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“It’s basically the newborn stage forever. He has both epilepsy and a very rare genetic disorder. He can’t feed himself. He’s not toilet trained. He can’t speak. He can’t tell us if he’s sad, or grumpy, or hungry. He’s had more doctor appointments than both of us combined in our entire life. We’re actually heading to a neurologist appointment right now. The most difficult thing is finding peace and serenity. Every time he has a seizure, I’m afraid it will be fatal. People with his disorder don’t live very long. But the disorder also makes him very happy. So he’s oblivious and enjoying the world. But I’ve been traumatized. My husband is so supportive but a lot of days I feel completely alone. There have been times when I’ve filmed myself on my phone just to have someone to talk to. But every day I can choose to not be overwhelmed by my anxiety and fear. Instead of curling up to cry, I can choose to meet him with joy where he’s at. I felt loved by God when he was born. I was working as a special education teacher, so I thought that God had given me a perfect fit. We named him Iman Yaqeen, which means ‘faith without doubt.’ That name has become a reminder to me. I say it all day long when I’m trying to get his attention. And it reminds me that one day I’m going to hear him speak. If not here, then in heaven.”
“Too many people are faking the funk. I was at the club the other night. And I’m scrolling through my Instagram and I see a post from a girl I know. And she’s at the same club. And in this photo she’s holding up a bottle, acting crazy, looking like she doesn’t have a care in the world. But the club wasn’t even rocking like that. It was a Thursday. So I look across the room and there she is: sitting down, looking bored, scrolling through her phone, and clearly faking the funk.”
“I’d been putting it off because I didn’t have the money or time. But a program at the VA offered to help with tuition, so I enrolled in Empire State College. I wasn’t there to play. I wasn’t there to party. My only goal was to get an education. And more than the degree, I discovered that I needed the people. I met people at college that I could bounce ideas off. People who could challenge me to go further with my interests. Two of my mentors were Dr. Fullard and Professor Whiteside. Both of them had retired from corrections so they had a passion for helping black males. They’d tell me: I notice you have a strong ability for ‘such and such,’ and I’d love to see you develop it further. So that’s what I did. Even though I majored in business, I found myself learning all about history and economics. Right now I’m reading a book about the Haitian Revolution. It has nothing to do with my major, but it’s important to me. It’s part of my personal curriculum. And that’s the most important thing that I got from college. I got a degree. But more importantly I developed a personal curriculum that I’ll be using for the rest of my life.”
“I’ve lived here my whole life. I’m ready to leave. I just graduated college and I’d love to experience a new city. But I’m stuck. My dad is trying to become a citizen, and I need to stay in the city because I’m the one petitioning on his behalf. We’ve been waiting for five years already. We’ve spent so much money. But it’s the least I can do for him. I’ve seen where he lived in Mexico: tiny houses, dirt floors, no shoes. He was the youngest of twelve. His family couldn’t afford to educate him. So he came here when he was seventeen and worked as a migrant worker in California. He slept in train cars and ate food out of the trash. Even now he works fourteen hours a day. He comes home, we talk a bit, and he goes to sleep. It’s been that way my entire life. He’s turning fifty soon and he’d love to start his own business. So I hope he gets his citizenship. It’s a little dangerous because he’s on the radar now. They have his fingerprints. But he’s got a son that fought in Afghanistan. And now he’s got a daughter that graduated from NYU, so I think he deserves to stay.”
“We met dancing. We only see each other when we’re dancing. And I danced with him for ten years before I even knew his name.”
“When I was younger I fell in love with a black man, which my mother didn’t like. She tried to tell me that it would cause my grandmother to die of a heart attack. But we married anyway. And after having two children we got divorced. My mother especially didn’t like that. She was appalled. She didn’t believe in divorce. She told me that I couldn’t possibly love my children. Our relationship never got better. Over the years we’d have a weekly phone call. We’d reenact the same conversations again and again. I wanted her to acknowledge that I’d lived an interesting life. It made me angry that she saw me as deficient. I wanted her to see that my life had meaning, even if I was on my own. She’s 89 now. Two years ago she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, which has made her even blunter with her opinions. She now openly expresses her preference for my brother. It’s becoming clear that she won't change her mind about me. And it carries a sting. Because I guess we never stop hoping to be understood."
