Making the Moments Matter

Time is the one resource that has been proven time and time again to be nonrenewable. It doesn’t have half-lives that extend its impact. You cannot develop a synthetic minute. It is what it is. We have a finite amount of time to experience an infinite combination of experiences and spending it on everything but your own purpose is an affront to the Creator.

That being said, make every moment the best one you’ve ever had. I’m aware that each second cannot be as exhilarating as your favorite memory. I will never be able to replicate the first time I had pieces published on Blavity or Revolt. Walking into work on Monday morning may not be as exciting the first time your vegan blog got 500 hits in a day. And I’m willing to bet that, no matter how she tries, I’m willing to bet a mother will never shed the tears of joy she did when she saw her firstborn child smile. But we can all choose to make an attempt at finding the beauty in every second. And, if there is no beauty in that moment, there is a lesson that can bring you to a beautiful place if you take heed.

Somewhere, the seconds we have are predetermined. Whether you will take your last breath because of old age or as a result of a meteor that comes crashing down to end humanity, no one knows is certain. What we do know is that we have a choice. Choose moments to make every moment matter.

 

Make meaningful moments a priority.

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Question Your Complacency

This has been an interesting last couple weeks. A lot of change. A lot of introspection. A lot of emotion. Entrepreneurially, I’ve been forced to question what and who motivates me. Professionally, I’ve had to take a look at my career and where I would like to be in ten years. Physically, I am evaluating my health and if I’m taking the best care of my body that I can. Personally, I’ve looked at where America is now and had to ask myself, “Is this a nation I would like to raise a family in or should I look at opportunities in other places in the world with the same/more freedoms and fewer instances of violence?” And, spiritually, I’ve questioned whether I am living in the purpose I was given or living in security.

Prior to moving back to Durham, my entire life had been a series of ebbs and flows. I find success in the fear of failure. Faith and hard work are all that I credit any of my accomplishments to. Staying true to that, I will continue questioning my complacency. Challenge any feeling in your gut that says you’re not where you know you could be. It’s not about where anyone else is. It’s about what you know to be true for yourself.

 

Make questioning your complacency a priority.

Lessons Left By Ira

Most people who know me know that I lost my father in 2011 and some know about the passing of my great-grandma in 2007. But very few people, outside of my friends from Chapel Hill, know the other people I’ve lost. Today, I’ll touch on a pretty special young lady who I have nothing but fond memories of.

I remember in third grade or so, a young girl from Ukraine joined my class. Her name was Irina Yarmolenko but she went by Ira. She was pretty, sweet, and smart. An all-around genuine human being. Until recently, I didn’t know that her family had immigrated here as refugees but I probably didn’t completely understand what was going on in that part of the world at that time. To me, she was just a new student.

Over the next decade, Ira and I went to school together until we graduated from Chapel Hill High. We took everything from college prep to Advanced Placement courses together. At some point (probably during my girl-crazy middle school years), I recall having a crush on her but, when all was said and done, we just became really good friends. She was an amazing young lady.

I almost teared up when I came across her Facebook page today and decided to look through our friendship (or as much of it as Facebook could report, which unfortunately leaves out a large chunk). Ira and I had gotten into the same college, UNCC. I had also been accepted to NC State and UNCG. All three had great business programs but I went with UNCG because the female to male ratio was almost 3:1 at the time. Ira, who chose to go to UNCC, picked on me about that in some of her posts to my Facebook wall. Her teasing still makes me laugh.Screen Shot 2018-03-03 at 4.20.00 PM

In mid-2008, as her second year at UNCC came to a close, Ira passed away. NBC’s show “Dateline” did a segment on the mystery behind her death and I recall watching it, hoping an answer would surface. One never did. How it happened isn’t a concern of mine now. If there is justice to be served, it seems like it would be fair, conceptually. I just know that I’ll never run into my friend on Franklin Street again. She passed at 20 years old. I’m 30 as of this past December 3 and, while I cannot say we would’ve definitely still been close, sometimes it’s nice just to see what’s going on in an old friend’s life or grab a drink (now that we can legally). I would’ve loved to hear her verbose opposition to the current state of sociopolitical affairs in the state and nation that she came to call home. Thinking about it, she didn’t even get to see President Obama elected, nor will she see our first female president. She was a great artist and a great soul and, remembering her reminds me that I’ve only got one life to live and I have no clue as to when it will end. So I must live it knowing that every memory made isn’t just for me but also for those who will smile about the good times when I’m gone.

