Perspective Through a Teardrop

*A post made in 2015 from a previously owned blog

Have you ever been watching television and experienced that moment of superficial sadness whenever you see that someone was smashed in a tragic accident? Or when you see someone was shot and killed? How about when you see live testimonials from missing persons who somehow escaped their inevitable death and made it out to tell their story? I have. I always look at the television and just think to myself, “Gee, that is so sad. I literally couldn’t even imagine that happening to myself or someone I actually know”. I find that although I’m trying to be as empathetic as possible, it doesn’t really make a difference in my life. Why should it matter? 

I was sitting in my dorm on a Thursday night, typing up a paper that was due on the following Monday. I remember being so stressed because the paper that I was typing was just one of the four. I had my phone on Do Not Disturb mode because everything that I was doing at that time needed to be finished in a timely manner. For some odd reason, I decided to look at my phone. Luckily for me, I looked just in time to see that my teammate was calling me.

I yelled in excitement simply because everyone was coming back from the May break. I hadn’t seen my beautiful teammates in over a month!

Me“What’s up, Mappie!”

Marqu’es“Jay.”

Though she only said one word, I immediately shifted my mood because her stiff tone told me something wasn’t right.

Me“What’s going on? What’s wrong? Talk to me.”

I was having a hard time controlling my emotions. I wanted to know what was happening so badly. I wanted to help in any way I could. I wanted to be there for my teammate.

Marqu’es: “Jay. Dai-Jon died, Jay. I don’t even know what’s going on. Bekah called me and she was hysterical. I’m shaking right now. I don’t know, Jay. I just don’t know. I am going to call Coach. Tell the girls. Bekah needs us.”

In this moment, Marqu’es was speaking so quickly, it was almost incoherent. Although she was speaking fast, everything slowed down for me. I stopped typing because my project suddenly seemed to shrink underneath my fingertips. My vision almost seemed delayed. I tried panning the room, but nothing seemed to appear on time. I could feel my palms sweating and my heart starting to patter. Goosebumps scaled my skin, and my head felt so heavy on my shoulders.

Me“Wait. What? Stop playing. That isn’t funny, man. Stop playing. For real. Don’t joke about stuff like that.”

Marqu’es: “Jay, I’m dead ass serious. I’m not joking. Dai-Jon died. In a boating accident. I think he drowned. Bekah needs us. I have to call coach. Let the girls know now. I’ll call you back in 20 minutes.”


When Marqu’es said she would call me back, I dropped my phone and my body went numb. What am I supposed to think about right now? What do I do? Who do I call? Who needs to know about this? How can I make things easier for Bekah right now? How do I tell the girls? How do I answer all of these questions?!

The fact of the matter was – I didn’t know the answer to any of them, nor did I know any processes I could go through to answer them. I froze.


Although I did not know what to do when I received this terrible news, one thing I did know is that every single moment of my life flashed before my eyes. Every. Single. Moment. It was almost as if my entire life was being shown in a slide show that was scrolling across my brain. I was no longer watching this tragic story on television. I was given a front row seat with stale popcorn and flat soda to one of the most tragic things I’ve witnessed in my 20 years of living, and I wanted my money back.

I was so ashamed of what I had missed. I recalled joking around with Dai-Jon about how he looked like Oscar off of Car Wash. Everyone scoffed at his dreams of being drafted. I did not bother to ask anyone how his transferring process went when he left Vanderbilt. I did not bother to see how his season went. Was he doing well? I didn’t know. It didn’t directly affect my life, so what difference should it have made?

Within the next hour or so of the news leaking that our dear friend had passed, his name was plastered all over social media. Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, etc. In the grand scheme of things, while the support is so beautiful and necessary for his family to see how loved Dai-Jon was, none of it mattered. Those tweets, Facebook updates, Instagram posts – my blog – none of it matters anymore.

During my disturbing moment of realization, I made a vow to myself.

I vowed to do something that scares me everyday because life is too short to play it safe.
I vowed to forgive more because grudges only fester.
I vowed to be unapologetic about what I believe in.
I vowed to love furiously.
I vowed to fail in flames of glory. Go down kicking and screaming. Be an alley cat.
I vowed to believe in myself more.
I vowed to tell people how I feel about them because a stupid tweet just won’t suffice after we’re gone.
I vowed to feel more.
I vowed to get shit done.
I vowed to encourage people in their dreams no matter how big or small they may seem.

