The Letter She Received this Morning

Look at you! My first-born in her first varsity competition! I have dreamed about this day since you were born… although I did not think it would come this soon.

You were so nervous when you found out that you were chosen, you freaked out and started crying. You started the dangerous game of playing all of the “what if” scenarios in your head.

What if I miss?

What if I do the wrong thing?

What if I suck?

It was funny to watch such a composed girl, a girl who I have viewed countless times score baskets in numerous situations, freak out about something that seems so trivial.

But then I remember how young you are. I often forget that. You have conducted yourself in such a way that it is easy for anyone to forget that you are a year or more younger than girls in your grade.

As you are traveling to the venue, I know you are nervous, so I am going to give you some advice:

• You are going to suck; embrace it – It is your first crack at some real competition. Newsflash: you may not win. The coach believes in you but understands that you are very green. You do not have a target on your back, so you are in a low risk/high reward situation. Just go out there and compete.

• Have fun in the moment – There are many who would love to be in your shoes. Next week, it could be someone else; but today, it is all you. Live in the moment, and everything will be fine.

• Take notes – There is going to be a lot of good athletes out there. Most of them have been playing this sport a lot longer than you. Take notes on the best or the ones that you favor. Look at their routines, study their approaches, emulate their techniques so that later you can make those same techniques work for you.

• Do not try to live up to any other athletes’ standard – As I said before, these athletes have been doing this a lot longer than you have. Don’t try too hard to outplay them. You are here to gain varsity experience so that you can learn the game at a different level and with a different pace. If you make this a head game, you will be terrible. Relax, slow down, and play like this is recreational. Winning is nice, but it is not the point.

• It is really about the small victories – Playing a sport that you just picked up 2 months ago is a win; daring to join the school team is a win; being chosen for varsity is a win. Enjoy the small victories. The big ones will come later, don’t look for them now. If they happen – great, but if they don’t, learn from it, count yourself fortunate, and move on.

Your mother and I are proud of you. And we cannot wait to hear about the day.

Now, go have fun.

So you want people to call you Doctor, huh? Sure.

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Pain. It is an 8 hour class session.

My goal is to attain my Doctoral degree in educational leadership. Really, the fact that it is in educational leadership is a not as important in gaining a doctoral degree itself. Attaining a doctoral degree stems from my understanding of my upbringing and heritage. There isn’t a person in my immediate (or extended) family with a doctoral degree. Also, there aren’t many people from where I grew up that have one. So, for me to be able attain one as a black man from a very low-income neighborhood is pretty amazing.

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When do I have time to study while on vacation? When everyone is asleep…

The Doctoral degree is something that is to be cherished because it entails a lot of hard work and sacrifice. Most people think that they may have an idea of the type of sacrifices that you will give in order to obtain one, but the reality is, you have absolutely no idea. So, here are some hard-hitting things you should consider before entering into a doctoral program. These come strictly from my experiences and no one else. Your if you have a different experience than mine, feel free to share.

