*Actual transcript of a text message conversation with one of my beloveds earlier this year.*
“Mom. Mom. Mom.
Mom, text me back.
J.Cole has announced his concert dates and will be in Dallas in August.
I want to go.
I need to go.
I just left class to find my siblings and tell them.
We need to go. Tickets go on sale this Friday.”
If you’re wondering why there is no response from me in the transcript, it’s because there was none. In teenspeak, said child spammed me. This means the text message sender intentionally sent back-to-back to back messages and never gives the receiver the opportunity to respond. Spamming is a texting method used solely for dramatic effect. And when you know my family, you know that we all have a flair for the dramatic.
Fast forward a few months and even though we had tickets, being around a bunch of screaming teenagers for one night was not that appealing to me. I called my 27-year-old cousin in Mississippi who happens to love J. Cole. I told him he should come to Dallas and go to the concert with his little cousins. He said “I really want to but school will have started by then so I can’t come because the concert is on a Sunday and I have #educationgoals. But you should really go Toni, you’ll like it.”
Sigh. Don’t get me wrong here – I love hip hop musc. Old school hip hop to be exact. Rapper’s Delight hip hop. LL Cool J hip hop. Queen Latifah hip hop. Will Smith hip hop.
Not J. Cole hip hop.
Each semester, my first day of class lecture begins a little something like this. “Welcome everyone. My name is Toni. I have wildly curly hair even when flatironed. I’m happier on the days I wear Converse All-Stars. I have an intense love of old-school hip hop.” And for dramatic effect, I say, old school one more time.
Oh yes I did. #Longlivethe90s.
I’ll admit it. I never really gave J. Cole a chance. But I knew one thing. My kids loved him and for that reason alone, I needed to check him out.
A few more months passed and August was here. Two weeks before the concert we were at our family reunion in Mississippi and another cousin and I talked about J. Cole. He had taken his 19-year-old daughter and her friends to the same concert when it was in Mississippi and offered a unique perspective on it.
“Toni, the first thing I can tell you is that you will have to move beyond the foul language. If you can do that, you can understand what he is saying. More importantly, once you understand what he is saying, you will understand what our kids are thinking and feeling.”
And, y’all, isn’t that what parents of teenagers want? To understand what our kids are thinking and feeling?
So I went. And I had a great time. And I’m ever so grateful that I was able to give them this experience. Not because I’m a cool mom, not because I secretly want to be young again, but because they are creative geniuses in their own rights and they needed to “breathe the same air as another creative genius,” as noted by Tyra.
While I know I was not the only 40-something parent at the concert, I may have very well been the only one taking notes for a potential blog post but you know how that goes. #Everythingisbloggable.
And my cousin was right. I had to get over the cursing. Which incidentally, I don’t know if I did, because the profanity was strong. But the message was everything I attempt to teach my kids and my students at the college. Everything. Check it out:
Dreams should never die. When you give up on a dream, you give up on a magical part of your existence. Don’t do it.
There’s more to life than YOLO. There is a such thing as planning for the future, being responsible, and meeting your goals.
Appreciate the blessings of the everyday and what’s right in front of you. Your morning routine. Your daily commute. Your homework. Your trips to the grocery store. Your ability to do all of these things means you are blessed. Appreciate those blessings.
You can wild out and adult at the same time. If you don’t, that makes for a very miserable existence.
If you’re scared to live your calling, do it anyway…even if it’s not popular. Popular does not always equal right. Commit to doing what’s right and do it anyway. Your calling is every bit of right.
Leave nothing on the table and make the ground shake while doing it. Operate in hope, truth, and love. Do you need to tell someone you love them? Don’t hesitate, don’t procrastinate, and don’t leave anything unsaid. By the way, make sure that those who come after you can feel your presence.
Lead with that which inspires you. Stephen Covey aficianados may say begin with the end in mind. No matter who says it, it’s the truth. Your actions should reflect your end goals. Your end goals are based on your inspiration.
Creativity is magic. Elizabeth Gilbert says it in her book Big Magic. I’ve said it for the entire 17 years I been on this parenting journey. It didn’t resonate with my kids until J. Cole said it. When the message is true, the messenger doesn’t matter.
Invest in your neighborhood. J. Cole mentions how monetary success tends to encourage young African Americans to move out their predominately-black or hispanic neighborhoods with the hopes of fitting in to an affluent anglo society. When he did it, his neighbors called the police complaining that they thought he was a drug dealer. Sometimes successful young African Americans don’t realize that no matter how much money they have, no matter how many zeros are in the bank, they are still young black men and women who need to invest in their own communities. Just ask Jay Z, but since he’s busy with the reality of parenting three small children and recently celebrating his wife’s birthday, listen to 4:44. (Again, you may have to get past the language.)
The only relationships worth having are real relationships. No one has time for fake. No one has time for lies. No one has time for manipulation. In friendships and romanic relationships. Anyone that has time for the foolishness does not deserve you.
There’s no such thing as a life that’s better than yours. Stop comparing yourself to others. You are fearfully and wonderfully made to live this life that only you can live. No one else’s life is better. No grass is greener.
You might be low for a moment but you will bounce back. Drake has said this before. His words, as he eloquently mentioned in the song “Look What You’ve Done” on the Take Care album were actually, “Checks bounced but we bounced back.” No situation is permanent and everything, everything is figureoutable.
Can we just pause for a moment to note that I have successfully quoted not one, not two, but THREE rappers today? I’m beginning to think that I do like new-school hip-hop. However, for the record, Jay Z and I are very close in age so he may or may not be considered new-school. And furthermore, today I can officially say, “My name is Toni. I have wildly big, curly hair – even when it’s flatironed. I tend to be happier on days I wear Converse All-Stars. And I have an intense love for all hip hop – old school and new school.”
Thank you, J. Cole. Thank you.
*This post was mom and teen approved.*