Helping a Blind Man See

Paying attention to signs is so relevant to everyday life. It's easy for me to say that because on a spiritual level, I'm in tune with my body and  physically, I am an able-bodied person who has the literal ability to see. I recently attended a meet-up catered to freelancers in Baltimore, and one of the people I met was a graphic designer who's work can be found in children's museums across the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions of the U.S. Up until that event, I never even thought about who actually created these types of directional signs, but ever since our conversation, I've been noticing how signs are (or aren't) placed.

Today, while taking the metro to the city, a blind man entered the train. As he sat down, he used his cane to navigate which seats were empty, and began to tilt his head forward and towards the doors so he could hear where the next stop would be. I watched as he tried to figure out when his stop would be, by assuming he either was counting the stops in his head, or was waiting to listen for the announcement over the intercom system...which never came.

Up until that point, I never noticed that the 15 minutes prior to him stepping on the train, the conductor never made an announcement to let us know which stop we were at or which stop was coming next. I got emotional and frustrated at the same time while being empathetic to the man in front of me. If the particular car we were on was empty, would he have even been able to get to his destination? Why wasn't there an automated announcement telling us which stop we were approaching? Why is this [metro] system so broken?

I thought about why I cared so much - maybe it's because I'm so immersed in being in spaces that are inclusive, I'm more sensitive to those who haven't had a voice. I thought about the irony of how disconnected the transportation system is in Baltimore to the people who actually need the service, and I thought about how can I help.

The man stood up from his seat, moved his cane around and asked "which stop is this?" in which I replied, and he left nodding, right in my direction.

Motivational Tweets From A Rapper

Gucci Mane is living his best life. For quick context and for those unfamiliar, Gucci is a rapper from Atlanta who is currently touring throughout countries in Europe - all places he is visiting for the first time in his life...and he is flourishing. He's been through a transformation of sorts - from being incarcerated (while still releasing albums), to losing weight, eating healthy, and now declaring positive affirmations. What I love most about his glo-up is that he sounds and looks genuinely happy with the way things are going and he's giving us tips along the way:

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Whether these tweets are a reminder for himself, or a small piece of what has been working for him up until this point, doesn't really matter. What matters- and what I know to be true -  is that affirmations are incredibly powerful. Declaring what you want, who you are, who you aspire to be out loud is transformative and will get you through any sort of slump you may be experiencing.

Beginner's Mind

Shoshin  is a concept in Zen Buddhism meaning "beginner's mind". It refers to having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject, even when studying at an advanced level, just as a beginner in that subject would. (Source: Wikipedia) The easiest example of this could be practicing meditation or any style of yoga, and although this concept seems simple on paper, it's often more challenging (and sometimes frustrating) to push through. The beauty of this concept is that it isn't limited to these examples. In fact, this could be (and probably should be) the way we approach our day-to-day activities. When you're in a constant state of wanting to learn, without judgment, you're spending less time talking and more time listening/reading/reflecting/researching. This leaves room for us to be curious, creative and to be open to possibilities that may not have appeared beforehand.

So I pose these questions: When was the last time you did or learn something for the first time? What did it feel like? What did you learn? How did it help you be better?

Recreate that feeling, especially if you felt nervous or even terrified just before starting the process.

Music to Inspire...

Anders Koppel doesn't have an extensive Wikipedia page, nor does he have a bio on Spotify, yet somehow the engineers at Spotify managed to incorporate one of his songs in my Discover Weekly playlist. Everything Is Subject to Change is the title of the song that I was fortunate to hear for the first time in 2015, and my writing game hasn't been the same since. Music has a beautiful way of placing you in a certain time period and it also has the power to inspire creativity - in this particular case - writing.

In general, on this blog, I tend to write about how daily occurrences, activities, feelings, and moods can lead to certain 'a-ha' moments or discoveries from within. Music has been the catalyst to help bring those observations to a documented platform.

Tips from Toddlers

It never ceases to amaze me that most kids under the age of 5 that I've been around have an identical reaction moments leading up to their nap time. They fuss, sometimes scream, cry, throw things, and the last thing they want to do is lay down to sleep. If they only knew how good naps actually feel... I figured I'd compose a checklist for us, whenever we're feeling cranky:

  • drink some water

  • meditate

  • take a nap

Repeat as necessary.

