Much older today than I once was, these are some of the lessons learned along the journey. I’ve learned from rural and urban relatives and mentors, first world and third world friends, the religious devoted and the atheist, books and the streets, conservatives and liberals, blacks and whites, and most the variations of people and human inventions.
LIFE IS SHORT
If I’ve learned anything the past couple of years, LIFE IS SHORT! It passes so fast, much more rapidly than we can keep up. Nobody has time to waste. There’s no time for boredom, procrastination, spite, rage, jealousy and other manufactured nonsense. Life is too short.
I was cruising along in life until I lost three cousins, a close uncle, my father and mother all within a couple of years. I learned too well about depression and insomnia. The biggest lesson learned was that life is short. My dad lived to be old by human standards, but he passed way too quick for my comfort.
The deaths of so many close to me in such a short period forced me to confront my death that is lingering so uninvited in my too-near future. That’s a wake-up call!
LIVE LIFE TO THE FULLEST!
None of us are getting any younger. Go for it! If you’re a father or mother, be the damn best you can be TODAY! If you have somebody you love, who loves you back, love them with all your heart. Instead of settling for a job, find your vocation. Find your life mission!
MENTORS ARE IMPORTANT!!!
I learned this lesson early on several people. My Aunt Viola taught me never to allow others to hold me to low expectations. My grandfather taught me not to let the naysayers stand between me and my dreams. My father taught me that if I wanted to get anywhere in life, I better be prepared to outwork everybody else to get there. One of my early bosses, Jack Smith, taught me to believe in myself, or else nobody else ever would. Like my father, my Uncle Robert taught me the value of good honest hard everyday work. My mother taught me the importance of first impressions. Doctor LaVon, who was like a second mother, taught me how to win debates on facts, truth, and the proven, not emotions. Jack Bickham, the famous author, and father of some childhood friends taught me how devoted one must be to become a successful writer. Professor Heugel taught me to look beyond my mid-American surroundings, to see the rest of America, and then to see the rest of the world. Professor Robinson taught me to follow my convictions, especially when it conflicts with mainstream thinking. Professor Sullivan nominated me for a college leadership scholarship after my Freshman year, instilling me a sense of pride that I still feel today. Leroy, a friend in Jamaica, taught me the poorest of people could be happier than the richest. My wife, also Jamaican, has taught me the value of true love, integrity, faith, and commitment. My children, Alex and Adonis, have shown me, unconditional love. These and dozens of others are responsible for my greatest life lessons learned.
Be the person you are, not the person people try to shape you. From the day we learn to think, society attempts to form, indoctrinate, conform and make us into their version of us. Dress like this, wear your hair like that, shop here, avoid there. Join this church, that political party, live in this area, send your kids to that school. If you’re not careful, society and those closest will totally take over your life.
If you break from the status quo in any manner, your family, friends, and society are likely to ostracize you. If you don’t have a particular look, you’ve already disqualified yourself from eighty percent of the jobs. If you don’t go along with people’s religious and political beliefs, they will likely paint you–behind your back–as a communist devil-worshipper. When I married my black wife in the late eighties, I went nearly twenty years without seeing a lot of people I cared about in Oklahoma.
If you don’t break from the status quo, sooner than later, you run the risk that it might suffocate and destroy the real you that is hiding within. You will fall into a trap and spend the rest of your life watching, feeling, smelling and hearing the real you scream in agony; beaten, smashed and obliterated until you are just another number.
When you know you’re right, and those around you are full of shit, be brave enough to go against the grain. If I could go back to go back in time, would I relive it all with Nicola? You bet your ass! Meeting and marrying Nicky, and having a couple of children, turned out to be the greatest ever to happen to me. I’ve often gone against the mainstream, and usually paid the consequences, but am handsomely rewarded every time I’ve been right and brave enough to go against the mainstream. Just don’t rebel for the sake of rebelling. Make certain you’re right when you’re willing to go against the majority.
LOVE WITH YOUR WHOLE HEART!
Don’t be a wimp when it comes to loving. It doesn’t make you a tough guy if you don’t tell people that you love them. Get over it, already, and tell them! Everybody likes to hear that somebody loves us. Few words compete with a sincere “I love you,” and few words offend more than an insincere “I love you.”
Too many people have nobody to love, and nobody to love them. If people genuinely love you, love them back. It won’t make you a wimp to express how you feel the people. Nor will it protect your little heart from breaking if you refuse to tell people how you feel.
Don’t hold back your love for anybody. You or they might not be around to fix it later. Be willing to take chances when it comes to love. Be genuine with people and focus on those who are genuine with you. Bullshitters expose themselves. Politely avoid the assholes at all costs.
Giving up on love is to give up on life. Don’t do it! Summon the courage to love and express your love every chance you get.
MAKE THE WORLD A LITTLE BETTER
If the world isn’t a bit better because we’re around every day, why bother? I’ve noticed all the decent people I know–regardless of religion or no religion–follow the Golden Rule. They treat others right. They don’t manipulate, play games, antagonize, plot, gossip, hate, divide, conquer, take advantage or rage. They treat people with respect. They challenge and try to right wrongs. They live an honest life, work hard and use every day to make the world a little better. Be one of these people!