A friend of mine was born and raised in New Orleans. He survived Hurricane Katrina, and later moved to Baton Rouge. From what I know, he has quite the history. He wasn’t born with a silver spoon or anything like that. He didn’t have the easiest childhood, etc. Long story short, he’s the complete opposite of my cute suburban upbringing, ok? He could’ve easily been another statistic or negative stereotype, but instead, he went to Louisiana Tech University, played football, and is now an engineer (A FREAKING ENGINEER!). Now, I can’t tell you exactly what he makes, but I know he makes engineer money (lol). So, I’m always calling him a baller (simply because he can spend more money in one sitting than I may have in my bank account at the time lol). The interesting thing to me is that every time I call him a baller, he responds with something along the lines of “nah, I’m just a dude from the hood”.
On another (slightly unrelated) note, my mom told me she’d let me take my bedroom set and move it into my new apartment to help me save money (quick praise break for a queen sized bed, dresser, and nightstand FOR THE FREE). On my first day back home, I walked in my room, looked at the dresser (that I haven’t actually used in years, and saw that it still filled with books I’d read as a teenager, high school awards, jewelry I’d forgotten about, and the mirror was packed with pictures (yep…I did that lol). That was just on top of the dresser, so we’re not even considering all of the clothes in the drawers that I haven’t worn in God knows how long. Now, I know nothing about moving furniture (my previous apartments were furnished), but in my mind, that old stuff would be dead weight and make it heavier to move. So, I would have to get rid of the old in order to make room for the new. Looking at my dresser made me realize that I need to take the same advice that I've been giving my friend for the past year. I'm at a point in my life where I need to let go of a lot of old stuff in order to move ahead.
Next week, I start law school. Now, since I won't be attending UT's law school, my UT parking pass won't do me any good. And as much as I love my burnt orange, I don't think it would make sense to wear my UT shirts everyday. I've met great friends, and I've gained sisters and brothers in my four years at UT, but if I depend on people who are now all across the country to be my sole sources of support, I've got a lonely three years ahead of me. It's not that my time at UT wasn't worth anything. It's not that I don't value all that I've gained and the people I've met. It's just that I can't go into this season without releasing certain things from the last one.
One thing I've learned about life is the importance of balance. You have to be able to take the lessons of the past, without carrying the pain. Sometimes, you’ve got to take the lessons of the past without carrying the people. Everything and everybody can’t make it to the next level or season with you. It doesn’t make them bad. It doesn’t make you evil. It just means that you’ve learned all that you can from them. Keeping them around will either pull you back or it will simply confuse you, because you aren’t the same person you were way back when. There was once a point in my life when I thought that because somebody once brought happiness to my life, that they would always bring happiness to my life. Which led to me holding on to certain people and certain things beyond their season…which hurt me much more than they ever helped me. How many of us have done that? We hold to something hoping that it’ll be like the good ol’ days…and end up ruining the days that we have right now. How many times have you tried to breathe life into a dead situation, & instead of helping you and motivating you like it used to, it’s only become dead weight? OR how many times has it not been dead weight keeping you down or holding you back…but it’s you?
The reason why I always go back and forth with the friend I told y’all about earlier is because the labels that both of us had placed on him have never really matched up. He keeps saying he’s just a dude from the hood, I keep calling him a baller. Every once and a while, I may switch it up and say he’s a baller….that grew up in ghetto, but he doesn’t really agree with that all the time either. In my mind, he’s telling me where he’s been or where he comes from, while I’m trying to tell him where he is and where I see him going (we’ll talk about the potential others see in you on another post). Don’t get me wrong, both are important. If you’re so focused on your present success or where you’re going that you neglect your foundation, you may get to the top, but you won’t have the humility necessary to stay there. But, if you only define yourself by where you came from, you’ll stay there and never see all of what God has for you.
The way that we see ourselves may be more important than the way others see us because at the end of the day, you determine if you reach your destiny. Not your mama, your daddy, or your best friend from the 1st grade. You do. I think that one’s identity can be the enemy’s favorite place to attack us (maybe it’s because I’m all young and stuff). It’s always interesting to me that he realizes the importance of what we call ourselves and how we define ourselves more than some of us do. I can’t tell you how many people I know defining themselves by their past or present circumstances. They are and will forever be where they came from, or they are what they do every day. If you were to ask me who I was, I wouldn’t stop at the fact that I’m a law student, I’d tell you what kind of person I am. I’d tell you I’m dedicated, I’m caring, I’m very sarcastic, I can be kinda complicated, etc. Going to law school is what I do, but it in no way is all of who I am.
