Birthday Reflections

“Don’t just count your years, make your years count.” 

I’ve heard this quote oft repeated by my elders who always encouraged me to live the fullest life possible as much as possible. When I was younger, I used to think it meant to get a job, be happy, and love hard, however, I believe this is a half truth that needs to be dispelled sooner rather than later. The idea of a fuller life now DEFINITELY is not what a fuller life back in the 90s looked like as we incorporate more technology and peak through the windows of other people’s lives through social media. Our society today is much more fast paced than my mother’s generation and its only getting faster.Conventional wisdom is no longer conventional and we have to catch up to the times. As I sit in this Barnes and Noble with my Bad Boy Snapback on (AMAZING CONCERT, btw) reflecting on the last year of my life, all I can say is DAMN! Below are a few moments in no real order from Oct. 2015- Oct. 2016 birthday year:

*Getting engaged to my future wife. Bruh, they do not tell you how effin’ nerve wracking this act truly is. It’s a lot of pressure and unfulfilled expectations. You know how you go to McDonalds after watching one of their commercials that magically always has some pandering to the Black community, and you go to the one on the corner to grab that delicious McFlurry that you saw in the commercial? Only to realize the damn machine is broken at 12 in the afternoon? Yea, that’s how proposing can be. You have a whole plan outlined, what you’re going to say, how you’re going to smell, only to call an audible. It was still a great night though.

*Being Black & Being Abroad. For someone who doesn’t come from much, being able to truly live out a dream is awesome. I always wanted to go to Greece and last year, I did it and I did it with my brothers. You really want to create a bond with people? Go abroad, rip your pants in the club and go from there. Or what about getting lost on an ATV on an island? The best part of the trip? Chilling at a restaurant at night with new found friends only to be greeted by other beautiful Black people!

*Accepting my Doctoral Scholar Identity. If you told 17 year old Jamal that he’d be getting his doctorate degree, I KNOW FOR A FACT, you’d see all of his top gold fronts as he laughed in your face. When I say that I am honored and blessed to be in a program that truly is a fit for me and took a chance, LOOK AT GOD! It compliments my work schedule, my cohort is small and is predominantly people of color, AND, I study abroad!  I do take this seriously though because as of right now, only 3% of my Black and Brown men of color are actually starting and completing their doctoral degrees. Talk about changing the trajectory of my family.

*Upgrading to Apple products. When i think of Apple, I think of class. I think of money and white people with said money. I believed for the longest that Apple products was a waste of money because for half the price, you can have the same technology. Die-hard PC guy I was. Hell, all of that went out the window when my 3rd PC in 5 years finally took a dive after constant upgrades and purchasing of new equipment. I had a choice to make now as I was entering my doctoral program and needed to invest in something that would last long and hold up to the rigors of my coursework. One of my student leaders is an Apple person and he gave the skinny on everything Apple. It was like I was being integrated into a new language and culture. I haven’t looked back sense. First, I copped the iPhone, then the Macbook Air, and now I have the Apple Watch. Just take my money, Apple!

*Going home. There’s nothing like going back home to where it all began and see what your old stomping grounds actually look like after a period of absence. I haven’t been to New Jersey in over 7 years so when I had the opportunity to travel home, I took it. I tried to coordinate a huge family meet up with over 10 people, but unfortunately, not everyone was able to make it. I was able to introduce my brother to some of my family that did come and even linked up with one of the homies who gave me the dirt on the city since I left. There’s a lot to be said when you can leave after a number of years and love is still shown like you never left.

*Going Back2Back. In a span of two weeks, I was able to witness Drake and Future tear up the stage (more Drake than Future) a few days before Bad Boy took it to another level.  Drake shook the crowd with hit after hit after hit and really could’ve kept going but he had to share the time with his peers. Future’s set was short lived, but I loved every bit of those 20 minutes. He really does take me back to the early trap music days of the 2000s and I stood his entire set. You can tell he is a bit older than Drake as he did a very specific  that showed his limited range of movements, but great nonetheless. Outside of his various beefs, Drake is an ambassador and bridge to the various eras of hip-hop as he brought out Young Thug, Dr. Dre and Ice Cube among others. Not too many people can bring Ice Cube out on stage to do Straight Outta Compton and that will truly be one of the highlights of my life.

But, P.Diddy and the Fam know how to do it better!  I forget the contributions that Puff Daddy and Co. made to hip-hop and the influence that they had on my upbringing. They made music that became anthems for some of the craziest times in my life especially “Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down”. I played that so many times in college and even in graduate school. Besides some very technical difficulties with microphones and various forms of lip-syncing, it was a great show. Getting to hear All about the Benjamins live was great and Lil’ Kim rocked her part only as she can. I felt bad though because I know for a majority of the acts, this is it. They will never have a moment like that EVER again without Puff. I wonder what Puff had to do to get everyone on board again after the various rumors of him cheating them out of their contracts.

Both concerts were good for their respective groups, however, my money is on Bad Boy Reunion Tour.

These are just a FEW highlights from the previous year that I am so thankful to experience and see for myself. As a Black man in America, I know and understand that ANYTHING I do or say to the wrong person can put me in danger where my life is threatened. I’m thankful to see another year of greatness and humbly thank the Most High for all that he’s done.

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