regret and insecurities

this post might be slightly grim, so i am apologizing in advance.

 

recently, a rather tragic event has happened to my family.  some of you reading this already know about it, but for those who don’t, i am going to try to give you a rundown of what happened so you can be up to speed for the rest of this blog post.  admittedly, this happened as a result of a decision i made, but i ask that you consider the outside circumstances of what my life looked like at the time before making any judgments.

this is something that i saw coming, and very well could have prevented, but i decided to let life play out and take the next things as they came.

i have included a photo that better shows what we were facing several weeks ago, so if seeing a photo of this type of subject matter is too much to handle, i would advise using discretion.

the photo is pretty self-explanatory, but i’ll offer additional thoughts after you see it.

 

here it is:

corncorw

i am sorry to have put you through this, as i know that looking at me with cornrows has now caused you lasting damage.  you wouldn’t be the only ones, though.  along with you are the strangers at the grocery store, cowering in fear as they shoot their side-eyes, the facebook commenters who i can only imagine were trembling behind their computer screens at the horror of seeing this picture pop up on their news feeds, and everyone else who’s life apparently depends on how i wear my hair.  one person even told me that getting cornrows was a “stupid decision,” i guess because that decision somehow affected them in a negative way.  or maybe the idea of somebody wearing a hairstyle that they deemed dumb based on their perception of what dumb hairstyles are was too much to deal with.  THEY COULDN’T.  EVEN.  (interesting, isn’t it?  i always thought stupid decisions were ones that aren’t easily changed.)  i guess i owe an apology to my family for my being so willing to besmirch our good name.  they should never have to deal with people giving me funny looks.  it’s just too much.

 

you know what drove me to make this awful decision?  it was the fact that i don’t want to live a life of regret.

 

the older i get, the more i am realizing how my decision 5 years ago to stop the pursuit of becoming a professional dancer brought forth more change than pain.  growing up, one of the biggest problems i had was worrying about what people think of me.  i still don’t know if that was brought about from being a ballet boy, or if it is something that intrinsically exists within me.  i can remember my dad always telling me “you don’t need to worry about what other people think” or “it doesn’t matter what they think of xyz,” and my decision to abandon that which i thought was my life’s calling was the beginning of the end of that worry in my life.  yes, at 24 years old, i finally started figuring it out.

that was around the same time i started figuring out how insecure i actually was, about a lot of things.  i had spent the past 6 years standing in front of a mirror in tights for 6 hrs a day almost everyday until the day i quit.  that is a sure fire way to become insecure.  and i was insecure about my abilities as a dancer.  and about what people would think if i stopped dancing, and what they would think if i didn’t, or what they would think if i moved, or didn’t have another career to jump into, or that i was “wasting” my gift, and on and on and onnnnn.  so when i finally wised up and decided to make a bold life change i realized that IT DOESN’T MATTER.  i let go of all these dumb insecurities that have no power over my life and started allowing myself to find pleasure in things i love.  i allowed myself to be the inner dork i always knew i was: the one who loves classical music, a cappella choral music, making pottery (which i really miss doing, btw), fashion, hair, creating, running, knitting, project runway, lifting weights, giraffes, hgtv, wine, america’s next top model, food, roller coasters, gymnastics, the ocean, decorating, deep conversation, nights in, shoes, singing, and whatever the heck else i wanna like because, once again, IT DOESN’T MATTER.  the only thing that being insecure about who i am leads me to is regret.  and since i have no room for regret in my life, i also have no room for insecurity.

 

so yes, i got cornrows.  whoop-de-freaking-do.

 

and guess what?  i once had a beiber haircut.  granted, this was before anyone knew who he was, so maybe HE actually had a BATTLES haircut.  boom.

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then i had my lovely wife make some of it green and blue.  THE HORROR.

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then i had a mohawk with bomb racing stripes.

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then i buzzed it.

then it grew out again.

then i bleached it.  GASP.

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then i buzzed it again.

then it grew out some.

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then i grew it out again.

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then i cut it short.

