Easter Lovin’

Hello y’all and happy Easter (if you celebrate)!

Also, I apologize for the southern y’all, but I just can’t shake it since being back from Selma.

Anyway, happy Easter! I’m not sure why, but lately, I have been reflecting a whole lot on my past year. And actually, thinking about it, I know exactly why. Last year, I wrote a blog post on Easter that was basically talking about how the holidays were so different as a twentysomething – there was no more Easter Bunny, no more colored eggs, and worst of all, no family love around. I love school and my job is great, but last year, being away from everyone I loved was hitting me hard.

This year, things are looking a little different. I facetimed with my parents this morning, I called my grandmother, I had an amazing brunch with a really good group of friends, and then I went to see my sister to catch up, see a movie, and have a nice Easter dinner. And now, I’m here. Writing this blog. It really is amazing to see how much can change in one year. Last year, I felt completely isolated and alone. This year, I was surrounded by friends, family, and love.

And fittingly enough, I’m listening to one of my favorite songs from one of my favorite musicals – Seasons of Love from Rent – as I write this.

“How do you measure a year?
In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights, in cups of coffee, in inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife, in five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes.
How do you measure a year in the life?
…measure in love.” 

And friends, that is the difference. Last year, last Easter, was 365 days ago. I lived in a different apartment. I had different friends. I was taking different classes. I had, for all intents and purposes, a completely different life.

What changed was my mindset. My perspective. This Easter, I am choosing to live in love.

Last Easter, after I wrote my semi-emo forever-lonely blog post, I received an outpouring of love and support from all of those around me. I just didn’t see it. A friend sent me a care package, two friends called me immediately after I posted the blog just to check in, people asked me about it the next day…it was just great, but I didn’t see it in the same way. This year, I’m in a place where I can not only feel the love around me, but I can share it. I can give love to others to acknowledge my own appreciation. But, admittedly, that is hard to do when you aren’t in that place. So for all who are reading, here are some reminders.

  1. Love yourself. Love others. In that order.
    • Last year, I was not in a place to share love. My well was empty, and it needed some serious refilling. I needed to focus on myself first, so then I could learn to see and appreciate all the love that was surrounding me.
  2. Take off the blinders. 
    • Last year, I was only able to see what was right in front of me. Looking outside that perimeter, there is so much more. Most of the friends that I have (still) are not in the same city as me. And the friends that I do have here this year are only friends because we are able to have a deep and genuine connection. Everyone else can step. But family is still family, even if they are five hours away. Taking off the blinders can help you see all the surrounding love that might not be in your physical area.
  3. It’s not easy.
    • Just because I’m in a better place this Easter doesn’t mean that last year was a picnic. Being open-hearted means being vulnerable, and even to this day, that is one of the hardest things for me to be. It’s scary. But through love, it is possible.

So with that, I am spreading all the Easter love this year to all of you today and every day!

Advertisements

Finding Home: Selma, 2016

This week, I was serving on an alternative spring break trip in Selma, Alabama. I know, it may seem random. But there is actually an extreme amount of history in Selma, especially in relation to the Civil Rights Movement. On this trip, I met some of the best people in my entire life. The group of students I was with, my co-advisor, the people and students in Selma…literally every. single. person. Y’all are just incredible people.

FullSizeRender

Usually, I process through writing. I’m the guy that’ll say, “Okay, I’ll be over here in the corner,” while I pull out my journal or laptop to sit and process my thoughts for the day. But on this trip, I didn’t do that once. In lieu of that, our group had four hour debriefing conversations that went until two in the morning. And I loved every minute of it. But because of that, I’ve been having a difficult time putting my thoughts into written words. But, Sunday means a new blog post, so here we go.

This week, I have learned so much about myself. I have grown more than I have this week than in entire years of my life. I was given a new perspective. I began to release my own freedom from within. I connected with like-minded individuals. But most importantly, I found a home. I found a community of people who felt mutually supported, cared for, and loved. And although it is so incredibly difficult to condense all my lessons from this week into one post, I’m going to try my best. Because even the smallest snippet of what I learned might be useful for all of us here, no matter your age.

