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Lessons I Learned From My Father…

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Lessons I Learned From My Father…

My Daddy and I

As a self-professed “Daddy’s girl,” I often reflect upon the memory of my father fondly. Charles, or “Chuck” as he was affectionately called by many, was one of the greatest men I have ever had the pleasure to know and love. I often tell people that my father was the first man I have ever loved, and I am glad that I had such a great example for a father.

For anyone who knew myself and my members of my immediate family, everyone used to call me his “twin.” I inherited my father’s dashing good looks,  somewhat reserved demeanor, his wicked sense of humor, and his “book smarts” (as confessed by my mother). As a kid, wherever my father was, that’s where I wanted to be. I was even told that my first word was “daddy.” What I loved about him was that he wasn’t the type of guy that believed nurturing was reserved solely for my mother. He did everything for me…except for combing my hair, and was proud of it.  His lap was my safe space and his smile was my sunshine.

In a world where 70% of Black children are born or raised within a single-parent home, I count myself tremendously blessed to have had the positive influences of both my mother and father growing up. There are so many reasons why I admire this man and still thrive from the fruits of his hard work and dedication, that I think I could write a book. But, instead of doing that, I’ll share a few of the most important life lessons I learned from my father. He taught me…

1). There is no substitute for hard work. Sometimes while growing up, I used to get frustrated by how much my dad worked until I caught a glimpse of some of our bills. What I didn’t understand then, but what I eventually did grow to understand, was that providing for his family was one of my father’s top priorities. We were not rich by any means, which meant that my parents had to work to provide a comfortable life for their children and for themselves. My dad taught me that there is no substitute for hard work, and hard work does eventually pay off.

There were times in grade school where I would get so upset at myself for not getting an A+ on that paper or that project I worked so hard on. When I came home to tell him what happened, he would listen to me whine, and then ask one me one simple question: “Did you do your best?” I’d say “yes,” and he’d simply follow it up by saying, “Well, that’s all you can do.” My dad made me comfortable with the idea of putting my best foot forward and rolling with the punches afterward. He’d often say, “All I ask is that you do your best.” I truly believe it’s that same work ethic he helped instill in me that has gotten me to where I am today.

2). To demand respect and to voice unfair treatment. My dad was a very calm man who hated confusion and very rarely raised his voice. But, if he thought something was unfair, he’d speak up about it, and I’m happy to say that I learned that from him. He never took anything laying down, and taught me to fight for what I believed in. I remember the time when I was registering for classes in the 9th grade at my local high school, and my dad went along with me to help. The guidance counselor had my previous transcripts in front of him (which indicated that I was a student that excelled). Things were going fairly well, until the guidance counselor (who happened to be a White man) asked me if I needed to be enrolled in any remedial courses. I didn’t quite understand why he asked that, but I responded “No.” I looked over at my dad, confused, and I could see he was fuming. We finished the enrollment process shortly after and returned home. My dad was so upset, he could barely tell my mom what had just happened. Unable to contain his anger any longer, he decided to drive up to the high school that same day, with me in tow, to give that guidance counselor a piece of his mind. Needless to say, he raised hell that day. He expressed his discontentment to the high school principal and was adamant about the fact that the guidance counselor had unfairly questioned the intelligence of his child simply because she was Black. He demanded an apology, and got one. My dad was never afraid to speak truth to power, and I will never forget the invaluable lessons he taught me that day: to demand respect and to voice unfair treatment.

3). The necessity of expressing my love for those around me. For most of his life, my dad was a big guy, which could be intimidating especially for boys that wanted to take his daughter out. But he was one of the most sensitive men I’ve ever known – a big teddy bear, if you will. He was also unafraid to show this side of himself. He was the kind of man that not only showed love to his family everyday, but expressed it verbally, as well. There was not a day that went by where he neglected to say “I love you.” I knew when he said “I love you” that he meant it. I remember as a teenager, he would often hound me, saying, “You didn’t tell me you loved me today.” Being a hormonal girl with an attitude, I would get annoyed at this, but as an adult looking back, I can’t help but appreciate his loving nudges. I’m proud to say that those were our last words to each other, and he left hearing that from me…voluntarily and unashamed. Now I, too, am unafraid to tell those that I love around me that I love them, and I try to do it as often as I can, just as he did.

4). How to say “I’m sorry.” Another one of the things that I appreciated about my dad was that he was never afraid to apologize for something he may have done wrong. I remember the time when I was around 20 or 21 years old, when we got into an argument. He scolded me (wrongly) for something he thought that I should have done. Even though I tried, unsuccessfully, to tell him my side of the story, he wasn’t hearing it. I remember crying and storming away, frustrated that I hadn’t been listened to. But, minutes later, he came to me and apologized for yelling at me and not listening to what I had to say. He said “I’m sorry,” hugged me, and told me that he loved me. I’m sure it wasn’t easy for him to say that to me, especially since he was the “parent” and I was the “child,” but he did, which taught me to do the same, regardless of the circumstances.

