A New Year: One Day at a Time

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On Marcus Garvey Avenue. Photo by Anthony Dickens 

Approaching the new year is always a complicated process for me. I try to treat it like any other day, but it’s more than that. As a person who constantly self-reflects; how can I view the turning of a new calendar year as something simple or trivial?

As someone who loves history, dates and timelines are very important. Knowing when something happened in relation to other significant events, creates a sense of context and relevance in which all things are connected. For example, I was born in 1980. That’s the same year that Ronald Reagan was elected, the U.S. boycotted the summer Olympics, the Mariel boatlift resulted in the arrival of over one hundred thousand Cubans into Miami and my neighborhood of Liberty City (Miami)  burned for nearly a week after the McDuffie riots; one of the worst riots in the city’s history. Each year is shaped by the events that take place within them. Some years stand out more than others, as a result of the impact of those events. 2016 will be remembered for all the celebrity deaths and the election of Donald Trump. What will 2017 be remembered for?

Usually a few days before January 1st I hunker down to jot all the awesome feats that I plan to accomplish in the upcoming year. The list can become quite ambitious some years, while fluffy in other years. Open-ended goals like read more, exercise more and saving more, never actually seem attainable. Furthermore, if I don’t get started right away, then I probably won’t start at all, giving up on my resolutions before Valentine’s Day. This year I already read a status on social media that said, “I already messed up this year, but I’m ready for 2018.” We’re not even out of the first week of January for crying out loud.

Now, what I won’t do is declare my fate on the results of my annual to-do list. I also won’t pretend as if this isn’t a great opportunity to refocus and recharge. This New Year I’m just going to go for it. I’m going to remain committed to chasing my dreams. Your dreams don’t change from year to year; just your commitment to them do. Sometimes life changes our trajectory, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t still pursue your passion.

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Laughter is a good thing. Photo by Anthony Dickens

As far as I know, you only get one chance at life. Why not give it your all? Just before the new year, I received word that one of my football players was diagnosed with leukemia. His name is Tariq and he’s a very gifted athlete. The news shocked all the coaches. Tariq had an amazing season, as one of the best players in the city. After suffering from severe chronic headaches, he eventually went to see his doctor. When the results of his blood-work came back, he was asked to return to the hospital and hasn’t left since.

Just imagine, at the age of 17 years old, having your entire life ahead of you and the next day being told that you have cancer. Though I’ve only known Tariq for a few months, we have always had a mutual respect for each other. I’d give him a few tips here and there and sometimes cover him practice. I had to go by the hospital and show my support; especially at a time like this. As I visited with him I couldn’t help but admire his courage and strength. He’s a fighter on the field and a fighter in life.

Some of his friends and teammates had also come by to see him. You could see the concern and fear in their eyes. One of the young men begin to shed tears as the time passed. From his hospital bed, with tubes in his arms, Tariq calmly and confidently said, “Don’t cry…” The young man looked up at Tariq and nodded his head.

Each day is a blessing and every year is a milestone. I pray that Tariq pulls through and that he gets the chance to celebrate many more New Years to come. In the meantime I am committed to living my best life, one day at a time.

 

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A Coach’s Joy

 

After a long challenging week at work, coupled with a late Friday night at happy hour, I tried my best to wake up early on Saturday morning, in order to hold on to a promise that I had made. The one week that I showed up late for practice, is the only time we lost. During my post-game speech, I apologized to my athletes and their parents. I promised them, that it would never happen again. How could I hold my team accountable if I wasn’t discipline enough to be punctual myself?

We haven’t looked back ever since. And on we are on a five game winning streak. Next week we play our archrivals; a well coached team from Williamsburg, who has won the league championship; a few times. In my four years as head coach, I have yet to beat them, let alone the championship.

Three seasons ago, we lost to them in the finals, on the last play of the game. Even though we are the favorites this year, we cannot afford to take anyone lightly. I’m sure that my rival coach has some tricks up her sleeves.

There are a few kids on my roster who have been with me since they were 5th graders. It would be nice to send them off as seniors, with a championship trophy.

As an athlete, nothing felt better than winning. In college I remember being filled with tears of joy after making a game-winning play. Now that I am a coach, my joys as a player don’t even compare.
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Make It Count

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My wife sent me a text the other day that threw me for a loop. She never usually sends me messages during the day, because she doesn’t want to interrupt, especially if I am in front of students teaching. But on this day, she sent it-“the girl died.” “Whoa!” I responded immediately as I read the text.

One of her classmates was admitted to the hospital the night before. She suffered an aneurysm. When my wife first told me about her friend’s condition, I must admit that I was nervous for her. I had only met her once, at a Superbowl party earlier this year, but my thoughts were on her from the time I got the news.

Immediately, I began to ask myself. What could cause an aneurysm in such a young person? Stress? Diet? Who really knows? We usually think of that kind of medical condition in older folks. As soon as I was able to get some fresh air, I called my brother. He’s a physician’s administrative assistant at Boston Medical Center, and works in neurology. Funny enough, his floor had admitted three young people (all in their 20’s) earlier that week for the same issue, aneurysms, severe blooding on the brain. They were all college students. Maybe it was stress.

Nonetheless, as busy as I find myself, I always try to find time to decompress and exhale. Even if it’s just two minutes of prayer, meditation, a light jog or even a glass of wine. Most people are never the same after an aneurysm or stroke. My aunt, uncle and grandmother all suffered from strokes-they were never the same, left paralyzed and unable to do much for themselves. Their conditions were due to life-long issues with diet, stress, coupled with genetics. But as for this beautiful 27 year old, Columbia Business School student; she had her entire life ahead of her.

It makes you put things into perspective. Sometimes I find myself complaining over the littlest things. When in actuality, I need to be grateful- for the littlest things.

As Dr. King said in his I Have Been to the Mountain Top speech,  “Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place.” So if I do get a chance to live a long and full life, I’d like to look back and say that I did some remarkable things in my lifetime.

Check out this video of woman who has become my personal hero. Young or old, we all have an opportunity, each day, to do something special. Make each day count.