Accidental Marathon

For a long while, I debated whether or not to go back to school after taking a 9-year hiatus from undergrad. In the back of my mind, I was thinking that colleges and universities weren't closing anytime soon, I was frustrated with my experience during my anticipated final semester, and I made my way this far in my career - why would I consider going back? Well, life has a funny way of telling you things you need to hear, and it took a handful of people and conversations to encourage me to pursue Higher Ed considering where I want to be ~10 years from now, personally and professionally (if there's such a thing as separating the two). Doing my own thing, following my passion, doing I what I love... all the inspirational quotes you see pop up on your IG feed, I pursued. And it was difficult, especially because I was trying to "fulfill my dreams" while making money at the same time and jumping over to another project that excited me, without finishing what I started. However, I'll say I wouldn't have these last 5 years and some change any other way. There are countless lessons I've learned, some pitfalls I could've avoided had I just asked for help, and relationships that could have either been avoided or repaired had I chose to stay in one particular role and location.

Recently during an interview, I was asked: if you had to pick one, making money or helping people. (*in my head* I want to make a sh*t ton of money and help people, why do I have to pick one?!) I replied with, make an impact, help people, and make money while doing those things. The jury is still out determining whether or not that answer landed me the job.

If there was a title to this chapter in my life, it'd be called Patience: Just What the Doctor Ordered. By definition, Patience is the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset. At this point, I believe that patience requires an understanding of what you want + what you bring to the table. I know what I want, I know what I'm capable of bringing, and I also know that that there are tools to help me finesse said capabilities: see education. Which brings me to this notion of an accidental marathon. Or at least to the realization that I don't have to jump to 'the next thing' because it sounds intriguing.

An accidental marathon, in this case, means that I'm taking the time to fine tune what I'm really great at, this time with a plan.

 

A Bookmark to Remember

I started reading Industries of the Future by Alec Ross, a book that I'm borrowing from my local library. I first heard about Alec while attending TEDxBaltimore in 2016. He was one of the presenters and struck me as a knowledgeable person as he navigated his way talking about growing up in West Virginia, being a former Baltimore City Public School educator, working with Hillary Clinton... and yes, talking about the industries of the future.

After reading through the introduction, a bookmark casually fell out from the middle of the pages and it read "Wild By Nature."

The juxtaposition and irony of this bookmark and the title of said book aren't lost on me. Whoever borrowed this book also seems curious about the world we live in, and where we're headed as we're shifting to a more connected society in every sense of the word. But I was pleasantly surprised to look up the website printed on the bookmark: www.wildbynaturegallery.com

From the 'About Us' page:

"For Henry H. Holdsworth wildlife photography embodies much more than taking pictures of animals. It's about gaining insight through interaction with other living creatures. It's about the challenge of capturing behavior, color, composition and light in that one perfect moment that brings life to the subject. The sheer beauty of the images is important, but the true heart of Henry's photography is focused on bringing about a greater appreciation of nature and its preservation."

I haven't even read the first chapter of the book, and yet the introduction paints a clear picture of not only the obvious - what to expect as I read through - but how important it is to capture and research this current moment in time from every corner of the world, in order to prepare ourselves for what's to come.

There are some lessons to be learned here somewhere. For starters, head over to your local library. You never know what you'll end up stumbling across.

 

Reinvent Yourself

Since April, I've been knee deep in socializing, job hunting, and studying for the GMAT(!). It's actually a lot more exciting than it may sound.

Working as a freelance consultant and writer for the past year has given me the ability to stress out for hours and sometimes days on end (😉), to create my own boundaries (e.g. set my alarm for 6:45 am instead of sleeping 'til 11 am), and to truly grasp what time of day my brain is the most functional for focus-driven tasks such as writing web content for a client or re-learning quadratic equations.

I can attest that I've managed to find a balance between taking breaks from focus instead of breaks from distraction, while still allowing (and often times requiring) myself to get out of the house to meet up with friends or attend an event.

However, I am kicking things up a notch by stretching my mind and capabilities even further than I imagined. As I think about what I want my life to look like 6 months, 1 year, 10 years down the road,  while connecting the dots from what I've done in the past, I aim for building social capital and wealth.

My goal has never been to be complacent, and because of that, it's important to have the ability to reinvent myself. This means pursuing opportunities that were once the last thing I wanted to do, attending events that are intended for 'members only' (shout out to my plugs) and saying no to opportunities that don't offer room for growth.

Doubling down on what matters to me right now: making money, getting into my top MBA program, and building a network of amazing humans (in that order) is a priority.

If you're reading this and have some advice, cool events, or job opportunities that may be up my alley, I'm all ears!

displaying diversity

I'm proud, yet not surprised that Eric Woolworth, President of Business Operations of The HEAT Group, released a statement on celebrating diversity in their workplace. Miami is a melting pot of cultures, ideas, genders, races, etc. and this was definitely apparent when I worked in their front office a few years back. As more CEOs are stepping up to recognize disparities within their offices, and how to address them, in every industry from tech to entertainment and sports, there's value that's being added in creating a culture of empathy to future employees.