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Yes, Honey! I am watching! Good Job!
  1. You will possibly sacrifice everything: During your time as a doctoral student, all types of things events will happen in each cohort members lives. Some good. Some terrible. Members will die, have children, get a divorce, get married, become sick, drop out, and so on. A lot of these events will affect you strongly because of the bond that you have created with these members. Seriously, you may have to prepare yourself mentally for these challenges – which brings me to my second point…
  2. Spousal support is everything: Before you register for a doctoral program, you had better take a good look at your marriage. Everything that you believe is “wrong” with your marriage will be multiplied tenfold when you are in the doctoral program. Examples: If you argue about money, you will really argue about money. If spending time with each other is a challenge, it will really become a challenge.The doctoral program is going to test your relationship like you will not believe (again, divorce is something that you may see within your cohort). Consider your relationship.
  3.  The professors don’t care about your personal life: Okay. I am not saying this as “the professors are assholes” type of thing. But, there are a few things that you must consider about your professors:
    • You are most likely at a research institution, so they may have to do research themselves on the side;
    • They also have families;
    • Most, if not all of them have an advisory role;
    • Some are traveling professors, especially if there are more than one cohort;
    • They just aren’t getting paid enough for this shit. Seriously.
  4. So, when you come in for a class, they expect that you are ready to participate and are going to be there on time.
    • On second thought, there is death – Your death. Death is probably the only reason to not be at a class. And even then, you are pushing your luck.
  5. Incompletes: Don’t. Nothing good comes of it. Just don’t.
  6. Grade Point Average: Here is where some will disagree. And that’s okay – mostly because I don’t give a shit what you think –
    • Do not stress over your grade point average. Try your absolute best and if that is not good enough and you end up with a B, so be it. Nothing is more annoying than someone who is giddy with glee about their perfect 4.0. Listen, we can celebrate and all, but I am yet to be in an interview where an administrator says, “So, I see you took a B in “whatchamacallits” class (again, if you have found different, please let me know).
    • Here is one thing, I hate math. I am told that I can draw my ass off, but that there is something a little off about my art. I know what it is, it is the fact that my mathematical skills are so shitty that my perception is off – which manifests itself in the form of uneven arms, eyes, and legs (and don’t even get me started on fingers). So, when stats came around, I was happy to get a C (I got a B, and ran out the classroom exclaiming, “Thank you, Black Jesus).
  7. Keep everything: Documents, emails, even literature on a dirty napkin is fair game. Why? Because people forget shit. Once, the college really messed up my status as a student, which would have demolished any funding that I received in the future. The college claimed little responsibility. That is, until I gave them the email stating my full-time graduate status. Keep it all; keep a digital and hard copy. Besides, nothing is worse than somebody saying, “I never said that!” and you absolutely have no proof to the contrary.
  8. Never burn a bridge. Ever: I am from the ‘hood. If someone fails to do right by you, you immediately cut that “summuma” right the hell off. But, in academia, that could mean your demise. Now, you should have learned this lesson in the first 6 to 8 years of post-secondary education. But, if you have not, listen closely.
  9. Just hit submit: You will come into situations that call for you to just hit the submit button. For example, when completing my comprehensive exams (which took one week and a minimum of 10 pages to do), it is easy to make yourself sick with worry. “Should I read over it again?” “Did I answer all of the questions?” “What if I missed something?” “What if the professor does not enjoy what I have to say?” “What if I fail?” “I wonder if the professor thinks I am a complete idiot?” “How much money have I spent persuing this already?” You will continuously ask yourself those questions over and over again until you hit the submit button. Look, all of those questions are valid; but it is not worth waiting only to rehash the same questions over and over for no more than a few days.
  10. Learn to say “no”: It is easy for you to become spread too thin. While pursuing my doctorate, I was also teaching full time, coaching high school track, coaching my daughter’s basketball team, parenting and sharing the love between four children, and trying to be a good husband. How was I getting this done? Sleep was not an option. Yes, I know, it is totally unhealthy. But, how the Hell else am I supposed to do it?!!
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Graduate students will take a strong internet signal anywhere they can get it.

At some point, for your sanity (and for your marriage), learn to say no. There just is not enough hours in the day; and college tuition seems to be rising by the semester.

“Can you be on the school improvement comittee?”

No.

“Can you come to this event?”

No.

“Honey, I know you are writing, but can you take the trash out?”

Careful. But, politefully decline.

The point is, make sure you prioritize your life during this venture.

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Stuck in the office.

Bonus:

Don’t take it personally, but you suck: You are not going to be told this to your face ver batim, it will be suggested in an articulate manner. You will work your ass off, send in an edit and/or meet with your committee, and (after a good cry) wonder what in the Hell were you thinking taking on such a venture.

But it is okay, you will get through it; you will get through all of it.

Father of the Year Moment #556: Hard-Headed – What I learned from the School Ski Trip 🎿:

1. The bigger you are, the faster you go. The kids were graceful. Me, I looked like Clark Griswold after he waxed his sled. Skis in a V my ass.

2. Kids fear nothing. My daughter and her classmates went from, “I am not sure about this…” to “I am going to ski a Black Diamond!” They need an in-between hill; like, not bunny… but definitely not green. Like pink – pink sounds safe.

3. It has been 15 years since I skied. Maybe that is a streak that should keep going.

4. Why is there no alarm for when I’ve fallen and can’t get up! That commercial used to be funny. I am not laughing anymore!

5. Kikkan, your a badass to even put these shits on!

God Bless the Teacher

– Dad.

– Yes.

– We are going to get the talk in school today.

(shit)

– Uh, okay.

– I think they are going to show a video from Youtube.

(shit)

– They are not going to show you a video from Youtube.

– Yes they are! Who does that?! Youtube! Really!

– They are not going to show you a video from Youtube. I am sure they have a lot of educational videos. (flashback to 5th grade, Mrs. Lower’s class, Mt. View Elementary).

– Well, that is what the 6th graders told us.

(Stupid 6th graders)

– Silence.

– Well the boys have to say penis 5 times without laughing.

(you’re shittin’ me, right)

– No, honey, they do not. (I mean seriously! I can’t do that at 37)!

– Yes they do!

– Let me guess, the 6th graders told you.

– Yup!

– Welp, look at that! The Baby is crying.

And I ran, I ran so far away.

#godblessthemteachers

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