Living Life Purposefully

Where Purpose Meets Passion

Monthly Archives: September 2009

Until Further Notice…

…whatever I was writing about has been put on hold. Recent events that have taken place have been the push for writing this.

In the news today, I read a story about a young man named Derrion Albert. He was a high school student beaten by members of his community, who happened to belong to a gang. He died as a result of this (the event happened on Thursday). Now there are many issues that I have with this whole situation:

The first issue is that people in the community feel that they can’t live a life that is free from violence. People feel that it’s necessary to join a gang, or some group, for their safety and sanity. That scares me. Gangs promote violence and often operate with a mentality that is detrimental to a healthy and functioning larger community. Gangs, as we know them, promote fear and instability. No person should have to live through that and when communities are subjected to that, they suffer.

The second issue is that people feel they can’t tell. I know the reasons and the rationale behind why people choose not to. It’s understandable. Everyone doesn’t feel the way I do. I’d tell (I’ve done it before). There are some communities where some members enough grief, stress, and fear to the point that other community members just silently wish for better days and hope that their children are not caught in the crossfire.

But that’s not really what this post is about. No. This post is about the ignorance of people. On Twitter, I wrote a pulse and stated:

“There is especially one kind of person I don’t like in this world – one who CHOOSES to stay ignorant about the world around them.”

This wasn’t in reference to educational attainment (and I can see why some people may feel that way). No, this was about the people who live in communities where rage becomes the pulse of that place and dictates the actions of its members. The ignorant people I referred to are those who would readily tell someone to stop snitching or to hush someone else when asked if they’d heard about what happened to another person. These are the people who witness crimes, yet close their mouths and their minds when the police come to question. These are also the people who will offer their condolences to a family who is grieving over a family member lost in the violence.

I’ve taken this stance (and believe me, it’s not always easy to argue why a person needs to tell when they see wrong-doing) because of an experience I had when I was 10, almost 11. You never forget what it’s like to hear that a family member passed and their death was from the hands of someone else who wanted to play God for a moment (or make a point). You definitely don’t forget the image of the person who did it, if you witnessed it. You don’t forget how your Mother reacts to the news that her “only” son (who was actually her eldest child and was 16 years older than his next sibling) is gunned down because a “woman” was mad at him. You don’t forget the funeral. You don’t forget the condolences. You don’t forget the police. You don’t forget the depression. You don’t forget any of those things.

Most of all, the one thing that you don’t forget is that “life is not fair” or that he “was taken too soon.”

I remembered those lines from the wake. I remember how rigid my Mom became. I remember how cold the room suddenly felt. I remember wanting to scream and just ask the person how could they say that. A Mother lost her oldest child (a parent should never have to bury a child). Siblings lost their role model (he was our “Male” figure). Children lost a father (my nieces were young and I still see what this has done to them). A Wife lost her husband. I mean, I can go on and on about this…but I won’t. You all should get the picture.

But I think about all of that as I think about the family of Derrion Albert. I think about all of those things as I think about the community he lives in. I think about where I am now and I can only wonder if he dreamed of getting here. People don’t realize what happens when someone passes.

A void is left. A void that is unimaginable and may never be filled. Dreams are taken. Laughter is removed. A family is fragmented in the worst way.

My only hope, after all of this, is that something happens to restore the communities that Derrion Albert comes from to better places. Happiness needs to come back. Safety needs to come back. Peace, it definitely needs to come back. I just hope people take the necessary steps so that those things happen and another mother doesn’t lose a child to something so senseless.

This is an original work of Miss C. Jayne. © September 28, 2009.


Recognizing My Personal Bias

**Warning: This post IS controversial and highly prejudiced. No offense is meant. If you find yourself feeling that way, then you can respectfully post a comment.

In working through the program for my Master’s degree, I’ve come to realize a few things about myself. The biggest hurdle that I’m currently facing is one that is very personal in nature. But before I get into what this post is about, I’ll state a few facts:

1. I’m a Black woman.

2. I grew up in the inner-city (many times while homeless or in transitional housing) and I’ve made it this far because of teachers who pushed me forward.*

3. I am in my field to help students, more particularly students of color, succeed academically…so that it becomes the rule and NOT the “exception”.

