"I don't belong here. I'm going to embarrass myself in front of my entire hometown. Why am doing this??"
That was the dialogue going on in my head last year, throughout my entire warmup before the Sir Walter Miler in 2016. I was so consumed with anxiety surrounding the fact that I didn't stand a snowball's chance in hell of placing well in the race, against the best milers in the country. For my warm up, I removed myself from the track, did my drills and warmup routine far away from the thousand local fans and the rock star professional runners. I mean how else was I supposed to feel before knowing I was guaranteed a last place finish?? Can ya blame me??
Just look at my expression from pre-race in 2016..... (hint....I was SO SCARED!!)
This past year I have been having so much fun with racing. Road races, coaching, making lifelong friends....and getting to know downtown Raleigh; doing what I can to excite and grow the running community here. No pressure, all fun. Going into this year's Sir Walter Miler, I had started creating a new reputation for myself.
I became (I think) someone who loves to have fun, make new friends, inspire, and compete...and ALWAYS do my best.
There wasn't a race I ran in this year that there isn't a picture of me smiling. It's because I am 100% convinced I am at my best when I am happy, stress free, comparison free, and excited for every opportunity to compete.
I learned I can never let anyone down if I smile, sweat, and run my absolute best.
When I feel like I am at risk for embarrassing myself, disappointing people, lose someone's admiration, or miss out on the opportunity to inspire someone, I tense up...I have negative self talk, and perform horribly.
Notice I didn't say "getting last place."
Before the Sir Walter weekend, I told everybody I could to come watch me run in this race and get last place. Because I knew I didn't care if I DID get last place. I knew I was going to give the community something to get excited about -- they were all going to see me giving my absolute best effort, and for that reason, I wasn't afraid to be dead last again. I've actually never been so excited to get last place in my life!!
On my warmup that night, I PARADED around Meredith College. No drills. Just casually jogging around, stopping to talk to people, getting the fans excited for the relays, a couple strides across the field while cheering my lungs out for my training partners running in races before mine, while thinking and saying to everyone:
"Someone's gotta get last place... so I'm gonna make last look good!!"
"I gotta defend my last place title!"
Comparing this picture of me pre-race with the one the year prior should tell you everything.
I got all 4 of my wisdom teeth out exactly one week before running a 4 second PR in the mile. I'm not doing anything mile-specific in my training. There's no LOGICAL explanation that says I should have PR'd. I'm just happy. I had fun and competed. I also had 150 meters worth of high fives to get me hype. I held on to the pros as long as I possibly could, and gave my absolute best to keep up when they pulled away going into the 4th lap.
The power of a mindset propels you to places you couldn't even imagine yourself getting to. You can be talented, for sure, but without the right mindset, you will come up weak.
I am looking back at this moment here and have never been more excited to finish in last place. I wasn't embarrassed or worried that people that don't understand running would think I suck. Because I KNOW that I gave my 100%. I KNOW that I was excited for the opportunity to make my city proud and get some hugs at the end.
I had to scroll through my phone to figure out his name.
We had met before; it had been a while. It was ironically the last time I came to Jubala Coffee, a local cafe in North Raleigh. As I scrolled through my messages to get to the last one we had exchanged months ago, my mind drifted off to the irony of running into him again on that day -- July 6th... two days after my experience in downtown Wilmington.
I had originally come to Jubala on July 6th for a marketing meeting with my client. We were sitting outside. I went in to use the restroom and walked right past him in line. When I came out to return to my meeting, he was the first person I saw. It took me a second to remember who he was -- the forty-something NC State graduate professor who told me Indeed was a waste of time when I was looking for jobs earlier this year.
"Are you sticking around?" I asked him after we exchanged our greetings.
He looked around the cafe to see all the tables taken. "As long as I find a spot with an outlet --" He said at the same time a lady stood up to leave her table, with an outlet peeking underneath her chair.
"That's a yes!" I laughed as I held his place in line while he went to claim his spot. I walked back out to finish the meeting with my client.
I realized it had been a long time since I had been back to Jubala, and wondered what the chances of coming back here and seeing the professor again were.
"He must come here all the time," I thought.
After confirming his name (from scrolling through my phone's texts) I was confident at the end of the meeting to head back in and join him, share my 4th of July story and see how he has been doing since the last time we met.
He was working on grading his student's papers when I approached him, and I waited for him to reach a stopping point so I could get his full, undivided attention.