I don’t hesitate when I say that I don’t know where I would be without my Dad. I’m the woman I am today because of him, which is why I try to honor his memory every day.

Happy Father’s Day to the best daddy ever.

-Love, Your Favorite Daughter

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Dreaming Awake…

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Recently, I have been really intrigued by dreaming. Being the nerd that I am, I even watched a whole PBS documentary about dreams on Netflix. Don’t judge me.  According to experts, dreams are seemingly fictional situations and events that we experience in our subconscious while in deep sleep. During our dream state, it seems that our bodies are paralyzed, while a myriad of realistic images and circumstances take place. Sometimes these ideas and situations make no logical sense, but experts contend that it is imperative that we dream in order to maintain our sanity. Culturally, some people believe our unconscious mind uses dreaming to convey important messages. Certain symbols and images in dreams have come to mean many different things to different people in their waking lives.

One of my very best friends exposed me to this quote a few years ago, and since then, I have become enthralled with it. Why? Because I’m a dreamer. I dream often. And when I do, I dream BIG. I envision the ideal with such grandiosity that sometimes I have to snap myself back into reality. I dream about the seemingly impossible, the unthinkable, and the unfathomable.

I must say that I’ve been blessed enough to witness some of my dreams come true. Even though I do dream big and often, it still blows my mind how and when my dreams do come true. Many times, they are better in reality; way better than I could even imagine.

Ever since I was a child, I have had a desire to do many things. It would literally take me until tomorrow to write all them down. My interests are so broad and sometimes unrelated that they would not make sense to a more logical person. Of course, with all of these things, the details weren’t concrete, but the general idea was there. Recently, the trajectory of my life has shifted right before my eyes. I’m witnessing another one of my life-long dreams finally come to fruition. Sometimes, the very thought of it overwhelms me with gladness, and I’m blown away. I live one charmed life. I can’t give all of the details away just yet, because they aren’t quite firm, but trust me when I say that it is huge. I’m dreaming awake!!

I don’t know if there’s a formula for “dreaming awake,” but I know of a few things that have been tried and true in my own life:

1). Know that “God can dream a bigger dream for you then you could ever dream for yourself”… I read this in a little inspirational book by Oprah entitled, What I Know For Sure. This quote was one that has stayed with me for years, and I am really beginning to understand exactly what it means. Remember when I said that oftentimes my reality is better than my dreams? That’s because God has crafted it. Even the Bible says that not only will He “give you the desires of your heart,” [Psalm 37:4] but He will bless you “exceedingly, abundantly above all that we could either ask or think.” [Ephesians 3:20] And, I’m a living testimony of these things, which is one of the many reasons why I love, serve, and make Him the center of my life. When you let God craft your dreams (and your reality), you will be amazed at how BIG and awesome both will be, because He will position you in right place at the right time to see what you’ve been dreaming and praying about come true. I often pray a simple prayer: “Lord, whatever you have for me, I want it, so prepare me for where You want me to be.” Speaking of which…

2). Carpe Diem, or “Seize the day”… I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m always conflicted about whether to take advantage of certain opportunities when they arise. It’s because I’m the type of person that needs to weigh the pros and cons of each decision and ascertain whether or not such an opportunity jives with my projected life path. But sometimes, you just gotta carpe diem! Again, this proves to be difficult for me because I’m a planner that always has a back-up plan, and back-up plan to back up the back-up plan…you get the idea. It’s also difficult for me to do because often my dreams come true at some of the most inconvenient interesting times. Just when I think that I have everything figured out, something changes. It’s one of the most frustrating things a type-A person like me can possibly experience. I think God does that to me to show that He’s the One that’s ultimately in control. He has to shift and move things in and out of my life to make a path more suitable for me to travel. But, I’m learning to discern which opportunities I should seize and which to wait on. Again, this is all with the Lord’s help. I’ve also learned that certain opportunities have a time-stamp on them. They won’t last forever, so it’s important to take advantage of them when they arise. I personally believe that life has seasons, and when seasons change, you have to go or get left.

3). “Write the vision and make it plain”[Habakkuk 2:2]… I’m a writer, so I’m partial to this piece of Biblical wisdom. But trust me when I tell you that it works. When you have a dream or a vision of something, write it down. But, don’t just write what you wish would come true…write down some tentative plans and ways you intend for that dream or vision to come to fruition. I do this for a couple of reasons: (a) things seem to be more concrete (in my mind) when I write them down. They seem more attainable. It’s something about seeing my visions on paper that motivates me to do something to make them happen; (b) I like to keep some type of tangible record of my goals, dreams, and visions to refer back to track my personal growth. Again, it also helps to see the things that you probably once thought were impossible, happen. I know that it helps me to put things in perspective. If God can do this, then SURELY He can do that!

