America: Now What?

Maybe you’re reading this just as confused, angered and frightened as I am of America’s 2016 election results. Maybe you’re just the opposite. Either way, here we are. If you’re a frightened African-American, you might identify w/exactly what I’ve been fearing for months now. Or perhaps you’re a frightened of your LBGT rights being taken away, or the potential Muslim ban, or what will happen with immigration and healthcare, or a host of other legitimate concerns.

Maybe you’ve been part of the social media wave of “we need to love each other and unite now more than ever” from 3am into the morning. Or maybe you said online “we need to respect whoever the winner is” having not respected President Obama’s accomplishments for the past 8 years. Maybe you’re baffled that we went from our first black President to one being elected after a KKK endorsement. Maybe you’re a minority who never felt that America really valued you as a person due to countless evidences of discrimination, murders, racism, and the like (the reason why many older black adults aren’t as surprised about what’s happened). Or maybe you’ve felt that although you’re in the majority in this country, you’ve been pushed aside and ignored until now. Either way, all – a major change is coming.

To the point: what now? As a young, black male, I’m not looking forward to facing the fears now grappling our country. Half of our country has proven what they want, and that they don’t value those different from them, and that is beyond shameful. As much as I could rant about the fear that many of us are facing, I have to do the best I can to be the difference by just doing what God put me here to do. Nothing will change that. I am a choral director, a musician, and a friend. I need to continue making art and share this with my singers, standing as tall as possible. I need to encourage them to use our artwork to both unity us and provide solace for our audiences. I’ve always taught my choirs about the importance our music can have in dark times. I am a firm believer in this, and this will be the best time to uphold that belief. Music has always been a powerful tool, and it will always be my greatest method for unification – no matter how different, we are all people standing together to make one song in our own way.

I encourage all of you, wherever you stand in what’s happening in America – find YOUR solace. Find YOUR song. Find YOUR choir – whatever that is to you. My method of unity might look different than yours, but the love that will come from it may be all we have soon.

(Finally, please do not act on emotion today. If you regularly suffer from depression or anxiety, and you are genuinely concerned after the election results, talk to a loved one or a professional immediately. Seriously.)

Your friend,
-BB2

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BB2 Monthly Assessment: May

Heavens

As I sit here writing my self-assessment for the month of May, I realize two things.

The first is that I continue to slowly become more and more comfortable with myself, especially since my quarter-life-crisis last year. With the aid of being around family, returning to school, becoming more active with my church choir, and in general many other people/places/activities that have been good for me, I can strongly say that I am surrounded by what I consider many “safe places” right now. By “safe place”, I mean people, environments, activities, etc. which bring out the best in me, keep me productive in a positive & constructive way, bring me joy, and make me want to be a better person. In these safe places, I can find love, laughter, and other things I need to grow constructively as a person. So yes, my family is a safe place. School is a safe place. The part-time jobs I have while school are safe places. Singing with the church choir is a safe place. Certain close friends who are good to see, talk to, trust and laugh with are safe places. Certain adults I respect, enjoy talking to and might aspire to be like are safe places. Most importantly, staying connected to God in prayer and seeking to do things both for and because of Him is the safest place there can possibly be.

Now, the second thing is how my past plays a role in the forward direction I’ve been moving in. Of course, I’ve been a firm believer for years in not letting yesterday bother you to the point of keeping you from doing what you need to today – rather you should learn from the good and the bad, then prepare for tomorrow with that in mind. However, there traces of my past that haunt me regularly, frequently shifting my judgement as to whether the things I am preparing for tomorrow are worth it. “This didn’t work the first time around so well, what makes you think you can do better this time?” “You won’t be any different.” “You’ll never get these chances again. May well try something else.” “You aren’t that great anyway.” “How long must this go on?” These are all just a few of the thoughts that float around my mind in regards to how my past could possibly affect my future. Chances are, it will always be an issue in the back of my mind just because of the roller coaster of emotions and situations it all took me through. But can I survive with these thoughts in the back of my mind forever? How will it affect me emotionally or spiritually? Will it affect trying to find a wife & start a family carrying emotional baggage? Will it affect me professionally when I’m trying to accomplish various goals of mine? Will it have a downward spiral on my relationship with God or come back tenfold as I approach my midlife crisis on 20 years?

