Don’t ask why—just love people

I think we go through much of our lives with too many questions and not enough answers to satisfy us—especially when the question why is involved.

And now that’s our reality more than ever.

When I was a freshman in high school, I broke my right hand while playing basketball with some guys at the local YMCA. Basketball season was just about to start, and I had been busting my tail for months trying to get ready for it, so that was a pretty big disappointment for my teenage heart. On top of that, I’m right-handed.

I’ve always wanted to be ambidextrous, so I figured it would be a good thing for me to get lots of practice using my left hand for everything (the cast turned my right hand into a claw or paw of sorts, so it was essentially useless to me). I never realized how much I used both hands in so many normally easy tasks until I couldn’t use both of them, and those tasks became much more challenging.

Have you ever tried putting a fitted sheet on your bed while using only your non-dominant hand? Don’t. I remember getting extremely frustrated while trying to make that thing stay in place in each corner and feeling my body temperature actually rise in irritation when I couldn’t do it. My mom came in my room and offered to help, but I wouldn’t let her. Eventually I got it on there, but it took longer than it should have and required way too much effort.

Trying to dry my hair was also a joke. So was geometry. We had a test that required us to draw 3D shapes—something I could barely do with my dominate hand. I’ll never forget what my teacher said to me when I went up to her desk in the middle of the test to tell her that I was struggling with drawing shapes that looked anything like they were supposed to: “Life’s tough sometimes, huh? You’re just going to have to deal with it.”

And she was right. I may not have appreciated her words (or her tone) in the moment, but I went back to my desk and decided that I was still going to ace that test and show her that I could, indeed, deal with the tough things. I still think about that moment sometimes when I face difficult situations in life, so regardless of whether or not her words of inspiration would cause her to receive phone calls from upset parents if she said them to students in this day and age, they’ve had a lasting impact on me.

I currently only have pictures with my dog. Thanks, COVID.

We’re likely all going through some challenges right now, and they don’t necessarily look the same for everyone. Some people are struggling with job losses or too much time with family or too much time in solitude or frustrations of having to work virtually or fears of having to show up to work each day or losing loved ones or battling racism and injustices or actually contracting the coronavirus or anxieties about the unknowns of the future or a number of so many other things that have absolutely zilch to do with the pandemic. I get it. It’s rough out there right now.

I don’t mean this to sound insensitive by any means, but my geometry teacher was right—we simply have to deal with the tough stuff that life throws our way. It’s definitely not easy. There are way too many uncertainties, and it feels like we receive new or contradicting information almost daily. As a teacher, I hated the way that the school year had to end in May, and I didn’t think that things would still be this bad when it was time for us to start up again in the fall. Yet here we are, just a few weeks away from what is supposed to be the first day of school, and it seems like we’re only hearing that conditions are getting worse by the moment.

It’s easy to sit back and ask why. Why is all of this happening? Why isn’t it going away? Why can’t life be normal again? For the love, WHY?

But we don’t have the answers right now—and we may never.

It’s almost like we’re all trying to put fitted sheets on our beds while using only one hand or draw 3D geometric figures with a hand that can barely hold a pencil correctly. It’s frustrating and sometimes leaves us feeling hopeless and defeated. I truly believe that we’ll get it done, though.

I don’t have all of the answers for the things going on in our world right now. Actually, I really don’t have many answers for many things at all. What I do have is hope. What I do have is trust. What I do have is belief. Most importantly, what I do have—and what we all have—is love.

The other day, I was thinking about how far I’ve come. I don’t say that statement to be boastful, but I used to be a pansy when I was younger, so I consider where I am today a pretty big achievement. By pansy, I mean that I could barely utter a coherent sentence to a guy if I had a crush on him. I wrote about many of these situations in my book, Anything Matches If You Wear It with Confidence, so if you’ve read it, you know that they were all pretty ridiculous. I mean, I hid in a science classroom to avoid saying hi to a guy in the hallway, I couldn’t make eye contact with my crush in detention, I basically ran away when a guy told me that we should talk about “the big elephant in the room” when he found out that I had feelings for him, and the list goes on for longer than I would like to admit.

What I’ve learned, though, is that it’s often much better to be do the things that you’re afraid to do. It’s OK to be afraid, but it’s also OK to be brave in the face of your fears. There are a number of things to be afraid of out there, but there are also a number of times to be brave in those moments when you face them.

We’re all going through our own things, whether there’s a pandemic going on or not. We all have different timelines and responses and reactions and emotions and processes and strengths and weaknesses and personalities and dynamics and so many other things about us that make us who we are. We don’t know everyone’s mind and heart, so it’s probably a good idea that we should have a little grace with each other. It’s the right thing; it’s the brave thing.