  1. Deconstruct Walls
    • We all have walls built up around us. From previous experiences, people we’ve met, etc. But in Selma, I felt as if all of our walls were gone. There was no reason to have walls in such a loving, caring community. And by the end of the week, with walls gone, we were all able to say that we loved each other, and we all genuinely meant it.
  2. Free Yourself
    • In many social justice trainings, we talk about eliminating stereotypes of other people. But what about the stereotypes that have been placed on us by society? This is a silly example, but this week, I learned that I love to dance. But before, I was always so reserved about it. Maybe it’s because I was trying to be “a professional” or maybe I was “too uptight” to let loose and have a good time through dance. But we have the power to free ourselves of those stereotypes. Liberate yourself from society’s expectations.
  3. Plant Seeds
    • Some of you may know, I tend to get frustrated with some folks who believe certain things. I get especially frustrated with people when I think that their eyes will never open, because I feel like there’s nothing I can do to help them see the truth in this world. But here’s the thing: you never know when you are planting a seed. You might say something that doesn’t make sense to them in the moment, but days, months, or even years later, they might call you in tears in a moment of finally understanding what you were trying to say. Or maybe they won’t. Either way, you never know when you are planting those seeds.
  4. Love All
    • A man I met this week said, “I love Donald Trump. I don’t love his ideas, but I love Donald Trump.” I was confused. I thought Donald Trump’s ideas were Donald Trump. But that’s not necessarily the case. Trump comes from an environment that leads him to believe what he does. Principle three of nonviolence states, “Attack forces of evil, not persons doing evil.” In other words, hate the sin, not the sinner. We are all deserving of love, and because of that, we have the ability to love all.
  5. Have Courage
    • Everything I’m saying here is terrifying. It’s not easy. As written in Hamilton, “Dying is easy, young man; living is harder.” Living is harder. It takes courage. The first principle of nonviolence, “Nonviolence is the way of life for courageous people.” This blog post is not a check, check off my list. It’s a process that I will be working on for a long time. But finding that courage and inner strength will help in that process.

And although there is a sense of heaviness with me today while I process leaving a place I grew to love so much, I am high-key excited to begin this journey, and learn to live out these lessons.

 

On Fully Embracing Who You Are. AKA, Self-Love.

“Right now, can you make an unconditional relationship with yourself? Just at the height you are, the weight you are, with the intelligence you have, and with your current burden of pain. Can you enter in an unconditional relationship with that?”

This question, taken  from the video that’s buzzing around Facebook, was asked by Tracee Ellis Ross. And when I watched this video, I felt like she was talking directly to me…it hit my soul in a certain type of way. So now, I’m posing the question to you.

Can you be in an unconditional relationship with yourself?

I’ve been thinking about what this truly means. Thinking back, my grandmother was the first person to teach me about unconditional love. And no, not through example, even though, I know we both love each other unconditionally. I still remember her saying it out loud, clear as day, “Unconditional love is when you would do anything for the other person, no matter what. I would eat shit off your face if I had to because I love you so much.” I was maybe ten years old.

But okay, two things:

  1. When we talk about unconditional love, why does it have to be about someone else? and,
  2. No matter how much I love anyone, I don’t think I would eat poop off their face. But, that’s my gram for you.

Anyway.

I was talking with a good friend last night about a similar idea: living the single life. For anyone that follows this blog, you know that the love life in Buffalo has been, well, nonexistent. But another good friend gave me some good perspective. She said, “Michael, why would you even want to meet your person in Buffalo? You know you don’t want to stay here, so why even get wrapped up in something?”

Well, damn. She was completely right. I wouldn’t want to meet my person in Buffalo. At all. And I mean, things happen. If I did meet my person here, I wouldn’t resist it. But it gave me a new perspective on actively “searching for love.”

