Saturday, July 26, 2008

Forgivness Not Permission

I don't know what it is but telling me no always makes me want to do it more. As a courtesy to my parents I asked permission to see the movie Boomerang. I think I was about 14 when it came out--maybe 15. Either way I was under the recommended age of seventeen. I emphasize the term 'courtesy.' I asked to give them an opportunity to sanction me viewing the film. Growing up in that super religious household (as far as that kinda stuff goes, we won't even go into all the hypocritical stuff) I had an inkling that they may not grant me permission to view the film. True to form I was denied.

For me no usually doesn't mean that it can't happen. It just means that I have to adjust some things to make it happen. I devised a way to see the film anyway and I saw it. This taught me something. Sometimes when you attempt to go through the proper channels you may be denied. I've said it before and I'll say it again. I do not ask for permission. I ask for forgiveness. Basically, I'll just do what I want to do and when you call me on it, I'll say oops my bad. I'm not suggesting that this is the best way to do things or that it is right. There is something inherently manipulative about it inasmuch as I've already thought it out and because there is a possibility that you'd say no I'm just gonna forgo that conversation. In this way if you were to say no and I did it anyway I would be being defiant like I was with my parents about the movie. If I don't ask in the first place I'm just being presumptuous.

I can recall being in church and my desire to see Boomerang was mentioned from the pulpit. I can't be certain, but this was probably followed up by some admonitions to parents to keep a good eye on your kids or something like that. As I was sitting in the pew listening to my business being put on front street I had mixed emotions. On one hand I thought it inappropriate for him* to discuss that from the pulpit. On the other hand I was smiling and rubbing my hands together on the inside ala the bad guy on Inspector Gadget because I had already viewed the film. Whereas him* thought him* was making himself* look big by letting the congregation know how he vetoed that, etc., I relished in the fact that I had already done what I wanted to do anyway. Maybe this will make for good holiday conversation. As a matter of fact maybe I'll make a list of stuff that I did that they didn't know about and share it during the holiday. Anybody wanna come to my Thanksgiving?

Monday, July 21, 2008

The District

Well it looks like I'll be going to D.C. Details to come. Here's the quick and dirty. Interviewed on Friday and got offered a job as a Mathematics Professional Developer. Basically that means I'll work with other teachers to help them improve their instructional delivery. In short I won't be working directly with students but I still will be able to interact with them. I'll tell ya'll what's all going on as soon as I feel like typing something out. I just got off the road a little while ago. Thanks for the support for those of you who gave an encouraging word.

Although I really wanted to go to Atlanta, maybe He has another plan for me.

Monday, July 14, 2008


DISCLAIMER: This post is not directed at any one person. This grew out of years of hearing something and not having the words to express how I felt. From the heart of JayBee. I hope that this can start an open dialogue. If you have anything to add or wish to give me a different vantage point, please share.


For quite some time whenever I would hear people say, “Don’t forget where you came from,” or some variant of that same thematic expression, I could never give voice to why that statement bothered me so. Whereas it is supposed to be received as a reminder to live in humility, I have discovered that the real message being communicated has its roots elsewhere, from a place much more sinister and demeaning. Each time I’d hear the phrase uttered, I’d walk away feeling trampled upon, but not understand why; further I wouldn’t be able to articulate to another why I felt so. This weekend I sat down (after hearing it again) and tried to deconstruct the phrase along with the not so subtle innuendos that lie couched within.

Most of the times when I’ve heard this expression it has been communicated to me through someone older: a parent, an aunt or uncle, grandparent, church member, etc. I have heard it from people in my same age group as well. Typically the message always comes when I express to someone about any changes that I’m trying to implement. The issue is that the potential changes often move me further away from what is status quo in an impoverished or lower middle class social structure.

The purported intention of the statement does not match what the statement really communicates. I submit to you that the expression’s intent is not to keep you humble, but to keep you bound. That’s what makes it so menacing. People who have not done as well as you always seem to want to remind you of how things used to be back in the day. When you ordered something from the restaurant and shared it. When you had to go outside after the people left and turn the electricity back on. When you went for months with the same pair of school shoes. You see where I’m going. It is because of those experiences that people like myself try to create circumstances for themselves that shield them from the disappointments that a life that includes the aforementioned provides, if you can really call that state of affairs provision. I do not express regret for wanting a different reality for myself. I took no pleasure in eating chicken and rice three times a week (even if it was tasty). It didn’t excite me to have to watch my mother and him* struggle to make ends meet.