4). Don’t stop belieeeeeeevin’!I love that song by Journey.  No matter how unthinkable or impossible it may seem well, except for winning that $300 million lottery…you have a better chance being struck by lightening on the second Tuesday of this week,  don’t stop believing in your dreams. Did you know that one of the ways you can kill your dream is by what comes out of your mouth? I believe that my words have power. I speak my dreams into existence and I speak positively about them, because according to Proverbs 18:21, “the tongue has the power of life and death.”  If you’ve let the Lord craft them, position you to see them happen, write them down and go about the business of making them come true, who says they won’t happen?! There may be some difficulties and set backs, but anything worth having is worth working for and sticking with.

So what are you waiting for? Dust those dreams off and go about the business of making them come alive! DREAM AWAKE :).

Before You Go To Grad School…Stop…Think About It (Part 2)

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Last week, I gave 3 major reasons why those contemplating graduate school should pause and really, really think about such a decision. All of those reasons were drawn from personal experience and hindsight at what I probably should have done before coming straight to grad school from undergrad. Well, today, I wanted to switch gears and share the good things I learned and the positive experiences I’ve had while here.

I ended part one by saying that I didn’t regret coming to graduate school (for a liberal arts/humanities-centered degree) even though I know that I wanted to be an industry professional. Overall, I’m glad I came to grad school because:

  1. I needed to grow up. This part has little to do with my academic life, but my real life. Although I went to undergrad in a different state, I went to a 4-year residential college and had never lived independently before. It sounds cheesy, but all I had to worry about was going to class and doing my assignments. Things like rent, utilities, and other bills eluded me. I learned how to manage a TIGHT budget (that’s a post for another day), become resourceful, cook all of my meals, and just be a responsible and disciplined adult with my time and finances. I wasn’t really frivolous before but it was here that I really learned what a budget was and the importance of being a good steward over my resources.
  2. I needed to become comfortable with myself by myself. I came to grad school with a strong core group of friends and strong ties to my family – both showing their unwavering support from afar. When I left undergrad, all my friends went on to pursue opportunities in different cities. I came to grad school only knowing a few acquaintances, and I think it needed to be that way. I needed the time to determine what I truly wanted to do with my life. In order to arrive at that decision, I first had to figure out what I liked, what I disliked, what was important to me, and how I was going to realize my goals. The only way I could do that was by spending less time with others and more time with me.
  3. I needed to become more adaptable. In part 1, I mentioned how my program didn’t offer much practical experience on the graduate level for my future career. Well, I could write a dissertation on how frustrated and disillusioned I could have become, but instead of dwelling on what I didn’t have, I occupied myself with finding a way to get what I needed. I realized 2 things: (1) I knew that I didn’t want a PhD, so I wasn’t going to continue to be groomed for one and (2) I knew that opportunities for experience weren’t going to be handed to me, so I altered my plan of study. I managed to land an awesome internship with my school’s public broadcasting radio and television station and worked for credit for 2 semesters on various projects. I went to career fairs geared toward undergraduates and visited administrators largely engaged with undergraduates in my college to figure out what my options were. Through all of this, I not only gained some practical experience for the industry that I will soon be entering, I learned how to navigate a murky path by being adaptable to my environment and the available people and resources. I was determined to enrich my grad school experience, even while I was counting down the time until graduation.
  4. I needed to be positioned in the right place at the right divine time. Perhaps the most important lesson I learned during this experience is that I needed to be here. While I daydreamed about how far along in my career I could have been, I realized that I was right where I needed to be right now. I credit all of this to God. Let me take some time to brag on Him right quick: not only am I getting an excellent education from a great institution, I’m getting it for free while they’re paying me to do it. So, when I walk across the stage in May, I will be debt free. Yep, you read that right. That means no student loans. No credit card debt. I managed to get 2 degrees (B.A. and Master’s) without paying a dime. So, I’m grateful for that alone. Beyond that, I realized that I am being positioned and prepared for something great, which is why I needed to experience numbers 1-3 right here.

So, in a nutshell, graduate school was a life changing experience for me in ways I would have never imagined. I came here to pick up another degree and learn some more stuff about things I love to talk about – the media and culture, but I’m leaving with life tools that I’ll never forget.

I know you’re saying,”Wait! I don’t see anything above about what you gained academically.” I’m not discounting the book learning that I gleaned, but when you do something enough, you inevitably become more skilled at it. So, while here I did become more skilled at writing and researching. I didn’t mention anything about academics above because, at the end of the day, I really didn’t need my Master’s degree. Instead, I needed to experience the journey to the degree.

