Personal Algebra. The Equation to Truly Being Yourself.

Sometimes God speaks to me in the most random places and at the most random of times (but I appreciate it, nonetheless). As I stood in my kitchen washing a few dishes to the sounds of Bonobo, the following words popped in my head out of nowhere:

"You need to start [being yourself] more."

I don’t know what I was thinking about right before that moment (nothing too serious, I’m sure), so it was definitely unexpected, but the words came through very clearly. I stopped for a second and thought about what that meant (or should mean) to me. After all, I like to think that I’ve always been pretty genuine in what I give to others, so it had me wondering… What exactly goes into [being yourself]?

I meditated on it for a brief moment and decided that “it’s finding a balance between who you are now and who you want to be.” But then, I stopped and realized that didn’t feel right. Something was missing. I let mind my sit on the question for another second or two and came up with the following equation:

(a) embracing who you are + (b) fully understanding who that person is + (c) building yourself into the person you want to be = (y) being yourself.

There are a lot of working parts that go into [being yourself] and I’m slowly but surely learning that as each day of this New York City life passes. Lately, I’ve realized a few truths about myself, some pretty good ones and a few that require work here and there. I think they all go into that middle variable (b), fully understanding who you are. I’ve changed in so many ways since I went off to college, and even more since I moved out here two years ago, but the little kid who you used to play with dinosaurs in his backyard is still inside.

You have to consider all of the parts of who you are before you can be yourself. What I mean by that is, for me, I’ve grown up a lot, but I haven’t outgrown any of the “Jovels” I’ve been in the past. They all move through each day with me and I love them all. I think it’s important to pull the best parts of each of those people inside you. Holding on to those different elements makes you the best [you] that you can be.

And with said, I suppose (b) sort of has to come before (a), actually. I’ve been good on (c) for a while, but it’s time to look at those other variables in more detail. The sooner I figure it all out, the sooner I’ll understand why God felt like sharing that with me this morning. He doesn’t bring anything your way that you’re not ready for, so I guess have some preparation to do before I get what he has in store for me.

Think about that for yourself too. If you’ve gotten out of touch (or never really were in touch) with who you are and all that you have to offer, take some time and find yourself. You’ll be glad you did.

Fight. Or Flight.

Flashing back to my senior year at Morehouse, one of the most impactful lessons I learned in college came from my Theories of Personality course. My professor always pushed the importance of looking deep inside of yourself every time you have an [intense emotional reaction] to a person, event, or stimulus. Basically, you should explore your inner self and ask why that [cause] resulted in that [effect]. With that idea in mind, I’ve since started looking introspectively at myself much more often, always trying to ask the right questions at the right time.

Last week, I found myself face to face with quite a few stress-inducing elements; and, as I took the time to reflect, they helped me develop this new take on the concept of [fight or flight]. It’s a major part of the theories of evolution and natural selection (and for good reason).

For those who don’t know what it is, google it, but long story short, animals use this mechanism to survive and prosper.

Those built to fight, fight. Those built to fly, fly. They can’t help themselves, I suppose. It’s just an instinctual response. I took a second to ask myself if I’m a fighter or a flier, and I think it’s safe to say I was made to fly.

Some might thing it’s a weakness, but I’m not thinking of [flight] in the conventional sense… God didn’t position me to spend my time playing on the ground trying to fight my way through each day. It’s not in my character, it’s not in my nature. I prefer to think that I was meant to [fly above the things that upset my spirit]. It seems like a much healthier and peaceful route, don’t you think?

We can never afford to let forces that are innately weaker than us (anger, hate, and pain, as well as the people that carry those things) get the best of us. We were divinely designed to be stronger than them—although they tend to overcome many around us.

Just think about it. Why exert unnecessary energy battling what should be beneath you? When you fly on the thermals—you know, like an eagle—it simply requires you to spread your wings and allow the winds (God) to keep you soaring. I’m trying to start soaring, no more flapping. It’s a tired dance. 

And even more importantly, I’m reminding myself that as I float through the skies, I can’t look down, only ahead. My mom always told me, "Look where you’re going or you’ll go where you’re looking." We really have to stop planting our eyes on things that are beneath us and just fly forward. Remember that. And with all of this said, I’ll see you guys in the sky.