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then i bleached it.  AGAIN.  I KNOW.  YOU CAN’T.

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then i buzzed it.

then i spent a year and a half growing it to this.

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then i got it cut again.

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side note: too many of y’all commented about how this hair cut was “so much better!”  uh.  thanks.  didn’t know i needed so much improvement.  howev, i’m glad that it no longer causes you distress to look at me.  i had long hair.  what a tragedy.

that’s 10 things that i won’t have to have regret about later in life.  11 if you count the cornrows.  and honestly, it woulda been dumb if i let any insecurities about what people might think of my hairstyle stop me from changing it.  seriously, what a failure that would’ve been.

so, no more.  no more insecurities about the things that are inside of me.  no more insecurities about the things i love or like.  no more insecurities about the things that make me “me.”  once again, insecurities lead straight to regret, and neither are worth giving power to anyone else because of their perceptions of me, whether i’ve preconceived them or not.

and no more for you, too!

 

btw, i have a pair of white jeans, in case you were wondering.  ERMAHGERD!

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it’s time to stop this train

he didn’t say it to my face.

“he’s queer as a football bat.”

i remember feeling like my skin was turning clear, exposing all of the places deep inside me that this most recent dose of venom sunk into.  i sat a few seats ahead of him in algebra class and was used to his daggers, but this one was particularly painful.  i’ll never know if i was able to maintain my composure in that moment.  at that point, i was very familiar with how difficult it was to keep cool and pretend that the sting i felt wasn’t visible to everyone around me, but i’m not sure if i was ever proficient in my ability to appear unfazed.  i’m fairly certain that my teacher heard the comment, probably because he managed to say it in a split-second moment of silence, and she managed to come to my defense without further embarrassing me.  while i’m thankful for her stepping in, looking back i don’t feel as if her normal teacher discipline was enough for such a hateful remark – even if i was grateful for someone coming to my defense at the time.

this is the same guy who called me “faggy” every time i happened to be in his presence, and probably not surprisingly, never to my face.  you’d think that in a relatively large high school with several thousand students, my path wouldn’t have to cross with his more than once each day.  no such luck, of course.  i can remember everyday walking towards him on the way to what was probably one of my last classes of the day.  i’m not sure if i was dejected or exhausted enough to not pay any attention to him, or if i was just so angry that i literally couldn’t look at him.  either way, i stared straight ahead, as if he didn’t exist, waiting to hear that 5 letter word, knowing full well it was coming.  “faggy” this, “faggy” that…i can’t even tell you anything specific he said, probably because it was all nonsense used for the purpose of calling me “faggy.”  regardless, it was never as i was looking at him.  always beside, far off, or behind.  i wish i had had the guts to square up to him and demand him to say it to me.  to say it TO me.  i think i was too fragile at that point, even as a sophomore in high school, from enduring the years from middle school until that point of being talked AT.  not to mention, he was a senior.  that would have worked against me.

naturally, i have no clue what exactly he had against me.  i had never spoken to him before he narrowed his sights on me.  did he know i “did ballet”?  big deal, by the way.  was it because i didn’t have the typical persona that high school boys think they need to have in order to be relevant?  was it because i didn’t have a problem being myself in front of people who accepted me?  is it because i was willing, at times, to bare my soul a little bit?  do i even do that anymore?  i can’t even remember if i was someone who wore his heart on his sleeve because i was too busy guarding it.  or trying to, anyways.

still, for the purpose of what i’m trying to convey, that’s not the point.

i’m worried about us.  more specifically, i’m worried about the way we address each other.  more specifically still, i’m worried about the way we address each other on facebook.  i feel dumb for even typing that sentence, but i think most would agree that it’s becoming a huge problem.

i decided about 4 years ago to consciously change the way i use facebook.  i had become too arrogant in my opinions and as it was pointed out to me, quite negative.  even now, if i look back on my timeline to that time, i seem like someone who spent his life annoyed and cynical.  it’s certainly not something i’m proud of.  even worse, my willingness to be openly negative and annoyed spilled over into what i said to people in the trusty ‘comments’ section.  yes, even as a victim of verbal attacks, i dished it out (even to the point of delight at times, admittedly) from behind the protection of my computer screen.  hopefully i’ve improved in these areas.