Now that those truths have been stated, I’ll share my bias:

I’m in a cohort that is diverse by definition (racially) and a field that is highly politicized. When my classmates are discussing things in the classroom, I get this sickening feeling in my stomach. This feeling is something that I’ve been trying desperately hard to deal with and to even put it into words. Sometimes, I feel that I make sense, other times, I don’t. This feeling also only comes up when certain classmates speak on a topic. It’s my prejudice.

As a child who grew up in an “urban” center and who attended an “urban” and “disadvantaged” school, I feel quite ill when the discussions take place in the classroom. When I was younger, I began to notice the inequity that plagued our school system. During my 3rd grade year, I was invited to participate in a testing session to see if I would qualify for a scholarship to a private school that was in the same neighborhood as my elementary school. Until that invite, I assumed that the elementary school was in fact a college because the building was that nice. I scored high enough to be placed into a classroom and when my Mom asked if I wanted to go, I said no. There was something not quite right about the situation, but instinct told me that I didn’t want to be at that school. When I graduated from elementary school, I tested into a Magnet school for my 7th grade year (I didn’t graduate from this school however). The same thing happened when I graduated from Middle School and while I was proud of my school, I also recognized it for what it was — the lowest performing school in the city. For High School, I had the distinction and privilege of going to the best high school in the state.

This is when things became dicey. You see, during my elementary and middle school years, I’d attended all-Black schools (I kid you not, every student was Black). High School was a huge shock all around. Here, the kids had lockers. Here the kids didn’t walk through metal detectors. Here the kids did NOT have to eat inside of the cafeteria for lunch if they didn’t want to. Here the kids had books for every class that they took home, no paper copies. Here there were enough desks in every class. Here every kid was expected to succeed and they had no choice. If you didn’t do well, you were asked to leave. I don’t remember seeing a girl who was pregnant (maybe one) and I don’t remember there being a shooting or anyone ever being taken out during the day by the cops.  I don’t remember negativity. What I do remember is it being “white-washed”.

From the administrators, to the counselors, to the teachers, to the majority of the students. It was white. It was happy. It was the status-quo. Here you made it, even if you were a “student of color”. Anywhere else, you might have been the exception. Here, you were the rule.

That experience is taken with me everywhere. From being embarrassed in a French class because I forgot my homework on the bus that I had to catch at 6:40 am to being mistreated by a Biology teacher because I had to explain that I couldn’t take my work home with me (it was a project about worms). Both of those teachers asked something that I will never forget, “What’s wrong with you that you can’t keep up or do your work?” The better question would have been, “What’s wrong with you all that you don’t understand that not everyone lives in a house with a white picket fence?” I remember the very nice guidance counselor who did her best to help me complete my English homework (which always had to be typed) by getting me a computer. I also remember her disdain when I explained to her that I couldn’t afford the floppy disks (y’all it was old) to save my work on or a printer to simply print things out. I remember how everyone would praise my High School and I would remember how I wanted to go back to the schools that I’d come from. I wanted to go back to the teachers that were like me.

So what does this have to do with my bias, you wonder?

The classmates that usually rub me the wrong way are the White classmates. They are the ones who point things out about their schools and how great they are doing. They will juxtapose their schools and compare them to other largely “minority” schools in the district and tell you how much better their kids are doing. Now, I’m happy that someone is picking up the task of educating our children, but I always want to ask, “Why are you doing it? Why do you have to speak in that way?” They talk down to their classmates and strike below the belt in their comments (and I’m sure all of us do this). Many times, I feel that they are somewhat elitist. They remind me of the guidance counselor that I had who initially wanted to do some good, but then made me feel as though she knew what was best for me or that I wasn’t good enough. Hearing them speak in class about things, I can’t help but wonder if they truly understand their students’ experiences (as I’m sure they do, they are there enough). I can’t help but wonder if they bring that same, “I know better than you” attitude that comes across in the classroom to meetings with parents. I can’t help but wonder if they KNOW that they give off a sense of superiority.

Or maybe it’s just me.

Whatever it is, it bothers me. I sincerely appreciate their contribution to our society, but after living as a Black child in an impoverished life to grow into a Black woman in this time, it is very hard for me to listen to my White classmates (and sometimes other classmates) when they begin to talk about all of the good they are doing (look at the emphasis there). Maybe they don’t get that it’s a community? Maybe they don’t understand that the child’s aptitude plays a role? Maybe they really do believe that they can “save” a community of people not like themselves?

And that’s where my problem lies.

