Family is a great thing. Some people are lucky enough to live relatively close to theirs. Sometimes due to distance, your friends become family. Your family lets you get away with things that many would not. Something that you can be lulled into is the idea that because you think that you’ve immediately made new friends that are really just acquaintances, you can fall into old patterns that your friends have grown accustomed to dealing with.
Your extended family let you go off about something knowing that somehow if you end up going off the map that you’ll find your way back. Acquaintances don’t seem to allow those strays to be overlooked. Your family has grown accustomed to your habits and look at them as quirks. Your acquaintances look at them as problems that must be dealt with in order to be accepted.
I’ve found myself making many friends in my short time in Birmingham (at least, I think so), though it still feels as though I have many acquaintances that have found their way into my life as well.. It’s difficult trying to blend in to a very different society. There are a lot of people that say that going to Savannah was a case of going into a completely different environment compared to New York. Looking back, I can say that moving their under the pretense of attending college made the change in surroundings almost non-existent.
My experiences growing up in the Bronx, while urban, were still different than if all of my life experiences were in Manhattan. Ending up at a college where there were students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries even in the Old South, made that change easier to make than what are normally expected. The melting pot that was and is SCAD made me aware of things that I had not been exposed to at home. It made me appreciate what I had experienced as well, knowing what I brought to the game of survival at college. Some are the ones that get that e-mail or phone call whenever I need some assistance on dealing with those life issues when I want someone that knows me and that favor is always returned. There are some while not achieving what they hoped in terms of graduating or completing college due to leaving this life that taught me several valuable lessons that I am forever grateful for.
I also had an extended family back in New York that went beyond the nuclear. The Lwanga Scholars had gotten me ready to be accepting and realistic about how I would be accepted in society. I recently got a chance to see how several of them were doing after several years. This group taught me more about self-determination and striving for success than many of the other things that I have been involved with over the years. I was reminded that there are some fundamental differences between how my family from the program thinks and some of my acquaintances have thought over the years. The more that I’ve been thinking about it in recent weeks, the more I realize that most of my friends think similarly to the Scholars.
One thing stressed in the program was to be sure that you were proud of your heritage. I tend to make a point to say that I am a Caribbean-American first and foremost. There is a lot made nowadays with regards to holding onto your heritage and making sure that it survives. In this age of political correctness and constant labeling of groups, while I believe that there is more that makes us similar than different, this label allows me to celebrate things that I can never take for granted. It also gives me the opportunity to look at things a bit more objectively than I probably need to whenever it comes to what I’ve tried to accomplish so far.
This Saturday my girlfriend has decided that the best way to mark my turning 30 on the 29 was to invite some of the people that I have grown to consider family (living close enough to make it feasible) to come over and celebrate with me. I just look forward to hoisting a Guinness and enjoying my time with them, and looking at ways to make sure that I don’t let them down as I move forward in my journey through life.
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