Here is a journal entry I wrote on June 18th, 1998:
“Today me and Tiani was acting like Pocahontas and Nakoma. We were also doing gymnastics. We didn’t play dress up today, I don’t know why. Anyway we have mail boxes now, it’s through the brick wall. Now we write to each other instead of calling each other.”
Where do I begin to explain these five sentences?
I don’t know.
So I’ll just leave that up for interpretation.
Moving out of my apartment was like an Easter egg hunt, but instead of eggs they were journals and instead of hunting it was more like a reappearing magic trick that I didn’t ask for. My journals were filled with thoughts, memories, song lyrics, drawings, bible devotionals, and quotes. Reading past entries was like watching my childhood all over again. It reminded me of how hard and how rewarding it is to find joy in the journey and to trust the process no matter how much it sucks.
Moving out of my apartment felt like flipping back to a previous page. Reading the same paragraph over and over again only to realize that you have to read it once more because none of it stuck in your mind the first eight times. Reading it in hopes that the ending would change into some kind of happily ever after. Reading it until I learned how that moment contributed to the person I am today.
I know my story isn’t over.
Some people expressed their excitement of my next chapter.
I’m not there yet,
but I can’t wait to be.
I grew up believing that Disneyland was the happiest place on Earth. I had a Disney Sing Along VHS tape that taught me Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah and It’s a Small World while it showed footage of Big Thunder Mountain and the Jungle Cruise. Of course it didn’t show people’s ankles getting clipped by strollers, or the overpopulated Grad Nite, or even the occasional Code H (horse poop on Main Street). Everyone in that tape made Disneyland look more and more enticing, especially since the only theme park we had on the island was the 50th state fair every summer. Although I enjoyed our little town fair with the sketchy rides and rigged games it still wasn’t the happiest place on Earth I dreamt of.
Living in Southern California for the past ten years allowed many opportunities for me to have the privilege of going to Disneyland. I always read the sign near the entrance that said, “Here you leave today and enter the world of yesterday, tomorrow, and fantasy.” I don’t know if it was the scents of buttery popcorn, waffle cones, or the overpriced churros, but for me, being in that place helped all my worries go away and felt as if I was entering a world of fantasy. My only concern was deciding which attraction to go to next or if I should get some Dole Whip while the line is short. I simply loved being in that place because I can’t help but laugh and smile from the moment I arrive to the moment I get on the five.
Although Disneyland is my sweet escape from the daily routine I wouldn’t necessarily call it the happiest place on Earth. For some people their happy place could be a country they traveled to or watching Scandal on the couch with wine and popcorn, Sunday barbecues or performing onstage with your dance team, watching your kid walk into the classroom or playing Heads Up with a bunch of friends. For me it’s the coffee talks, meals, phone calls, video chats, and text messages with people in my life who constantly remind me that I am valued and supported through anything and everything. They fuel my faith and reassure me that God has my best interest at heart. I can sit and reflect in contentment that I’m well taken care of.
Love is my happy place.
I went to Starbucks the other day with a colleague and as we were waiting for our drinks these two young women went up to me and said, “Hey! We met you at the conference!” I recognized their familiar faces, I saw the university logo on their shirts, and I smiled back and said, “Oh my gosh! That’s right! How are you?” But, of course, I had no idea what their names were. I felt terrible. I didn’t even get a chance to ask for their names with all the small talk that was going on. Forget introducing them to my colleague.
This moment reminded me of my first professional conference and how I said hi to someone who clearly did not remember who I was even though I interviewed him for an hour about transformational leadership for a course assignment. It was a little embarrassing, not gonna lie, especially when I was still learning how to network. I’m an introvert at heart and networking did not come naturally for me. I got nervous in a crowded room, struggled with a simple introduction, and got out of there as quickly as possible. With guidance and encouragement from seasoned professionals, along with my 5-minute solo coffee break, I learned how to dance the networking waltz to my own rhythm. Now I know why my mentors relate conferences with homecoming.
Anyway, I left Starbucks with my colleague laughing at me because she also noticed that I didn’t know their names.
That simple encounter made me reflect on where I began and where I am now. Kind of like those Facebook “On This Day” notifications that make you feel nostalgic or in denial depending on the post from six years ago. I’m living a life where some people see me as their mentor. I’m living a life in which I catch myself sharing the same leadership advice that was given to me when I struggled with finding my voice.
My life is filled with good people who continue to build me up and love me for me. I’m living the kind of life I admired five years ago. Who has the privilege to say that?
“Because I knew you I have been changed for good.”
Yesterday someone told me that the older you get the less important your birthday becomes. It made me feel a little sad, but I refuse to believe the truth to that. My birthday is the one day a year I get to feel selfish and not feel bad about it. Yes, I enjoy the presents and I’m a sucker for surprises, but the most valuable part to my birthday is having everyone gather together, eat, drink, laugh, and share stories. This kind of genuine interaction is mostly hidden behind snapchats and texting. A scrolling newsfeed gets more attention nowadays than a random “just because” phone call. My birthday may not be a big deal for long, but if it’s gonna help me get people together in the midst of our busy lives then by all means I will milk that sh*t for all its got.