Don’t go a day without telling at least one person you love them and don’t let too long go without reaching out to an old friend. Live in love and let old feuds die.

Make living a life you love a priority.

Trending Thursday Two Point Oh.

Way back in the day (ok, more like two years ago), I used to publish a Trending Thursday post, which was a top five list of the most impactful articles I’d read within the past week or two. I think that reading is a huge part of being able to develop and I don’t want you all just reading my stuff because I’m only able to write from my perspective. So, this is where I would push those articles that help me grow as a young professional, be it personally, professionally, financially, or physically. Now, in addition to articles, I will be tossing up what inspires me to be more artistic, emotionally stable, or healthy. Sometimes it’ll be a link to a photographer’s blog and other times, it’ll be one to a new mixtape that I thought was impressive. And, even other times, it’ll be the name of a documentary I found to be pivotal in helping me develop an opinion. Each will come with a short (no more than five) sentence synopsis of what I took from the piece/site I’m sharing. So, here’s to Trending Thursday 2.0.

Start And End Your Work Day With These Principles in Mind
I’m always trying to pick up ideas on best practices in being productive from individuals who I see as successful in their own right. This piece gave me some sound advice and backed it up with quotes from a few thought leaders that will help mold my routine as I start this new fiscal year.

The Four Stages of Life
One of the toughest things to do in life is try to figure out someone else’s perspective. No matter how much time you spend in the field or in the books, you will never truly know how to read every person. What this article did help me do is realize, based upon general behaviors and background knowledge, what stage people are at in life, myself included.

Top 25 Cities Where You Can Live Large on Less Than $70k
Not saying I’m always looking for new job opportunities, because I’m not. But I am always looking for ways to make my money stretch. That might be in the form of a stock or in the form of a rental property. And, shoot, one day I will be looking for new job opportunities and I want to make sure I get the most bang for my buck. These cities will give it to you. And, if you move from a market with a higher cost of living, you could really be living high on the hog.

 

Make professional development a priority.

Did You Ever Think?

“Did you ever think that you would be this rich? Did you ever think that you would have these hits? Did you ever think that you would be the Don? Have a crib with the 50-acre lawn? Did you ever think that you would be this paid? Were there times when your ass was real afraid? Did you ever think that you would sell out tours? Have a show with 50 million viewers?” R. Kelly

Kells dropped that track back in the late 1990s and, as I sit in our Airbnb in Houston at 3:08 AM looking at the progress of my photography, I had to take a moment to sit in awe and ask myself “Did you ever think?”. This thought started with me looking at photos from 7 months ago and seeing how I’ve developed from a point-and-shoot photographer to a decent amature, but then I thought bigger than that. I looked back into my writings and took an honest inventory over my intellectual maturation and I realize that I never see where I am going but it is always in the direction of greater things.

On the flight to Houston yesterday, I restarted one of my favorite books, George Orwell’s 1984. Though I’ve loved the parallels in this work of art since I first read it in either Mr. Ruffle’s or Ms. Job’s English class, my reimersion into the book made me say “Wow! I liked this book on a surface level but now, as an aware adult who has not only a stake but also a say in the political processes of this nation, I am so much more invested in the unorthodoxy of Winston Smith as being necessary.” But I never would have thought that deeply on it in 9th or 10th grades.

How much do we do that we never saw ourselves doing? Even 5 years ago, upon graduation, I never saw myself traveling as much as I have in the past 24 months. I’ve gotten seven stamps on my passport and been to thirteen states and the District in what seems like no time, having visited a few of them multiple times. I’ve been both jobless and unable to pay rent and, a year and a half later, an arm’s length from six figures, only to be humbled again. I’ve endured great loss, found great joy, and experienced the onset of depression, only to witness the emergence of new life, making me more grateful than ever for life’s cyclical process.

Living is pretty cool like that. It forces you to put things in perspective, see where you’ve come from, where you are, and realize that, though life has its ebbs and flows, it could always be worse and it will always get better.

So, I beseech you to go and find an early version of something you love. Whether music or visual art or writing or a report from work or something you built with your own hands. And look at a more recent version of a like item. Appreciate that maturation and then examine another area of growth in your life. And another. And, before you know it, you’ll be thanking God for all that He’s brought you through and to.

