No legacy is so rich as honesty. — William Shakespeare
This last winter break was one of a lot of self discovery. I watched a lot of television, spent well-needed time with my parents and of course, read lots of good books. When the time came for me to return to Boston to begin my next semester of graduate school I bought a flight from Columbus to Boston. Walking into the airport, I was excited knowing I was about to return to my life in Boston and get back “on the grind.” As the Delta airline associate was checking in my luggage she stated,
“I hope you are headed someplace warmer than this, Columbus is so cold.”
I laughed and replied, “I’m actually headed to Boston to resume my graduate coursework.”
“What school do you attend?” She asked with much enthusiasm.
I could tell in that tone that she was surprised that a casually dressed, fresh face,black boy was headed to Boston for graduate school. I knew in that minute that I wanted to keep this energy in the conversation going.
“Harvard.” I replied.
“Wow! Very impressive. Well you have a safe flight.”
Her smile was big and her entire demeanor with me changed after learning that I “went to Harvard.”
Heading to my flight gate I knew that I was wrong for lying but to be honest, this wasn’t the first time I lied about my academic work. At Morehouse I studied, Cinema, Television & Emerging Media Studies, which is commonly referred to as CTEMS. I used to hate explaining to people what CTEMS was or let alone what it stood for so I used to lie. Depending on what day it was sometimes I would say I studied, English, History or Business, I was never honest. This past week I’ve been reflecting on that situation at the airport and what it meant. I consider myself to be a fairly authentic person but I couldn’t understand why I would lie about something so small. I’ve come to the conclusion that the driving forces of why I lie about my academic work are comparison and inadequacy.
We live in a world that is all about measuring up to the next person. From conversations at social gatherings to counting Instagram likes, I believe we have cultivated a culture of comparison. This comparative culture has made its way into everything especially college campuses. During my time in college it was regular to hear conversations about why STEM majors were better than Music majors because somehow STEM focused careers possess job security. I think I let those experiences dilute my pride about studying Television and following my passions. At the airport I should have boldly stated, “I go to Boston University and I’m getting a Masters degree in Television.” It is unfortunate that I was too afraid to state my truth because I told myself that studying TV isn’t impressive enough. I compromised my authenticity for some quick approval from someone I didn’t even know.
The lesson I learned from that experience was to value myself and be proud. I want to be more prideful about studying TV and pursuing my passions. I used to think that there were two types of people in the world: authentic people and inauthentic people. Dr. Brene Brown teaches that being authentic is a practice, and I can either choose it in each moment or not. In 2018 I want to choose authenticity. No more lying about my studies. If I can be real enough to confess that I cried at my Homecoming tailgate, I can be real enough to tell those I encounter that I study Television and here are three good reasons why:
I AM GOING TO DIE
The one thing that we all have in common is that we all will die. None of us know the time, or the place but this is an inevitable common experience that we all will share. This fact alone inspires me to want to not only work my hardest but choose authenticity each moment I get. I could die any day. I would hate to die a fraud, this means that I need to choose each moment to be as authentic as possible.
I AM ENOUGH
In her book, “Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living”American Tibetan Buddhist, Pema Chodron teaches how “we already have everything we need.” I love that statement. She teaches that at our core, that our big SELF, is enough. This means how we look, who we are, and the experiences that we encounter are enough for us to live a compassionate, fulfilled life. I will always work hard. I know I will have goals and push for self-development but on the contrary I know in my soul that who I am is enough no matter where I am or who I encounter. Starting today, I will own that statement and move through the world more fiercely and authentically.
I AM BLESSED
I watched the film, “Mudbound” on Netflix last week. The film is based in an historical period and follows the lives of two families in the early 1940’s. In the movie, there was a scene where Hap, an male African American is reading a letter from his son. In the moment of him reading the letter from his son in the military, Laura, a white woman sees Hap reading and asks, “You can read?” in a shocked and serious manner. As I watched that scene my eyes began to water. I realized that back in the 1930’s and 40’s, it was unfathomable for black men to read.
In 2018, I’m a black man who not only reads but also writes. It is a blessing that I’m able to read the books that I do and even attend college. No matter if I was studying Basket Weaving or Biomedical Engineering, just the fact that I am in a graduate program is a blessing and nothing to be ashamed of. Whenever I find myself lying about studying TV at BU I’m going to remind myself, “Remember Laura’s question.”
Your Take Away
As you read this blog I hope you get reflective about your experiences and find areas in your life that you can choose to be more brave. I’m no different or better than anyone. I know for sure that all of the bold statements above apply to you too. You too are, going to die, are enough and are blessed. Those are three important truths to remind ourselves of daily. I hope following your time spent reading this blog you will choose to be brave and show up in the world more boldly.