Spoken Word: On Being Transgendered by – Lee Mokobe

I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for South African poets. They have a way of painting some of the most lurid pictures I have ever seen with only words. Never in my life have I heard of one of as young as Lee Mokobe. He is unparalleled in his skill level and I can definitely learn a thing or two from him. I hope I am fortunate enough to meet him at Brave New Voices next month.

Oncoming traffic is embracing more transgendered children than parents. – Lee Mokobe

Goals for 2015

Here it is. Another new year. Another list of hopefully fulfilled promises that I am going to make to myself. But first, an analysis of how last year went.

Last year, I made a lot of very vague resolutions and as a result, I think some of them suffered. There was real meaningful way to track my progress on many of them. Just a box to say that I did them. So this year, I want to improve on that by setting actual thoughtful and measurable goals.

Reading: I’m 3 years into my quest to be as well-read as people seem to think I am and I think I want to continue that trend. Last year, I stated that I wanted to read 12 books over the course of the year. I eventually changed that to 13 books on my Goodreads challenge page. All in all, I ended up reading 19 books. The last one was a Children’s Story called The Snow Queen, on which the movie Frozen was based.

Given that I got a late start on all these books and the vast majority of this reading and learning happened in the second half of last year, I want to up the ante. I’ve set my goal at 15 books for the year. I’m keeping it this low because I will hopefully start residency this year and I don’t want to set an unachievable goal while I’m in what will be the hardest year of my life to that point. I’ve already started off the year by beginning The Godfather by Mario Puzo. Hopefully, this will be a good year in that regard.

Also, figure out how to get my Goodreads reviews to autopost to this blog.

Photography: I have continued to maintain my interest in photography. To that end, I took an online photography course, in which I made 94% average. I took a few photo sets this year, and published many of them to my Facebook profile but so far, I haven’t posted any of them anywhere else.

This year, I will put together portfolios on a website like Behance, read the photography book that one of cousins got me for Christmas, and make 5 large prints of my best work from this year.

Music and Poetry: This past year, I rediscovered my love of hip-hop music. I’ve done some writing in both poetry and lyrics but not a whole lot. I think artistically, I want to head in the direction of recording. I hope I will put out a 5 song EP. I have dreaming of this project for a long time and I think it’s time do it. Hopefully, I will have it all done by the time medical school is over.

Finances: I was a lot better about my finances this past year. I used to have a serious problem with overdrafting my accounts. Luckily, that only happened once this past year. My goals for the year in this regard are going to be two-fold: 1) double the amount that I put away in savings, and 2) Make sure that I do not overdraft my account at all.

Origami: I really would like to improve this particular skill. last year, I made a few new models but I only mastered 2 of them. This year, I will endeavour to master 10 new models. I imagine that this will be doable if I spend a few afternoons a month working on one model or another.

Health and Fitness: This is the area where I made the least progress last year. So this year, it’s going to one that I focus on a little more intently.  Recently, I learned that dance is very central to my being, so part of my plan for general fitness is going to be improving my skill level as a dancer. To that end, I will plan to be at 6 dance events this year and at least one of the six must be a weekend long affair like an exchange or a showdown.

In the other aspects of my life, I will endeavor to drink at least 2 glasses of water every morning (because I don’t drink enough water) and lose 30 pounds by year’s end. A few years back, I did in fact lose 30 pounds in less than 3 months but I found that I couldn’t sustain such a drastic weight loss. My weight is currently in the 200’s. I think this goal is a little bit more achievable. To that end, will endeavor to run 2 miles twice a week and do 50 squats three times a week.

Let me know what you guys think of these goals. Hopefully, they are not unrealistic. I guess time will tell.

Lauryn Hill Drops Knowledge at 25

I came across this footage through the website For Harriet. It features a 25 year old Lauryn Hill chatting it up with a bunch of students. During the session, she dives into everything for religion to relationships.

I can’t believe how wise she was at 25. As someone who turned 25 this year, I don’t think I am as wise she was back then. I hope it won’t take me another 14 years to learn that wisdom.

When My Time Comes: A meditation on Death and Dying

I have listened to Dr. Battin talk about the ethics of life and death and the experience of her husband, Dr. Hopkins, over the years, but never quite like this. It’s an incredibly profound and thought-provoking TED talk. Of all the TED talks I have ever seen, this is perhaps the most uncomfortable to watch primarily because it forces me to think very consciously of my own mortality.

Now that I am on my ICU rotation, I’ve noticed that questions about end of life and quality of life come up pretty much daily unlike my other rotations. Most people don’t know a bioethicist who might help guide them to the answers they seek and far fewer are fortunate enough to marry one. I  don’t know if I will have the answers I will need to make my own decisions when my time comes, but I certainly hope that I will be as fortunate as Dr. Hopkins to have the love and support of confident people who will help guide my path toward the decision that is best for me.

