Radical Joy

 Photo by  Taylor Ann Wright  

Last week my husband and I received news that we were not prepared to hear.  Then came this revelation: 

When we cannot control a thing, we must decide to let go and choose happiness. 

We choose joy because it is our best way back to peace. We choose happiness because the said situation is as we mentioned – out of our control – so there is no point trying to control something that is uncontrollable. 

We choose happiness because if you take a broad inventory of your life, you realize that your days are shorter than expected and time has marched on without you giving much thought to it, like you one day awoke and could not believe today, or the year, the month had actually arrived. 

You choose joy because sadness does not only have an affect on you physically and mentally, but it affects your children, the people you work with, and the person you love the most. That pain is transferable, and if you allow it, if you let it, it will consume the best parts of your life. 

We choose happiness because it is a choice, like deciding what you have for dinner or if you will have tea or coffee. Happiness is a choice like choosing to smile at a stranger or over tip your waitress. It is a choice like deciding on dinner and a movie or a stroll in the park. It is a choice of your choosing. Choose well. 

The painful discovery, the missed recital, the unfortunate call has happened. You are allowed to mourn and grieve for what was lost. But that moment lives in the past, a past that you cannot alter and what is out of your control you must release. 

Joy is your only way forward. 

It is a radical act because another choice springs forth to meet you in your despair, that of the victim. But if you read the fine print, the victim role is a counterfeit and does not lead to happiness but discontent and further victimization. You end up giving away the same power and energy that is necessary for your freedom. The victim role was instant gratification and came with hugs and sympathy cards, but what really can these things do for you in your darkest hour? 

There is another way.  Choose joy. 

Your joy and story can offer others hope. Your happiness is a lantern of grace showing the way for those who may be lost in the depths of their sorrow. By choosing joy, you choose love over fear and a hope for a more desirable tomorrow.  

University of North Texas Communication Studies Master's Hooding Ceremony

Transcript

INTRODUCTION – Thank You & Congratulations

I want first to thank Brian Richardson & and the entire Communication Studies faculty for asking me to come here and speak today. I want to thank my mother and best friend who took the long road to Denton to come out and support me. Construction has been going on here since I left, that’s amazing! (Do we have a completion date??) I also want to thank.  Dr. Allison, Dr. Karen Lain-Anderson, Dr. Brian Lain, Dr. Justin Tredau & Dr. Richardson, forgive me if I left out anyone. You all have a part in who I am today, thank you.  [PAUSE]  

CONGRATULATIONS to you 2018 graduates

Preparing for this speech, I wanted to keep in mind the task was given. I was asked to be upbeat and hopeful. Encourage & Inspire you, to tell you there is a glorious life waiting for you on the other side of your degree [PAUSE]. 

Because you all are not the middle schoolers and high schoolers I usually speak with; I've decided I am just going to give you the information, tell the truth, with a few stories of how, on the back of my degree, I designed, planned, and built the life I have today. 

The complex problem we find ourselves in today is celebrity is worshiped and rewarded. The outrageous is applauded. You all want to create real work in a world that no longer recognizes what is disciplined and profound. Social media pulls you away from study and deep work. Reality television challenges your notions of the real art form of acting and theatre. You will be forced to compete with nepotism and favors, but still, you must tell yourself the work will be worth it.


The Almighty Google says your future career options are these: Media planner, Multimedia specialist, Programme researcher, broadcasting/film/video, Public relations officer, Social media manager, Television producer, Web content manager, so on and so on. But I want to present another option. 

ARGUMENT: You must CREATE! The world will make room for the person you want to become, but you will have to create it. 

Three Points: Have a vision and Begin, Create, create, create; Master self-mastery

POINT ONE
#1 [Have a vision & BEGIN]
You must have a vision for your life even if you don't know the plan? You have to have a direction in which you wish to go.  from the philosopher - Oprah [PAUSE]

When I left college my dream was simple – I was going to be Cameron Diaz from the movie Any Given Sunday. My goal was to be first African American woman to own a basketball team because I believed the boys had way too much fun. In the movie, Diaz was strong and courageous. The dream, my dream was born out of that movie, a movie I saw when I was a teenager.  

