Today is my 30th birthday. As I cross this threshold and usher in a new chapter and phase in my life, I wanted to reflect on the previous 30 years and highlight 30 critical lessons that I, quite frankly, am still learning. As we progress through this life, it is my hope that we can learn from each other’s experiences and, as a result, perhaps achieve a version of ourselves that we previously thought unreachable or unachievable. Here are 30 for 30…
re: love // Love is the single greatest force on this earth and, consequentially, the most misunderstood and the most abused. Anything that claims to be love but places one’s self before another, is not love. Love is fundamentally selfless. Love is devoid of force, manipulation, and deception. To love is to forfeit your perceived power and privilege over another human being.
re: self-love // You are valuable, you are essential, you are unique. Take the time to get to know and to love yourself – to establish your existence and experience as critical and complimentary to the larger narrative of our shared humanity.
“Know thyself.” – unknown
re: purpose // Everyone in this life has a purpose. That purpose may change from one point in your life to the next, but you are here for a reason. Find what that purpose is because, otherwise, whatever task it leads to won’t get done. When you are fully and firmly secure in what your purpose is, at any point in time, you are untouchable.
re: assignments // I don’t put too much stock in luck or coincidences. I believe that certain things happen at a specific time and place for a reason. Keep your mind and your spirit free and clear to hear the Voice of God in those moments. Then, do what needs to be done in that moment. We are here for more than ourselves and we are a part of something much larger than we can even imagine. Somebody somewhere is counting on you to complete your assignment.
re: humanity // People are more than what they say, think, and do. There’s a history that informs and shapes their world view, their experience. Meet people where they are – (re)learn what it means to be human and appreciate the human race for the complicated melody that it is.
“We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.” – Maya Angelou
re: humanization // Life has purpose and life has meaning. Life is art and every human being is a masterpiece. Our mission, should we choose to accept it, is to (re)humanize (to make human) those that have been dehumanized (deprived of their humanity) by any means necessary.
“Our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.” – John F. Kennedy
re: justice // We are all complicit in the dehumanization of mankind in some form or fashion. To accept the mission of (re)humanization is to forfeit our perceived power and privilege and to be about the business of denying one’s self on behalf of humanity by any means necessary.
“Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
re: loss // Growth doesn’t scare me; loss does – losing opportunities, losing people, losing time. As long as I don’t lose myself, though, I believe everything and everyone I need will be waiting for me at the end. Then, time lost would’ve been time well spent. So, I don’t have to be scared anymore.
re: progress // It is said that life is a journey, not a destination, so be mindful of how you gauge your own growth and maturity. We grow and mature by fault. Perhaps life isn’t so much about what we do and what we have to show for it, but how we do it and how we are changed as a result. Perfection isn’t the objective, rather, a higher level of consciousness.
“Progress [is] not in the result. Progress [is] in the poise.” – Coach Brad Stevens
re: stories // Stories remind us of the work of art that each life on this planet is and the horrors that take place when that light is snuffed out. Stories are absolutely critical to an equitable and just society. Our comfort is immaterial; their humanization (and ours, as a result) is all that matters.
re: voice // Allow each person the freedom and the agency to tell their own stories, in their own words, on their own terms, in their own time. Always respect and champion the power of change that is the human voice. It doesn’t need to be perfect or “well-spoken”… it just needs to be genuine.
re: restraint // In a society that pushes us to do whatever, whenever we want, I have found that, when deciding between what you want and what is necessary, sometimes it is better to do what is necessary. One of the best things we can do for ourselves, for our personal growth and maturity, for our long-term happiness, is to say “no” to ourselves and our desires when it is necessary to do so.
re: patience // It is easy, and very tempting, to lament over that which you have not received. But, the question begs asking, “Would you have been ready for it if it was given to you? Would you have recognized it?” As much as you might desire for something, if you’re not in the right space, if you are not prepared to receive it, it will not come. So, make ready.
