29 and counting…Lessons learned from my mother

As I gear up to approach 30, I have finally come to realize that I am an adult. A true adult.  OK, I know it took me long enough to grab on to that concept, but since I have been fighting the responsibilities of adulthood for so long, its has never been easy to accept that I am a true adult.  With adult actions, come adult choices, and adult consequences. Being an adult is not fun. As I move into a  phase of embracing this adulthood, I also am realizing that I have grown into a woman who is much like my mother. When I take a step out of myself, and examine the woman whom I have become, I see a lot of my mother in me. In my actions, my words, even in my crazy and somewhat chaotic thought process, I have grown into a younger version of my mother (Is this really what parents want from their kids?). While the 15-year-old teenager  in me yells and screams in pure rebellion format, the 30-year-old woman in me is pretty proud of what I have grown up to become.

My mother has been a substantial role model for me, and if I had a choice on who would teach me how life is supposed to be lived, I surely had the best pick of all when it comes to my mother. My mother is a woman who carries herself with integrity and grace, she has never taken a life experience for granted, she embodies the true definition of strength.  My mother does not give up, she not only keeps going, but does her best encourage others to keep going. She understands that life is not perfect, but she has a spirit that motivates her to keep living life to the fullest everyday.  A woman who has never been a taker, a woman who is an outstanding giver of herself, her time, her energy, a woman who will easily put the needs of others before the needs of her herself. To be fortunate enough emulate a woman who has excelled beyond measure as a wife, a mother, a friend, and an individual exemplifies the true meaning of a blessing. I was given a mother who is not only a role model, but a leader for my life. A woman who very much without her knowledge provided me with gifts of influence and lessons of womanhood that I would have never embraced had it not been for her.

So today, as I recognize  the woman who I have become, the future wife, and future mother in me must truly say thank you to my mother. She has shown me how to not only live as a woman, but to live as a woman with integrity.

Lessons I learned from my mother

Lesson 1: To whom much is given, much is expected:

My mother made sure I had a good education. Sher always expected me to get good grades, and go to college. I never thought college was not an option to me, my thought was that is was a requirement of life. My mother was proud to see me go to college. No matter what college I got into, I knew I could go. She would never look at me and say “I don’t have the money”. If I got in and wanted to go, she would find the money to make it happen. My mother didn’t have money in a college savings fund, but she knew the value in me attending college. She made it happen. My mother often stretched herself to give me a lot. For this she always reminds me, To whom much is given, much is expected. I was always given an opportunity to do better, now it is my turn to help others do better. My mother expects me to keep growing on the opportunities that were given to me. My task is to not waste the sacrifices that others have made for me. She always tells me that she wants to see great things from me, and daily I continue to work to make that happen.

Lesson 2: Be grateful to others and make sure to show appreciation:

When I was younger I would frequently watch my mother go out of her way to help other people. Anyone could call her and ask her for a favor and she would do it, she would not only do it but she would go beyond what was even asked. No matter how tired, stressed, or overwhelmed she was, she would make sure she was available to help those who would ask. I would sit back and wonder why as it looked like it was just extra trouble for her,  and she was getting absolutely nothing out of the deal. I would sit and think, ” is mommy a doormat?” Why do we have to keep doing things for these people, especially when it appeared they were taking her for granted. My mother would then tell me countless stories of incidents when she needed help in one way or another and there was always someone there to help her. W ether it was someone who allowed her to stay at their home, cook her a meal, or just check in on her when she was having a bad day, someone was always there. So she would easily give back to them when they asked for help, she could never do enough to show her appreciation to whomever it was for being there in her time of need.

Lesson 3: Whatever you do, do it well:

I hate art. I am a really bad artist, and if anyone ever tells me to draw anything I spiral into a pre drawing anxiety attack. In elementary and junior high school, a lot of projects required some type of art accompaniment. Since I was so bad at art, my drawings, paintings, and projects were horrible if every form. For me to take it to school and turn it in like that was completely unacceptable for my mother. Since I hated art, I put no time into it, and threw something together that I hoped would get me at least a B grade. I have no artistic talent and hated to pretend otherwise.  We would then spend hours working on projects until they looked presentable enough to leave the house, until it was good enough to take into the teacher. The project represented me, it showed the value of my work. My mother taught me the value of putting time and effort into things, even when I hate doing them. If I am going to do something, then I need to do it well. My work represents me, it is how people make their judgement of me. My mother taught me the value of doing my best, being proud of my work, and even if things do not come naturally to me to keep working at it so at least it will look like it is a natural talent in the eyes of others.

