The Flower Blooms to Honor the Soil
Some people have questions about me. You know how it is, people talk, they’ve got comments, they don’t understand certain things. They don’t understand why I do some of what I do. They don’t understand why I have so much conviction. They don’t really understand why I have so much passion and why I have a temper and why I defend my efforts and the practicality of my work ethic and accomplishments with ferocity.
It’s not about laurels, it’s not about comparisons, it’s not about the past as an excuse not to move forward. It’s about honoring my past. No one knows my past but me and maybe my mother. Maybe my father. Some people say I make them uncomfortable; they don’t understand what I’m doing or talking about when my face twists, when I iterate and reiterate, when I share my experiences because they weren’t there.
People may have thoughts surrounding who I am, how I conduct myself, how I approach people or the way I defend my vigor, and that’s fine. It’s fine you see because no disrespect, but you weren’t there when I was sleeping in bed with my mother in that tiny trailer. You weren’t there when I was sleeping with my father and the fleas. You weren’t there when I found that needle and heroin in the toilet as a young boy. No disrespect to you, but you weren’t there when I used my mornings before school and my lunch breaks during school in the winter in the snow to run and train. You weren’t there when I woke myself up at 3 am to run and bike before taking my bike to work. You weren’t there when my mama and I walked all over town carrying groceries when we had no car.
You weren’t there in my darkest moments when I wanted things to end, when I struggled through substance abuse, when I watched friends die and fought my demons. No disrespect to anyone, but there are reasons I approach life the way I do. Relentlessly. Fearlessly. With regard for the regrets I don’t want to endure on my deathbed. There’s a reason it makes people uncomfortable. There’s a reason it’s unusual. It’s all I know.
From the beginning it’s what I knew. My mother couldn’t be there to do it all for me. My father wasn’t there to do it all for me. You see, I had to develop a quiet perseverance about life. I had to cultivate a silent dedication to the accomplishment of the smallest goals. I’m not talking about making it to state in baseball. I’m talking about survival. I’m talking about not getting hit. Not getting lost. Not going hungry. I’m talking about surviving with my mother. I’m talking about making rent money. I’m talking about giving up the couple dollars in my piggy bank and slipping it into my mother’s purse when she wasn’t looking because I saw her pain and struggle, then her not realizing it and taking her anger out on me anyway.
You see, I had an addiction to difficulty. I craved it. Giving kids head-starts in foot races, punishing myself when I didn’t perform well. Coming home from my track meet in 8th grade and punishing myself by running four miles down and up one of our mountains there in Southern Oregon because I didn’t like how I performed. You see, I had this deep sense of integrity surrounding my work ethic. Surrounding my effort. And no one demanded more of me than myself. It was the only thing that was controllable.
And I remember my mother asking me about private schooling one night. She had no money to send me anyway, but I had no desire to go. I had no desire to be given anything that could be misconstrued as advantage. I wanted nothing in my life that would jump me ahead of others. I wanted nothing in my life blamed for my accomplishments but my work, and my hard work was the only thing I ever viewed as applaudable. If anything, I wanted to be put at disadvantage. I wanted to know I was strong. I possessed a deeply rooted need to prove I was strong enough, capable enough, persistent enough, tough enough.
I never worshiped myself. I never felt great about me. I never gave myself congratulations or pats on the back or a moment of rest or a breather or applause. I never saw what I did. I saw what I didn’t do. Well-known speaker, Inky Johnson cited an interaction with his father where his father said:
“Son, there is another person inside of you, son. No matter how hard you work there is somebody inside of you that works even harder, no matter how dedicated you are there is somebody inside you that is more dedicated, no matter how committed there is somebody inside you that is more committed. But the thing I want you to understand, there will come a point in time when you hit a piece of adversity that is a lot tougher than you, son, and everyday you get up you got to have a purpose for why you do what you do and to get up and execute in whatever you do, son.”
It can’t be just about you. You see, I know I have a future family. I know I have future children I want to love and give the life I didn’t have growing up. I know I have a mother who grew up in the barrio of L.A. County who was beaten and abused with an alcoholic mother and father who’s been working all her life. I know I have a father who’s lived in poverty and has nothing. I know I have friends who need inspiration. I know there are young people out there who feel lost and unloved and are already looking for ways to take their lives. You see, it can’t just be about you.
So when people say they don’t feel comfortable around me there’s a reason; when people say I’m too intense there are reasons why. When people say it seems like he’s always striving for something it’s because I am. When they say it seems like he wants more and demands something more of himself it’s because I do.
You see, this is nothing about what I have or have not done. This is not about what I have gone through because there are many who have gone through worse. This is about a why. This is about a purpose and skin and what’s beneath it. This is about what lies beneath and a deeper sense of self-demand.
“No one in this world can demand of you what you can demand of yourself, and because of that no one in this world can give to you what you can give to yourself.”
No one in this world can demand of you what you can demand of yourself, and because of that no one in this world can give to you what you can give to yourself. When you realize that your power is limited only by you, when you realize that your fortitude is literally embedded in your will, when you begin to understand that your strength and resilience is written into the tablet of your heart, you will begin to explore the full potential of your existence.
No one but you can take you to the places that are most difficult, but you will never get yourself there if you’re doing it only for yourself. And that is the great juxtaposition of all this. I’m trying to get you to understand that your path is your fulfillment. That people must be a component of your purpose.
You see, I remember my past to honor my past. I work hard in the present to honor my people. I look to the future to honor the best version of myself.
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