re: empathy // Be present in another’s time of need in whatever capacity is needed, not because you fully understand or can relate, or because you have the answers, but because it’s the humane thing to do. Acknowledge that what that person is going through is not okay and that they shouldn’t have to go through it alone. Empathy requires selflessness – the ability and will to think of someone else’s needs before your own.
re: consent // Respect and honor the God-given agency inherent in every human being. It doesn’t matter who, what, when, where, why, or how, “no” means “no” – “no” means “stop”. This is non-negotiable.
re: harassment // Do not needlessly, thoughtlessly, or selfishly put people in positions and situations where they have to say “no” more than once.
re: gaslighting // Do not create an environment where people question their own sanity. It is emotional and psychological abuse to repeatedly deny someone their reality. Do not tell people that what they see and hear and feel is not real out of some false sense of superiority or self-preservation. When people tell you their stories, believe them.
re: beliefs // One’s beliefs should be a matter of conviction not convenience, enlightenment not employment. Do my beliefs uphold justice or maintain order? Are they selfless or self-serving?
“What one chooses to believe in and what one is compelled to believe in, there is a difference.” – Hundred Eyes
re: boundaries // You are responsible for what you know. When you know what your triggers are, be mindful of who and what you allow yourself have access to, and who and what you allow to have access to you.
re: values // Values serve as a compass – wherever you go, whatever you do, they ground you and to keep you on course. Having values, and being clear on what they are and why, declares who you are, what you’re about, where you’re going, how you’re going to get there, and who can come along for the ride.
re: legacy // It has fallen to us, to this generation, to faithfully become the individuals we wish our parents were. To me, this means fully acknowledging, accepting, then building on their sacrifices, their successes, and their flaws to achieve a higher level of self-actualization and personal freedom that they were not able to. Otherwise, what’s the point?
re: brokenness // Unreconciled and/or unknown trauma creates rifts within ourselves. It influences how we treat others and how we allow ourselves to be treated. It negatively impacts our hopes and dreams, goals and desires. It forces us to question our self-worth, causing us to see and accept ourselves, and others, as anything but a work of art.
re: worth // Acknowledging the depth and breadth of our brokenness is depressing. However, at the point of despair also lies the promise of redemption. By the power of our purpose, and through our inherent and indisputable pricelessness by virtue of our being, there is still time – there is still a part for you to play that no one else can.
“Broken crayons still color.” – Unknown
re: healing // In most, if not all, matters, getting over a thing or a person is just the first step. The true test of self is in learning how to fully live and fully love in its absence, and in forgiving yourself when you continue to make mistakes.
“Moving on and getting over are not the same, it seems to me.” – John Mayer
re: therapy // Therapy engages you, on a very personal and intimate level, with a level of care and treatment that exists outside and beyond yourself and your understanding. It’s you admitting to yourself that you don’t have all the answers (and that it’s okay not to).
re: prayer // Prayer engages you, on a very personal and intimate level, with a Higher Power that exists outside and beyond yourself and your understanding. It’s you admitting to yourself that you don’t have all the answers (and that it’s okay not to).
re: faith // Children have no limits. They never think to place them on what they can do, who they can be, or how they will do it because limits do not exist for them. Anything and everything is possible in the mind of a child. That is what faith looks and feels like: belief without limits.
re: thanksgiving // In all things, at all times, give thanks. Be thankful, not just for what you’ve been blessed to receive, but for everything that you don’t have. Dearth helps to keep things in perspective.
re: introspection // Observing, evaluating, navigating, and questioning the corridors of your mind (thoughts) and heart (emotions), provides you with the opportunity to, hopefully, learn from your mistakes and better understand why you are prone to say and do certain things (i.e. triggers) and is a major key in realizing a better, healthier, more whole version of yourself.
re: God // “…in all things, God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose.” – Romans 8:28
“…awareness of the future; forgiveness for the past; discernment for the present; joy, all the days of my life.” – Fatai