Sorry I’ve missed a few blogs.  Between work, the holidays and some personal things that I’ve been dealing with, I just haven’t done much writing of any kind.

     Last week, I found out a few things that put me in a bad frame of mind.  I allowed myself to slip back into an angry place that I haven’t been in for some time until I realized that being angry was useless.  The person that I was angry with had no idea that I was upset and informing them so would just give them a power over me that they should never have had in the first place.

     Thinking things through for a few days, I came to a realization.  I wasn’t truly angry.  I was in fact sad.  Sad that someone I once loved was gone forever, something that I already knew, but the new information just confirmed.  This person was lost to me years ago, but when you love someone so deeply, that love never truly goes away, it just evolves, for better or for worse.

     With this realization, I thought about everything that had led to this point, all of the things that caused this person to slowly disappear right before my eyes.  And then I thought about my son; how one bad choice can send him spiraling down the same dark path and changing the kind hearted loving person he is into a self absorbed, damaged person incapable of being loved.

     I like to think that thanks to my love and influence, my son will never have to meet that same sad fate.  And so I decided to write an open letter to the person I lost so long ago.  I thought of all the things that might have made a difference, that might have kept things from falling apart around us.  Here is that letter:

Image courtesy of Vlado

Rise Above

Letter to a young black man I used to know.

Dear young man,
The road that lies ahead will not be a smooth one.  It will be full of hurdles meant to test your resolve and strength.  Don’t give into the temptations used to distract you from achieving your dreams.  An education can only get you so far.  It’s how you apply that education that shows just what you are made of.
Don’t base your worth on the opinions of others.  It is only by accepting yourself that you can be truly happy.  Love yourself before attempting to give your heart to another or you will become an empty shell of your former self on a never ending quest to fill a void that can never be filled by another.
Don’t let your past experiences color your future opportunities.  Rise above adversity instead of letting it drag you down a dark path that you may never be able to return from.  Just because you have been hurt in the past does not mean everyone you come in contact with is out to hurt you.  If someone tries to love you with all that they are, let them, don’t question that love until it becomes so shrouded in doubt that it cannot survive.
Don’t focus on the negative.  It will prevent you from seeing all that is truly right in your life and enjoying the present.  Harboring doubt and resentment in your heart will leave no room for love and hope.  Failure is a part of life.  We all get knocked down a few times before we can learn to stand on our own two feet.  It should not be taken personally and internalized until it crushes your spirit.
Don’t let society’s ideals and poisons fill you with a false sense of security.  Material possessions only offer temporary, instant gratification.  They are not a sign of your value.  Save and build for the future that you want because no one will hand it to you.  And turning to substances will only numb the pain for a short time.  Once the numbness wears away, the pain will grow stronger and it will be all that you will be able to focus on, sending you in search of something stronger to help you forget.  This cycle will take over your life and you won’t even be able to see how it affects you or those you love until one day you wake up and everything you love is gone.
Don’t let history repeat itself.  You know the hurt and abandonment that comes from growing up without a father.  Your children will offer you a love so pure and unconditional that it will be unlike anything you have ever known or will ever know again.  Cherish that love and hold onto it for as long as you can because no one can take it from you if you guard it like the treasure that it is.  Reciprocate that love so that they will never feel the same hurt that you live with on a daily basis.
Don’t run away when things get tough.  There is no way to outrun your problems and they will always catch up to you wherever you go.  In time, they will just compound and snowball. Stand strong and face your demons because it is the only way to defeat them.  Ask for help when you need it because no one can get through this life alone.  Accepting help from others is a sign of intelligence and not a sign of weakness.  
Don’t always look for the easy way out.  Struggle and sacrifice now so that you will not have to do so for the rest of your life.  Find a partner that challenges you, keeps you on your toes and always makes you strive to be a better version of yourself.  No one is perfect and there is always room to grow, so grow together.  Never stop growing.  A partner that idolizes you will only hold you back, never allowing you to reach your full potential.
Don’t become the epitome of every negative stereotype.  Becoming the angry, unemployed, deadbeat dad with a record is never how anyone envisions their future.  Blaming the pitfalls society puts in your way is nothing more than an excuse.  Keep your eyes, ears and heart open and you will never become that victim.  Teach your son by example what it means to be a strong black man.  And show your daughter how a real man takes care of his family so that she will never settle for less than she deserves.  
Don’t make promises that you can’t or don’t intend to keep.  Words have power and shouldn’t be brandished like a weapon. They will mean nothing if you don’t have the integrity to follow through and prove them with your actions.  When you wield empty promises and lies like a sword, you tend to lose sight of the truth.  Once you start to believe your own lies, it is hard for anyone to believe a word you utter.
Rise above young man.  Let your dreams carry you far in life.  The world is yours for the taking as long as you have the guts to fight for what you want.  
Fondest Regards,
Someone who tried to love you

P.S.: I only wish that I had the insight to offer you this advice when you were still that young, black man, so full of hopes and dreams.  Before anger, hurt and disappointment colored my words so they fell on deaf ears.  Finally learning to let go of that hurt and resentment, I offer you this advice.  It’s never too late to find your way back to the person you always wanted to be.  Rise above.

This letter doesn’t just apply to young black men, but as I said, I wrote it with a particular person in mind. I will not name that person because if they ever come across this letter, I would think they would know who they are. For anyone else who reads this, do with it what you will. Take the advice or leave it, it is just something that I needed to say. It is not an all encompassing letter and somehow seems to fall short, but we lived too much life and made too many mistakes along the way to fit it all in a single letter.
To making better choices in the new year. May we all rise above!

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