Advice from Jim Valvano and Personal Memories (Part 2)
My first turning point came when I was but four years old. Many of you know the story about the day I chose to become a man. My mother was beaten by the father of my two little brothers. I rode with her in the ambulance and vowed to treat women with respect in order to be a real man. The story is one that I’m no longer shy about telling as it is the first turning point in my life, and as you would imagine, it was not without tears and deep thought preceding it. My life has had many trials and tribulations, most of which people already know about, but to me it is worth remembering. When your emotions bring you to tears, be it of joy or sorrow, change is inevitable.
Lately I have been holding back my tears too often. Our society teaches boys not to cry, it’s a sign of weakness, and weakness is a hit to your masculinity. To me, weakness is oppressing those less fortunate than you. To me, weakness is giving up on your life and committing suicide. To me, murdering because of a lack of diplomatic skills is weakness. I’m just going to say that black and brown people aren’t at the forefront of any of those categories, and I’ll leave it at that.
Crying is not an indication of weakness by any means. Crying is an indication of someone who is strong enough to live life to the fullest and feel a wide range of emotions that make up the beauty that is life. This idea that crying is a shot to your masculinity is the same line of thinking that leads to men beating their wives to assert their manhood. These are the same thoughts that drive little boys to fight each other just to see who “the man” is. This is why our women are complaining that there are no good men anymore, because there aren’t, flat out. But ladies, let me just ask that you be patient with us. The media and society has molded us to be a man that you don’t want.
From the day young boys come into the world, we wrap them in a blue blanket, because pink would be unacceptable. Keep in mind we wouldn’t mind if our daughters had to be wrapped in a blue blanket because the pinks were all dirty, but we would BUY a blue cover if it happened the other way around. As boys get older, we learn many reasons why we’re entitled to the world. We watch our sisters learn how to clean up the house or cook in the kitchen while we run around making a mess and being congratulated for reckless behavior. If our toys weren’t enough, music videos degrading women, “chick flicks” that teach girls that their life is incomplete without a great man (that guy in your favorite movie doesn’t exist by the way), and many well planned double standards will drive home the point that women should play secondary to men. If you don’t believe that society has it out for women yet, even your Bible tries to make sure that men stay in power.
All of this is enough to make me think (step one), and I can’t help but cry(step 2). I cry not because this has adversely affected my life, as it has, but because so many people are blind/ignorant to these truths. Why would we choose to not be ignorant if it meant crawling out of our pathetic little bubbles that we’re trained to roll around in? We don’t like to think about these “negative” things. Men created the word “pessimistic” for you to use to describe me and feel better about yourself for ignoring the “negative” things in the world that you have been led to believe you can do nothing about. This has at times… brought me to tears. I can say that proudly, as a man.
So I’ve been brought to tears, big deal right? Some of you might still be thinking that nothing miraculous happens when you cry, so why is it such a big deal to me? I saw my mother cry before she finally left a man who beat her for six years. I’ve cried myself before I decided that I should change my major in college. Whether it’s something big or small, if it can bring you to tears, it is worth your while to do something about it. Even if they are tears of joy, you should be moved to want to work hard enough to experience that feeling again.
Laughing, thinking, and crying. Jimmy V claims that if you do this seven days per week you’ll be living one hell of a life and I for one am on board with that thinking. This is what it means to truly be successful, to live your life to the fullest. It obviously doesn’t stop here; we all have our personal chases for success that we will constantly pursue of course. Success is not something tangible, it’s a moment, a feeling, an emotion that humans can conceive and feel. To be successful is a great delight for humans, and it is an irreplaceable feeling if you do it on your own standards and measurements. Just a moment though? That’s a lackluster prize to say the least, no matter how great the moment. To maximize the beauty of success, it is critical to enjoy the rest of life to the fullest.
Now though I am an idealist, I don’t think it’s possible to be happy every single moment of every day or do something “exciting” every weekend. Simply get in the mindset that you will appreciate things. You will enjoy the lost art of thinking. You will laugh often and smile more than you frown. You will bask in the shower of emotions that life constantly rains down on you. None of these things cost a dime, and it’s merely a choice that you make. Someone who lives a life full of experiences that can branch from these few things that you’ve put into your mindset can truly be called a success.
In closing, Coach Jim Valvano said that cancer could take his physical abilities, but it could never take his heart, his mind, or his soul. Sometimes I feel like the world is out to get me, or that my circumstances might be rough, but I have never stared death in the face. Jim Valvano did, and he had terminal cancer and gave the same advice that I am giving now. In life I have learned that it’s not only important to learn from your own personal experiences, but from the experiences of others. A wise man inquires from a wiser man to get even wiser. I didn’t need anyone to tell me not to drink alcohol; I watched my family do it and decided that I wouldn’t share the same fate. This is just one example of how you can take someone else’s experiences and learn from them. I’m also not staring death in the face to my knowledge, but I am going to make sure that I do what Jimmy V would be doing right now if he had the blessing that is another day to live like I do. Maybe we all should do the same.
(Part 1) | Part 2