(photo: Uptown New Orleans, March 2010)
"The abject poverty revealed by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans exists in every urban area of the United States. It's poverty so severe that it kills people."
- Robert Edgar
"The past is always with us. Where we come from, what we go through, how we go through it; all this shit matters. Like at the end of the book, ya' know, boats and tides and all. It's like you can change up, right, you can say you're somebody new, you can give yourself a whole new story. But, what came first is who you really are and what happened before is what really happened. It don't matter that some fool say he different 'cause the things that make you different is what you really do, what you really go through."
- "D'Angelo Barksdale," The Wire, Season 2 Episode 6
My New Years' Resolution was distilled down to a bumper sticker slogan.
In grad school, I had a professor who celebrated the bumper sticker slogan school of thought. Every major theory, every complicated idea, everything that any philosopher or theorist or great thinker had ever thought of could be, somehow, distilled down to a bumper sticker slogan.
Descartes: "I think, therefore I am."
Hume: "A wise man proportions his belief to this evidence."
Hegel: "Nothing great has been and nothing great can be accomplished without passion."
The Life's Work of philosophers, some might say narrowed down or diluted. The details purged, the importance scoured to a sound bite.
But, in the end, the human brain will do this work anyway. We work in classifications, in categorization. Stereotypes exist because the human mind seeks to create order.
My New Years' resolution: finish what you start.
Initially, this was aimed towards creative projects and Jackal came on board as well. We made a promise to one another to practice "follow-through" in 2010. That was my entire resolution, based on the premise of "follow-through." Put your money where your mouth is.
Yesterday, I ran the Baltimore Women's Classic. My goal was simply to finish in an average time: I did better. Not only did I train, not only did I push, I set a new personal record. If you had told me, a year ago, that I would be running races, I wouldn't have believed it. I am not a runner.
Well, now I am.
I have another 5k in two weeks, and I intend to beat my new personal record.
I am signed up to run a leg of the Baltimore Marathon in October with a relay team.
Ultimately- I want to run a half-marathon. This is my ultimate goal.
And I'll do it.
And, in other news, Glitterati got a job.
Because I have to follow through.
In New Orleans, I made a promise to dedicate myself to social justice. I saw how poverty exists everywhere, and it took me flying so many thousand miles away to see it, first-hand, to realize that change starts in my own city. In my own neighborhood.
After months of job-searching, months of interviewing, I have landed a job with a non-profit that seeks to serve social justice. That provides choices and opportunities for the disadvantaged. I am returning to the 9-5 working world because I am following through on the promises I made to myself and my city to help in any way I can.
I've spent the last two years soul-searching, distilling, figuring out what is most important to me. I have held and abandoned many beliefs in that time, I have embraced and set free many ideas of who I am and who I want to be. And the only thing that sticks, like strands of finally-cooked spaghetti against a wall where I've been throwing raw ideas for two years now, is that I need to be contributing in some way to society. I chose non-profits, and I found a job in one that does significant good for the impoverished, disadvantaged, and beaten-down populations of the inner-city.
And, selfishly, I started running and lost ten pounds. The two are related in the sense of the follow-through, and I'm all for it.
New Orleans taught me a lot. About hard work, dedication, poverty, the complex issues of cities, natural disasters compounding all of this, and also a lot about my personal limits of what I can and cannot do. I was pushed. I responded. I followed through. Eventually, I ran a 5k and got a job that I hope will segue into a career.
For those of you who have stuck by this blog over the last two years, for those of you who have seen the seemingly impossible ups and downs, the "break-ups and breakthroughs," as Stephanie Klein calls them, and all of the many ridiculous moments I've had, take note: ultimate break-throughs require a great deal of personal confidence and pushing oneself very far beyond the limits of what you thought you could do. Knowing now that I can do these things is an immensely powerful thing. It opens up new questions, most notably: "Hmmm...what else can I do?" and, not to be ignored, "Hmmm...what can't I do?" The former is a bit more productive than the latter, but both are interesting perspectives to ponder.
So, Glitteratis, my advice to you is this: do it. Whatever it is you sort of have a vision of, do it. Tell everyone you know that you intend to do it (because making your desires public is one very sure way of putting a fire under your ass), and then follow the steps. Make a plan. Draw a calendar, and spend everyday doing one small thing toward this goal. Start by running one mile. Run it faster. Then run two. Then three. Get some new sneakers. Push yourself. When you're tired, when you're feeling beaten down, keep going. There's no room for tired here. Do the extra lap. Up your weights. Close your eyes and meditate for a moment and feel yourself doing it.
"I have an irrepressible desire to live life until I can be assured the world is a little better fo rmy having lived in it." -Abraham Lincoln
What's your bumper sticker resolution? Don't wait for a new year. Start now.
And finish what you start.