over the past several years (and since trying to change myself as i pertain to and use facebook), i’ve noticed that facebook as a whole has been becoming increasingly vitriolic, probably at the same rate that facebook has been becoming increasingly more of a platform for many things.  this medium of social connection has now become an arena of self-bolstering for our quest to be superior in knowledge and right in opinion.

here’s why i’m worried: because we have turned facebook into a medium for our self-centerdness, we have turned ourselves into the guy that sat behind me in algebra class.

i challenge you to take a scroll through your facebook news feed and find an opinion based post.  we all have those friends who relentlessly stir the pot, so finding something like this shouldn’t be difficult.  once you find it, read the 37 comments.  it won’t be long before you find someone insulting someone else or a group of people.  some of the things people are willing to say to and about someone that they may or may not know actually blow my mind.  i’ve seen, and some sense been victim to, some pretty awful attacks.  i almost don’t feel as if i need to explain what happens, because you’ve all seen it, but the comments section gets out of control because somebody gets mad, then makes someone else mad, then someone else, and still someone else, and before you know it, everybody is mad and trying to outdo each other.  the once debate is now an argument, and the subject matter is now far from that of the original post.  i’ve seen it most when it deals with politics, religion, sports, or the mommy wars.  i’m starting to wonder if some people actually thrive off of these kinds of arguments, which is an entirely different problem.

the more i would read these arguments with waxing frustration, the more i realized that i would ask myself repeatedly “would he/she say this to his/her face?”  because of the nature of facebook commenting, people are indulging in the luxury of being able to take a good amount of time to formulate the best possible argument they can, to make it sound perfect and infallible, all while adding the perfect amount of insult and sarcasm.  they are literally taking time to write the perfect putdown, knowing full well they won’t have to deal with actually saying it TO someone.  i can hardly think of any greater cowardice.  what if these arguments WERE face to face?  would we be fine with saying the exact same things that we so easily say on facebook to the face of the person we are saying them to?  sadly, i’m not always sure the answer is ‘no.’  think about it…it’s way easier to let your fingers loose to just type away as they please than it is to say something from a few desks behind someone in math class, right?  this is getting scary.

the problem is that we are getting so comfortable saying whatever comes to mind on facebook, that it won’t be long before this keyboard confidence spills over into daily life, and we’re ignoring the respect we should have for each other, social cues, tension, or accountability.  we’re going to be ok with openly and freely insulting, tearing down, and attacking someone to their face…more ok.  probably the most painful thing about the insults that i got hit with from the kid from high school was that he must’ve known how hurtful the things he said to me were.  so hurtful that he couldn’t bring himself to say it directly to me and hold himself accountable.  he knew what he was saying was hurtful but said it anyways.  and safely from a distance.  we’re doing the same thing on facebook.

facebook isn’t all bad.  i have no problem with well thought out, respectful opinions and/or debates, and sometimes people truly feel they are shedding light on some things/opinions that may be misunderstood.  this is not in and of itself bad.  but facebook has given voice to the voiceless, and has given most of us an audience bigger than we have had or will have access to, so we need to remember that with great power comes great responsibility.  those aren’t just names and avatars you’re seeing, they’re people.  people with real feelings and struggles.  people who are sensitive, people who hurt, people who feel. and they can hear you, whether virtually or physically.  be careful with them.  know when to speak and not…you don’t have to say something about everything.  it’s a great skill to hold your tongue and be wise about weighing in.  holding our tongues doesn’t make us wrong or defeated, it actually breaks the cycle.  “when words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.”  (prov 10:19)

i’m not sure if i even brought my point home here.  basically, next time you start to get “turnt up” by somebody on facebook, picture yourself sitting with them over coffee before you respond.  it’s time to stop this train.

the death of chevron

ladies.  it’s time to get real about pinterest.

