The other night I had a friend reach out to get my advice on some things going on in life. Now, if you have read my first book you know that giving advice to people is exactly how I started the journey to publishing all of my books. So it is nothing new for me to offer my opinion to someone who asks for it. I have a rule about advice, which many should adopt: I do not give advice focused on what I would do if I were in the situation, but rather what that person should consider doing in his/her situation. Truth is, I am not the one in the situation. I also think it is important to play devil's advocate when giving advice. In other words, looking at things from the outside perspective not just from the friend's perspective. Anyway, let's move on from the PSA and get to the point.
As my friend and I are talking and going through what is going on in life, we have this exchange:
Me: You're too smart and introspective to continue to limit yourself like that.
Friend: Or maybe you're wrong about me.
Me: If you want me to be. (Note: This is very important to this blog)
F: I don't. But it's a fear. You're the only one that's consistently trying to build me up and all I can think is, what if you're wrong?
What if I'm wrong? That is the question my friend had, and it is the question I have had too.
What if I am right?
See, this conversation stopped being totally about my friend who is struggling with tough choices in a life and became about me, about other people I know, and even about you. That one question resonated with me so deeply; it touched a part of me that needed re-evaluation and fixing in myself. Before I go into that I have to say that I am grateful for conversations like these because in helping others I often find time to reflect on my own choices. Anyway, to understand what I am mean I have to bring this back to the memory my friend's comment touched. If this was a movie I would have me looking into the distance as the image blurs from present day to yesteryear. But it's not a movie, so I have to go with an introspective image instead.
I often tell a story about triumph in my life. I've used it thousands of times to prove that we can overcome anything or anyone. The story is about the time I was in the 6th grade (11-12 years old) and I was sitting in the lunch area with a female friend of mine after school. She was waiting on her mother alone, so I hung out with her since I walked home around the corner from school by myself. We were just talking and joking when her mother came around the corner and called her to come to her. She scolded her daughter and said something that I have never forgotten to this day:
"I don't want you hanging with that boy. He is nothing but trouble. He will be dead or in jail by the time he is 18."
Now, I know some of you just read that and gasped or shook your head or some other reaction at the vileness of those words. To be honest, I see the mom as trying to keep her daughter from making what she sees as mistake. I wasn't the best kid, BUT I didn't need to hear that shit either. In any case, that isn't the point. Every time I talk to students and classes, I talk about this story. I say this woman said I wasn't going to be anything, and everyday I get the chance to prove her wrong. I say things like, "I wasn't supposed to live past 18, so I look at every day as a gift." Yes, I turned her words, eventually, into my own personal battle cry. And, with it, I have helped many others. Until my friend's words hit me two nights ago. It brought me to a question, different from my friend's, mind you, but still a question.