The answer to these questions, and so many more, is that there is definitely a chance of these things. A chance. But how far everything goes is really up to me. When my past comes knocking on the door (and I’ll admit, I have peeked in the peephole for a couple seconds), I’ve had to train myself to leave the door closed. Re-opening what had already been closed only allows those things to re-enter your house, which I’ve already suffered from. Last time I let them in, I indulged in things that were selfishly unhealthy for me because I blinded myself to that which was good for me, thinking that I needed something to be happy about. I let my emotions get the best of my thoughts, actions, words, and judgement. Eventually I had to tear myself away from these things and that environment in order to survive – to continue to dwell in my emotional curveball, I’m convinced, would only have led to a demise I can’t begin to imagine.

As dark as that may sound, I can guarantee it’s the truth. This is why I say, I’m more than grateful for my “safe places” today. I won’t sit here and try to convince you, the reader, that I’m a “good guy.” That is for you to decide upon knowing me well enough. I will say that I was raised to know right vs. wrong on many things, with values rooted strongly in faith with God. So my entire quarter-life-crisis was a long hauled left-of-center kind of deal.

HOWEVER.

What I can say now is this: My past is not who I am. It doesn’t define me. Anyone who ever has something in their past that they aren’t proud of or wish didn’t happen deserves to be judged by who they are today and who they are on there way to becoming. Some of you may have read previous posts about my aspirations and other thoughts as I acknowledged things about myself in order to help my personal growth. Now that I’ve gotten through the “learning from acknowledgement” phase and have put the pieces of my confidence back together, my goals now for the next month are not to let my past tear down the progress I’ve made. If I continue to do that, I will only set myself back into square one. I plan to use a lot of prayer, further reflection, plans for my future, and my “safe places” to keep me guided on the right track.

“And we know that all things work to the good for them that love God” – Romans 8:28

“Clear the bar…raise the standard.” – Pastor Ronald J. Fowler

“Be kind to your present so your past can’t make a liar out of your future.” – BB2

Yours in the journey,
-BB2

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He Turned It: A Lesson in Moving Forward

Today, I walked out of last final exam for the semester. This marked the completion of my first semester of graduate school!

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Naturally, I was pretty happy about this, especially since I felt like I did very well on my finals. It’s a nice day out, so I went for a walk and put some music on, feeling pretty good about myself. Towards the end of my walk, this song came on:

I’ve heard this song plenty of times, and already know that it’s about God taking our bad, terrible, even unspeakable situations and turn them around into something wonderful so we can live our lives happily with Him. I always listened to it knowing that this song would be there for me when I needed it to be. And today it was.

I had a pretty rough 2013, long story short. The heart and depth of my quarter-life-crisis took place here, and it hit me hard – especially considering I didn’t realize how deep I was into it for a while. Since then, part of my recovery journey has been learning about myself, who I am, who I was, who I want to be, what makes me that person, and so on while enrolling in grad school to further my education. While there, it took me the course of the semester to begin to feel much more comfortable with myself, rebuild confidence, and look forward to my days ahead. Thanks to doing healthy soul-searching things, remaining active & productive, writing (starting this blog helped a LOT), and especially surrounding myself with core support groups who care about me/accept me for who I am (such as my family, church choir, work & school), I was able to do just what we are made to do in this life after things happen: MOVE ON.

I had to majorly learn to move on this year. Once I realized I had to pull myself from my quarter-life-crisis, the bounce back, of course, took some time and productive constructing and destructing of myself. There were many points early on in which I wasn’t comfortable being certain places, talking to certain people about things that reminded me of what I was trying to heal, things like that. Within the past month or so, I’ve been much more comfortable in my own skin, enough to open myself up more than I was before. Because you can’t hide forever. Eventually you have to dust yourself off, let God take you to the place you needed to be after having learned that really painful lesson, and keep moving forward.

It was a big eye-opening moment for me this afternoon, and I’m nothing but thankful for how far God has brought me in this regard. I’m far from finished in my development, and I know I’ll continue to adjust myself my entire life. But I’m now comfortable enough to keep taking the journey, and I look forward to the places I have to go along the way.

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-BB2