 

don’t get me wrong, i love a good mason jar, but is that where you are going to let all of your creativity live?  mason jar this, mason jar that.  chevron this, chevron that.  i get it, the cottage/shabby chic style is awesome.  my wife and i own a hair salon, and it was built and designed based upon inspiration that comes from that style of decorating, but you have more in you!  i promise.

 

i’m getting ahead of myself.  i think pinterest is a good thing.  i certainly don’t have a pinterest account, but i have seen it enough times to get a pretty good feel for it.  it’s full of pictures, how-to’s, recipes, hairstyles, clothing styles, you name it…y’all know all of this.  it is a fantastic place to find inspiration for DIY decorating at your home, or for finding examples of hairstyles you might be interested in, for example (totally more than applicable in my world).  seriously, that web site is like google images on crack.  there have been times when i’ve looked over somebody’s shoulder as they were on pinterest (which, by the way, is probably the most annoying thing anybody can do to anyone else who is on any website ever) scrolling through all of these pictures of desserts and i coulda dang salivated like i was being trained by pavlov himself.  as a matter of fact, just the other day, i had these apple dumplings that were made by somebody in my small group (thanks, sara) that were just BOMB.  yep, she got the recipe from pinterest (thanks, pinterest).  i’m sure, also, that somewhere in my subconscious i have assisted in and/or made a decorating choice (whether at my house or my salon) that came from something i may have happened to catch a glance of on pinterest.  there is PLENTY of inspiration to find on that website, and i’ve seen the mark it has made on some or your lives.  i see your amazing centerpieces, or the new painting you did (yes, YOU did it, with your own hands), or the pictures of the food you made for the first time that looks amazing.  i see it.  and it looks great.  and you should be proud of what you’ve created.

 

i am really concerned, though.  i am concerned that identities are being claimed right and left by this addictive website.  the creators of this website were quite clever to figure out a way to tap into the natural desire of a woman to make the home.  now before you rosie the riveter’s get your head scarves tied on too tight, hear me out.  it is completely natural for women to yearn to create a home that represents them, or an environment that is beautiful or inviting, or a safe place for their families.  it’s an incredible thing that they are born with, and an incredible thing they can provide.  seriously, thank God for the woman’s ability and desire to make a happy home.  i am grateful for that.  i understand how, given this desire, pinterest is heaven for women especially.  it’s ok to look to pinterest for ideas to create a holiday environment that makes your children happy, or makes memories, or even solely makes you feel good to come home to.  it’s ok to look to pinterest to make those adorable little cake pops for your friend’s baby shower.  that’s the gift you can provide.  (i could go on about how your innate femininity serves humanity.  it’s a beautiful thing).  but listen, girls.  your inner woman is unique to you.  you don’t need pinterest.  you don’t.  maybe your centerpiece won’t end up on a magazine cover, but if comes naturally from you and you love it for your home and family, then you’ve done something right.  i have to say, my wife can make a dang good flower arrangement.  i mean homegirl can ARRANGE some flowers, ok?  she didn’t get that skill from pinterest.  it’s just something she has.  and she can make a bow like nobody’s business, too.  and it’s interesting, she has friends that seek her help with bow-making, and my wife might seek their help for something else.  do you see?  there is something in you!  i worry that you subconsciously try to measure up to every perfect thing you see on pinterest.  (i realize it comes from other sources than just pinterest, by the way).  you don’t have to measure up.  a lot of these perfect rooms, or perfect chairs, or perfect dining room tables were put together by people who are HIRED to do so.  there are a select few people in this world who’s occupation is style.  pinterest, unfortunately, tells the lie that having the skill of a professional stylist is the status quo.  i am claiming victory over that lie on your behalf!  (pentecostal moment).

