Today I want to tell you that the sometimes confused state of mind you have, those self doubts, those times of indecision are not going away. I’m sixty-nine now and they are still with me. And, frankly, I think that’s a good thing because it tells me I’m still in tune with life around me, I’m still in touch with a vast amount of energy flowing around. Especially the energy flowing within me!
The trick, and yes, it is a trick that can be learned but sometimes easily forgotten, is to find the wave of energy that most resonates with your spirit and ride the fuck out of it. Ah, I can hear your question, how do I know what ‘resonates’ really means with all the stuff that feels so enticing?
Sit still and don’t attach to any particular thought or feeling, you know, like when you go down to the river steps and watch the water flow past you on its way to Center city and the Delaware river. In a few more decades you’ll learn that you’ve been practicing something called mindfulness and it will help you even more in your work with people.
Oh, and that’s another thing. You know how people have been telling you that your answer to the question, “What do you want to do when you grow up?”, isn’t specific or good enough? Forget them, you’ll have a fantastic career/life doing exactly that in every thing you do over the next fifty plus years. Yeah, even that three week stint cleaning bathrooms in the Forrestal Building on Independence avenue in Washington…trust me on that!
You will touch people’s lives deeply and help more than a few develop hope and meaning when they are beaten down and have given up on just about everything. Let me tell you a story that I hope you forget soon after reading it here so it can impact you fully when it happens…
In your late forties you will be working with welfare recipients in Washington DC. The program you’ll be teaching is helping develop employability skills; how to write resumes, interview, behave in a workplace, basic stuff that might sound easy to you but because of the anti-poverty work you will have done nationally and in the DC area in the years before that you have an appreciation of the deep cultural and personal work it entails for your clients.
One of your clients, who shows a ton of potential, just can’t keep it together for a variety of reasons and even though you cut her tons of slack you finally have to ‘fire’ her from the program. Your boss tells you that one reason you’re so sad about it is because you care a little too much and maybe now realize you can’t put that much energy into a single person for any reason.
Skip ahead about a year and a half. The program has changed and you are doing a ton of administrative duties because you’ve been promoted. One day you’re in your office and a young lady walks in wearing a security guard’s uniform with corporal stripes on her sleeves…Yup, it’s her!
She’ll say that when she got the job she wanted to tell you, but she knew you’d say, “You’ve still got to prove yourself to yourself first before you prove it to others!” So she waited until she got her first stripe and still decided she wanted to prove herself even more. So she waited again, and now she’ll have proven it to herself three times over and all she really wants, aside from showing her children how to do the work, is to show you that she now knows what you had given her…
Hope for herself and the will to achieve for herself.
So, there are so many more stories you’ll create for others, people whose lives are going to be better because of who you are and how you live your life. And so much of it comes from that energy swirling around in your head and your heart. I want you to remember that getting in touch with your spirit is kinda easy Chuck. It’s who you are, it’s how you feel, it’s the dreams you have, both the ones at night and the ones you have walking around with your eyes wide open.
Love the journey you’re on, yeah, even those dark times you’ve faced and will face. Those other kids calling you names and giving you a hard time will teach you to fight for yourself. Keep paying attention to the world and this country and know that all white people aren’t hateful bigots and that that guy sitting next to you at Saint Bridget’s will one day be one of your all time best friends because you’ll teach him how strong, brave, and good you are. I know, you are still having those quiet little boxing matches with him each time the nun turns around. But your left hand will become blazing fast son…
Oh, and next year, when you turn eleven, you’ll discover jazz!
I love you with all my heart. Stay brave, keep fighting, and most of all, always believe in yourself.