I made a vow to live my life the way I intended – no matter how difficult the circumstances become. 


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This loss is being felt, especially in the Vanderbilt Community. Once a ‘dore, always a ‘dore. Everyone knew Dai-Jon and loved his energy. It was almost as if his aura was like a B-12 shot that was being administered to the wind that swept up those surrounding him. Although I did not know Dai-Jon as well as others, I do know how he made my teammate feel. She spoke of him in high regard with stars in her eyes, no matter what their circumstances were. Her love for him was undeniably pure. That was good enough for me. Easy does it, Dai-Jon.  

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College Athletics: Getting there…

Disclaimer: Basketball Specific

As a 17 year old, there were a lot of things that I did not think of while I was choosing which school I wanted to spend the next four years of my life. I am extremely proud to tell people that I am Vanderbilt alum. I wouldn’t trade my experience for anything in this world, and I bleed black and gold until the day I die. However, I do believe if I would have paid closer attention to certain details that seemed so arbitrary 5 years ago, I would have had a better fit. As we move into a quiet period after two weekends of evaluation and exposure, I felt as if this was a perfect time to discuss factors that kids don’t think about. Below is a consolidated list of intellectual tidbits that my friends and I hope lend a helping hand to those looking to make a decision soon. 

  1. Philosophy
    • What is the coach’s philosophy and does this philosophy fit your natural playing style?

Throughout travel and high school basketball, there was one thing that was very consistent; the playing style. As a point guard, my game was predicated on breaking down defenses in transition and creating off-the-dribble. I was undeniably fruitful in both settings because my coaches relished in uptempo games. There were ample opportunities for four-low isolations, random screen-and-rolls, as well as impromptu clear-outs whenever there was a mismatch. When I first arrived at Vanderbilt, my coach and I experienced a few tiffs simply because I felt that I was being put in a box. It took me a while to realize that the offense was meticulously designed to work for the players. No one needed to create anything because if the offense was ran effectively, it would create all that we needed. Before I learned how to actually run and conduct such a complex offense, I was unhappy. I was not able to play the way that was most comfortable for me, but after research and a few conversations, I learned that the offense and philosophy that I felt was extraneous had been perfected to a tee and was successful, years before I even arrived. So in order for me to succeed, I would have to adjust accordingly. 

     2. Work, work, work, work, work

Every player needs to sit and seriously ask themselves: What am I willing to sacrifice? What am I willing to give to my future teammates and program?

It is no secret that there are different levels for different skill-sets. However, what isn’t discussed much is that there are also different levels for different work ethics. Motivational speaker, Eric Thomas, says, Don’t let your talent take you somewhere your character can’t keep you. This rings true for college athletics. Coming out of high school, I would say that I was an average player and athlete with exceptional leadership/communication skills and work ethic. It also helped that I was ultra competitive. Everyday I woke up, I was determined to get better at something, no matter how minute it seemed to outsiders. Because of my blue collar approach, I was fortunate enough to play for four years in one of the best conferences in women’s basketball. 

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Yes, college basketball can be fun, but never forget that it is a business first. You, the player, can determine what type of food your coaches are eating at the end of the day. Without performance and production, your coaches lose money and opportunities, so what makes you feel as if they are willing to accept mediocrity in any dimension of college basketball? Too many times, talented players are left behind and buried in the bench because they are not willing to work and improve certain aspects of their game that will benefit the team the most. Those same talented players make amends by transferring to schools that do not take college women’s basketball serious. Need I mention that they are wildly successful at those levels? Save yourself the trouble of transferring by being honest with YOU. Talent can only get you so far. Work ethic keeps you there. 

    3. Seeking Approval

Approval has become paramount in modern-day society. From our Instagram posts to the newest pair of shoes we own, we are constantly seeking approval from our family and “friends”. For example, how many tweets and IG posts did everyone see, within the last week, of the Views and Lemonade albums? Spoiler alert: about 97% of the population that tweeted just want to show their friends that they are up-to-date with the newest, hottest music.