So, I’m working on this. Hopefully, I can work through this issue enough to speak up in class without feeling as though I’m going to say something HIGHLY inappropriate because there are many times that I want to. But most of all, my hope is that I can really see that they are good people (because they are) and that I’m able to digest their comments without taking any personal offense. Hopefully.

*That isn’t the only reason. I’d like to think that my faith has allowed me to come this far as well.

This post is an original work by Miss C. Jayne. © September 2009

The Things They’ve Said (What Will They Say, Part 2)

I’ve come to recognize when I’ve changed for the better. One thing that I’ve noticed recently is that I’m no longer concerned with the things that were once deemed important in my life (although some people around me still hold on to these things). I don’t worry about what someone said to someone else (I’m also not interested in what people have to tell me about other people, it actually disgusts me). I don’t care about what the person next to me is doing (unless they are endangering the community). Those things don’t concern me.

However, there is one thing that will always concern me – my reputation.

There is a quote out there that says, “You shouldn’t be concerned with your reputation, but your character. Your reputation is what others think of you while your character is who you really are” (or something like that).

I agree…and then I disagree.

Nothing has shown me more that your reputation directly influences your interactions with other people more than the events that have transpired in the past year. Roommate issues, I’ve had them. Organizational issues, I’ve had them. Personal issues with people I don’t know, I’ve had them (thank you Facebook, cue *eyerolling). Personal issues with people I know and love, I’ve had them. Losing family members and spiraling into some deep internal abyss, I’ve done it. There’s really nothing new in the arena of interacting with other people that surprises me.

My surprise comes along when I hear or read something about me that is not true. What’s (not so) funny about these situations are the sheer numbers of people who listen and believe what they are being told (the innocents, I can’t fault, especially if they don’t take the time to know me). In the past year, I’ve heard:

“She lies.”
“She’s fake.”
“She’s a bitch.”
“Don’t trust her.”
“She’s a hoe.”
“She steals money (or insert whatever else you can steal here).”
“She’s dirty.”

I’ve heard this, and more. Most times when things come back around to me, it’s negative. Not only is it negative, it’s hurtful. Especially since I can count ALL of the people that I hang/hung out with on one hand. I mean, I know people and I have friends and acquaintances that would total more than the digits on my hands. But my closest circle isn’t even enough to fill a “Top 8” on Myspace. Seriously.

This is why my reputation concerns me. It’s what the general public believes. It’s what I’m working against when I’m putting in the extra effort to seem sociable (which is a very hard task for me to do). It’s what I’m working against when I’m representing various organizations. It’s what I’m working against when I’m rushing across campus (or was rushing across campus) and people would speak and I would mistakenly not see their greeting. It’s what I’m working against when I’m trying to negotiate with people. It’s what I’m working against when I’m trying to have my ideas heard.

So, the fact is simply this:

You can be fooled into believing that your reputation doesn’t matter, I bet you won’t win a position you run for. You can be fooled into believing that your reputation doesn’t matter, I’ll bet that the first response you get from a random stranger who is acquainted with your name will not be something that you’d say about yourself. You can be fooled into believing that your reputation doesn’t matter, but that’s what people look at and base most of their decisions on.

Think I’m lying. Try this out – Start a malicious lie about yourself (this works better if you’re super involved in something in your community). See how fast it spreads. Wait a few weeks and attempt to make a new friend. I’ll put money that they’ll recognize whatever malicious foolishness you’ve started.

Since I’ve said all of that, I’ll finally tell why I decided to write this as part two. I was recently dealing with some frustration on an online account. I got the funniest response from someone and it basically said that they had heard that I was a bitch and what I was putting on the site confirmed their thought. The thing that initially made me pause (actually, it was a few things) was that they felt comfortable enough calling me a bitch. Okay. The next thing that concerned me what that I did NOT hang out with them. We knew similar people BUT we never ran in the same crowd. My folks kept to themselves and their people kept to themselves. We just knew of each other. Never mind the fact that I was involved in many community activities. Never mind the fact that I had a kind word for them when I spoke to them or saw them. Never mind the fact that this person asked for my advice once after sharing a problem with me and I gave sound advice. Never mind the fact that they couldn’t remember whom initially told them that.

Those things are irrelevant. The “fact” that they immediately recalled was that I was a “b*tch.” That came from my reputation.