Lesson 4: Make sure to look like a million bucks, even if your entire outfit cost you five bucks:

My mother is the greatest bargain shopper. She loves a good sale, and has the ultimate willpower to wait for the price of an item to be marked down to the price that she is willing to pay for it before she will buy it. My mother does not buy anything on impulse. She shops smart, and she shops well. My mother can wear the finest most expensive outfit, knowing that it was not expensive for her. When she goes out to an event, she is prepared because she has bought items piece by piece as they were on sale. Form the top, to the skirt, to the shoes, she is prepared to look her best and impress. Even if she is not going anywhere soon, she will be prepared for when the time comes. The greatest part of her ability to impress is that she is always able to impress within her budget.

Lesson 5: You live in the community, treat it like it is your very own home:

Growing up I have seen my mother involved in taking an active role in the church, as PTA  President, and as someone who is always aware of community events. My parents have lived in the community for over 33 years, it is home. A lot of change has happened over the years, and my mother is very much aware of all the changes. My mother has put much effort into making the community better, into seeing what she can do to play her part as a community member. She has shown me that if you sit by and do nothing then nothing will happen, if you want to witness a change, then someone has to step up and be the voice of that change. It has been an influential aspect for me to see that every voice really does matter.

Lesson 6: By knowing your past, you can work to improve your future:

A few years ago I went for a Ph.D. interview at Columbia University. Both my mother and I were excited that I had the opportunity to be interviewed at Columbia for a Doctorate program. Before the interview my mother told me that I was standing on the shoulders of my ancestors.  At the time I really was uncertain as to what that meant. However I have finally come to realize that if it had not been for my ancestors than I would not have the opportunities that I am given today. My mother always does her best to inform us of her past, and the past of her ancestors. Through her countless stories I have grown to appreciate what my ancestors went through to make life just a little bit better for me. My mother would always tell stories of her childhood, the difficulties that her and her family went through, and how hard they worked to overcome the many obstacles of growing up black in the south. My mother continues to make sure that I never forget the trials and troubles of past generations, so I can do better not only for my generation, but also the generations that come after me.

Lesson  7: How to excel in the world as a Black woman:

To know how to exist in the world as a Black  woman is not easy. It is not a natural task that is innate at birth, and there is no book to teach you how to gain respect as a Black woman. It takes time, preparation, and modeling from elders, to learn how to define yourself as a Black woman. Other people will always want you to be who they think you should be, but you will not be comfortable with yourself until you truly know who you are. Black women are constantly defined by media stereotypes as being angry, loud, and always ready to fight (If you have watched the real housewives of Atlanta then you know what I mean). When I meet people from other parts of the country, they always tell me I don’t act like a Black Woman. As I sit and wonder, “what is that supposed to mean?”, sadly I already know exactly what it means. My mother was my first example of a Black woman, the ultimate role model. The woman who taught me how to act with pose and grace. No need to be the angry Black woman, because anger will get you never help you move forward. From watching the actions of my mother and by listening to her words, I have learned how to show strength in times of despair, how to prove my worth when others have doubted my abilities, and how to be confident in knowing that yes I am a smart Black woman, and yes I am a smart Black woman who is also capable of changing the world.

Lesson 8: Never give up:

My mother never had the opportunity to go to college. Today she is going to college. At the age of 57 my mother is back in school, working to get her bachelor’s degree. A dream that she had, she is making it come true. My mother enjoys learning, she is taking these moments that she has to enhance her knowledge, and create a better future for herself. It is never too late, go after your dreams, and never give up.

Lesson 9: Whenever possible, do your best to extend yourself:

My mother is frequently doing things to make the day better for other people. If she knows they are down, or not feeling well she will look for ways to cheer them up and put a smile on their face. She is often looking for what she can do to help someone else. Not because she owes them something, but because she wants to. My mother will do things to help other people have a positive experience, or just to experience something new in life. It makes her feel good to come up with an idea, put it into action, and see that someone else has had a positive day. My mother is ready and willing to extended herself when needed, and will do it with no questions asked, no monetary value needed. Just the joy of being available to help is enough of the pay back she will need.

Lesson 10: Live your life:

One thing people always ask me is how did my parents react when I told them I was moving to Hawaii. To much of my surprise my mother was very supportive about my move to the other side of the world. Since she thought it was OK for me to leave, then I really felt that this would be a great decision for me.  From when I was a very young child my mother has taught me the importance of living life. On weekends, my mother would take me and my brother to Manhattan to experience museums, the zoo, and concerts in Central Park. She would take us out of our neighborhood in Queens, just so we were aware that there is more to life than the block we grew up on. From my mother learned of learned the importance of going outside the box, I learned to desire more than what was in front of me, and that to truly live you may need to take a risk and explore what is unknown.

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