I was presented with many challenges when I began my career in the sports industry, but one, in particular, stands out.  The first day of my internship we were told if we were going to succeed, land a job we had to sale and sale well. the only problem was, I knew nothing about sales or the sports industry. I just knew I wanted to own a sports team. I did not know where to start but knew I could talk to anyone. Challenge Accepted. I sold to everyone: my mother, her friends and everyone in between. And after the three-month internship ended, I was offered a position on the spot. 


[BEGIN] Begin with where you are and with what you have.

The charge I give you today, wait for NO ONE to do for you, what you are capable of doing for yourself. 

At this point, with your degree, and for some a masters degree at that! You are more than equipped to create the life you want for yourself. [PAUSE] If you don’t see a way into the job or industry you want, create it. If there is not a company that fits your philosophy build it. if you find yourself utterly unhappy at the way life has turned out, and those days will come, reimagine your life. 

No one gave me permission to enter the sports world or dream the dream I had. Nor to be a writer, I gave it to myself first and then I started. [PAUSE] I started writing right where I was. I started writing about the things I loved and cared about. I set a routine, I got up early, I planned out my success. I started living out the person I said I wanted to be and the world adjusted. It made room for me and is making room for the person I am becoming.  

It will do the same for you! 

I saw a video on Facebook earlier this week, a man used a piece of wring to tie the front in of a walking lawnmower, to the back of a golf cart. He hung dice from the top of his creation, and appeared to be having the time of his life. He just invented a riding lawnmower. Genius, I thought. Another thought I had was about us as humans, we are capable of inventing outrageous and workable solutions to our problems when we have had enough; Or like my mother used to say, while raising triplets, when she had enough of our foolishness, she was  “fed up,” My second charge to you all is to be “fed up” and create. Be “fed up” with the news media the outrageous behavior of our elected officials or the way the world asserts itself on you through continuous advertisements. 

POINT TWO
#2 - [CREATE] 
I believe You have what you create. Nothing more. Nothing Less.  

I was apart of the building two minor league NBA teams. Days were long and the nights were lonely. I had moved away from the man who is now my husband in pursuit of my dreams. The process was exhausting, but what I learned in the building process no one can take away from me the experience, all the lessons I had learned, the coaching, the teaching. 

I challenged my sales reps to design the life they wanted in the future and start here, laying the foundation for their future careers with this infant organization we were growing. Most of my sales reps were recent graduates, from the city or wealthier areas in upstate New York. That did not matter in our sales office because they needed to learn how to sale. They are necessary to build a client base in the area we operated in. So, I challenged them by who they say they wanted to become. Whether it was a General Manager, Sales Director, Head Coach. I would also remind them, “This is who you SAID want to be, let's create it!”


Be committed. Be willing. Be without fear or hesitation to do the work of creating. In the end, the work and what you produce from your mind, your hands, is all that matters. And it is what you have for yourself. Its what you get to keep for yourself in a world that is changing quickly. 


Post-rationalize - realize as it pertains to your work, there are no mistakes, create, put it out there. If a project makes no makes no noise or does not garner the results you expected, great, go back to the lab and create again. 

When I look out at the world and at what has happened to our political system, the indifference shown towards minorities, the popularity of the Kardashians [PAUSE] I see a world that is different than me, a world that values things that I don't value, a world that is changing, heading in a direction I don’t want to go, I, at times, feel alone, as I am sure some of you do. However, in the early mornings and sometimes late at night, when my phone is down and the television is off, I am reminded the strength that comes in creating.

The responsibility that falls on each of us as individuals with free will to create something. I am reminded as a mentor used to say, “If its to be. it's up to me, and you.” 

POINT THREE
#3 [Commit to Self Mastery]
Socrates demonstrated long ago, that the truly free individual is free only to the extent of his self-mastery.