So, I’ll let the people continue to talk. I just hope that they learn just how hurtful some things can be and how jaded some people become. The fact is that everyone will hear (at some point) something about themselves that isn’t true and may possibly be able to find out the source. When that happens, since I’m not them, I can’t even think of a possible ending. When I find out, that person loses so much respect from me. And that is something that you’ll never get back.

People. Just be careful about what you’re saying.

To be continued…

Saying “No No” to Espresso

For those of you who regularly read my blog, this will be a departure from my “thought provoking” posts that I usually publish. Instead, I feel it is my civic duty to remind you all about the dangers of drugs.

So, the Health Department and Friends have launched a campaign (it’s been going on for some years now) about saying “No!” to drugs and “Living Above the Influence.” In these campaigns, they bring to your attention drugs (controlled substances) such as marijuana, alcohol, and other ones that people regularly talk about (cocaine, heroine, and others). I think this is good. Great, actually, and very much needed.


So, before I go into my story, I would just like to give a brief disclaimer:

This is the real me. I joke. I make fun of things (that’s synonymous with joke). I actually like to find the funny in situations. With all of that being said, I DO NOT CONDONE DRUG USE OF ANY KIND! Unless, it’s a Love Drug (peace, y’all…not war)!!!

Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, I’ll tell y’all about my time with the most powerful, fun, amazing, scary, detrimental drug known to man — THAT CHICK CAFFEINE!

I was “gone off”** of an espresso drink. It wasn’t even made the regular way either…what I had was an Espresso Lite.*** Here’s how it went:

I was sitting in the library, chatting with my Sorority Sister about my daily goals (by the way, none of them were reached). Then we both decided to stop chatting with each other because we had things to do. At this point, it is 12 Noon. So, I go on my merry way to find something to eat and drink (something affordable…which is hard to do when you are broke student who is sick of Ramen Noodles). I hit Thayer Street and for some reason, I had a slow moment and decided that Starbucks would be a good decision (This is the first clue that you have no business doing what you’re about to do — if you have to justify whatEVER it is, then just stop!). I also decided that “breakfast” would be the best thing to get because I hadn’t eaten anything since I’d been up. I also decided to “live on the edge” and order something I never do — a Caramel Macchiato (which is delicious, by the way). So, I place my order, get my food and drink, sit down, and enjoy it.

Right about 2:00, I decided that I had to make a move on campus. I had been at Starbucks now for 2 hours and I had to visit a Dean of the Graduate School before her office hours were over (she’s a real cool lady). So, I send a message to my friend that I was chatting with over AIM to say that I’d be back in 30 minutes. I also forgot to send a message to the other three people who I was chatting with…blame it on the Espresso folks. My eyes were getting jumpy at this point. Anyway, I gathered my things, walked across campus (which ISN’T that big), chatted it up with the Dean, and then went to the Library. Something in my soul told me that it would all be downhill from there:

It was only 2:15 pm (go ahead and laugh…this mess had me feeling like I was floating at this point). Anyway, I’m sitting in the library just….shaking. It was to the point that I began to giggle. Not worry…it didn’t scare me yet. It was just super funny. So, another 40 minutes goes by, and things just get more heightened. I felt enlightened and I was going down memory lane. At one point, I was consciously aware of AT LEAST 14 thoughts running through my head at once. I wish I could have typed them all out at the same time lol…but that’s not the point of this.

At this point, I actually wrote on Twitter:

MissCJayne: I had a drink with espresso & I’m jittery like a mother right now….lol. HELP! I’m bout to run though this library. I can’t sit still!!!!

YOU, yes you, reading this can laugh. It was funny. Then it all went downhill in a matter of minutes. As I’m sitting at my table, trying to look normal, I’m pretty sure that I did since no one reported me to library officials, this chick walks in and looks around for a place to sit. She walks over to my table and asks if she can sit down. I say, “Sure…go ahead” and clear space for her (that’s another reason I knew I was “high”…I had a table covered with my stuff. It fit four people and I was the ONLY person there). Then she sits down and I became paranoid. It didn’t help matters that she left after about 30 minutes leaving her laptop and taking everything else that she brought with her. This resulted in these tweets on Twitter:

MissCJayne: So, the chick sitting at my table left her laptop and took her bookbag. I’m bout to move. I feel like it’s a bomb.

MissCJayne: If something blows up at Brown Univ, the chick had shoulder length brown hair, she was about 5’2”, thin and she had a European accent.

