2017 — thank you.

This year has been filled with lots of moments. Moments that have and will continue to shape the rest of my life. And yet again, like every year, I find myself in the same place looking back. The view changes every 365 days, but the feeling remains: thankful.

I will end this year and bring in 2018, just as I do every year, in church for a Watch Night Service, praising God. However, for weeks I have been trying to find the right way to fasten a button onto the year, reflect, analyze, give thanks, and ask for clear direction for this new season. I figure I can only do that the best way I know how — by writing. For a number of reasons I have failed to pick up a pen or log into to medium to give the occasional update that I know my friends, family, and a few supporters have come to enjoy. These messages typically come after a shift in life or anything that has caused me to pause and write. That is not to suggest that shifts have not occurred since my last post, rather I have been living in the moments of so many shifts, I have found little time to write about them all. Let me say now what the last few weeks of reflection have shown me: I will find time to write in 2018! I will make the time to read more and to write more, my sanity depends on it. For me, words have always been my escape from the world, my way of making sense of that which is senseless. Needless to say, I made excuse after excuse as to why I can’t write and found time to pray to God for my hours in a day (he’s still working on that one), but somehow couldn’t find the time to write. Until God forced me to write.

I picked up a pen last week, shortly after Christmas, and just started writing. I wrote for what felt like hours. Cramps in my hands, undecipherable words and names filled the pages and at the top I simply wrote, “2017”. It’s safe to say 2017 has given me a lot to write about. I will have an entire year to ask God for all that I will need, but tonight as I sit in the final hours of this year, in an attempt to find the words that will pull this year together, all I can say is: thank you.

Thankful for every moment, every day (the good and “the bad”), every smile, every tear, every sleepless night, and every beautiful morning. Every headache, every revelation, every friend, every enemy. Every storm.

This year has taught me a lot about myself. I have had a number of self discoveries that have left me speechless and in tears. Many of these moments occurred in the calm presence of myself and God, and others I am thankful to have happened with some of the closest people in my life. I’ve watched myself grow because of these moments. I’ve grown at the hands of a powerful God, a caring mother, a flawed and yet resilient family, a changing community, and a dying world. Bishop Muse, my spiritual father, preached a message when I was much younger that has stuck with me til this day and did not come alive in me until this year. The subject of the sermon was: Four Words that Changed Everything. In this message, he detailed some of the various obstacles in his life and chronicled a few famous bible stories that involved struggles and storms and simply reminded the church of something that seemed so basic, and that was every time God looks at these situations and says: I am with you. I heard those four words countless times this year. Calm as a sleeping child, and yet as sweet as grandma’s voice: I am with you. I thank God for being with me.

One of the first lessons of this year was about TIME. Time waits for no one. Time is the only constant in the world, no matter where you are, what happens, what you’re doing — time keeps going. My parents were the first to show me this as they celebrated their birthdays, each physically morphing into an older version of themselves. Each of them giving me lessons this year that a 20 year old me should have in my toolbelt. My mother has served as a constant help through everything this year. As she has done for me for 20 years, wiping my tears, her 5 famous words of encouragement (which you will have to probably pay my sister and I to find out what they are), and laughing with me along the way. I’m thankful to be a Mama’s boy to an incredible mother who wraps me in love and supports me to the moon and back.

I deeply reconnected with my bestfriend this year. Moises and I met in the 6th grade. We hated each other. But what we didn’t know is that it would be the start of a true brotherhood. By the 7th grade we were buddies and by the 10th grade, we were thick as theives. Now, all these years later, we are brothers for life. I know were brothers by the way we support each other, by the way we challenge each other. We have both found an investment in the community that watched us grow into the young men we are today. We’re brothers in the way we argue with one another (sometimes over serious matters of business, and other times over where we want to go to eat). I’m thankful for our friendship.

This year I met a young lady and she makes me happy, she makes me smile. I was certain this was not in my plan for 2017, but 2017 (under the direction of God), had other plans. When I saw her I thought: wow she’s beautiful. When I got to know her, I thought: wow, she has a beautiful mind. And finally, I called my brother Tommy, (as we have typically find time to do as he studies in New York (we stay updated on each others lives)) and I told him: Tommy, I have two things to tell you! 1. I met a girl. 2. She makes me happy. To which he immediately knew what I meant, how I felt, and could probably imagine the look on my face.

When I met Kera, I was in a very interesting headspace of life. I had recently hit one of those shifts in life. She was different. She was honest. And above her beauty, I love the energy she brings into every room she enters. It was warm, it was something like mommy’s, it made my heart smile. I’m thankful to have her in my life to laugh with, to cry with, to dream with, and to make our own brand new memories.

I have been able to spend an incredible amount of time with my grandparents who I have found to be the most amazing people in the world. They’ve shared with me a lot about themselves, as individuals, and our entire family. They’ve given me reason to want to visit Saluda, Virginia more and make a trip to Prentiss, Mississippi (may get there in 2018). From summer days sitting on the porch with pop pop, to testing the waters with me and grandma’s lasagna, they’ve allowed me to share so many moments with them. Each day I am reminded of the beauty of time. With time, one day I may gain the perseverance of my grandmother or the wisdom of my grandfather.

I am thankful for Sigma. Brotherhood, Scholarship, and Service. The bond that I now share with the brothers of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Incorporated, all over the world, can never be broken when its made this strong. There is one brother in particular who touched my life this year — Big Brother Dean NITRO. For taking me under his wing, bringing me into the world of Sigma, being an inspiration for what a true Sigma man looks like, and shaping this young brother I am eternally thankful. He and my fairy godmother, Big Sister Inspector Gadget have played an important role this year, bigger than I think they know.

A year ago, I had no idea I’d be where I am today. I am thankful for every moment that has brought me to this place. There are far too many people who have played roles in this chapter of life. I will never be able to thank them enough. I haven’t listed everyone because I’d be writing all year long. However, when the clock strikes 12, I will carry with me each and every person, memory, moment, lesson, and every memorial stone that I will need with me in this new season. It’s been a hell of a year.

Life has taught me that there are no bad days. There are bad and tough moments in days but I am thankful that the last 365 days have been some of the best days of my life. No matter what each day brought, and the challenges I faced, I made it, and I’m still here to tell the story.

Lastly, I am thankful to have learned that our lives are not a series of accidents, rather than intentional plans orchestrated by something, someone, some force greater than us. The same life force that was at the beginning of time and looked out onto nothing and said: let there be. We carry in us each and every day. It’s in our eyes when we look at the world, it’s in our heartbeat even when we can’t hear it, and it’s in our breath.

I’m thankful for every breath I’ve been blessed with this year. It was not promised, owed, nor garunteed. And I can only pray that I have made God and mine ancestors proud of what I have done with the last breaths over the course of 365 days. As we enter this new year, I will hold on to this spirit of thankgiving.

Thank God for being better than good to me. Thank you 2017, for every stone. Thank you Universe for giving me this life. I will continue to surrender —

2018, here we come.

Love you madly,

Tony E. Donaldson Jr.

Black O.P.Σ