a narrative that isn’t our own

When I was growing up, I was a happy kid. I had two parents in my home who loved me. They made sure I was in great schools my entire life. They kept me very busy with athletics and extracurricular activities. They surrounded me with great people to be friends with. I was very fortunate.

Growing up in New York, my parents exposed me to the many cultures and ways of life that were accessible to us. They also made sure that I knew my history as an African American and how that history shaped who I was and would grow up to be. Through those teachings, they instilled pride for how far our people had come, sorrow for what they had gone through and burden for what their sacrifices enabled me to have in my life.

When I left home for college, I encountered lots of new people who came from all over the world with many different backgrounds. As diverse as New York is, my upbringing there didn’t offer many of the perspectives that I would encounter at the University of Virginia.

In my second year, I met a guy and became close with him. Our bond was based on being young Black males attending college. He gave me lots of things to read on Black history in America that I had never read up until that point. These are things that aren’t taught in schools, or even most African American households.

I was young and impressionable, and these books tapped into my identity. They amplified the pride, sorrow, and burden I already was raised to know and added a new feeling to the mix, anger.

I was angry about things that happened in history. Angry at things that were going on presently as a result of that history. Angry that I and many others grew up without knowing these things.

This relationship began a four-year process of me becoming an outraged person. I became disconnected from the people who were close to me. The anger was rewiring me, and I even became disconnected with myself.

I was caught up in an external narrative and lost connection with my own.

I did a lot of complaining, labeling, and focusing on how I was being wronged. None of this resulted in productive work that made me or the world a better place.

Fortunately, in time, I snapped out of this cycle and learned to integrate that information in a way that didn’t impair my ability to engage with the world. But all I have to do is close my eyes and think about those years, and I can physically feel how unsettling that time was for me.

I’m thankful for that experience because it gives me a perspective on much of what I see happening in the world today.

Collectively, humanity is stuck, pointing fingers. We spend our energy critiquing others where we have no authority and ignoring the problems where we are the authority.

We’re allowing ourselves to be pulled around by a narrative that isn’t our own.

We’re allowing labels and buckets to destroy our ability to discuss problems and solutions reasonably.

We’re diluting our potency.

If we are dissatisfied, the way to make the most significant impact in the world is by working on ourselves. The healthier and better adjusted we are, the more beneficial we are in the world. Every action we take changes the world for better or worse. Instead of observing and being curious about our actions, we are obsessing about and judging the actions of others.

There’s no shortage of failings in the world to focus on while avoiding the only shortcomings we are fully responsible for. We can go on forever doing this, and leave the world no better than we found it.

Now more than ever, it’s time to go all in.

What does that look like?

Detox from behavior like armchair quarterbacking, complaining, and making ourselves small while avoiding the real confrontation we need to engage in.

Being real about the fact that we are the only ones in the world who can bring ourselves peace and happiness.

Recognize that our health has a direct impact on our effectiveness. If we are good now while unhealthy, imagine how incredible we would be if we were healthy.

Accept that some of the choices we make every day contribute to the most world’s most significant challenges. If all we did was work on improving our own choices for the next year, we would make an exponential difference compared to the one we make talking about what others need to do.

We’ve spent enough time critiquing the others. It’s time to focus on ourselves with love, patience, and curious experimentation.

The problems we face are not going to get solved with the status quo systems and activities. We need a movement of people working on themselves, acknowledging their power, and being willing to change.

Anger as anything but a catalyst for improvement is toxic.

We’re born to be creative, solve problems, and overcome challenges. Let’s step into our birthright.

Have a grateful day.

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