I told him my story ((previous blog post)) and I wanted to get my takeaway point across to him:
What really hurts me is this: The separation between our races will continue as a result of this incident; like a chain reaction.
1. The white family, that had a negative experience with a group of black people, will have an untrusting & negative opinion of African American people in the future.
2. Because I, as a person the same color as them came in to stand up for them, they will feel like they can trust me... further improving their view of our own race.
3. The group of AA people who probably didn't believe me that I would have stood up for them if it was one of them, saw me as "protecting my own kind," will have MORE reason to believe that our races are against each other, even though I was just trying to make sure another human being was ok.
"Let's take that word, Chain Reaction, and look at it," he said.
He began asking me in depth questions about the situation - explaining to me that I had neglected to think about the other side involved in the situation.
"What kind of experience has the black group had with a white person that made them so angry and wanting to lash out/make fun of this lady? What is the link on the other end of the “chain” that motivated their action?"
He challenged to analyze the situation deeper. I’m only thinking of a snapshot of the situation, when there were so many other factors to look at. He told me I was siding with the white family as I told the story - blaming the black people for everything.
At first I thought, of course I am, only because the white people were the victims in this. They didn’t do ANYTHING to this group of black people. But as he continued digging - while sharing with me a the history of black abuse and neglect, specifically in Wilmington, I began to understand.
The series of events leading up, and following the Wilmington Massacre of 1892; completely stripped black people of their businesses and confidence; destroying their hope of continued success. (I'll have to write a whole different post about this one!)
Being blinded by your race, as I understand it, is not seeing, feeling, or realizing the discomfort, discrimination, or unease a person of another race feels in their day to day life. It’s not something that goes away, or they can run away from, being a minority in this country they want to call home but can’t feel welcomed in. Why can't they feel welcomed or safe? Watch the documentary, Wilmington on Fire.
The professor told me "white power" is the PRIVILEGE we have, being the majority of the population that we don’t even realize we have. It's covered up in history. We can go wherever we want, do whatever we want, and not have to worry about being uncomfortable, unwanted, or unworthy in any situation. Even though my “short experiences in temporary situations being the minority” happened, I could escape it at any time. It’s something we can’t understand, are unable to recognize. The traumatic experiences of white on black people go far beyond comprehension of someone who lives in a good neighborhood in Raleigh, NC.
I then switched gears in the conversation to my passion; fixing the community’s trust in police. He asked me what got me so interested in it.
“I was a sophomore in college, had just switched my major to Public Relations, and had no idea what I wanted to do with it. The Trayvon Martin shooting in February 2012….”
The professor stopped me. Not literally. Not by his words; his body language.
I could feel my words drifting out of my mouth, fading away into gibberish; as all I could focus on was his facial expression turning into stone and his eyes drop his gaze. I didn’t even know what I was saying anymore. He took a second to collect himself and his thoughts before he shared something with me so deep that my soul opened up. It was as if it knew to prepare me for one of those turning point, cornerstone, life changing type of conversations.
He took a deep sigh, looked down, and looked back at me, his eyes piercing into my soul.
“Just hearing the name Trayvon Martin evokes a more painful feeling in my heart than my own experience when I was his age. It takes me back to when I was in high school in Missouri. I had a Klan member put a gun to my head. He called me a nigger and said I didn’t deserve to live.”
Goosebumps immediately overtook my arms and legs.
“I was just on a run, doing what I was supposed to do for training. What my high school coach had told me to do. I was running in my neighborhood -- I was grabbed and it happened.”
I could feel my eyes begin to sting and my heart tearing into two as I tried to hold back tears; trying so hard to listen to him continue explaining the rest of his story over my screaming heart.
“It was at that moment, that I felt that I wasn’t worth anything. I was powerless. They made me feel that black people are inferior, and we don’t deserve justice. I had no ammunition to fight back.”
I broke down. I couldn’t control it. I had a flashback to the 5th grade where we had watched a documentary on the Ku Klux Klan and how I couldn’t stop crying. I had to leave the classroom. I was outside crying in the bathroom with one or two other African American classmates. I couldn’t bear to know that this happened to people who were just like me, only different colored skin.
And here I am, almost 15 years later, meeting someone who almost had their life taken by them. Not his father, or great-great-grandfather, it was HIM.