6962664528_bb5cedb932_oRelating this back to basketball, most athletes commit to a school just because their reputation is popular, or because their mother or father graduated from there. They want their friends to say, “Oh! Look at Jane Doe! She’s going to So-and-So University! I wish I could go there too”! Truth be told, only a select few can actually perform and succeed at the universities that everyone reads about in the papers or see on television. Do not choose a school based on its popularity, because that is one sure-fire way to bamboozle yourself into a whirlpool of unhappiness. 

    4. Majors are Major!

You have a hoop dream, too? Good for you, but what other ways are you going to contribute to society? What do you have a passion for? 

I am not the one to kill anyone’s athletic dreams. Whoever you are, I am in your corner 3,844%, but I have to give you the facts. Below is an excerpt from the article, What Are Your Odds of Making the Pros? (http://www.norwichcsd.org/Downloads/ProSportsOdds.doc):

Men’s Basketball

— High school senior players who go on to play NCAA men`s basketball: Less than one in 35, or 2.9 percent.

— NCAA senior players drafted by an NBA team: Less than one in 75, or 1.3 percent.

Women`s Basketball

— High school senior players who go on to play NCAA women’s basketball: About three in 100, or 3.1 percent.

— NCAA senior players drafted by a WNBA team: About one in 100, or 1.0 percent.

— High school senior players eventually drafted by a WNBA team: About one in 5,000, or 0.02 percent.

With percentages so low, I would strongly advise you all to truly consider what you are passionate about and what that could look like in terms of a major. Then ask yourself, does So-and-So University have this major? You do not want to go to a university for their athletic program, knowingly neglecting your education and passions, end up studying something you hate that could eventually lead to a job that you hate even more. 

    5. Teammates Matter

Do you and your future teammates share some of the same beliefs and values? Do you see yourself enjoying time with them outside of basketball? What players are returning and what positions are they playing? Coming out of high school, I did not pay attention to who was returning to Vanderbilt from the years before. You can imagine my surprise when I realized that it did not matter what my ranking was on ESPN Hoopgurlz because I was playing behind two WNBA draft picks in Jasmine Lister (Seattle Storm Training Camp, 2014 and LA Sparks, 2015-16) and Christina Foggie (Minnesota Lynx Training Camp, 2014). It took me awhile to adjust my mindset and begin learning from the players that were ahead of me. 

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By the same token, it is vital to consider the personalities of the team. Contrary to popular belief, success in college basketball, for women especially, is highly determined by the chemistry the team has, both on and off the court. I was lucky enough to get paired with some teammates who have turned into my best friends.

This is not to be misunderstood, though. You will not always get along/agree with your teammates and you do not always need to be best friends. There are just some people and personalities that will not mesh. This fact is fine as long as you are able to respect one another and do what is in the team’s best interest.

Going Forward…

I do not claim to know everything there is to know about choosing a school. Everyone’s recruiting process is unique, and so reality and perceptions differ. All in all, accept nothing at face value and refuse to settle.
Make this week unforgettable. 

Check back next week for College Athletics: Staying There… 

 

 

 

 

 

Diana Garrett

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, 
people will forget what you did, 
but people will never forget how you made them feel.
– Maya Angelou
 
Just recently, my dear friend proposed that we participate in a 30 day writing challenge. At first, I was a little peeved. All of this on my plate, and now she wants me to take time to write about arbitrary things that won’t help me mark anything off of my agenda? Great. Reluctantly, I comply and we started that same day. On the first day, the prompt was to list ten things that made me really happy. I thoroughly enjoyed the prompt, so I decided that the writing challenge might not be that bad. Days went by, and I became eager to share my prompt with my friend. Suddenly, the prompt was: ‘write about something that someone told you that you would never forget’. Here’s what I said:

During my sophomore year at Vandy, we had an extended fall break and was given a few extra days due to practice being canceled. I was struggling with my identity, self-esteem, optimism and confidence, amongst other things. Instead of going home to be around my lovely family that think I walk on water, I forced myself to solitude. I decided to visit my aunt in San Diego. I knew that she led a very busy life and worked often, so I would have ample time to think and explore. Two days in to my visit, I decided to buy a train ticket to Los Angeles. I had never been before, and the train ride was only an hour and a half long. I was in awe from the beauty that I saw during the ride. To my right was graffiti and street art on every abandoned building, and to my left were two newlyweds, cooing their newborn. L.A., here I come!
I was twiddling my thumbs upon arrival. So much time, nowhere to be – what to do, what to do. I saw a corner store in the distance, and what better way to begin an exploration other than with snacks?! I walk into the store, and when I got inside, there was a lady already in there. Her eyes immediately found their way to me. How odd, I thought, I must have something on my face. Wherever I went, her eyes followed. Even when I knew she was unable to see me, I still felt like she was watching. Feeling the heat, I grabbed my go-to snacks – beef jerky and Cheez-Its – as fast as I could. She was standing by the counter, watching me pay for my things. I felt compelled to speak.
 