I realized a few years ago that I would not own a sports team. That dream, that vision had carried me as far as it could take me. I had lived my early 20-something dreams of moving to New York. I met people this culture labels as famous and celebrities, I traveled to Johannesburg Africa, to help with basketball camps and to work with other organizations to build homes and visit orphanages for children with AIDS. I watched my home team win the NBA Championship in 2011. I left no dream unturned. 

But I wanted something more, 

Principle of Priority, states (a) you must know the difference between what is urgent and what is essential, and (b) you must do what's important first.

Writing and talking with young people is my heritage. It’s in my roots. My mother did this work, as a Dallas police officer for over 30 years. 

Leaving the confines of these walls a plethora of choices await you. In the creation process, this can go for or against you. 

 Why? because out of your mind, you can create paths for yourself that you never imagined. 

Allow your LIFE to unfold. Allow yourself to risk, to cry, to laugh, to live. 

But remember, Newton's third law of motion is always in effect: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. 

What you put out you will get back. Master self. Decide what is important to you and do that.

You probably have asked or will ask yourself the big question: What do I want? Who do I want to be? Don't fear these questions. Ask them of yourself often. 

Build a plan for disruption, decide today
A few of borrowed guidelines in my plan: do not at any cost try to fit in, question the status quo, be kind, envision an alternative, be willing to create what you critique. 

As Communication Studies graduates you all are in a distinctive position to explain and communicate the world as it is today in unique ways.


Embrace the opportunity to shape AND tell the story. 


CLOSING
8 years after my graduation the things I know to be true --- service is the only way you secure a life worth living, the game of popularity is unwinnable and even those who excel at it have to give pieces of themselves away, you have what you create, and if you don’t remember anything, remember, love and humility covers all your bases, so live brave. love people. 

Thank you

 

The Startling Power of Fear

 
 PHOTOGRAPHED BY WILLIAM STITT

PHOTOGRAPHED BY WILLIAM STITT

 
While I was fearing it, it came,
But came with less of fear,
Because that fearing it so long
Had almost made it dear.
There is a fitting a dismay,
A fitting a despair.
’T is harder knowing it is due,
Than knowing it is here.
The trying on the utmost,
The morning it is new,
Is terribler than wearing it
A whole existence through.
— Emily Dickerson, 1830-1886

Let's face it. The end could come tomorrow. Yes, the real end. The mind-numbing, debilitating, I-knew-this-day-would-come end and you and I would accept it just as we accept the rising sun. 

What would happen if you made your worse fears a possibility today and embraced them? You would swallow every ounce of that fear and sleep like a baby tonight because you have come to grips with that fear as a possible reality and now there is nothing else to do but go to sleep. 

A few years ago, after accepting a job in New York, I had a lot of unknown fear feelings. I had never lived in the another state before, I had never lead a team of people before, I had never managed before, and I was leaving a man I just met (who turned out to be my husband) uncertain if the new relationship would survive. These facts created an uneasy feeling of "oh, crap" what the heck am I doing? But in the midst of the downward spiral, I took a few breaths and remembered this was of my choosing. I was choosing to become a person who enjoyed the unknown, challenges, and the mystery that unfolds when you just roll with life's plan. 

 PHOTOGRAPH BY ROB BYE

PHOTOGRAPH BY ROB BYE

Why? Because it all works out in the end. 

The fear reminded me of the risk I was taking and how choosing to live could work out in my favor. The fear prepared me for the unknown; it coaxed me to be alert, aware of my new surrounds, and purposeful in my dealings. Today, I look back on my experience in New York with pride, everything did not go as expected but I had the time of my life.

The startling power of fear is the awareness it brings to a situation, your muscles tighten, throat dries, fingers tingle, heart speeds up, and you remember what it feels like to be alive. 

Will You Engage The Present?

 photo courtesy of  modishjack

photo courtesy of modishjack

If you close your eyes what do you see? Open them. Now, close them again only this time squeeze them close. Open them. Close them. Now, open. What you are seeing is not a dream. You are witnessing America fall apart at the seams under the guise of fear, power and perceived ownership. 

Fear of the future, of the unknown, of self. 

Power in favor of those that have it, desire it, and use it for dubious ends. 