There’s something greater. And there’s something tougher. Both will come. But always have hope in that which is greater.
Make personal development a priority.

Be Intent on Knowing

“Life without knowledge is death in disguise.” — Talib Kweli

What are you learning? What do you want to know? Are you open to what life brings to the table?

“Professional development” is just a fancy way of saying learning. You have to keep learning and because anything that does not grow is dead. Seek knowledge, both of self and of your surroundings, and you will gain understanding.

 

Make knowledge a priority.

Moment of Clarity

I just read this great article from an online magazine I read regularly called PRSUIT about doing nothing and being ok with it. In this age of hustle and bustle, we are always so focused on do do do that we never sit down to just be in the moment and experience it. At the beginning of the article, Konrad Stoick told readers to take 5 minutes to do nothing but focus on the breathing in and out. And, though I tried, I inevitably began thinking about everything else that was going on in life and had to continually refocus my mind on doing nothing. Finally, I settled on one thought (the closest number to thinking about 0 things is thinking about 1 thing). So I repeated over and over again in my head “I’m blessed.” And I am. I had a meeting recently with someone and I remember hearing the most braggadocious statement come from that person’s mouth and I thought, “I hope I never sound like that.” And then I thought to my recent trip to Asia and how it appears to someone who may have never left North Carolina. I can say all day that I got the tickets for a fraction of the cost that they should have been but that fraction is more than many have. So, as a result of this moment of clarity, constantly reiterating to myself that I’m blessed, I realized that my blessings can be seen as braggadocious to someone else. So I want to take a chance to put into perspective why I am blessed.

8 years ago, I was forced to change majors and, at that moment, my life’s plans (which God was laughing at years before) were forever changed. That same year, my family went through the most troubling financial times that I had ever seen (and I had seen some tough ones before) that resulted in both a lack of certainty and an increased need of support on my part.
5 years ago, I graduated college with a degree that America, collectively, doesn’t believe adds a ton of value to society (I beg to differ but that argument isn’t worth having), no job, and tens of thousands of dollars of debt. I was unable to pay rent but worked it out with my apartment complex that I would when I found a job. Not 6 months after graduating, I lost my father. Then I found a job that I hated in a call center. If I had stuck with it, I would probably be a manager there (far from my purpose but it would have been a decent check). Thing is, I didn’t stick with it and ended up working outside at a produce stand that I walked 3 miles each way to.
2 years ago, I left a city that I loved (and job that wasn’t the worst) for the woman that I love after she lost her mother. I left Charlotte with no job, no job prospects, no car, and only my younger sister’s living room to call home. I had a little saved but not enough. I ended up securing a retail job to make ends meet but I was further from happy than east from west.
18 months ago, I walked into a role that would define this era of my professional career. I was overworked and underpaid but it was good experience. I knew that my role was more valuable and that I would have to fight for the dollars that I deserved, were I to stay at that institution. I was engaged and we were moving into a place of our own just before the wedding. We shared a car. Things could have been a little better but they could have been a lot worse (a phrase that I’ve begun responding with whenever asked “How are things going?”) I had just gotten my passport.
3 months ago, I began a job in the field of education. Though no job will ever be perfect, I really enjoy the fact that they’re investing in both me right now and in my future growth. By now, I have been married for just shy of 14 months. In those months, I have spent nights in six nations outside of the United States. I have had both a niece and a nephew now, both who make me smile to no avail. I have taken on a role at my church that allows me to serve more. I have developed better financial habits that will provide my children with opportunities to develop in ways that I was not able to (no disrespect at all to my upbringing because I was very fortunate that my parents sacrificed for my siblings and I to have the education that we received). I am reading more and writing more. I am able to give back, both in time and money, to institutions that invested in me at a time when  there was as much of a risk of as a return on investment.

So, when I read Konrad’s article and then continuously told myself I am blessed, I truly realize that I am. I don’t have to be where I am. I could be jobless. I could be unable to pay rent. I could be still sleeping on a pallet on my sister’s floor. I could be in jail. I could be dead. Or worse, I could be dead and in hell. I could be so much worse off right now. Or I could be a little better. I don’t ever intend to brag but to show that things can and will get better if you put faith and work together. It’s all about perspective.

 

Make happiness a priority.