If you’ve ever had more than a five minute conversation with me, you’ve heard me quote someone. I listen and retain even when it seems like I’m not paying attention. When something clicks, it stays with me. And I believe in paying homage to the many wise people who have taken the time to share their words with me—even the not so nice ones.
Words are powerful. Use them wisely. You never know who you might affect or alter with them.
“But what’s changed?” –most recent ex
I was in a relationship that was good, but was not working for 3 years. It was perfect in every way except ONE. We ignored the issue, then we argued only about that one thing for years and finally we broke up because of it. It was for the best at the time —he knew and I honestly knew it too. But when I thought about having to encounter the dating scene again, I was mortified by the abysmal options. I think he was too. I wanted to go back to what was good, but not great. More importantly, it was familiar. So I told him I wanted to come home. And I could tell by his initial reaction that he wanted to let me come back, but his pride and good sense was in the way. But he was always the more logical one between us. He asked me this question and I knew the answer: everything. Because now at the end of the tunnel was the reality of being without him.
“When you know better, you do better” – Oprah
I dated someone I had no business dating for years. I was watching Oprah one day and she said this. I already knew I had to end the situation, but I kept making up reasons not to do it. When I heard this, I couldn’t come up with anymore reasons no matter how hard I tried. I was forced to either call myself stupid for continuing to do what I knew was wrong or I had to break it off. I tried to ignore the thought, but it nagged at me. I finally ended the situation. I was sad but I felt better. Then I went back. Again. And again. And again. And the quote stayed in the forefront of my mind every time. I was driving myself crazy trying to keep myself from doing the ‘better’ thing. Finally I did better for good.
“If money were easy to come by, everybody would have some. Don’t get involved in any money pyramids.” –Dad
This is what he told me the night before I left for college. We were sitting in the basement on the loveseat that he’d owned since his bachelor days looking out at the empty street. In typical teenage fashion, I wanted to be anywhere but there. I thought it was the stupidest thing he could advise to a girl going away to school with all those horny boys on campus. I remember thinking just that as he was talking. I’d forgotten he even said it until three years later when someone asked me to go into a money pyramid with her and then I bust out laughing cause I remembered it. (still think there was other advice he should have been giving me that night. But he was trying.)
“You always have a choice. But do you want to deal with certain consequences?”—Tyrone
This man is wise beyond his years. Always has been, even in college. Whenever I was in the midst of a crisis (or what I thought was a crisis) I called him and he always talked me down from my mental ledge. I was flipping out about being trapped in NC and working a job I loved but was making NO MONEY at and wanting to move to DC and how my life was falling apart and I was trapped and he said this to me. He went on to say that if I wanted to, I could hang up the phone right then, go to the train station buy a ticket and move to DC; go that day and never come back again. I had chosen to go to work that morning, to sit at my desk, to stay in NC and to call him instead of going to DC. Just realizing that I had choices and was making them day in and day out was empowering. I immediately felt better. (I hadn’t thought about this in years, but I talked to someone yesterday and told her this story and it was an “aha!” moment for her too.)
“A real man ain’t no punk” – Fahiym
It’s a definition by negation, but a valid definition nonetheless. I was meeting with a frat brother of mine about a grad assignment and somehow we started talking about marriage and relationships when he dropped this gem. I have my own multiple ideas about what a man is and what a man isn’t, what he should do and what he shouldn’t. But this really gets to the essence of what a man is, I think. Fah was talking about the way women sometimes try to boss men, treat them like children instead of like men. He thought this was because black women are so used to ‘wearing the pants’ that when they encounter a real man they don’t know how to deal with one. I’ve looked at my encounters with men a lot differently since this conversation.
“You can take her, but you’ll have to do something with her hair first” –Grandma
It was early on in the days when I hadn’t mastered the art of working with bi-racial hair. Iwas probably 16 0r 17. I had this thick mane of bi-racial hair. I was standing next to my grandmother at her church and one of the ladies who hadn’t seen me since I was a kid complimented her on my development. She said something like I was such a nice young lady and she would love to take me home. Then my grandmother dropped this bomb. I was so hurt and so offended but I said nothing and laughed my embarrassment off. I was really angry at myself for a long time for not standing up for myself right then. In retrospect, I know it would not have made a difference. My grandmother is from another generation—one that equates being bi-racial with being a punishment and disgrace and no amount of outrage or indignation from me would have changed her mind. It would have just been an ugly scene. For years, I remembered this as a moment I should have stood up for myself, at least to keep me from feeling extra belittled by letting the insult slide. Now I think of it as a moment where I chose to pick my battles. God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.