Want a little more on the topic? This reminded of a bible study post I did 4 years ago: Bible Study - April.23.2010.

Dream Big. Pray Big.

God is like a master pianist. Every note in the song of my life has been flawlessly played, and sometimes I can’t help but just smile at the way He speaks to me. He never misses a beat.

This morning, I woke up with an urge to start re-reading this great Joel Osteen devotional my mother gave me a while back. I was about to start on Day 1, but instead I flipped over to the current day of the month and decided I’d start over from the top next week on July 1st. So I flipped through to the 28th devotional and read away. It was the perfect message about praying big and having bold faith in regard to the dreams and visions God has placed in your life — two things that I’ve been reflecting on a lot these past few days. It was an amazing call to action and I prayed for a lot this morning.

The captivating part didn’t come until a little later though. I stopped and thought about it for a second and realized… it’s [not] June 28th. It’s the 27th. When God wants you to get something, there’s no escaping His call. I started on the 28th, mistakenly, because I needed that reminder. Today, not tomorrow. It was comforting reassurance that He already has some mind-blowing things lined up for me and is just waiting for me to ask.

What are you [not] asking for? And why? Just something to think about as you start your weekend. Make it amazing. I will.

"…to be a visionary, all you have to do is make decisions based off of your eyes instead of your ears and your memories."
Kanye Westw
"The Negro race, like all races, is going to be saved by its exceptional men."

-WEB DuBois

I’m posting this, not for [black] reasons, but for the words in between those commas: “like all races.” I think if you replace [races] with a more general term or phrase, like social groups, you’ll see the real insight behind this statement. The exceptional men (and women) of any and every subcategory of people are the ones who save the day and make the world bearable, at least for me anyways. I won’t stop working hard until I’ve become one of the exceptional ones (and by then, working hard will be in my blood, so I still won’t stop). - JRP :v

"Maybe the past is like an anchor holding us back. Maybe you have to let go of who you were to become who you will be…."
My favorite New Yorker… C.B.
A young runner once asked Univ. of Oregon Track Coach and Nike Co-Founder Bill Bowerman, “How do I improve my times?” His answer: “Run faster.”

Sometimes you don’t have to go looking for secret recipes or tips on how to be better or get an advantage over others. Every now and then, the answer we need to hear is simple and clean:

Do better. Try more. Push yourself harder.

Vocabulary Lesson - June.02.2012

A coping method that might not be as unhealthy as people think: REPRESSION!

repression |riˈpre sh ən|

-noun
1. The act of repressing or the state of being repressed.
2. (Psychology) The unconscious exclusion of painful impulses, desires, or fears from the conscious mind.
3. (Psychoanalysis) the subconscious rejection of thoughts and impulses that conflict with conventional standards of conduct

In my Theories of Personality class, I learned about Freud’s defense mechanisms, which are basically subconscious reactions to situations and truths that our brains either can’t process or accept. For the most part, these are rooted by unconscious factors that we can’t completely control, but what if we used them on purpose? I mean, the brain uses them in [an attempt] to help us deal with life. Why not take control and use some of them when we consciously feel we need them?

I was talking to a friend today about some stuff that’s been filling up my headspace and, at this point, I really can’t think about it anymore. Have you ever spent so much time pondering over something, looking at it from every angle and perspective, really examining every inch of a situation, until you got to that point where you were overwhelmed and couldn’t really process it any more, even if you wanted to? I think that’s where I’ve arrived. I really just want to lock up any and all thoughts regarding the subject, which got me thinking about one of Freud’s more popular defense mechanisms: repression. I asked myself a question:

How unhealthy would it be if we could purposely “activate” these unconscious defense mechanisms?

People say you shouldn’t run away from your problems. Well, what if it’s just for a quick jog…? Is it okay to push thoughts aside indefinitely until you feel like you’re both willing and ready to face them again? or should you keep trying to decipher through all the confusing, scary, or disappointing truths of life until you can see the answer you’re searching for clearly?

My favorite law in Robert Greene’s 48 Laws of Power is Law 36, which pretty much says to ignore the things you can’t have. If you can’t find peace with a situation, why not just give yourself a break and ignore it, even if it’s just momentarily to catch your breath? I don’t know about you, but I’m calling a timeout. I’ll hop back into that game a little later.