My Buffalo years have been my years. I’m just about to wrap up my second year, and there has been so much internal reflection and processing about who I am. And I really want to put an emphasis on the I. All my life I feel like I’ve taken on these external identities as my primary focus – son, brother, boyfriend, student, employee – but for the past few years, I’ve really had to pause and take another look at who I was, without any of those other labels. Stripped down at the core, who am I? Who are you?

Tracee Ellis Ross ends the video with this: “There’s a lot that happens on the path to growing up and you are exactly where you are supposed to be. And enjoy those spaces and those times, and really listen not just to what’s happening outside of you, but inside of you. Be who we are in a really full and beautiful way, and live these lives that we’re all living.”

It ties directly back to a goal I had set for myself this past year: Be who you are, unapologetically. Fully embrace your own life, regardless of what anyone else thinks. Because your path is your own, and you have to be happy on your own path. Otherwise, you’re just living a life for the sake of someone else.

I understand it’s easier said than done. If nothing else, maybe this post will just be a spot of inspiration, maybe to help jump start the process or begin to reflect in a new way. But at the end of the day, when it’s just you and yourself, who are you? What are some ways in which you live out your life, fully and unapologetically?

In Another Town

Who are you?

That was the question that was asked to me for my most recent job interview. “Make a 15 minute presentation that answers the question, ‘Who are you? Personally and professionally?'”

Well, damn. How do I answer that? I know who I am, or so I thought, but I think like many of us, I just get so wrapped up in the day to day life, that I often forget to sit and reflect on who I am as a person.

As many of you know, this past week I was doing a bit of travelling. I had an interview at NYU, but made a pit stop in Albany to visit some family. So within the past weekend, I was in New York, Albany, and now Buffalo. And it was bizarre. I felt as if I was living three separate, very different lives.

In New York, I felt like the person I wanted to be. I was dressed to the nines in my stylish new suit,  I was wearing my favorite pair of dress shoes, I was making my way up and downtown via subway and cab, and meeting so many incredible people. All in the span of one overnight trip.

In Albany, at home, I always find myself in this strange role. Does anyone else feel that way? Even though I’m 25 years old, and basically a full adult, I still find myself molding into my old high school self.

And then now, here I am…back in Buffalo, writing this blog post. Today is great – I’m surrounded by friends “doing work” [hey, friends], but in general, I’m not the most thrilled to be back. There are only a few months left, and I will definitely miss some people here, but especially after such an amazing trip to New York, I’m kind of just ready to be there.

But that got me thinking.

In general, I used to think that no matter what setting, I was just myself. The same Michael, regardless of the situation or the people I was around. But I’ve been realizing lately that I am different…not necessarily around different people, but definitely in other places.

At home, I’m happy. It’s good to be home. But my role is very different. In Buffalo, it’s cool…but it’s not the place for me, and my happiness level has plateaued here. And then, visiting a completely new city in hopes of potentially moving there, I realized I am a completely different person. I felt complete in a way. I had the time to be with really good friends that I missed a whole lot, while also feeling fulfilled in (hopefully) doing really well in the interview. I just felt that, for the first time, I was living the life that I wanted. This potential job would be amazing, having a consistent group of friends and social supports would also be great, and on top of it all, I was meeting so many new people that I would love to get to know even more.

In another town, I am the same person. In another town, I felt completely different.

“Maybe you just need a change of scenery,” some people have said. But I’m always torn by that. Do I really just need a change of scenery, or am I just running away from a life that I am not completely happy with, and haven’t necessarily put in the effort to make any better?

Who am I? That is a really great question. And through this visiting of other towns, I’ve learned a lot about myself, especially considering that this next step in particular will be choosing the next significant part of my life. I’ve learned that I am someone who needs social support in my life. AKA, friends. I can’t move to another new place where I don’t know anybody and hope for the best. I’ve learned that my next job is important, but it’s not the most important thing. And maybe most importantly, I’ve learned that no matter where I go, I am still myself.

So, regardless the all the other towns, who are you?