He continued on as I’m sitting there drowning in my tears in front of him - his words completely removing me from Jubala. In that moment, I didn’t care who was around me, it was just me and him - he was confiding in me and letting me in to a time in his life where he was absolutely powerless and inferior to someone who shares a race as me. All I could think to do was just pray - that he could realize how much I care. How much I want change, how much I am willing to help, but I couldn’t help but to feel useless.
No matter what lengths I could ever go for this man, no matter what nice thing I could do or go out of my way as a white person to help him, I can NEVER restore his absolute trust and hope in our race to be there for him. That horrible, life threatening experience is ALWAYS going to take precedent over anything I could ever do for him. That broke me.
Why did it break me? Was it just that defining moment where I realized that the "ancestors" who face discrimination, or threats from white supremacists are actually people who are alive and well today??
Is creating a solution to improve the race relationships too complex to have in our lifetime? Could I ever work through this overwhelming and debilitating feeling of sharing a race with such a horrible history?
“You are powerful. Because you have passion. You just need to do your research. You need to speak to people’s hearts, not their minds.”
He told me he hadn’t been back to Jubala since the last time we met. I realized this was a coincidence too great for anyone but God to have planned - for both of us to come on the same day at the same time, for the first time since last time. And right after this experience had happened to me, sparked the most engaging and emotional conversation I've ever had.
To say I'm inspired is an understatement. I have a passion for a reason and I'm just trying to figure out how to use it to understand the history and the brokenness that many of my fellow human beings - brothers and sisters that as a result feel every day.
The scene is set in downtown Wilmington, at 11:45pm on the 4th of July. The fireworks have long ended but people are still milling about the streets, waiting in lines to get into the beach themed bars. My group of friends and I approached the Main Street crosswalk; eyes on our destination bar as the final cars cross the intersection. Suddenly, our attention is directed towards a red Corolla that drives through the intersection, runs straight over a curb... instantly popping the front passenger tire.
It all happened in a matter of seconds. The sound of the popped tire motivated my group and I to make a detour from the bar to make sure the driver was okay.
As we approached the other side of the street where the car had pulled over, we saw another group of individuals had beat us there - already circled around, laughing and talking down about the driver before she even stepped out of the car. The driver, about 30 years old was a white female. She exited her vehicle and walked over to the side where her tire was popped. My group and I walked up to see this woman, in her initial 60 seconds of "what am I going to do now?" after any borderline traumatic situation; with a group a bullies 10 feet away from her, talking trash about her and her driving.
"How could ANYONE hit a curb like that, what a dumb b****"
My first instinct was to make sure this lady was okay. "Do you have AAA or need a ride somewhere?" My second instinct was to stand up for her. "I've definitely hit a few curbs before," I said to the lady, making sure the bullies heard me.
My group of friends stayed around for about 4 minutes; long enough to see that she had a spare tire in her trunk and knew someone was on the way to help her replace it. They wanted to move along to the bars, but something inside me just wouldn't let me leave. I stayed behind with this lady and the bullies.
As the lady's husband and 5 year old son come running to the rescue in their pajamas, the comments and choice of words of the group escalated as they called this woman names, and began using curse words. The family had moved here from Russia about 2 years ago. The wife began to speak to her son and husband in their language, and this only seemed to fuel the bullies' fire and vocabulary even more.
"Oh so they don't want us to f-ing understand what they are saying"
"Got this f-ing kid here, what is he gonna do to help?"
I couldn't take it. I turned to them and politely asked a favor.
"Guys, can you please not use cuss words in front of this little kid."
Should I have said that? Probably not. But in the moment, their cussing and talking bad about the family in front of a 5 year old pushed me over the edge. So they began talking AT me but not TO me.
"Oh this white girl pissing me off..."
"She's just protecting her own kind..."
PROTECTING MY OWN KIND? No. Just NO! Try making sure a fellow HUMAN BEING is ok???!
The husband is on his hands and knees, cranking up the car as his wife and son are holding flashlights. Still talking to each other in Russian.
I walked towards the group of bullies, looked all of them in their eyes and said,
"If it were any one of you in this situation, I would be doing the exact same thing."
Responses ranged from negative comments, "yeah f-ing rights," lip smacking and eye rolling....but they all began to walk away.
I just couldn't believe the hate. The lack of respect. The lack of human compassion. This encounter threw me for a loop, and all I wanted in that moment; now as I am writing this; and always moving forward; is for that group of bullies to BELIEVE ME. I would have done the exact same thing for someone opposite my race.