Wednesday with 35 notes / reblog
I was talking to a friend who made a joke about the Raven-Symone rumors that are going around. For those who haven’t heard, people suspect that the 26-year old star is dating AzMarie Livingston, a former contestant on the latest season of America’s Next Top Model. Well, that plus all of the recent Obama/NAACP/Gay Marriage buzz got me thinking:

It’s funny how we spend [the most] time thinking about the one part of other people’s lives that have nothing to do with us. At all.

We don’t ask or care about what our neighbors do for a living, as long as they sleep with the opposite sex. We don’t bash people for doing drugs or look at people funny because they don’t have a college degree, as long as they’re not gay. We become so concerned with who people fall in love or sleep with, but it really couldn’t concern us any less.
A relationship has to do with [two] people, so why do we [all] care about what other people are doing? What is it about GAY relationships that we care so much about? Is it an overall lack of understanding? Is it a basic human need to target some “inferior” group? Is it really all about what the bible says? At the end of the day, whether you sleep with guys or girls, it really doesn’t affect anyone other than you and yours. That’s just an observation I made earlier this week. Now, back to your regularly scheduled programming.
Thursday with 60 notes / reblog

Interviewer: Why can’t you be alone without Yoko?
John Lennon: But I can be alone without Yoko, but I just have no wish to be. There’s no reason on earth why I should be alone without Yoko. There’s nothing more important than our relationship, nothing. And we dig being together all the time. Both of us could survive apart but what for? I’m not going to sacrifice love, real love for any whore or any friend or any business, because in the end you’re alone at night and neither of us want to be. and you can’t fill a bed with groupies. It doesn’t work. I don’t want to be a swinger. I’ve been through it all and nothing works better than to have someone you love hold you.

[Love and romance aren’t lost. They just skipped a generation. One day, people will understand this again.]
"Don’t be worried, because that which can disappear is worth disappearing. It is meaningless to cling to it - it is not yours, it is not you."

Osho

[Something inside told me that someone needed to hear that. I hope whoever it is sees it.]

[Fantasy, Empathy, & Opportunity]

I wanted to make this another vocabulary lesson, but I couldn’t settle on a word. There are so many key words that relate to what’s on my mind, so I figure I’ll just let them all flow into sentences and share what’s on my mind.

It’s amazing how much you can empathize with others. I mean really feel emotion and hurt alongside the people you care about. [Flashback]: Growing up, I still remember learning about sympathy and empathy. Being the geek that I am, I thought it was cool how they were so similar, but meant completely different things. I’d get confused from time to time and mix up their meanings, but I really get it at this point. Whereas sympathy relates to feeling pity or sorrow for someone, empathy is when you can relate to another person’s emotion or experience.

Well, I’m overwhelmed right now. So many thoughts, questions, and feelings are rushing through my mind.

Is love a [fantasy]? What makes people loyal? What makes us unfaithful? What’s so hard about love? When is it really pure? When is it real? Is it even worth it?

The crazy thing is, all of this mental activity comes from someone else’s situation. I’ve learned that, personally, I only completely empathize with my family or best friends, so I suppose this is a clear, indisputable sign of how I view our friendship. I’m sitting here typing this post because of what a close friend of mine is going through; something that has [nothing] to do with me. Why? Maybe the reality (or lack thereof) of what we call love just has me unsettled right now.

Could my friend’s current situation, which up to two days ago I tweeted was the [perfect] relationship, have been the final straw it took to make me a disbeliever in this idea of two people my age being happy with one another completely and purely?

As I lay in bed, unable to sleep, I find myself worried about him, pissed at his girlfriend, disappointed, shocked, and somehow even betrayed. I guess this perfect relationship was my one piece of perfect evidence, my only hope, that real relationships still exist in my generation (at least, as far as I know of personally). Dang… What is wrong with us? Seriously. Guys cheat on girls, girls cheat on guys, and even et cetera…. I wonder where the future of [the relationship] will lead. Will it go anywhere at all?

One thing I will say is that I think that God completely answers prayers. We talked the other day about him getting ready for life after school and really trying to get a clear view of what’s next for him. I guess this is God’s very abrupt answer. If I hadn’t remembered our conversation and connected the God-ordained dots in this situation, I probably wouldn’t know what to think. I feel strongly that, in addition to the major feelings that are ahead for him, there’s going to be vast opportunity and discovery in store. I sure hope so.