When in doubt about what to do or say, just love people—it’s the only answer that makes sense anymore.

It’s only halftime of 2020

When Barbara Walters was played on repeat saying “this is 2020” when the clock struck midnight to the new year, I’m not sure that anyone actually knew that this is what 2020 would be.

Needless to say, it’s been a weird year so far.

When our school got out for spring break, I didn’t think it would be the last time I would see my students for the year. I realize that’s an obvious statement and true for pretty much ever teacher everywhere. But still.

At the beginning of the break, COVID-19 had started to make more headlines in the U.S., and I began to wonder if my trip to D.C. was going to be canceled. Two other teachers and I were supposed to take 13 or so students there for a competition, and it suddenly didn’t sound like the greatest idea. I didn’t know much about the coronavirus yet, but I didn’t think going to a popular place for a large gathering was wise, based on what little I knew.

But on the morning of Wednesday, March 11—the same day the NBA decided to suspend its season—we found ourselves on a plane bound for D.C.

FaceTime became the new way to see my fam.

There was a strange feeling in the air as we were walking through the city to get to our hotel and then go to some museums. I can’t explain it well, but everything just felt different. Not too long after we landed, though, the organization hosting the contest notified us that the decision was made to cancel the whole thing. I would have preferred that decision had been made a few days prior, but there was nothing we could do about it at that point, other than figure out when and how we were going to get home.

The next day, we were back on a plane, almost exactly 24 hours after we had arrived. As you already know, life got really weird after that. The word “unprecedented” has been used a countless amount of times in the news, and “normal” isn’t even a thing anymore. There immediately seemed to be quite the mix of feelings and emotions from everyone—confusion, fear, anxiety, skepticism, frustration, anger, sorrow, loneliness, disappointment, distrust, hope. I could keep going, but it’s a really long list.

There are quite a few unknowns about the pandemic, and I think it would be pretty tough to be a leader or scientist or medical professional during all of this. It’s turned life upside down in many ways, and it seems that none of us actually knows what’s going on.

On top of that, a lot of the injustices and racism in our nation have been exposed more lately, and people are standing up for the rights they deserve. It’s heartbreaking that there’s still so much hatred and racism in a country that’s supposed to have freedom for everyone and that people are so often treated differently—and even die, in some cases—because of the color of their skin.

It’s not a time to ignore reality or pretend that things are better than they actually are. It’s not a time to overlook truth and put on blinders. It’s not a time to sit back in silence and watch as Black men and women continue to be treated unfairly and subjected to racist thoughts, words, and actions. It’s not a time for our history to continue to be our present.

It’s time for change.

I’ve seen a lot of posts on social media lately talking about how awful this year has been thus far. It’s hard to argue with them. It’s been pretty bad. But I love sports, so I’m going to look at what we’ve gone through up until now as a bad first half. What we need now is a comeback and a kick-a$* second half. It’s going to take much more than an inspirational locker room halftime speech, though.

We’re going to need more love and more heart than we’ve ever seen.

Let’s not write 2020 off just yet and start wishing for 2021 to get here sooner. When the Dallas Mavs won the NBA championship in 2011, they overcame multiple second-half deficits throughout their playoff run. Jason Terry said “if there’s time on that clock, there’s still time for us.”

There’s still time on that 2020 clock, people—there’s still time for us.

And even though I hate bringing this up because I really don’t like the New England Patriots, let’s not forget Super Bowl LI. The Patriots were down 28-3 in the second half and then scored 25 unanswered points against the Atlanta Falcons to send the game into overtime before winning the whole thing. Annoying. But respectable.

It’s our turn to be those pesky comeback kids.

There were a lot more teachers and administrators in this pic, but we were all socially distanced.

I don’t think it will be easy by any means. We’ve got a lot of work to do, and it’s certainly going to require a great deal of dedication and persistence. There are some things that we cannot control, but we can control the ways we react and respond to the situations we face. And then there are things we absolutely can control, including the ways we treat people and the ways we love people and the ways we show support and respect for one another. It’s honestly not that difficult to be kind. I promise.

We’re almost halfway through 2020, so let’s go ahead and start that comeback now. The second half likely won’t be perfect, but not much ever is. We can at least try, though. We can fight for justice. We can fight for love. We can stand up for human rights. We can wear masks in public to protect ourselves and those around us. We can learn more about history and truth that weren’t necessarily taught to us. We can change our minds and hearts. We can believe. We can hope. We can trust.

There’s still time on that 2020 clock, people—there’s still time for us.