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What is Your Building Permit Status?

  • Leaving Trinidad and Tobago as a child and moving to Texas was challenging. I struggled socially and practically had to fight the whole neighborhood. But with time, simply being myself made me a standout in the south.

    

My coping mechanisms disarmed people and though I was extremely different people of all walks gravitated to my enthusiasm to bask in the energy of my lofty dreams. My sights were set so far into my presumably bright future that it afforded a glimpse of hope to peers, parents and rednecks all the same.

    

I was bullied but it never broke me. It made me more of a smart ass. It made me more determined to reach that bright spot in my future. 



    Fuck it, I'll say it. Being around all these rednecks who didn't know what to make of me was liberating. Being punched, pelted and ostracized by the black kids made me faster. So fast, I was repeatedly pursued by our junior high and high-school track and field coaches. One of them saw me running after school and followed me all the way home just to say, "Boy, you'd better be on my track tomorrow morning!"



    But I didn't have to worry about fitting in with other kids because it wasn't going to happen. So, I built my own community of artistic misfits and dreamers, some of which would be considered "on the spectrum."

    "We were a diversified group bursting with enthusiasm; an obscure amalgamation of underdogs."

    

I learned to be a leader in that community. I found my voice, honed my talents, decided on my dreams and fell for my first love all within our tribe.

 We huddle up in the common area before school to beat box, rap, break dance and sing. We drew massive crowds. We threw parties, hosted shows and supported one another. We got jobs together. It made work and play more fun. 



    We were changing people's perspectives effortlessly through our art. We believed we would change the world and being part of this community gave me a sense of purpose, made me happy and kept me in a state of constant creativity. Even haters grew to love me for it.

 I got used to phrases like: 



    • "There goes Junior's crazy ass." 

    • "That's Junior for you." 

    • "That boy ain't got no damn sense."


    

I embraced those quotes as monikers and stayed the course that would lead me to my bigger, brighter, more fair future.  I kept doing crazy shit too. It was now expected of me.



    Even with all the time and effort I'd put into our community, I always knew Texas was temporary for me. I had dreams of moving on and living in places where empathy and diversity were not as scarce.



    After graduation our community split up. Some went off to college and few of us became parents as we were barely escaping our teens. Some had bouts with substance abuse. Others traded in their artistry for careers in real estate, financial consulting, sales, construction, chemical engineering and/or the military. A few of us have since passed away.

    

Not everyone had the courage to leave the small town that seemed to have predetermined our career paths, economic standings, state of health and causes of death.

 

    It took everything to convince the two members of my rap group to leave with me. Perhaps I was afraid to pursue my dreams alone.  We eventually fled to California and built a brand new community. It was FUN. Through sacrifice, focus and perseverance we succeeded.

    

My mediocre rap success proved me to be a one hit wonder and my community quickly dispersed. It was embarrassing and I was convinced that as my rap career had fallen apart, so had I. That sentiment stuck with me for years. I became a loner imprisoned by my sense of inadequacy and fear of rejection.

    
I grew bitter and individualistic as I felt robbed and taken advantage of by my previous “friends/business partners." I became critical, judgmental and unsure of myself.  

    "I was now my own oppressor."

    Negative internal dialog that seemed louder than any radio, television or nightclub played 24/7 between my ears. 

I began meditating for 8 hours at a time and eventually went to see a therapist.

    This particular therapist came across as inauthentic, and manipulated every conversation into discussions that had more to do with her than me. She too was lost and I could feel it. 

I decided to give her a second visit but only got more of the same. However, experiencing the concept, the idea that I could sit across from an objective, non-judgmental professional and air out my thoughts cut the internal dialog by about 40% instantly.



    I never went back to that therapist. I found someone more suitable for me and began regaining my sense of being. 

Up until then I allowed myself to be defined by belief systems handed down to me from earlier generations. My eating habits, style of communication, interpretations of success, judgment, faith, masculinity, sexuality and ideology was not mine.

    It was borrowed but now I had to decide on a path of my own or succumb to the status quo. 

In choosing a path of my own I saw the world differently and all I had survived over the last three decades.  What once angered me about my upbringing became what I was most grateful for.  My issues were now MY responsibility.

    "There was no one to blame for my shortcomings but me.

"

    I was back to joking and making light of my struggles and insecurities which gave others license to do the same. It helped form meaningful connections with people of all walks. It helped to heal and build a community of people who once believed they too were alone. 

Yup. I'm back to building a community, only this time on stronger foundation, no geographical limitations or exit strategies in place.

    

Now I see that the formula, the key ingredient to my happiest and most fulfilling moments has always been community! 



    Pointing fingers from a perch, passing  judgement and complaining about all that is wrong in the world is a lonely life and one of the most impotent forms of existence. It produces nothing but more loneliness.

    

Having the courage to build the community you wish to see is far more empowering than critiquing the community you despise.  So if it is missing in the world, perhaps it is missing because you haven’t stepped forth to build it yet.

    

What exactly are you waiting for? A building permit?

    Inspired by @Harlo-Hendrix's blog, "The Unicorner: Whatever happened to that weird kid?"

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