12/7/2008 After mentoring in Harlem on Tuesday night, my friend and fellow “social entrepreneur” went to the Starbucks across the street. We were both weary, we had had full days at work in midtown, traveled to Harlem, and had some pretty interesting, insightful, and yet disturbing conversations with beautiful young ladies that were stuck…we all know that feeling. One young lady described herself in a deep black hole that she couldn’t get out of. She was a teenage mother in foster care, and her son had been taken from her and also put in foster care. She saw him shortly after he was taken, and the toddler had a definite black eye (his foster mother said he “fell”). Other than cursing the woman out, threatening to hit her, complaining to the center, and getting drunk, there was nothing in her eyes she could do about her situation. She was a caring mom but found herself continually enjoying weed and alcohol (so when she was randomly checked by the center – she clearly failed that test, thus lost her child to the system). So we went to Starbucks, our regular gathering place, ordered our usual coffees and treats while talking (loudly, we are pretty passionate women) about our next move, how could we help the young women in America. However, as we stood in line waiting for our drinks, a somewhat dapper man, in his early thirties, dressed in suit and tie, came and stood by my friend. “This is a good book,” he said, butting into our conversation and holding up some book with the title, “What black women need to know about the black man.” I quickly dismissed him, with my usual, “that’s cool,” quick smile, and then diverted full attention to my friend. It was my “New York” way of being kind, after living here for nearly three years or my entire independent life, I have realized that New York is where I want to stay and have a family and with that, I have taught myself the best way to ignore folks (when I want to) yet be polite (I have to stay true to my Midwest culture). He was one of the many people that I met (and sometimes had conversations with – guilty pleasure) on the subway, walking to work, in cafés, and other social outings, one of the reasons I loved yet hated NYC. My friend, on the other hand, did not dismiss him, “well, I already know the black man,” she said. After a brief conversation, he realized that she was happily engaged and then told her that he met and marries his mom within a week. He met her at a Starbucks and asked her a bunch of questions such as (these are verbatim): 1. Have you ever been molested? 2. Have you ever had sex with a family member? 3. Have you ever been raped? Yes, these were on the top of his lists, along with “what’s your favorite color?” He told her upfront that he needed to know because they were possibly life partners. So being me, I could no longer hold my tongue, I mean how ridiculous, when was molestation a deal-breaker when meeting someone after 15 minutes and proposing. “Well, you are right, she is your soul mate because if any man asking me a bunch of questions like that, I would clearly have a huge problem,” I told him, hopefully after that comment he was going to stop talking. But no, a huge smile crossed his face. He told me I was right, most women curse him out, but she said, “what you are bullsh#@in me,” (he smiled as though her words were like enlightening sweet poetry) he then told her he was not joking and would see her in a week. She showed up, and he showed up, and they have been happily married for a year and six months. I smiled, wished them many blessings on their marriage, and continued to talk with my friend, but secretly my mind couldn’t get past this story. On my way home, I began thinking about his love story. I couldn’t wait to tell Mike about this; he happens to be a fan of my “stranger stories” except the one when this weird old man kept calling me a bi$%# underneath his breath. But as crazy as the story was, I couldn’t help but be intrigued and question why I had so many mental limitations. He didn’t care about my acceptance at all. He didn’t care about the rolling of my eyes, my rude insertion, or my quick dismissal – he had his love story to tell, and he was going to share it. It made me think about my life, and how so often I find myself living within certain limitations. I mean, I am definitely ambitious and think big, but in my everyday life, I see myself doing certain things because I am supposed to…whatever that means. I have never considered myself someone that looks to be accepted; in many ways, that is the opposite of who I am. I have never run away from a fight and never took displeasure in competition or someone disliking me. In fact, in my life, I have welcomed opposition; something about it puts me on my toes, but regardless of that, many times, I restrict myself and thoughts based on the opinions of others (whether they are loved ones or strangers). I don’t want to go too far out, because I don’t want to be seen as that girl or fail in front of others. I don’t want to fall/fail/get rejected in anyways, so I limit, I have learned how far I can go before I am in unknown territory. I push myself but stop at the breaking point. I play the game smart at all times because I don’t want to learn through regret or ridicule. But I have realized that this is not the life that I want to live. So, while I can’t see myself marrying someone in a week (clearly), that man changed my life because I made a resolution to myself and God, that He is where my accountability lay. I will slowly but surely do the things, wear the items, and say things that I want and not be restricted by the thoughts of others. Because this life is short and the next day is not guaranteed, so yes, I am going to enjoy every last drop. I will love harder, dance harder, work harder, laugh harder, cry harder, try harder, and forget about yesterday, tomorrow, or what the people say.
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