It really is reminiscent of the proverbial crabs in a barrel. When you see me trying to do a little something you think it your sworn duty to humanity to keep me ‘in my place,’ by issuing the trite admonishment. It is perfectly fine to remember the roots, but I want to be a limb. I’m going to stretch out a little bit—enlarge my territory, but I’m still connected. I do need you to survive, because the roots provide sustenance for the limbs, but just because you bring something to me via a conduit, I don’t have to partake. You bringing me your bad habits, I’ll pass. If you want better for me, then why would you want to keep reminding me about worse? I’m having difficulty reconciling in my mind how romanticizing the improperly termed ‘good old days’ is going to help me improve my current situation.

When you come up under less than favorable conditions, how could you …‘forget where you came from?’ Those experiences are forever indelibly etched in the fiber of your being. Those experiences build character and engender you with the fortitude to push yourself to accomplish more. I didn’t pursue higher education so that I could try to fill my head with enough stuff to erase my youth from my memory. Instead I pursued education so that I could have a richer experience—a different set of circumstances.

I cannot do anything about the way I was brought up. I cannot say that I would have willfully chosen it if given the choice. It wasn’t that bad, but it was bad enough though that I don’t desire that for myself. What we have to look at is what have I done since my life has been my own. I think I’ve been a good steward of my time. Where I came from I was not in charge of decisions. Now that I am responsible for myself I am creating the where I came from part of my life. Don’t try to hold me accountable for the poor decisions that you made. Just look at me since my life has been my own.

As a caveat, something that I have noticed about people who use this expression on others is that they want to make the statement and at the same time be a beneficiary of the better practices that you have adopted. How can you make that statement, but then call me to help you pay your car note or light bill or for a car repair?

In truth, the next time someone uses that expression, I’m going to have to let them know that I am going to forget where I came from. You have to forget the habits and practices that put those making the statements in the predicaments that they are in. You’re walking around in bondage to your creditors, can’t pay your light bill, got your car note in your pocket instead of sending it to Wachovia Dealer Services all the while looking out your blinds for the take back man. When you rise to different levels in life, there are some things that are no longer acceptable practices. You’re going to have to forget where you came from, particularly if you want to be able to keep progressing.

No, I won’t forget the struggles because as I said earlier, those things helped shape me into the man I am today. Stronger, wise, better, so much better because of it. But if by using that expression you mean for me to continue on the destructive pattern that has you bound, then to that I say a hearty HELL NO. I will not live like you and I don’t apologize for the same.

I guess I'm not following The Script. Maybe that'll be my first book.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Asthma Attack

Not me. I don't have asthma, but my mom does. She was diagnosed as a little girl. As she grew up her attacks became less and less frequent. I haven't heard of her complain of having had an attack in about three years, so maybe she's kinda grown out of it now. She'd have an attack when she was around too much dust/dirt. Sometimes when we were dusting inside the house, she'd have to be in another room or she'd just let that be the last thing that we had to do when we were cleaning up. If she let it be the last item on the checklist, she'd just leave the house while we completed that.

Picture it, Savannah, 1993. ::wavy television lines and me titling my head at a slight angle to the right:: We had gone to visit my grandmother. Good times indeed. How I long for the fun, food and fellowship of those former days. (Gold star for the first person who has been out of high school for at least ten years who can remember the term for the literary device that I used in the previous sentence.) At some point on this trip mama's asthma began to flare up. I'm not really sure if people say flare up when it comes to asthma, but whatever. Fortunately she had her inhaler because she knew that there was always the possibility of an attack whenever we visited my grandmother because some of the rooms may be dusty. I was there when it happened and whenever I see her in this condition my heart races, because I know that all I can do is make sure she has her inhaler and pray that she doesn't get nervous or panic herself. I don't remember who got the inhaler to her, but once she got it and inhaled she was okay after a few minutes. Crisis averted.

Once we returned home we returned to business as usual. You know, complaining from him* about keeping the house clean, going to church and school, cutting the grass. I only offer that information to underscore the fact that nothing was happening out of the ordinary. On the second night after the return from Moultrie, Georgia, where my grandmother lived something happened. Late one night I heard wheezing coming from my mother's bedroom. I instantly went into fix it mode. The bedroom that my brothers and I shared was directly across the hall from the bedroom that she shared with him*. I woke up with a start once I heard the wheezing. I instantly associated this with an asthma attack and since she had just had one a few days ago I was already on orange alert.

I screamed, "Mama," and dashed across the hall to locate her purse. I saw her purse on the floor near her dresser and quickly rifled though it in search of her inhaler. It was the only thing separating her from relief. What I soon realized when I turned toward the bed to give her the inhaler is that she didn't need relief. Whereas I thought I heard wheezing, I heard her she was engaged in copulation with him*. I am forever scarred.
::come out of the dream state::

Okay that last line was a little dramatic, but I definitely wasn't expecting to walk in on them. We never really discussed the incident. In my household we treated matters related to sex like the plague.