Last month, I was selected to come to the United States Army Reserve Headquarters (USARC) and facilitate a conversation with key Army leaders on risk reduction, dismantling toxic leadership, de-stigmatizing help-seeking behavior, managing suicide related crisis, how to effectively give Solider care to minimize suicidal risk, and changing the Army culture regarding mental health for the holistic well-being of Soldiers.
I'm still processing that experience: What I saw. Who I talked to. Who I met. What I heard. What I said. I got to go to the top of the Army and facilitate conversations with movers and shakers. I'm writing policy that is affecting every single Soldier within the Army Reserve as well as their families and DA Civilians.
I never saw this, this "big" for myself. Not because I didn't think I could, or know I'm capable, but because I didn't allow myself to believe that it was possible. That the message inside of me could go beyond church and institutional walls and affect the way in which people lived, behaved, thought, and what they talked about. As I was speaking at that event I was realizing that the span of my purpose keeps growing and expanding as I grow. You know, the stuff that is in the deep recesses of your heart of who you want to be, where you want to be, and when you'll get there? It was happening!
I grew up going to church 6 days a week (we were Church of God in Christ/COGIC). We lived there. So much so, I often would fall asleep on the benches of the "shut-ins" and all night prayer meetings. My mom said the best places I could be were church and school. And for me, she was right because she was trying to take that ghetto we lived in and make me see beyond it. She was trying to teach me that I could do, see, and be more.
And the last year really, as it’s seemed like a high-speed cyclonic tornado. City after city, event after event- all great things, but all so fast. I want to avoid moving so quickly that I don’t inhale- slowly the awe of what I am experiencing and the impact that I, in this body have been able to have. I’ve done that for too many years. And to this day, all of this is a practical exercise in self-concept and self-actualization. No matter how exciting it seems, I'm still reminding myself that I am worthy.
Some days the little boy with the red glasses who grew up nervous being in front of crowds, frightened to let my talents of singing and acting emerge because "boys don't do that, trying not to be "too" smart by how I performed in school or talked to my peers for fear of being perceived as a "White boy". Some days I'm reminded of being poor though I had hard working class parents, the days where I would quietly tell the lunch lady my name and ID number so she could mark on her list that I took my free breakfast and lunch, living in the ghetto in a house that had rodents; where we sometimes while watching TV had to drop to the floor to avoid getting killed during routine drive by shootings, reading books during recess to avoid sports (because I was horrible at throwing footballs, catching baseballs, or shooting basketballs) and frightened of bullies who waited for me between class periods emerges. His voice is faint, somewhat shaky, and light, "Me? Really? Me?"
And as sometimes painful or traumatic that the past was for you, it is a place of reference, not residence. My past grounded and made me. It was the ammunition to work hard. It fueled the strength to fight and create the future I wanted. No matter how big the task in front of me, how big the audience that sits to listen to me speak, the rank/position/title of those I meet with the adult man having an internal dialogue with my soul chants, "I am enough. I belong here. This is where I'm supposed to be. I've worked hard to be at this very spot, at this moment. I am following my purpose. I am worthy."
Those simple affirmations coupled with the support of my family-my wife and sons (who literally keep me sane, grounded, and well loved) help me to do all of this. My friends who are the sounding board for my ideas or the people I talk to when the idea is actually happening and I'm freaked out. My mentors who remind me of my call, purpose, and goals and tell me "to keep moving" are the ones who are the ammunition to make the life I want happen. Every step is on the journey. And the steps that I am walking in and will be in the coming season are a continued reminder that my gift will make room for me as I intentionally make decisive action toward the life I want.
Listen. Put everything down around you. Take a moment and focus. The next 12 sentences are true about you:
- Your past is a point of reference, not a place of residence.
- You aren't defined by how you grew up.
- You are not what "they say".
- You are more than what you've been though.
- Your education isn't the fullness of who you are.
- Your weight doesn't determine your worth.
- Your bank account doesn't determine how rich you are.
- Your relationship status isn't an indicator of happiness.
- Your social media friends and followers list amount doesn't make you known deeply.
- Your home doesn't determine your value.
- Your church attendance doesn't determine your spiritual health.
- Your setbacks aren't the only part of your story.
We have to being to renounce negative self talk that gets in the way of us doing what we were created to do.
We have to do the work to find our happy. To see what brings us joy, contributes to our flourishing, and what of our routines that empowers our thriving and walk towards it-boldly, unashamed, and unapologetically.
Listen to the deepest part of yourself. You know what you want. You know what's best for you. You must disconnect from anyone and anything that disarms or disables you from reaching your calling.
There's so much more in front of me. Exciting, big, daring, and really scary. And I will silence every voice in my head and around me by doing more of what makes me scared. Today I am grateful for all the dreams I don't have to close my eyes to see anymore.
My spirit asks me, "What could you accomplish if you weren't so scared?"
Ask yourself the same thing. Think about it. Write it on a post it note and stick it places. See what comes up for you. See what ways your spirit is triggered. Listen for the ways you start to feel passion coming to you as you think about it.
In the month of July we're going to focus on banishing negative self talk from our lives. We're going to learn how to identify what the negative messages are. Dismissing negative internal dialogue. Dismantling fear from hearing our intrinsic voice. Creating self talk routines. Using goal directed thinking. Replacing negative energy from our environment and relationships with positive, healthy, and productive relationships. And finding our joy so that we can wholeheartedly pursue it.
We are going to grow. Because you are worth it. Your dreams are valid. Your ambitions are attainable. And your life will expand and thrive when you take this step to actualize and manifest them.
Here is to courage kicking fear's ass.