Me: “Hey, how goes it?”
 
She didn’t reply. Once again, how odd. I anxiously waited for the cashier to bag my things. As soon as he handed me the bag, I bolted the store like a bat out of hell. I was afraid. I was in a city I had never been in, and I knew no one. As I was speed walking out of the door, I heard her footsteps. I began walking faster and faster, and as soon as I was about to open into a sprint, she stops me. Instead of speaking and explaining why she had just grabbed my arm, she cried. 
The confusion was overbearing at this point.
 
Who is this lady? 
Why is she crying?
What does she want? 
Am I going to get kidnapped and forced into sex trafficking because I’m cute? 
She said, “My name is Diana Garrett. I don’t know what it is about you, but you just got it, kid. You have a light that shines so bright. You just have it. Shine on other people. Don’t ever let anyone take your shine. Don’t ever lose it. You just got it, kid.” The certainty in her proclamation was undeniable. My eyes were brought to a mist simply because she was so full of emotion and conviction. 

I remember every single detail, from the route that I took to the store to the way her hair smelled when she gave me a hug. When I was full of doubt, Diana Garrett came along and gave me a new perspective. She made this moment in my life substantial.
Did I have the slightest clue of what she was talking about? No.
Did it matter? Not at all.
Whatever it was, she made me feel like I had it and she made me feel like I could – like I should – believe, in myself – in the universe. A breath of life.
So…
You never quite know what someone may be going through, but just a few kind words could make the difference. Make it your goal to say something so genuine to someone, you inspire them without even knowing it. Not tomorrow, or the day after that, but today. The time is now. We all deserve it and are worth the effort. 
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Los Angeles, California

Why not?

“In this world, where even a good man like my old man is going to die screaming, there’s no point in not trying to achieve every f****** dream that I have, because that is my eventual end…Go out and find ‘Why Not’. Surround yourself with ‘Why Not’. Those people that are just like, “Why not!” Like when you tell them – “Hey, man! I’m going to go out and make a movie,” and they reply, “Alright. Why not? Let’s give it a shot.”” | Kevin Smith

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So there we were – sitting at the table, eating breakfast. It was me, my mother, my step-father, and all three of my younger brothers. In the midst of me talking about my thoughts about getting a M.B.A., my 17 year-old brother blurted, “I think I want to get a doctorate’s degree.”
Immediately, you could hear silverware fall on the glass plates and see shoulders shifting. It was almost as if he had placed himself in a slide and under the microscope that had enough eyepieces for all 5 of us. Our eyes could have burned a hole through his forehead. If only we had laser vision. We all twiddled our thumbs and questioned him as if we were conducting a naturalization interview. No answer he could generate was going to be sufficient, but he tried anyways.

“A doctorate’s degree?”

“What makes you want to do that?”

“What would you be getting a doctorate’s in?”

“What is a doctorate’s degree (My youngest brother, 13)?”

“That’s crazy!”

“You haven’t even graduated high school yet!”

“Student loans would be a hassle.”

We were all taken aback simply because we had always believed that my brother was the one who be the artist that would aimlessly wander in big cities, with no money, searching for fulfillment in anything. A Ph.D.? What a plot twist. We kept the questions rolling, and we made sure to tell him about every single factor and obstacle he had yet to consider. Student loans, time, exams, dissertations and so on. With every opinion, his demeanor shifted dramatically. I could tell that he was making a valiant attempt to remain immovable in his claim. His confidence, like his shoulders, began to wilt.

How dare he aim high!

