When you’ve been blessed, pass it on, pass it on — Patti LaBelle
Homecoming is supposed to be a time of celebration, reunion, and fun not crying. Unfortunately for the first time, I found myself uncontrollably crying in a portable restroom. As my writing becomes more and more vulnerable, I felt it was only right to share this story with the intention of teaching a lesson.
It all started back in September when I booked my flight and hotel for Morehouse Homecoming. As I was securing my travel and lodging, I had no expectations. I wasn’t excited; I was more so numb. I dealt with a lot at Morehouse and Boston had been treating me pretty well. To be honest, I very seldom reflected on Morehouse or even missed it. My daily thoughts were filled with my adventures in Boston and being in graduate school.
My best friend Corbin and I had numerous conversations about what we expected our first homecoming as alumni to be.
“My expectations are on the floor.” I would say.
I didn’t expect anything. I merely purchased my flight and just hoped I made it through the weekend safely with no significant issues.
On Thursday, October 19th, I flew into town ready to see what Atlanta had to offer. Leaving the airport, I ran into Morehouse brothers that called me, “The GOAT” (The Greatest of All Time) and “The Next Oprah.” As soon as I posted on Snapchat that I was in Atlanta, I received a barrage of messages from people wanting to see me. I was shocked; I wasn’t expecting any love or even anyone to care that I was around. To my surprise, I was bombarded with much love and people excited to see me. The appreciation continued into the night, into the next day, and peaked on Saturday at our Homecoming game tailgate.
My father always reminds me to stay humble and love people. When peers, professors, and underclassmen were coming up to me inquiring about graduate school and expressing how proud they were of me, I would humbly put my head down say, “Thank you” and smile.
I kept trying to play it cool, but in my head, I was floored that so many people had been following my blog and rooting me on from a distance. Midway through my time at Tailgate a Morehouse student who I didn’t know came up to me.
“ChrisSumlin! So good to see you, man! How’s Boston?” He said with the biggest smile.
“It’s going well I can’t complain. It is going alright.” I replied.
“Well keep it up man we are rooting for you. You’re going to be an alum we will talk about years to come.”
At this point, I had two drinks and was “feeling loose.” I told the gentleman thank you and tears filled my eyes. At that moment I couldn’t hold back anymore. I instantly began reflecting on how hard my journey to this point has been. I thought about how insignificant I sometimes feel. I felt full. I felt proud. I felt, loved.
Following this whirlwind of thoughts and emotions, I ran to the closest port-a-potty I saw. I stood in line with my head down, dipped in a corner where no one could see me. When I walked in the port-a-potty, I broke down. I was ugly crying in a port-a-potty at my homecoming what is life?
Minutes after understanding what was going on I wiped my face, got myself together and returned to my friends. I’m confident anyone who saw me walking out of that port-a-potty assumed I smoked the best weed of my life because my eyes were blood-shot red. I was so embarrassed. After my eyes cleared up, I got back with my bros, and we had a perfect time.
That night as I returned to my hotel I reflected on what happened in that port-a-potty. I came to a few conclusions that I must share with you.
Everyone Rooting For You Isn’t Screaming
In the age of social media and digital storytelling, so many people are welcomed into my life. They get to see where I am, what I’m doing and who I’m growing into being. I share a lot of my life, and it’s enjoyable. Every time I post I don’t get to converse with every single person that follows my social media accounts and see what their thoughts are.
If every person that I had heard from during homecoming had messaged me when they saw my posts or read my writing, I would have a lot more emails. I say this to say that everyone who is rooting for you may not be screaming. You, just like me have people rooting for your rise from afar. This person may be the little cousin that watches your Snapchats following your adventures in college. This supporter may be that former colleague you used to work with years ago that you’re still Facebook friends with. This champion may be the neighbor that wishes you a good day each morning as you take the kids to school.
No algorithm in the world can tell us how many times we are talked about, rooted for or how many people we inspire. I can say that after this homecoming reunion I have come to understand that even though my emails may not be flooded with messages of support, I’m still impacting people.
Electronics, Marijuana, Alcohol and many other things can numb us out from our experiences. This numbing can be intentional or incidental. To fully appreciate life it is imperative that we live fully present allowing experiences to happen to us, not through us. This homecoming I drunk a little bit less, listened a little more and allowed myself to feel each moment. I can say that being more aware allowed me to experience homecoming in a more impactful way.
The Importance of Sharing the Journey
I could comfortably live my life and move through my days quietly without telling my story. I could spare writing about failing a graduate school exam, waking up at 6:15 AM to write this very blog about crying in a port-a-potty or Snapchatting my days. I would probably have a lot more time (and phone storage), but I apparently would be inspiring a lot fewer people.
There’s a gospel song that says, “I give myself away, so you can use me… My life is not my own to you I belong”. What I know for sure, is that our lives are so not about us. Our successes, our resumes, and accomplishments aren’t about us. This planetary experience we journey is about attempting to be our most authentic selves and inspiring others to do the same. If by living our lives, we can leave this world a tad bit better than we found it, that alone is a life fulfilled. That’s what Martin Luther King did with his speeches. It is what Michael Jackson did with his music. It’s what my Papa did with his prayers for his grandchildren.
With that said I encourage you to get about sharing your story with others and telling the good news of your life. It will inspire others and is more rewarding than I could ever articulate.
My Morehouse Homecoming Experience was impeccable. I got to reconnect with great men like Ryan George. I got to eat American Deli Lemon Pepper Wings. I was able to converse with the people I’m inspiring. I hope to continue to live a more authentic life and continue to share my story. This past weekend was an experience I needed.