MissCJayne: Okay, so I just realized that when I’m on espresso, I’m super paranoid. SUPER PARANOID!

The actual time between writing those tweets was seven minutes. In that time, I’d packed up my own stuff and alerted the proper officials at the Library Circulation Desk (I’m not a fan of the Stop Snitching Movement…I’m telling everything…and you can quote me!). Then I went across the street to see what would happen. Two cops showed up and I guess things were fine.

Okay, I actually KNOW that things were fine. I went back in and students were once again sitting at their respective tables/on couches and settling back in. The poor girl at my table looked so shaken…but I couldn’t help but tell. I was extra paranoid because of that drink.

So, I stayed at the library for another hour and then I’m not really sure what happened after that. I remembered feeling calm around 6:45 pm or 7:00 pm. Then I remembered going home around 10:00 pm. Then I remembered going to sleep around 11:45 pm. Then I remembered waking up around 5:00 am this MORNING because I just woke up. I had a horrible migraine and I actually felt like I was hung over. Class today was a struggle, I almost fell asleep in my first one and I really couldn’t participate in class two because I didn’t read anything during my “high moments” from the day before.

I’m still feeling a little “off” but I’ll bounce back in no time. I just wanted to bring attention to a drug that people often overlook…because well, it can be very serious. I mean, I almost had an international student sent home and all she went to do was use the bathroom (I STILL want to know why she took her bookbag and her purse and just left her laptop; she could have left that bookbag too???).

So, kids. The point of this, besides hopefully giving you a laugh, is that you all become aware of the danger that is caffeine. I’ve heard about people who are really addicted and I still tried it. As you can see, it wasn’t too great. So, I hope you all stick to herbal tea! Celestial Seasonings is a really good one…and they come with a coupon in EVERY box!

**gone off – to be under the influence of some substance.

***Espresso Lite – a drink in which the normal amount of espresso is reduced.

This is an original publication by Miss C. Jayne. As soon as I figure out how to do that copyright symbol, I will. Don’t steal my thoughts without giving credit. At my university, you get kicked out and are horribly shamed. I’m not so nice! lol 🙂

What Will They Say? (part 1)

**So, this isn’t necessarily a long post, I just can’t finish my thoughts in one sitting. So, I’ll add to it as I go along.

In this past week, I’ve thought a lot about life and the opportunities that we are presented with. I’ve thought about our interactions with other people and how we wield our influence. I’ve thought greatly about the impact that I wish to make in my life and hopefully, I improve the condition of other people. I’ve thought about my successes (thus far) and the goals that I’ve set for my future. I’ve thought about all that I want to do.

But the question that has plagued me since last year, September 13, 2008 to be exact, “What will people say about me?”

The question is not what they are currently saying about me. I’m not really concerned with that and I don’t really care. In the last year, I’ve learned that people are malicious and will speak a lot of untruths about you. I’ve learned that those people that you once held respect for can’t even respect themselves and simply can’t return that to you. I’ve learned that we often speak about the future as if it will always come.

In the past year, I’ve learned one lesson repeatedly: The “future” is quite possibly a tomorrow you may not see and the present is what counts.

The one thing that taught me this: Death.

So, in light of many people passing, family members and famous people alike, I’ve re-evaluated my current legacy and myself. It’s summed up in a great quote that my cousin has on her Facebook page:

“I know the date you were born is important and the year you pass will be noted; BUT what can people say about the dash (-) in the middle??? 7/5/1986 – ?”

This made me think about the family members that I buried this year and how everyone had great things to say about them. This also made me think about how some of the people who spoke had a hard time finding those great things to say. So, I began to think, “Why don’t we live our lives as though we’ll die tomorrow?”

We (humans) live as though we are invincible and that the final call for our final performance will never take place. We live as though our final tomorrow never comes. We live as though the wrongs we commit will not be brought to light. It’s sad actually because many of us are living existences that are empty and we think otherwise.

So, I began to think, “What will THEY say about me when I go?”

Because whether you believe it or not, the only time “they” really matter is when you leave. That’s when it’s noted whether or not you’ve been a person that has increased happiness or otherwise. In asking questions though, you have to think of possible answers, and that’s where this blog comes from. I’m not a famous person and I haven’t touched the lives of very many people, but I have touched the lives of important people. They are important simply because they are here.

So what should we do?

We should begin to live as though it’s all going to be over tomorrow.

To be continued…