When I saw his enthusiastic proclamation turn into a deflated notification in less than seven minutes, I grew ashamed. I realized that I was one of the individuals that would deter my brother from his dreams. I immediately wanted the moment back, and every moment before that where I may have discouraged someone’s goals or dreams.
About a year ago, I watched a TEDtalk that starred Kevin Smith. He spoke about how everyone needed to become and surround themselves with ‘Why-Notters’. I never understood that phenomenon until now.

Going forward:

First and foremost: Noah (Or anyone else in my life)! You can be anything you want to be, and I’m sorry for not always being your biggest fan and supporter. I love you dearly, and will help you accomplish anything in this world.

Find, surround, and become something more than doubts. You ought not underestimate the weight and effect of your negativity. Encourage people more. Stop questioning someone’s motives or reasoning to do something. Refrain from projecting your own shortcomings or doubts onto someone else’s dreams and aspirations. It’s not about you. We’re all in this together. Each and every one of us were sent here to flourish. We ought to act accordingly.

noah bean

Dear Skinnier Self,…

disorder

Recently, I had surgery to remove a ganglion cyst that was in my wrist. Although it was a minor surgery, I was still instructed to refrain from all physical activity until my first, post-op appointment, which was scheduled for a week and three days later. My doctor belted at me when he said, “…and no working out! We want to reduce the risk of infection as much as possible, and we can only do that if we keep your bandage dry.” That statement was the equivalent to someone running their fingernails across the chalkboard. The words made me clutch my ears and squint my eyes. The feeling was back.

This was such a difficult situation for me because I knew the problems I’ve had in the past. How could I go on about my day and eat the way I am supposed to without working out? I felt like I woke up in a sealed, glass box. At first, I was extremely discombobulated, but then I realized my situation when I felt water gushing from the bottom, onto my feet. The water was anxiety. The more thought I put into this, the faster the water began approaching my neck. Then my mouth. Then my nose. Until suddenly, I was trapped – once again – by a feeling.

Although I had spent many months upon years training my body to crave brussels sprouts and baked chicken, working out had always been my safety net. I had purposely rearranged my mind to think of food as not something that should be enjoyed, but as supplements that merely fueled my body. A piece of dark chocolate every month was considered indulgent. Three or four workouts a day was considered an accomplishment, regardless of my physical ailments. My logic was: by not being able to workout, that means that I don’t need to fuel my body. Little did I know that life was reason enough.

Day of Surgery:

Nothing to eat before surgery. After surgery, Dad was in town, and wanted to make me feel better. He bought his favorite ice cream, and we sat in bed eating it straight out of the container. I took a laxative to rid myself of the empty nutrition.

Post-Op, Day 1:

Watermelon, pineapples, and grapes. One turkey sandwich. Hello, Mr. Laxative! Long time, no see.

Post-Op, Day 2: 

1/2 cup of a smoothie. Berries, spinach, and greek yogurt. Hooray to water and light-headedness for the rest of the day!

Post-Op, Day 3:

Nothing. Nothing to eat. Just water. I literally begged and pleaded with my trainer for the go-ahead to exercise. She asked if I had been taken my pain medication.

I intentionally avoided taking my pain medicine since the day of operation because I knew this question would determine whether or not I could workout.

I received the go-ahead, and ran miles on an empty stomach. I was okay with that because I felt better about the 1/2 cup of smoothie, eggs, and turkey bacon I would eat later.


Wait. By taking those laxatives, that’s basically like throwing up. Just out of the other end. I didn’t even eat anything bad except for the 3 spoonfuls of ice cream I ate with dad. Purging and starving myself? Isn’t that like….an eating disorder or something?


It wasn’t until my experience with this surgery that I realized that I had developed these habits long before, but they weren’t as visible because I have always been able to workout. I needed to make a change, and it needed to be fast.

Dear Skinnier Self, 

Although I appreciate all that you are trying to do for me, I have realized that you do not exist. I have created a new version of me called, “Healthier Self”, and she is much nicer to my body than you are. You cannot plague me with your convolutions any longer because I now understand that a thinner physique is not interchangeable for a healthier body. I know it will be challenging, but I also know that I am more than capable. Everyday, I am reminding myself that mental alertness, regulated blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and strong bones are far more important than the measurement on a silly strand of seamstress tape. I have outgrown you, and I no longer need you.

P.S. I am perfect the way I am, and I refuse to remedy my imperfections through self-harm. 

Your Soon-To-Be Liberated Victim,

J.