For a little over 10 months, I've been freelancing and working part-time gigs, still on the job hunt for a full-time position, seeking places that are not only in line with my ethos, but those who actually represent a wide range of cultures, genders, and races.

Worth noting, I understand that there is privilege here. I moved back home with my parents - rent free - in order to rebuild and focus on what I truly want to do. Their sacrifices over the years have allowed me to be in the position that I'm in, and I am forever grateful.

While narrowing down what I want to do and who I want to be, there are a few must-haves, or rather red flags I look for, that come into play when I'm researching companies to work for. Maybe this is a generational thing, but if I click on an about us page and can't find any information (pics, bios, team members) on who works at said company, I'm more hesitant to inquire more information and/or apply.

Somewhere along their press or blog or mission/values page(s), I'd want to see who and what they stand for. Granted, there are companies that claim they are diverse and inclusive because it looks good on paper, and others who want to publicly address that they aren't at an ideal quota of diversity measures, but to have zero information about creating inclusivity or caring about people that are different from the executive and leadership staff is another red flag.

My hope is that as more people in power and leadership positions step up and claim what they are or aren't doing as it relates to creating a diverse workforce - publicly -  will foster an equality diverse pipeline of talent who are willing to introduce new ideas, that could very well mean improving the bottom line,  to the existing environment.

dedication to our matriarch

February is a month most noted for celebrating Black history and love. I dedicate this particular post to the matriarch of my family, Nelly Mercier Rigaud, my grandmother who was born on February 20, 1919, and was an unwavering example of what it means to love, have fortitude, resiliency, and determination to make sure everyone eats - literally.

Over the years, I learned that she always made sure the men had enough food on their plate (patriarchy apparently is real in the West Indies too), she held down the movie theaters our family rented in Haiti while her husband was being an entrepreneur in the U.S.,  and passed down her greatest recipes to the best cook in the family - my mom.

Hearing stories of her years after her departure from the world only makes me wish I talked to her more often and asked her more questions when she was alive. There was a bit of a language barrier between her and me,  yet she still enforced discipline and love in a way only I could sense. Maybe it's part of the fear that my elders instilled in me, but nonetheless, I respected her off the premise of her presence.

I don't know how she did all the things she did while maintaining an angelic presence. An angel in disguise, I suppose.

As I've gotten older, I'm learning the importance of traditions and family values, and I have her to thank for this.

realism mixed with pessimism

I'd consider myself an optimistic person, even during our current shifts in power. Although, recently when I heard Chimamanda speak, she described that activism in this moment should be realism mixed with pessimism. I still have grand visions to live in a better world that almost feels like a utopia and create opportunities for my future kid(s), and understandably so, often times it feels that's a heavy burden to carry.

What keeps me sane and hopeful, yet confronted with reality, is putting myself in positions that challenge my thinking and the way I see the world. This means if I want to work with kids, I have to understand how the education system works, by getting involved with local schools. If I want to bridge gaps I see from a public health lens, I have to understand who the policy makers are and the communities that they are looking to serve. If I want to create a business that has yet to exist, I have to educate myself on how to monetize this idea.

Digging deep into these areas isn't pretty, but it's necessary. And some of this work won't be published or noticed or praised, but that's not the point.

 

ready for blessings

I was caught off guard. In between finishing some paperwork for a job, doing recon for an upcoming event, catching up on articles, news and upcoming events, I saw an email that caught my eye. Reading the subject line and without even opening the email fully, tears welled up in my eyes, and as cliché as it sounds I felt incredibly loved and filled with gratitude at that moment.

I should've known something like this was coming, yet I was still floored.

It's almost as if these last few months of practicing generosity, reciting daily affirmations and listening to Chance has actually paid off. 🤔

A cabin in the woods

  I spent the weekend with 16 incredibly hilarious and gifted humans playing games, dancing, skiing, and snowboarding. The best part about this group is that most of us had never met each other before this trip. We're all part of a young professionals group in Baltimore (+/- a few significant others), and some of us have been to various happy hours or other events around the city, but never under one roof and all together. What we all have in common is our spontaneity and openness to not only meeting new people but having a damn good time.

We couldn't have predicted the depth of what transpired over this weekend - the inside jokes, the cooking skills some of us have, the pure joy and release that happens when we step outside our "9-5." My stomach still hurts from laughing so much, and what happens at the cabin, stays in the cabin. However, let this be your quarterly reminder to grab some friends and head out of town for a weekend.