P.S. I get the impression that this piece might make it seem like I’m about to kick the bucket, so let me state for the record that at present, I have no medical problems other than being fat. Unless a comet drops directly on my head, or I get ebola (both of which are highly unlikely), I really don’t foresee my death happening any time soon.

The Realm of Possibility

An amusing thing happened to me this afternoon. I was lying down in the park near my apartment doing some light reading. A group of kids (3 girls and 1 boy) were playing nearby. After what appears to be a rather fulfilling round of leap frog, the kids all went to sit under a magnolia tree and listened as the boy and his sister told the others about their grandparents, Papa and Mia, who were somewhere in the park.

A few minutes later, one of the girls walked up to me and said, “Excuse me, are you their grandpa?”

I chuckled a little. This was certainly not the turn of events that I was expecting. She was blissfully unaware of two characteristics that I possessed, which would have been obvious to any adult. The first, being that I’m not old enough to be a grandfather and until that moment, I didn’t think I looked it. Perhaps more importantly, this little blonde-haired white girl didn’t notice the difference between the color of my skin and that of her budding raconteur friends (or her own for that matter).

So in my head, I’m debating how to handle the situation. Do I bring up our color differential or our insufficient age differential as the reason that I wasn’t the grandfather of her friends?

Smiling, I asked, “Do I look old enough to be a grandfather?”
She thought for moment. “No,” she said sheepishly.
Still smiling, I respond, “No, I’m not their grandfather.”
She says okay and runs off to continue playing with her friends.

When you’re a kid, there’s very little that’s outside the realm of possibility and many things are equally probable. For that little girl, the things that mattered were the fact that I was a male who was significantly older than she was, and I was laying down in the general direction of where Papa was said to have been.

The thing is, family isn’t just made up of people who share one’s skin color. Families come in all shapes, colors, and sizes. As interracial adoption and relationships become more normal, that little girl’s question becomes all the more plausible. I would venture to say that the question may even be prescient of the world she may mature in. However, none of that changes the fact that 24 is still too young to be a grandfather.

To the little girl in the park: with the exception of one detail, the realm of possibility is still quite infinite. I hope it continues to stay that way for you and all the other children in the world.

#TheKidsNeedToKnow @IamKidPresident

Growing up is many things. Most of the time, it’s fun, but there are a few moments when it isn’t. I can’t say that I have mastered this whole “growing up” thing, but the following is what I have learned so far

1. Laugh often. It’s easiest way to feel rich (and the best part is it’s free).
2. The world is a truly beautiful place, but sometimes, it can be scary. Go on adventures anyway.
3. Memories sometimes fade away, so make plenty of new ones.
4. Everything has to end sometime. Remember this especially when you are having a bad day.
5. Don’t be in such a rush to grow up. Enjoy being a kid while it lasts. (Trust me on this one.)

Good luck 🙂

Dealing With Changes (Part 2)

Last time, I started talking about dealing with change, and in particular, I looked at it through the eyes of Tevye from  Fiddler On the Roof. I lightly alluded to how Tevye’s handling of the various changes in life differs from that of other fictional characters I have come across in recent months. This contrast is most handling change is in my opinion, most exemplified by Okonkwo from Chinua Achebe’s classic book, Things Fall Apart. (I can finally claim to be a good Nigerian boy for having read the book)

Okonkwo and Tevye are alike in many ways. They’re both pillars in their community. They place a strong emphasis on tradition and family values. They both struggle to come to grips with how drastically the world around them is changing, but they differ in what they do as a result. Since I’ve already talked about Tevye, today’s post is going to be about Okonkwo

Okonkwo is the prototypical stoic African warrior. He displays few emotions (with the exception of an overabundance of anger). He believes very deeply that if a person is strong enough, the world must bend to that person’s will – especially if that person is a man. He despises men that he deems to be effeminate, which tends to be how he describes men who would prefer not to be warriors. In fact, I would imagine that he had ever met a guy like Tevye, he would be more than a little peeved at Tevye’s easygoing nature.

These traits have served him well on the battlefield and made him a force to be reckoned with in the community, but they were ultimately his undoing. Whenever Okonkwo faced changing circumstances, he met each challenge with the same decisive force that he used countless times on the battlefield. When that didn’t work, he broke into pits of bitter despair. He held on desperately to the world he knew and the world he once ruled and even though that world had moved on he refused to move with it. When he finally understood how much the world he once loved had changed, he became dejected and died a broken man.

Okonkwo’s character definitely has its merits. At the very least, he proves time and again, that almost anything can be overcome if one tries hard enough. Nevertheless, I’ve never been a huge fan of this style of machismoism for one simple reason: brittle things break. Strength (especially physical strength) was Okonkwo’s greatest asset, but it also caused him to be unyielding and at times, irascible. It made him so rigid that in the end, he couldn’t fit into the new world around him. Perhaps, the realization that there was no place for him in the new world is what really killed him.