 

what i’m trying to say is, your identity can’t be found there…on pinterest, or in anything you see there.  your dining room table centerpiece is an EXTENSION of your identity.  and these moments of beauty might not be found in home decor.  the extension of your identity might be found in your job, or your heart to serve others, or the way you cook, or the way you interact with society.  (maybe it’s time to dig a little deeper into where your identity comes from.  i personally believe it is God-given, but others may have a different view).  don’t believe pinterest when it tells you that you are LESS because you can’t measure up to the perfect facade it presents.  put as many mason jars, chalkboard frames, and chevron table cloths in your house that you so desire.  but it might be time to put chevron to death…or at least until you can look at those perfect chevron curtains and say “you don’t define me.”

 

 

*i am fully aware that i am not a female and that many of you reading this are pinterest lovers.  kindly refer to the second full paragraph of this post.  while i still consider it to be something that is robbing femininity instead of encouraging it, i realize that there are plenty of pinterest lovers who are secure in their identity.  also, i have plenty of things that i try to measure up to.  i’m nowhere near perfect.

$6.06

do you ever get annoyed with the issue of giving to beggars?  it should be a lot easier than it is.  really.  why should i ever have to calculate in my head if/what/how much i should give?  should i ever have to try to dig into why somebody is asking me for the $.24 they need to catch the bus to the other side of town?  should i then question why they are sitting at starbucks with clean clothes and sunglasses that look brand new?  or how they got to starbucks in the first place?  or how many bus trips they have taken in the past few days to get to wherever they are going?  or why they need to be taking so many bus trips, because clearly if they didn’t, they wouldn’t need to be asking for money?  i shouldn’t be asking these questions.  period.

let me tell you a little story.

last night after work, i had to stop to get gas before going home (because there are basically ZERO gas stations within a few mile radius of my neighborhood…SERIOUSLY.  help a brother out.  the other day i happened to be on “e” and i could either drive 7 minutes to get gas, or 10 minutes to get gas at the station next door to work.  there is something wrong with this.  i get it, cary, nc, you want to stay pretty and everything, which i totally appreciate, but a dang gas station remotely close to where i live would be nice.  i mean, not that i feel that somebody should spend tons of money just because i sometimes forget to use my brain and make sure i have adequate gas in the tank, God forbid there is an emergency, but for the rest of the huge community i live in.  it would be quite a successful business venture.  maybe i’ll be an investor).  as i was pumping le gas, i hear the dreaded “sir…sir?  sir!”  (ugh, reminds me of the time when i was in detroit for a summer dance intensive.  this particular instance occurred at yet another gas station.  we had stopped to fill up and get snacks and i happened to be the last one back to the van.  my chaperones and peers thought it would be just hilarious to lock me out to deal with the homeless person that was approaching.  [detroit is obviously known for the amount of homeless people there].  i started frantically yanking the door handle and giving what i found out years later to be my “parent face” to the hysterically laughing people in the van, hoping they would unlock the door.  in the middle of my rant, i heard those same words: “sir…sir?  sir!”  and they were getting closer and closer, so of course, to unintentionally make it more awkward than it already was, i waited until she was almost at my back, then turned around and said “hiiiiiii.”  a scene straight out of a movie).  once i realized this guy was talking to me, i turned and looked at him as he dove into his shpiel.  i couldn’t understand most of it because he was talking at 90 mpm (miles per minute), but what i got from the whole thing was that he is from greensboro, just dropped somebody off at the airport, and his 2.5 months pregnant wife left their debit card somewhere.  whether she left it at the hotel, sheetz, or food lion i’m not sure.  oh, and that he needed food and gas and that airport people are mean.  he threw that in there, too.  he kept on with the whole “i don’t ask for much, i’m an honest person, you know, baptist person” thing and told me he would send whatever money i gave him back in the mail.  because i’m going to give a begging stranger my home address.