The family thanked me for sticking around as they finished changing the tire and went along with their evening. But I can't help but to think about the after effects as a chain reaction - will this family now always have a negative view towards the race of bullies that gave them a hard time, and only feel safe/protected by those who share the same skin color as them? If the driver was the same race as these bullies, would they have given her as hard of a time? What happened in the bullies' lives that motivated them to lash out on this family, and will they do it again?
Restoring hope in humanity and faith in each other seems like an impossible and complex chemistry equation. But I'm ready for more opportunities to get closer to solving it.
As I'm sitting here at home on Valentines evening, eavesdropping on my 13-year old brother Facetiming his girlfriend, I can't help but to smile. It was his first Valentine's Day with a real Valentine. He wouldn't tell me much about her reaction to the guitar string bracelet that he had oh so carefully crafted over the last few weeks in between his science fair project, but I can tell he has been introduced to the feeling of caring for someone.
As someone who had a Valentine for many years, it is a pretty amazing feeling of having someone there who you know cares about you and wants to spend time (and their paycheck!!) with you. But just because you have a Valentine doesn't mean you have everything you need...something very well could be missing.
If you are single on Valentine's Day for the 25th year or the first year in a row, you can't let it all consume you. You shouldn't let being "alone" on the day make you upset. There's nothing wrong with not having a dinner date picture for #ValentinesDay. There's nothing wrong with drinking a glass of wine with your mom instead of some cute guy. Learning to love yourself is very hard, and if you are upset about not having a Valentine, you might need to start thinking about you instead of who you should have gotten already.
At work the past few weeks, I have been watching preschoolers try to master drawing heart shapes. It's ironic how hard it is for them to draw the heart shape...but their love for everyone comes so naturally. They are such a pure reminder of the importance of learning how to love yourself, others, and the world around you :)
Seeing this tweet sparked a realization of myself. I want more than anything to be there for people, but very rarely do people reach out to me for advice...Or updates for that matter. I want to have people's backs when they fall but if they are falling the other way, I can't catch them. It's ironic how the people who don't want to deal with the bad things a person is going to usually gets it.
I had a conversation with someone this weekend who said,
"Man...I'm just so exhausted from listening to people's problems."
It was vague, and I wanted him to go more into detail. But it was almost like, he didn't think I wanted to wait for him to pull up an example from a text conversation. Like I "didn't have time" for him to locate that meme he favorited on twitter 2 weeks ago that he found relatable. He left it at that.
So I looked at him and laughed. I said,
You know... You should feel lucky people are drawn to you on that level and can open up to you.
I would love for the opportunity to be there for more people. As much as I talk, there's very few people I speak with that actually come to me with their problems and what's really going on in their life beyond the small talk, life summarized into 2.5 sentences. It's easy for me to think I don't have anybody sometimes.
No I do not have a psychology degree. But I know how to listen. My priorities are in anyone who needs me's favor. Lately I feel like being taken advantage of sounds better than never being called upon to be there for somebody.
People's problems never get old to me... I want to see it through and I want to know they come out on top. 🤔🤔
There's two kinds of people in the world- ones who will straight up stop you when they lose interest, and those who will keep nodding- not really listening, but they don't want to hurt your feelings by telling you to stop. Have you ever had someone tell you to stop telling a story?? Or listened to someone who thinks what they have to say is interesting to everyone? Or doesn't care if people are listening or not? My dad is one of those people. It's amazing.
I'm telling my story to my family at the dinner table about how the guy on Craig's List I had to meet in the next town over to sell one of my brother's Lego sets is coming after me via email because the set we sold him is missing two pieces. This guy was also short $5 , so I had an argument I could create with this guy. I was reading the emails we had exchanged. I was just getting into my witty and slightly harsh email back to get him off our case (if you know me, you know I have a hard time standing up for myself and I was proud of this email)
"I don't care about that!" He interjects in the middle of my witty email, before the part where I told the guy off. "We get it, we get it - you told the guy he owes you $5 so you want him to leave you alone" Which is code for, stop wasting my time talking about this, I don't want to hear about it, I know how this story ends already. I don't care about the details.
But interesting enough, you ask him a question about history, Isis, Corporate America, math, the mattress industry, Verizon, airports charging $2 to park for under an hour, he will rant on and on and on. For hours. Even if you are rolling your eyes to the back of your head and straight up tell him to stop. He will keep on going. I don't understand. I know I can't do that.
If someone is losing interest in what I have to say, I'm paying attention to that and either shortening my story, or throwing in a curveball. Or just stopping all together. Wasting someone's time is a crime to me. Boring someone is wasting someone's time in my opinion.
