There have been three main phases in my life.
The first was mainly out of my control with such events as being born, growing up as the oldest of seven and having the singing group, the Temptations, describe part of my situation: “Papa was a rolling stone; wherever he laid his hat was his home…” Even writing seemed inevitable with a mother who loved to do so. When there was something important to say about family matters or times of my life as when the grades of a gifted child were threatening my future, it was expressed in writing.
In a poem, I wrote: “There are no rats in my gutter, only worms” because I was a proud “project kid” and my so-called poverty experience was a character builder that I wouldn’t trade for anything. Schools, jobs, relationships were given as a blessing and/or a curse during this phase. But it was also a time when small declarations of independence resulted in unforeseeable lifetime situations. Pilfering in an abandoned warehouse, for example, could have landed me in Juvvie but instead gave me an Underwood typewriter (remember those). Doing poorly in an 8th grade math class could have got me a referral but instead, it was when I decided I was going to be a teacher so that I would have summers off to write. I eventually latched onto plays because I figured I could more readily define my own destiny rather than collecting rejection letters from people I might never see. I didn’t even speak that moment to power, I only thought it and it resulted in experiences that took me to college, made me a teacher of high risk and all other youth, a playwright, an education advocate, a director, an actor, a university educator, a corporate trainer, a produced playwright Off Broadway, all came about from that moment I declared in a stuffy math class in a junior high school. That declaration during a time that wasn’t my own, defined the rest of my life to this day.
The second was during an early midlife crisis.
Got the hot car, a wife and two children were more important than “hot chicks,” but I did quit a secure career as a high school drama teacher with PERA. Instead, I struck out and became a facilitator, traveling the eight regions of the Environmental Protection Agency training staff for a litigation support agency. I moonlighted to help others becoming a community advocate utilizing the arts, honing technical writing skills, becoming a journalist, a photographer, a storyteller, a grant writer, a promoter and of course writing and directing plays. I defined myself more culturally, taking on who I am as a black man on a world stage that in performer lingo, gives everyone an opportunity to shine. I felt more in “charge” of the direction of my life even when it was less secure.
The third phase is defined by age.
It would seem that all phases are a matter of age but the third is even moreso. There are all those historical times I’ve lived through that beg to see the light of day. But it’s politically incorrect to say too often, “I’ve been there,” or “back when I was your age,” or “I’ve been there and done that.” Besides, doing so disavows one of the main reasons I got involved in education, to stay relevant and “young,” even while having to acknowledge that there may be more life behind me than ahead. Doing so closes off options. In this case, options include continuing to do more with and for others, to grow more as a human in all ways through travel mentally, physically, and especially spiritually connected to all there is and can be. Options include the inevitable and the betrayal of the body of a man who still sees the fourteeners of Colorado and wants to get a few more in. Some call these experiences and reflections wisdom and if it’s so, I want to share it in old and new ways accumulated from back in the day…