Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Are You Ready To Die?

Are you ready to die?

What a bold question. This was what I heard tonight at the November Junior League General Meeting. We had guest speaker Justin Echols, a jazz musician/Oklahoma City police officer. The topic of the night was about happiness. How could you get happiness out of being ready to die?

Mr. Echols was quite a powerful speaker and everything he said I agreed with. These were some of his questions if tonight was your last night to be alive:
Did you live life or just let life happen?
Have you taken enough risks?
Did you accomplish everything you wanted to accomplish?
Are you ready to die?

He said he was. He lives his life for what it is. He is a dream chaser. I love that phrase: dream chaser. He defined this as such:
Someone who chooses to live a life of ambition, not about accomplishments, but about the journey while they chase their dreams.

His long story short is this: he wanted to be a cop, so he was. He wanted to be in the Army, so he was. Then he got hurt. He had to learn everything again, including how to walk. During his recovery his mother had moved in with him and his wife and brought with her a baby grand piano. He used this as his therapy, though he had never played before. He has gone on to become a recorded pianist who has performed in New York City and has a few gigs booked in Rome in the coming months.

He has the best attitude!

Through his journey he cited three things he learned:

1. Everyone has an are of natural ability which is our natural purpose
2. Everyone has to evolve to this
3. The journey is the most significant part

He said to live a happy and fulfilling life is to be a dream chaser and to achieve your purpose in life. The key is to find your purpose and make that your profession and your passion.

When you finally figure out why you’re here, your destiny and purpose, the most significant part is the journey from where you are to where you want to be.

I was just soaking in this speech. I agree with him wholeheartedly! I have talked a little bit about my journey, from being engaged and not knowing who I was to someone who truly knows what their destiny and purpose is. I am finally going to reveal that!

I joined Junior League this year, finally. I have wanted to for years, but I never did. There was the element that people thought that I only wanted to join for the “social” aspect, which is the farthest from the truth. It took a long time for me to get through to people the true reason that I wanted to join: Baby Steps.

Baby Steps is the signature project of JLN. It is a collaborative effort of JLN, Norman Public Schools, Crossroads Youth and Family and Center for Children and Families, Inc. The demographic that is helped by this program is those teens that are parenting or pregnant in the Norman Public School system. It is a daycare for the “babies” and classes for the “teens.” I fell in love with this program when I was working as a TANF worker. I had a few clients that were students at Baby Steps. I wanted to be as involved as I could be, but I never quite took that step: out of fear, out of insecurity, out of feeling that I didn’t know if I would belong. Finally I gave all of that up. When I applied to grad school my personal statement centered around Baby Steps and what a great program it is.

At that point I wanted to start Baby Steps-like programs in other communities. Well that was all fine and dandy until I learned about Bridges. Bridges is a program in Norman for homeless teenagers. This is a great non profit that helps these teens finish high school. Well this was right up my alley too!

Now what to do? How can I help these two groups of kids? These two are great programs and they have one common goal: to get the teens through high school. But what happens next? Does a high school diploma and being 18 make you an adult? I know, for a fact, that when I was a fresh high school graduate and 18 I didn’t have a clue. There were many times that I had to call my parents to ask: how do I make this recipe? What do I do when a storm knocks out the electricity? Where do apply for financial aid? How do I get an apartment? How do I pay for a bed and a couch and a dining room table and dishes and, and, and?

That’s when it hit me! These kids still need someone. I did a paper last week on teen age pregnancy (a social problem near and dear to my heart) and one of the reasons for “planned” teen age pregnancy is because kids want a family; if they didn’t have one or the one that they had deserted and disappointment them, then the easiest way to get a family is to make one.

Maybe I am the eternal optimist, but what if we, as a society, can embrace these kids and young adults and give them a family?

About a month ago I watched The Blind Side. I know, I know, how on earth could I not have seen it before now? Well, I hadn’t! But I cried through the whole thing, of course. Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy wrote a book called In a Heartbeat about their journey with Michael. The biggest message that I got from this book is that Michael didn’t need “saving” he just needed support and encouragement, someone to love him and accept him, to help him through all those rough times that we all go through and be there for him unconditionally.

I think that's all any of use want: just to be loved and accepted. I think everyone deserves that, too. I want to help people find that love and acceptance. I know that the time is coming, much faster than I thought it would be a couple of months ago, that I will have to take a huge leap of faith to start this non profit. Does the thought terrify me? Oh yeah.

Next semester I'm taking Program Development, Implementation, and Evaluation and Grant Writing. After that will I know everything there is to know about how on earth to start this thing? Nope. It's kind of like planning to have kids: if you wait until you're ready, then you'll be too old to have them. That's kind of how I feel about this thing; if I wait to do it until I am 100% ready I'm going to be too old, or too married, or too busy with kids, or too something. There will always be an excuse. I'm tired of excuses and I'm not going to let them hold me back.

I have a name in my head, but I'm not posting that on the internet quite yet. :)

All of this being said, if you would have asked me nineteen months ago where I'd be I would have without a doubt said: married with one kid and one on the way (or getting ready for the second one). I would be staying home with the kiddo. My ultimate goal was not to work. Fast forward nineteen months, a few million tears, and a life changing experience or two and here I am: on the brink of starting a non profit that I hope will genuinely help people.

Will this be a glamorous job that I can leave at 5:00? Nope.

Will I make a million dollars? Nope.

But will I be fulfilling my destiny and purpose? You bet!

Will I enjoy the ride that this crazy life takes me on? As much as I can.

I know it will be hard and I know that there will be days that I might just want to give up, but I hope that I don't. I want to do everything in my power with the journey and the path that I have been given. I want to live life by taking risks and to really live life, not to let it happen around me. I want to live my life knowing that at any given moment I have given it my all, and then some, and I am ready to die.

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