeps and rejuvenates during rapid eye movement, known as a REM cycle.
Click. REM cycles take roughly three hours to complete.
Click. The optimal complete sleep cycle contains three REM cycles, a total of nine hours.
Click. The reason why many people feel drowsy with eight hours of sleep is because they interrupt their last REM cycle and the body does not respond well to limited or interrupted REM cycles.

Solution. I decided to only sleep in three hour intervals a la Da Vinci. As an adult with a professional career, I still sleep like this.

FOMO

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