I’m currently reading the book Destiny: Step Into Your Purpose by Bishop T.D. Jakes (amazing book by the way), and he said “you have to give yourself reality checks so the you that you know catches up with the you that you have become.” THIS. IS. SO. TRUE. So today, I’m going to ask you one question (…a couple of different ways), and I want you to think for a minute before you answer it: who are you? What does it mean to be you? Now, don’t tell me what you do without telling me how it contributes to or draws upon who you are (trust me, there’s a big difference). I also don’t want you to give me an outdated definition of who you are. Knowing who you were can only help me handle who you are to a certain extent. That’s good background information and all, but I’m realizing that a lot of us can tell people about who we used to be and what we used to do better than we can tell people who we are in this moment. Some people may even be able to give their plans for the future, but what good is that if you can’t define who you are and where you are in the present? I don’t want you to get caught up in what was. I think it’s about time we all took a good minute and let all of that go. That person, that relationship, that happiness you thought you had? I think it’s safe to say it’s gone now, because you're still trying to fill the void it created. We’ve got places to be. We’ve got people to be. We’ve got purposes to fulfill. And if we’re going to do all of that, we’ve got to start with a definition of who we are. Some people may completely understand what I’m saying, but not know where to start or how to get there. Here are some quick things that I’ve learned about your identity and the importance of defining yourself:
1. Ask God. Now, as much of a cliché that is, and as much as I loathe clichés, it’s the first step in making any real progress and getting a solid definition in your identity. If you alone dictate who you are, you’ll be making that assessment based on what you’ve been through and where you perceive yourself to be. That can be loaded with what we call bias, and it’s not very helpful. If you ask your best friend, they may miss something. They may not completely get it, because they don’t know every thought that has gone through your head since birth. However, when you ask God to help you see who you are in His eyes, He’ll show you your identity based on who you were, who you are, and who you’ll be. He will give you a complete picture of yourself. Consider yourself warned though, because….
2. It may not be pretty. You’ve got to take the good and bad parts of yourself into account. Don’t like something? Think of (and apply) a few ways to change it. But ignoring it won’t make it fade away. Don’t let other people make you feel bad about your shortcomings either. Chances are they’ve been in that exact position, or they need to be fixing an issue similar to it (if it’s not the same thing). This is about you. You cannot conquer what you don’t confront. This may not be the happiest assessment to make, but it’s a necessary one. Everybody needs to make progress in some area…and that all starts with recognizing the problem.
3. Figure out what you’re holding on to. There are soooooo many people out there holding on to dead pieces of their past. The interesting thing is that it may not be pain; it could be something that feels really good. So the question you may need to ask yourself is if that thing is only good to you or if it’s good for you? Does it only feel good, or is it actually helping you grow? If it’s not helping you grow and get to the next level, then it’s keeping you from it. So, you need to…
4. Let…it…go. There are thousands of suggestions of how to do this all over the internet. Some people write letters they’ll never send. Some get rid of reminders of the past. Do whatever works for you (that’s not dangerous), but make sure that it helps you let go who you used to be and embrace who He wants you to be. Recognize that this is definitely a process, so it will take time. You may not be over it in a day, a week, or a month, but make sure that you are continuing to move forward. The past has done all it can do for you, suga. Walk away from it. This may mean that you need new friends. It could mean that you’ve got to change the way you talk about yourself. That’s ok, just make sure that you...
5. Embrace what is and prepare for what will be. If you’re going to be different, be different. There will be times when you’ll be tempted to go back because you’re officially comfortable with what was. Trust me, whatever happened back then is nothing compared to what will be if you continue to grow in His grace. It’s not easy at all, but then again, is anything worth having ever super easy?
You have everything that it takes to be who God has called you to be. He won’t ask anything of you that He hasn’t already placed in you. However, you’ll never get there if you continue to define yourself by what’s (or who’s) around you. So, for the last time today, who are you? Are you a survivor or more than a conqueror? Are you growing or are you just getting what you can? What’s the best part of you? What’s the worst part of you? What kind of person has resulted from everything you’ve been through? You set the standard for others on how to accurately see you, so choose your words wisely….
Background Music: Free - Anthony Brown & Group TherAPy (I told yall this was a good album lol); just a quick reminder that only you can give power to whatever it is people have and will call you!
Words from the Author
At the end of the day, these posts are the thoughts that run through my mind. These are the lessons I've learned. The doors that I've walked through. The path I've chosen. This is part of what it means to be me. Hopefully, it'll help you be...you. Let's grow together, kay?
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