I have church in the morning, so I should wrap this up. [good] night.

Vocabulary Lesson - May.05.2012

Something that comes out in the fieriest and tensest of moments: REVELATION!

revelation |ˌrevəˈlā sh ən|

-noun
surprising and previously unknown fact, esp. one that is made known in a dramatic way revelations about his personal life.
• the making known of something that was previously secret or unknown the revelation of an alleged plot to assassinate the king.
• used to emphasize the surprising or remarkable quality of someone or something seeing them play at the international level was a revelation.

For today’s lesson, let’s focus in on the overall definition and the first sub-definition above. It’s funny thinking back to my last vocabulary lesson, [mirror], because that too was written about a hostile situation, but apparently, these are the moments when truth and revelation come out. I won’t go into much detail about what got us to the boiling point or the specific revelation that I had, but last night, I got into another heated argument with a different friend of mine, and in the midst of the word-war, he shared some interesting information that there has apparently been some type of group consensus on for a while now…

It’s crazy how some of the people that should be closest to you don’t keep it real with you until they’re pushed to fits of anger; it’s almost as if the truth has become a punishment. I don’t get that. The whole situation makes me think back to my Theories of Personality class. Dr. Carter taught us that when people are able to pull out an extreme reaction from you, you shouldn’t waste time in your emotions, but instead look deep inside of yourself to find out what the cause of that reaction is. What is in you, whether’s it’s an insecurity or an intense level of passion, that caused you to act outside of your typical behavior or personality?

I’m forcing myself to not only search for that answer, but also to take my own advice. I told a friend of mine recently to never treat others wrongly because of what one friend has done or said to you in the past. It’s so funny when you’re feeding others advice and then the spoon is turned around and pointed in your face. I’m really trying to think if I need to just forgive and forget. It’s the second time I’ve gotten into a ridiculous situation with this guy over nothing; and although we’re “friends,” the situation leads me to evaluate and maybe even reconsider the [type] of friends (some, not all) that I have around me.

Is it wrong to question or feel some kind of way about an entire group of people based on what one person said [on behalf] of everyone? What if the liquor and anger led him to make it all up? What if it just led him to finally be honest? Situations like this make it hard to just brush things to the side and keep it moving like nothing happened. I’m a thinker and it’s not easy for me to just let things go. You see, in this case, it’s not so much an issue of pride; it’s an [issue] of trust.

Tuesday with 4 notes / reblog
Yeah, from time to time, I consider this… but then everything else around me proves otherwise.
Vocabulary Lesson - April.23.2012

Something you should take a strong look at every once in a while: MIRROR!

mirror |ˈmirər|

-noun
1 a reflective surface, now typically of glass coated with a metal amalgam, that reflects a clear image.
• figurative something regarded as accurately representing something else the stage is supposed to be the mirror of life.

So… about thirty minutes ago, I got into it with a friend of mine. I found myself venting about some of his behaviors that I don’t particularly care for. However, in the midst of “checking him,” I got a nice look at myself. He [calmly] pointed out a few similarities that we have in common that weren’t exactly in plain view to me until now. It’s funny how we can have such strong [negative] feelings about people from time to time, but somehow fail to see our our own reflections glaring back at us.

The funny thing is, in the midst of finally telling him what had been on my mind for the past three days, I didn’t even make any valid points. For once, I was really at a loss for words (even though enough noise came out anyway). I guess I finally had a catharsis of sorts. In psychology, I think this would be a good example of projection, which is the act of placing certain traits or impulses onto other people instead of ourselves. Some of the [asshole] characteristics I saw in him were really a lot of the same bad habits I have myself.

All in all, today’s been a “less than positive” day for me (not that that’s an excuse). I started off the day in a great mood and slowly but surely went further and further downhill. On the opposite side, this unexpected revelation is actually a plus for me. It showed me a few ways that I can be a better person in the future. In my Business Policy class, my professor taught us that a problem properly stated is already half-solved. I think I get the problem now. Looks like I’m halfway there.

In dealing with others (and life in general), it’s important not to have a one-sided perspective. I talk to others about the importance of looking at things from multiple perspectives all the time, but it’s funny how I’m the one that needs to hear that advice now. You have to be weary of a critical spirit. It’s easy to be judgmental; not so easy to be understanding.