Ownership of a country that was murderously stolen from a group of people and worked by individuals perceived as disposable. 

It's no wonder that with your eyes closed tight as possible you still see it; you see a history not yet reconciled and a battle for a better future. 

You could close your eyes, or you could open them, take a deep breath and prepare yourself for what needs to be done.

You are apart of the solution. Will you engage the present? 

5 Things I Learned from Going Vegan Cold Turkey 

 

I told myself two years ago that when I turned thirty, I would go vegan. My 30th birthday came and went with no sign of changing my eating habits.  That is until I started to have some issues. I tried everything from probiotics, apple cider vinegar flushes, stomach massages, castor oil packs, and lots of yoga to relieve bloating, stomach pain, and that full feeling in my gut, nothing worked.

On a Sunday night, after a Netflix binge session, my husband and I stumbled on What the Health, a film by documentarian Kip Anderson.

The film focused on the meat and dairy industry, the effects these food products have on our body, women's health, and the structure of our digestion system. The documentary convincingly, through research, data, and expert input linked the cause to our most prominent ailments to eating meat and consuming dairy products.

The next day we went vegan cold turkey. 

Are you thinking about going vegan or just want to know how it went keep reading? 

Decide.
As I mentioned earlier, the decision to go vegan has been on my mind for the past couple of years. Pain and discomfort mixed with information and being fed up solidify the choice. I heard from a nutritionist and a few long time vegans that ingesting meat and dairy could be the reason for my gut situation. 

It was time, and I knew it. Either I was going to do something about my ailments or continue to "manage" my symptoms. 

 Discomfort + being fed up + information = decision. 

Lost in Vegan Space? Know Your Shortcuts. 

When going vegan, there is tons of information on the internets and in books regarding a vegan diet. Start simple. Don't do like we did and abandon all the dairy and meat products in your refrigerator. Instead, start by gradually eliminating meat and dairy from your meals. 

For breakfast, I used to have scrambled egg whites and a yogurt. Now it's all about protein powders and nuts. Think about a vegan protein powder mixed with your favorite frozen fruits and almond milk, delicious. When I have the time to cook in the morning, I make steel cut oats and add some fresh berries. 

For lunch, beans, rice, and a side salad is another vegan shortcut and easy meal that will leave you full. Don't forget the seasoning: onions, salt, pepper, bell peppers, Chayanne pepper, and garlic turns your bean dish into something magical. 

Find Your Vegan Resturants.

Dinner was the hardest meal to prepare for as a new vegan. For a majority of the time, my husband and I ate out unless I wanted to try a new recipe I pulled off Instagram or Pinterest. 

We used Yelp to find everything from vegan Mexican food to vegan desserts. I had no idea there were so many vegan restaurants in Dallas! Recently we learned about the North Texas Vegan Group and joined it. 

Our favorite vegan places to eat in Dallas is Spiral Diner, Dream Cafe for breakfast, Spiral Diner again for weekend brunch (their Tall Stack with non-hydrogenated butter - perfect!), Whole Foods for their black bean burger, veggie patties, and vegan hummus pizza (life changer). Oh, and Spiral Diner for chocolate chip cookies, ice cream, and pie. Yelp also helped us find a terrific vegan spot in Cleveland.  

 One meal. One day at a time. 

After thirty years of full-on food indoctrination, a love affair with meat and cheese, and an obsession with brownies, I realized I needed to take things slow.  I'm changing my habits and my relationship with food. To get through thirty days and possibly a life time, means to take each day, and each meal one day at a time. Each small victory won in favor of my overall health. 

On two occasions in the last thirty days, I ate something I was not aware contained dairy. I gave myself permission to slip up, but immediately made a mental note and promised not to make the same mistake twice. 

A new way forward. 
Overall, I feel great. The bloating and pain in my lower abdomen has disappeared and I lost six pounds. Each meal typically includes something green so I have not felt constipated. I feel lighter. An unexpected return, I feel in control. I've been able to find a solution to my problems and that's empowering. 

Today is vegan day 40 and counting.