It'll be good for your soul.

on collaboration

I've always been inspired by people's stories. When I first started using ride-sharing services like Uber, I was intrigued by learning about my drivers and it felt as if every single person that chauffeured me to my destination had something incredible to share. I remember telling a friend that I wanted to work for Uber, but only to write about the drivers and share it with the world, but that idea was quickly shot down. Seems as if everyone had that idea. My point is that I honestly feel that I have met some fascinating people on the planet, just in my everyday occurrences.  As much as I don't necessarily enjoy small talk, I often get a sense that someone has an interesting story just by looking at them. One example is from last spring. I was walking my usual trail at a park near my house, I saw a black man swimming in the park lake in a full-on scuba outfit with a camera in hand, underwater.

I was walking my usual trail at a park near my house, I saw a black man swimming in the park lake in a full-on scuba outfit with a camera in hand, underwater. That doesn't happen everyday - at least to me. I started to walk the trail but turned around because I wanted to find out who this guy was. Turns out he's a local Baltimore photographer and was taking some initial shots for a future photoshoot. We exchanged numbers and are still friends to this day.

Fast forward to present day,  I've been working on a couple projects related to collaboration and amplifying the work of people who look like me. Speaking to friends, writing for various publications and throwing out ideas to my trusted circle, people like Kyle, Karlene, and Dorien (pictured below) have come into my life at the right time. Each of their stories is inspiring, impactful and I'm grateful that people like them exist in this world. We recently met to go over ideas for an upcoming event, I'm still in awe from how our visions have turned into something tangible.

Oh, Baltimore

My love for Baltimore grows stronger as the days go by. I remember when I first moved back home in 2013, after a stint in NYC, feeling devastated and defeated. Unsure how to rebuild my life in a somewhat familiar place, the same reasons why I left (2002) in the first place were still ingrained in the back of my mind.

"I don't see myself in this city. It's too slow paced. It's too Black and White. Where are the Haitians that I'm not related to? Where are my Caribbean folks at?!"

It took some time for me to adjust to the pace, the shift in cultures in the neighborhood I grew up (hello Nigerians!) and the fact that there are some like-minded people that I can learn from.

Integrating myself into the different niche communities and cultures that Baltimore consists of has been my saving grace. I've gained perspective and have learned the complexities that are often overlooked by the media and even people who live in the surrounding counties.

I've pushed myself to learn and surround myself with people of different backgrounds, and by coincidence or serendipitously, I've met some of the most brilliant and ridiculously talented people.  The game-changers, the influencers, community organizers, the builders, activists, and entrepreneurs. The types of people who care about making this city shine.

And right now, that's precisely what we need.

stimulate conversation

To me, the point of writing to publish is to clear up thoughts in my head and transform them into something tangible that one person can walk away with. Whether it's a thought, an idea or a conversation. If everything is kept behind closed doors, there's little opportunity for others to be inspired or provide feedback.

No one needs to know about every single thought I have. However, what I've found is that writing on this platform has proven to be worth the effort of sitting in front of a blank screen, formulating cohesive sentences and clicking publish.

The only way I can improve as a writer, as a friend, and as a mentor is to share how I think about the world and everyone and thing in it, publicly.

I'll get you a new one

Cleaning out my drafts, and came across this post dated from July 2016.

Wednesday 7.6.16 22:15

A Black man was shot and killed by a cop on camera yesterday in Baton Rouge - another, on camera - streamed on Facebook Live, which was filmed by the girlfriend of the now deceased young man. I haven't (nor do I want to) watched the videos. I know what happens.

I can't tell if I'm desensitized or just haven't felt the anger yet. I'm terrified for my friends and family. Not just from the cops, but from what happens when you try to process what actions to take next.

There are millions of people suffering all over the world. How do you cope? How do you make sure if someone is getting the help they need?  All of my friends and their friends, people who suffer from depression, people who have contemplated and attempted suicide...

I think about the people who don't even see the injustice. What can I do to help? I can't ignore this. I can't pretend as if this never will happen again.

I'm not angry. I don't know if I ever have been. Just in a constant state of sadness. I'm scared for my brother and Emmett (4 years old) and Chloe (10 months). I'm scared for them for living in Phoenix, Arizona, a state with an open carry law.

When do you teach kids about guns and racism?

My soul hurts. My heart hurts.

The other day I was having a discussion with a friend on this very topic - when do you bring up racism, race and the crazy world we live in - to kids? I posed this question to my brother and he replied with anytime, followed by this:

I imagine my nephew saying this to his mom while skipping away - brushing off the complexity of politics - by just replacing DT as if he were one of his broken toys.

If it were only that easy.