originally written July 08, 2022
Intentions: Why this piece?
To welcome the life that I want, I have to first imagine the motion picture in my mind and then tell that story on paper. If I can put my thoughts into words, then I can transmute words into actions. My imagination is the conductor, and so I need to score my life, meaning call, collect, and coordinate certain things into alignment. In other words, I have to write it and get it out of my head to make it more real for me. This piece is the result of a self-reflection exercise, prompting me to be specific, clear as well as imaginative and inclusive. Cast into the darkness, I innocently reach for illumination and clarity through story-telling. To momentarily escape and forever change a nightmarish reality, please allow me to dream in peace.
While I do not have a wife or any children, I am working and writing to make (head, heart, and pocket) space for such transitions. In terms of work-life balance, I am not looking to eliminate or terminate (certain activities) but rather (better) integrate.
Prompt: What’s your vision of a "normal, happy day" ?
Wake up at 6:30am to shit, shower, and sing. I make sure not to wake the house with my singing. Thank god for multiple bathrooms and wireless headphones. While in the shower, I reflect on yesterday’s moments of grace, today’s action plan, and this morning’s playlist. The warm shower water brings life into my dry face, and I just let the water quiet my mind just enough to hear a voice sing: “And I wonder, if you know…”
The most important part of my day is the morning. A good day starts with grounding myself in prayer, purpose, and peace.
After an hour of exterior and interior cleansing, I gotta go wake up the kiddos at 7:30. School starts at 9am. I have to get them up early enough to do their own morning affirmations and stretches. Our little morning routine serves the mind, body, and soul. Plus, that boy sleeps like a dead elephant and needs extra (forceful) “encouragement” to get out of bed. And of course, we have to eat breakfast (cooked or cold) together. The night before, we all made our lunches, even Mommy’s. Yes, I am talking brown-bag sack lunches, filled with fruits, peanuts, and some healthy entree (sandwich, leftovers, salads, etc). I can’t have my kids geeked up on sugar, misbehaving, and struggling to focus in class. Not the kids of a teacher! Sure, I have been working on eliminating junk food from my diet as well, but chips are my weakness. As you know, I have been able to go without them for at most two weeks; the trick is not to go down the chip aisle and instead, linger in the produce section for more than 15 minutes.
Around 8:15am, Wifey, dressed to the nines with them legs showing in those heels, comes down for breakfast. I am not the best cook, but I can scramble some eggs, maybe pull some pancakes off the skillet, or throw together a kale-infused omelet. We all sit down together and chat about the headlines and the possibilities for the day. The kids go on about their respective school projects while Wifey and I debate (more like argue about) education, public versus private.
“Darius, aren’t you tired of having to deal with whiteness in private schools?”
“Yeah, I mean I am glad I got out when I did. However…”
“Boo, lecture your college students, not me. You do know what I do for a living, right?”
In the midst of our petty but playful political banter, I almost forget. I tell the kids to think about what types of books they want when we take our monthly trip to the library or the bookstore. The kids know their dad prefers to buy books because he tends to pepper them with his little notes and margin poetry.
It is now 8:40. Wifey tells the kids to say good-bye to Daddy. Every morning, I make sure to give my two babies hugs and kisses before they walk out that door. You gotta have so much trust and faith (not to mention fear and respect) in the universe to let your Black babies out of your sight with strangers in a strange land like America.
“See you this afternoon. Remember, we’re taking a daddy-daughter walk around the lake,” I say to my mini me. This has been our little tradition since she was able to stand and put one foot in front of the other. Just one of the perks of being financially free and creative with your career choices. Her younger brother, on the other hand, loves basketball, so he stays attached to his mom’s hip during her basketball practices after school. The boy didn’t get his athleticism from his dad but rather his short but tenacious mom aka the martial artist aka the performing artist aka Mrs. “Hard work beats talent every time.” That last affirmation is hand-written on my son’s wall next to my childhood Allen Iverson jersey, ironically.
My daughter smiles at my reminder, bounces out the house and into the car. Wifey hits me with a peck on the lips and tells me to think about being her stats guy by her side during the upcoming basketball tournament this weekend. And out the door, goes the city’s best social worker.
The sounds of doors slamming shut and engines starting cue me to clean up the kitchen and ready myself for the day. I do not have lecture today, so I have my choice of place and purpose. Before I go out to find a spot to write, I check the fridge one last time to make sure I have all of the ingredients for dinner. I didn’t grow up vegan but I am trying this new thing. Plus, I get to try out new recipes. The trick, sometimes, is to make the entrees for lunch while alone and then tweak it for dinner. Pro-tip: follow all instructions; no wingin’ it.
“Alexa, play the album Rhymes and Reconciliation.”
I still can’t believe Kanye dropped that surprise joint album with Taylor Swift; never saw that coming in 2030. I crank up the speakers, wash a few dishes, and then put on my clothes for the day, mostly athletic gear or jeans and a hoodie. As I do my final dance and sweep around the house, I finalize my plans for the day. I pack my water bottle, my glasses, my wireless headphones, one random book from my shelf, a few pens and highlighters, and lastly my little travel journal. By 10 o’clock, I am on my way out.
This time, instead of joy-riding and joy-writing on public transit, I decide to walk around the neighborhood to find a bench, preferably one with a view. I hate coffee (and coffee shops by extension), but I will reluctantly chill in one until the rain stops. I try not to romanticize being a full-time writer. No, ideas do not just pour out of me. I am wildly inefficient, usually looking for some muse or sign from the universe. Sorry, I have read The Alchemist quite a few times over the course of my 18-year teaching career. For example, I stroll block after block,past house after house, marveling at the variety of architectural styles and front-lawn landscapes, just to talk to myself out loud and jot down a few notes. Call me crazy for my self-talk. Then also call me courageous for my self-honesty.