as annoyed as i was, i remembered a conversation that i was a part of one night at small group about giving and our motive for it, so i decided to help him out.  really, what is $10?  so i told him i’d put some gas in his car.  i think he was both baffled and caught off guard at my offer, because his hesitation and acceptance of my offer was shrouded with disapproval.  really, dude?  you’re asking a stranger for help and you are going to be choosey?  i didn’t have cash on me, but i could tell that’s what he really wanted.  “even just 2.5 gallons would be helpful,” he says.  anyways, i walked over to the pump where his car was parked and started to, very discretely, put my debit card in the card reader and get this process started.  when i turned around ready to pump gas into his car, he hands me a gas jug.  “this thing holds 2.5 gallons.”  i was like…???  “i just realized my wife took the keys to the car when she walked over to chick-fil-a to try to find food.”  (chick-fil-a is probably 50 feet from this gas station).  again, i was like…???  “i need the key in order to get to my gas tank.”  at the time, i was too flustered to remember that some people buy locks for their gas caps, so i questioned him.  not once did he open the fuel door to prove to me that he needed a key.  upon pressing the issue, and him sensing my doubt of the legitimacy of his request, he started saying things like “it’s ok, you don’t have to help.  it’s not your problem.”  but these little statements were DRIPPING with guilt directed at me.  at that time i was so mad.  i was mad that, up until that point, i had swallowed my pride and agreed to help this man, but i was more mad that i had been taken advantage of.  so i kept hitting “cancel” on the card keypad so i could put the pump back and go home to eat dinner.  tell me the dang thing wouldn’t cancel.  REALLY?  over and over i pushed that little yellow button, and with so much fervor.  i tried everything more than once.  finally i turned to him and, probably somewhat begrudgingly asked, “all right, how much will that thing take?”  “2.5 gallons or so.”  i proceed to pump gas into this jug.  i had been looking at how many gallons i was pumping as opposed to dollars, and at just below 2 gallons, the gas neared the top of the jug, so i stopped.  the total came to $6.06.

at this time, i decided to calm down just a little, because what’s done is done.  i thought it would be best to actually connect with this man in some kind of way.  i’ll admit, there was a hint of a spiteful motive in taking time to talk to him a little bit.  a very small part of me wanted to hold him accountable for scheming to get money.  was he telling the truth about needing a key to open his gas cap?  i’ll never know, but i did have half a mind to fling the fuel door wide open.  i should’ve.  it doesn’t matter, though.  i proceeded to ask about his wife and their baby on the way.  was this potentially another lie?  i don’t know.  he said they’ve been married 20 years and didn’t have any children.  dude was pushin’ 50, although he looked aged, so maybe he was younger than i thought.  so i gave him all the parent advice i could for somebody who is about to enter that cramazeful (crazy, amazing, stressful) journey.  he told me they waited so long to have kids so he could learn maturity and responsibility.  -_-

so what do i do with all of this going forward?  ultimately, we should give whenever we can.  it isn’t my responsibility to determine somebody’s life decisions with the $5 i throw their way, and i shouldn’t give based upon whether i think they will be responsible with it or not.  heck, i shouldn’t even give because i’ve been helped out before.  i should give because of the love that i should have for people.  that’s the only reason.  i shouldn’t put anyone’s motives for asking through any sort of qualifiers to deem them worthy of my resources or not.  after all, my resources did not start out as mine, and when i use them, they definitely won’t be mine, wherever the end up.  yes, people tricking others into giving them money/food/whatever is definitely an issue, but as a giver, that’s not my problem.  my responsibility is to meet a need, not to give only when the beggar’s circumstances meet my perception of when something is deserved.

these types of situations aren’t the major issue, but they certainly point to some.  it wouldn’t take much reflection to figure out what they are, whether you’re the beggar or the giver.  so next time you’re approached with “sir/ma’am…sir/ma’am?  sir/ma’am!” (which by the way would be HILARIOUS if they said “sir/ma’am”!  well maybe not too funny, because that would suggest that your gender cannot be determined.  unless you’re going for that, then it would be hilarious), i would challenge you to try to give and connect.  it might not do much for somebody who’s looking for spare change to get a buzz somewhere, but maybe it would for somebody who’s asking in earnest.  i can only hope that genuine giving would start to hold a mirror to beggars, but it will DEFINITELY change you.