Keepin’ It Real
As a young man, 32 years old, I have learned to appreciate life and enjoy the things that really matter. My values have shifted as I have gained knowledge, wisdom, and understanding. By no means am I saying that I know everything or that I have arrived at the pinnacle of knowledge. But what I am saying is that each person, at some point, has to take inventory of his or her own life.
As you take stock of your life, consider asking yourself these questions:
- What do I value?
- How many people have I helped?
- What have I accomplished?
- Who is my support network?
- For what or for whom am I grateful for?
These are just some guided questions to help you begin the process.
“Get busy living or get busy dying.” Andy Dufresne – Shawshank Redemption (1994)
As you think about your values, life aspirations, and dreams, consider the misplaced values that are all too common in our society. There are some things listed here that are more prominent in one subculture (i.e. youth, Black people, urban communities, etc.) more than another.
- Expensive cars
- I believe that cars are the number one thing that people use to pretend like they are something they are not. I have seen brothers in the neighborhood driving cars that have more value than any home that they have ever lived in. What is even worse are the expensive rims that people choose to put on their cars. Why do this? They cost a lot of money; and if you hit a pot hole you will be calling a tow truck.
- Advice: Consider investing in a house or buying a low cost car. People may look at you funny now but they won’t ten years from now. Ten years from now your car will be paid; you will have money in the bank, and a house to call home. Choose investing in your life versus investing in a car that you will drive around for a year.
- Expensive shoes
- I am tired of hearing people complain about their bills but wearing Jordan’s. I have no sympathy for you. Why do we place high value on these high-priced shoes? There are stories of people fighting, shooting, and even killing people over these shoes. Is it that serious? Admiration for expensive shoes, especially Jordan’s, is one of the dumbest things I have ever seen or heard of.
- Advice: Consider buying three nice pair of Nike’s for the price of one pair of Jordan’s. You may also consider buying a suit. I can get a nice suit for $200.
- Inappropriate clothes
- If I could pick one thing that irritates me the most in this category, it would be any man or woman that sags his or her pants. This has to be the dumbest and most irrational social trend of all time. This trend has a different meaning in prison. Sagging your pants does not make you any tougher. Why is this cool? You can also add booty shorts and see through clothing to this category. The type of men and women that you attract with this type of clothing are probably the same people you complain about in your status messages, tweets, and blogs.
- Advice: Dress as seriously as you want to be taken.
- Money mismanagement
- In my lifetime I have met many people that have made more money than I could ever dream of. In some cases, I have found that I have less debt, more savings, and more life insurance than some of them. I have also discovered that people who make less money than me have managed to build more wealth than I. How do you manage your money? A budget is when you tell your money where to go versus wondering where it went.
- Advice: No matter how big or small your budget is, you should have a plan. You do not have to make millions to be a millionaire.
- Valuing sports more than education
- There is more to life than watching and playing sports or desiring to be a professional athlete. We spend hundreds and thousands of dollars on sports tickets and apparel but choose not to invest in our own nor our children’s education. As a young Black man some of the only black people that I saw on television were athletes, thus this became a dream of mine and many others like me in my neighborhood. At the time I did not visualize being anything else. That was 20 years ago; and the perspective of today’s Black youth is very similar to mine 20 years ago.
- Advice: If you love athletics consider becoming a personal trainer or athletic trainer. There are many careers that are exciting and pay well. Do some exploring. Let me know if you need help.
- Oversized and oral jewelry
- For the life of me I will never understand the fascination with huge pieces of jewelry and medallions. What is even worse is anyone in the world believing that gold frontz or grillz is acceptable. What makes this cool? Your breath stinks because of these, you cannot speak properly because of these, and you look like an idiot.
- Advice: Spend your money on the dentist instead of on diamond, gold, or platinum frontz.
- I once walked out of my parents’ house with a do-rag on my head. My father was quick to inform me that a do-rag was not to be worn in public. At the time I did not understand this. Now I know that do-rags, head scarves (i.e. handkerchiefs), and rollers should not be worn in public. Why? Because you look like an unprepared piece of hot garbage when you go outside like this.
- Advice: Do not go outside until you are ready. If you must venture out before you are fully prepared consider a baseball cap or a wig.
- Celebrity fascination
- Why are we so fascinated with celebrities? It could be because they are living lives that we could only dream of. It could be to make us feel better about our own lives. Regardless of the reason, most celebrities do not serve as role models for today’s youth. We watch Flavor of Love, The Karsdashians, and Basketball Wives. Do any of these shows exhibit the behaviors that we wish to see in our children?
- Not all reality TV is trash; there are some shows where people are actually changing lives. My personal favorite is Undercover Boss. I hear that “Secret Millionaire” is also a good one.
- Advice: Provide your children with visual role models that will empower them to be better people. They may not appreciate it now but then again we are not here to be friends to our children.
“Don’t spend what you don’t have, to buy what you don’t need, to impress folk you don’t even like.”