Before You Go to Grad School…Stop…Think About It (Part 1)

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Warning: I undertand that this lengthy post will perhaps burst someone’s education bubble and shake up some realities. These are merely my thoughts and opinions formed through experience. I encourage you to take them with a grain of salt and do what is truly best for you.

I was perusing the internet gathering tips on how to find a job, since I graduate into the “real world” in mid-May of this year, and I happened to stumble upon some really great advice – advice I wish I would have strongly considered taking before deciding to go to graduate school. Now, I’m not saying don’t pursue more education…I’m all for that. Heck, I was a McNair/SROP summer scholar, so I know education is important – especially for those of us who are apart of groups that are underrepresented in higher education. But, before you unwittingly declare that you’re going to go to graduate school, I encourage you to so some deep self-assessment about what your goals are, what you want, who you are, and what you will (realistically) accomplish with another degree. Let’s keep it real, shall we?

To remind those of you who know me and to enlighten those of you who don’t, I’m currently a Master’s student studying Media. For some weird reason, I always knew that an undergraduate education was not going to be my last stop on the academic track, but I also always knew that I wanted to be a broadcast journalist/media mogul. I didn’t even entertain the thought of getting a job right out of undergrad, and instead, focused all of my energy to applying to graduate school. Partly because of all the talk of the horrible economy and the high unemployment numbers. Plus, after graduate school, I just knew (or thought I knew) that I would be okay, that I would find a cool job that paid a little more because I had some extra letters behind my name, and that I would really satisfy my appetite for knowledge of all things media.

Then reality hit and I learned tons of lessons while  hiding out in graduate school. I learned:

  • Grad school really isn’t a good way to deal with uncertainty. While the facts and figures the economists on the news were spitting out were very intimidating, that was no reason for me to go into hiding from the reality of things. For me, graduate school delayed actually getting hands-on experience in a field that it is necessary to get hands-on experience in. I’ve always been certain about what I wanted to do (or at least had a general idea of it), so my career path isn’t the type of uncertainty that I’m talking about for me. Honestly, a graduate degree wasn’t imperative for me to reach that goal. My uncertainty was the economy, and retrospectively, I think I partly let the idea of a “bad economy” influence my decision to get another degree when I could have used that time gathering valuable experience in an entry-level position elsewhere. I was just delaying the inevitable.
  • Unless you want to teach/practice, an “arts” graduate degree in the humanities (ie: communications and English) is not necessary. This point really jives with the first one. If you’re like me and want to build a career in an industry, get out and get some experience at an entry-level job with room for growth. Here’s a reality check: in most cases, going back to school or going straight through to grad school is not really going to get you greater earning power than your undergraduate counterparts. Shocking, I know. Even my own career placement advisor here at my university told me that without related job experience, I will mostly likely start off at the same level an undergraduate. I just have an M.A. behind my name and am a little older. Awesome.
  • Grad school (in the humanities) is an(other) academic socialization process. Obvious, right? For me, it wasn’t. I thought graduate school would offer me the ability to get the hands-on experience I craved. After all, my school is known for producing some great journalists, marketing execs, and PR people — in the undergraduate programs, that is. The graduate program and the undergraduate programs are like night and day. I’m learning theory and pedagogy. Great for the classroom…not so great for the working world. I doubt on an interview, I will be asked to break down the cycle of news media and public opinion. Now, I must offer a disclaimer here: not all graduate programs in the humanities, especially in the media, are as theory-based. There are some programs that incorporate theory and practice, BUT most of the time, with no funding to those enrolled. So, no scholarships remitting tuition or stipends in exchange for teaching or research duties, which is what I am fortunate enough to have. While I still got valuable hands-on experience working as an intern, I had to seek these opportunities out for myself. They weren’t offered within my program. Instead, I was being “groomed” for the Ph.D and the academy through socialization: T.A. and R.A. responsibilities, conference-length research papers, and chats resuming class discussions over drinks at the nearby lounge/cafe. All these things are great! I’ve been apart of some great discussions and wrote some darn good papers, but all of this is not going to get me closer to my career goal. I know how to be an academic with my eyes closed after this experience, coupled with my undergraduate experience. What I don’t know is how to be a broadcast journalist — yet.

So, with all of these lessons learned, I encourage those of you who are considering going to graduate school (in the humanities, especially) to think about it. Really think about it. It’s not for the faint of heart. Don’t use graduate school as an escape plan, because reality is still waiting after those 2 or 3 years are done.

With all of that said, I’m sure the question that remains is: why are you in graduate school and did you gain anything positive? I did have some very positive experiences and I am glad that I went to graduate school! Why? Well, you’re going to have to read part 2 to learn about that…Stay tuned.