“I’m much younger than I thought I would be. When I was in college, I thought 43 seemed so old. It just seemed everything would be set by then and my life would be over. I thought I’d only be doing things that I had to do. Everything is a choice when you’re young. But then you graduate from school and make your big decisions: your career, your marriage, your kids. And it seems that with each big decision, you have less opportunity for choice. But I still have a lot of choices. It’s just not all about me anymore. I enjoy choosing ways for my kids to experience new things. I’m thinking about bringing them to the Ben and Jerry’s factory in Vermont next weekend. I think they’ll get a kick out of it. I can still remember my daughter’s face the first time she saw Yankee Stadium. I’d already been dozens of times, but it almost felt like the first time for me too. And I love taking my son to his soccer games. He’s only six so he has no clue how to play. But he’s decided that his job is to run back and forth in front of the goal. He basically invented defense and I got to watch it happen. These things are a lot of fun for me. When I was young, I imagined they’d feel like obligations. But they’re not. They’re choices.”
“It’s so hard to ask for help. Because you’re supposed to be ‘Mommy.’ And you never want to say: ‘I need help being Mommy.’ I carried this person for nine months. I knew she was coming. I felt like I should be able to handle it and I didn’t want to ask other people to stop their lives. Especially if they had no part in making this baby. But eventually I had to give in. I’m just one person and being ‘Mama’ 24/7 can make you crazy. I found myself getting frustrated that other people were going on with their lives. I’d let things fester. And it was unhealthy for my relationships. I’d get heated with my mother and boyfriend. Instead of beginning with ‘Can you help?’ I’d lose my temper, and jump straight to: ‘Why aren’t you helping?’”
"Recently I went home to Dublin for six months to spend time with my father. He’s in the late stages of Alzheimer’s. While I was there, I noticed that the bank where I worked was moving along fine without me. It made me realize that my contribution was dispensable. So when the sabbatical ended, I just couldn’t go back. My friend happened to approach me around that time with an opportunity to start a company. We’re developing an app to help manage the construction process. It feels good to be learning so much again. Everything was so specialized at the bank. There was an expert for everything. Everyone just stuck to the things they were good at and recognized for. But there’s no bureaucracy in our start-up. It’s just the two of us. There’s only what needs to be done. I can last about a year before things get financially stressful. I’m hoping that the company will be viable by then. Because even if it doesn't make a lot of money, as long as it survives, I’ll have been a part of creating something.”
“I wasn’t planning on dressing up as a clown. I’d been drinking all night in Poughkeepsie and I somehow ended up at the train station, so I decided to take the 4 AM train into the city. I had $200 in my pocket from some gutter cleaning work. I immediately spent the first $60 on brunch and Bloody Marys. Then I walked by Party City and I had the idea to get a clown wig. But then I noticed the suspenders, and the top, and the bow tie, and some balloons. I bought a red nose too but I’m not sure what happened to it. I left the store with about $100, which was enough to get some shoes and a half pint of Seagram’s. I ended the day with $10 but that got lost when I passed out in Times Square. Now I'm trying to figure out how to get home. I need to stop drinking.”
“I’ve known her since I was seven. I had a crush on her even back then. But she lived back in the Dominican Republic, so I’d only get to see her during the summer. We just got tired of being apart. So I asked her to marry me. My parents were against it. I was twenty-one. I was going to City College. I was still living at home and they thought I wasn’t ready. And there was definitely some truth to that. I had to drop out of school once she moved in with us. I couldn’t handle everything. At first I was depressed but I started to progress quickly at work. I got raise after raise. We moved out of my parents’ house and got a small apartment in the Bronx. Now I’m studying to get my electrical license. I've seen a lot of the guys I work with start their own companies. You’ve just got to want it. You’ve got to want to move up, and you can find a way. The marriage has been great and it’s been tough. We have a two-year-old daughter now. It’s a lot of work. But it’s also awesome to go home everyday and find two people who love me.”
“I’m trying to finish writing a book. I’m on my fourth draft and have 70,000 words so far. It’s an adventure tale set in Jamaica. My main character is a twelve-year old girl named Kristi. She’s the same age that I was when I left the island. I really want to write something that resonates back home. I’ve been researching the history and folklore of the country. I’m trying to get the dialect just right. I want Jamaicans to recognize themselves and be proud. I've been working on it for four years now. I’ve given up on so many other things. I gave up on being a doctor. I’ve given up writing other stories. I lost sixty pounds last year, but before that I’d given up on so many diets. So I’m determined to finish this. I try not to think about other goals for the book. Because the more I need from it, the more I freeze up. I have a lot of debt. I have a lot of relatives in Jamaica that need money. But if I start writing to feel hopeful about my financial situation, the words won’t come. So my goal is just to finish my fourth draft. And if that happens, my next goal is to get a rejection letter that tells me something I can improve.”
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