So maybe some people just don't share the same interests and don't want to "waste their time" listening to something they don't care about. Some people don't listen to who they are talking to. Some people just don't know how to tell when they are boring their audience and they think that what they are saying is so important everyone should be listening to them.
Hi! My name is Sarah and I hate inequality and laziness equally.
Before you defriend me/ delete me from your life because of my statement, I have to tell you. I’m the most unbiased person you will ever meet. I have a lot of ideas. I don't know if any of them will work. But what I do know is that I care way too much about other people. I want to help ALL people enjoy life more by helping them stop being their own roadblock on their road to success.
I have the motivation to actually say SOMETHING. And I keep on keeping these thoughts all to myself. I forget a lot and kick myself trying to remember until I come to peace with the fact that the idea is gone forever. Maybe, just maybe, one of my ideas will make sense, resonate with some dude or help someone out of a not so fantastic place. My hope is by using my otherwise useless skills I acquired in undergrad, I’ll be able to present my outlandish ideas for someone else’s improvement. Whether they make sense or not, create arguments or motivation, I’m just gonna put them out there.
So back to my “I hate laziness” statement. If you look at the basics of society... Our first ancestors, (before things weren't fair: ex: racism, inequality, social status, prices of clothes) This is when they were figuring out how to survive!! The ones who sat around and waited for things to “just happen” are the ones that GOT GOT. ( Didn’t survive). The ones who worked hard every day and were motivated to innovate ways of survival GOT THEIRS (survived!)
Today: people who show up at career fairs, network, and ask questions are going to GET THEIRS, while people who sit at home watching Netflix waiting for somebody to hand them a job/their next meal is going to GET GOT.
So let’s take a look at the inequality in the education arena of society. It begins with how people are brought up. Not everyone is ABLE to go to college because their parents didn’t save money for them to go, they didn’t score high enough on the SAT, or they just straight up didn’t want to go and their decision wasn’t argued. Meanwhile...on the other end of the spectrum, some people’s parents have saved money in college funds for them to go, or have the ability to pay for them to go to school, and it is expected of them to go. Based on an individual’s upbringing, determines whether they go to college and get that B.A./B.S. But does that determine whether or not they work hard?? NO!!!!
This is where my theory of motivation and effort comes in.
If we take a look back at my “useless skills in undergraduate” statement. You might call me ignorant for this…. But all too often we hear of individuals with a job, claiming they “don’t use anything they learned in college” or “what I’m doing now has absolutely nothing to do with what I studied in school.” So why should the fact that there’s a B.A./B.S. next to the candidate’s name make them MORE QUALIFIED to do the job successfully than a candidate without a degree at all?
So if you want to call me ignorant for asking that, I’ll bring up my scenario of someone’s thought process: “Having a college degree is the only way I can get a job...but I can’t go to college because my family can’t afford it.” Or, “My SAT score is too low and I didn’t get into any colleges.” I GET THAT. I understand. But there is absolutely NOTHING stopping you from going out to volunteer with an organization or do an unpaid internship somewhere.
You can decide to do nothing and fail, or you can make the best of things and make an opportunity for yourself that could result in a job somewhere down the line.
There are absolutely zero barriers to free experience. People don’t say no to free help -- no matter what color you are, what education you have or don't have, etc. as long as you WORK HARD, have a POSITIVE ATTITUDE, and take an interest enough to CONTRIBUTE.
The candidate that will work hard to learn how to do the job and try their best every single day, should be the candidate that gets the job, not just because they have a B.A. or B.S. next to their name… am I right??
My takeaway point is this: People who weren’t brought up in a family with built-in success, or have the ability to get a college degree shouldn’t curl up in a ball of nothingness and give up, dooming themselves to a life of food stamps and poverty. If each person who couldn’t go to college found a passion and motivation, working hard every day to get involved with something other than sitting around telling themselves “they can’t because they weren’t given a fair chance,” they would GET THEIRS TOO.
No. It’s not fair that some have a “head start” or have more built-in support than others, but that’s just the way it is. You can either sit back and feel bad for yourself, claiming it’s not fair, and do nothing, or you can do something. Use free resources and seek opportunity and work hard at SOMETHING every day. Someone’s going to notice. With effort, you WILL make connections, and you WILL have a future.
Bless UP. Text/Comment/Email/Tweet ME PLEASE if this got you THINKING!