I also love walking the lakes. Instead of people-watching, I indulge in animal-watching. There’s something about the water, the ducks, the water droplets on my face, and the natural symphony in my ears. Also, I just breathe better when near a body of water. Simply put, I’m just an Aquarius being an Aquarius. After a few hours of walking and writing, I make my way back home to “Netflix and nap” before picking up my little protege, the little one who used to beg me at night to read to her in bed.
During the afternoons, my most unproductive time of the day, I try to fall asleep to some slow R&B or some podcast. I gotta feed my mind something, just to give my mind a chance for inspiration. I wake up 30 to 40 minutes later ready to be social for the rest of the day. My friends and family know I need my alone time (even if for just 15 minutes) to reset, reflect, and recharge.
I jump in the car with my old-school R&B blasting. I love rolling up to my daughter’s school with some Keith Sweat or Al Green blaring. At this point, she’s used to her dad’s constant need for music every second of his life. Around 3pm, she jumps in the car right on cue to sing that Rihanna chorus in sync with her old man.
“You can stand under my umbrella, ella, ella, eh, eh, eh
Under my umbrella, ella, ella, eh, eh, eh”
We drive and discuss the events of the day. She expresses her frustrations with the “flipped classroom” model, calling her math teacher “lazy.” I ask for feedback on ideas for another children’s book. She rolls her eyes and gently lets me down about my overly bombastic book themes. Back to the drawing board, I think. We reach the lake.
Here we are on another thrilling nature walk, pointing out the different animals, plants, and other gifts from nature. I ask her to tell me the backstory on how these animals may have gotten here. “Well, the ducks are here because they’re having a family cookout,” she chuckles. I love our little improv story-telling sessions on the lake. She is brilliant, creative, and observant. I just watch and listen in awe of her. She was the co-author of my first children’s book, I remember. What a pleasant little break between school and home, shared between two natural griots in a past life. Eventually, the time comes for us to return home for a little homework before “Love” and “Basketball” come home.
We get home, sit at the dinner table, and start our respective homework. I am free-drafting while she is doing math homework. We both need our Aaliyah or Ella Mai playing in the background. Eventually, we make our way to the living room couch for a little silent reading.
We are trying this thing where we read the same book at the same time. Again, if I call myself a student of my craft, I have to study the competition. What’s being written? What’s being read? What’s being turned into movies? What’s got kids off their devices and their noses in their books? At the end of the day, it is more daddy-daughter QT. Sometimes, Mother and Brother walk in on us snoring with the books still in our hands. However, this day, we make it through our reading session to hear a car roll up and a basketball bouncing to the door.
While everyone else is doing homework, showering, and or getting ready for the next day, I am preparing the food. I gotta put on some jazz while I chop up the vegetables. Tonight, we are doing a stir-fry, something easy, something light.
Hair-wet, Stanford t-shirt wearing, legs glistening from a pair of rolled-up sweats, and them toes hiding in house-slippers, Wifey comes down to inquire about the smell and tonight’s main course. We believe more so in teamwork and communication and less so in rigid gender roles. We recognize and respect each other’s gifts and passions, so I don’t mind budgeting and cooking (or attempting to) if she is down to plan family vacations, play dates, and taxes. “Teamwork makes the dream work” is our corny motto.
“Babe, we’re doing a veggie stir-fry tonight.” Because I binge-watch “Nailed It” or “Hell’s Kitchen,” I proceed to narrate my steps and explain my choice in ingredients to her as she sits at the kitchen bar to watch her man pretend to be a 5-star Michelin chef, apron and all, and small hand towel over his left shoulder. It’s a plus when you have a little garden in the back, thanks to Wifey.
She snickers at my poor chopping technique and my refusal to throw out old dull knives from my “single-man” days. I’m a simple country boy (and cheap-skate) who hates to waste anything, she knows. Ironically, West Coast folx can be so wasteful, I laugh to myself every time I pull out my 18-year-old metal babies.
“What! You think you can do better!?” I jokingly respond to her raised eye-brows. She shakes her head side to side. I like to see her coach and uplift her young peoples like she likes to see me write and sometimes cook. The smell of garlic eventually lures the kids down to set the table.
Once the food is finished sizzling, I let the second-born plate the food. He gets a kick from presenting and serving food to his mother first. He is infatuated with the colors and the smoke coming from the food fresh out of the wok and like his old man, he loves to do whatever he can to get his mother to flash that baby-face smile. Apparently, he knows the way to a woman’s heart. It took me over 30 years to learn that lesson.
We sit down and go around the table, saying one thing we are grateful for. Gratitude is a virtue, a skill, a practice—something we normalize, verbalize, and actualize in our household. We all turn to you, with all of our eyes asking: “Hey, what does a normal good day look like for you?”
Seeing the vision in my brown eyes, you respond…
Call to Action
No matter where you are in life, just take 10 to 15 minutes to answer the prompt. Free yourself from any external or internal critics and write that story on paper and then into existence. Let this moment of grace bring clarity, alignment, and peace. Just think, my fellow teachers, what exactly is social impact without sustainability? What exactly is fulfillment without a little foresight? And lastly, what exactly is "vocation" without vision?
Soundtrack to my life (inspirations)
This blog contains no outside ads for monetization, so please consider supporting with a small donation, a subscription to my YouTube channel, or some gear.