Do muscles, tattoos, and children make you a man? I’m sure you know the answer to that question. In case you’re having a fuzzy moment, the best response is no.
My daughter took the header picture and others throughout this post at a beach near our home. These shots came from a solid promotional video we created to share a sample of my poem, Capoeira, and announce the pre-order availability of my third book, Dear Brother: 82 Powerful Poems to Guide Your Journey to Healthy Black Masculinity.
After seeing the pics and vids, I decided to write this piece about legacy for you.
What will you leave behind when your time expires on this earth? I hope it is more than pictures of a muscular man with tattoos and his children surrounding him.
Listen, I’m not throwing shade on muscles, body art, or fatherhood. I have all three. The muscles have taken years to accumulate through rigorous martial arts, strength, and cardio training. Each of my symbolic tattoos took time, money, and pain to create.
You know how the children got here:)
But, I want you to think deeper about your legacy. How will your children and community remember you?
Making my grandmother’s dedication video earlier this month forced me to reflect on my values. When editing the video, I listened closely to how my mother and her siblings talked about their mom. It made me think about how others will remember my life when my time comes to transition.
Maybe, you haven't lost anyone in the past year. Well, at some point during this pandemic, Ms. Corona moved into your neighborhood and made you think about death.
When they pour soil on my body, I hope my children appreciate the decisions I made to give them a rich life. By rich, I do not mean the material stuff. I'm talking about the unique experiences and the mundane, simple moments together.
Whether it is tomorrow or I pass from a ripe old age of 100 like my grandmother, I want to leave memories of a courageous, disciplined, loving man who cared for his wife, children, and community.
As I write in my book, Dear Brother: 82 Powerful Poems to Guide Your Journey to Healthy Black Masculinity, a man is someone willing to challenge traditions for his convictions. He listens to advice and thinks for himself. Doing things for the sake of saving face does not make sense to him.
Let me share an abbreviated version of my abroad story to help you understand my perspective.
We moved abroad in 2016. Our decision to leave the US came after losing my mother-in-law and a desire to get more out of life.
Death helped my wife and I realize that there was more to our existence than working jobs, building businesses, and raising children while also feeling hopeless to eliminate debt.
I had dreams of creating meaningful experiences with my family outside of the typical traps of living to buy more stuff to feel fulfilled. Before leaving the US, my goals included building a successful martial art business, writing books, and traveling to provide dynamic workshops. I've made much progress, but everything I aimed to accomplish when I boarded that plane at Chicago's O'Hare airport for Mexico has yet to come to fruition.
The road and skies to living outside the US came with turbulence, potholes, losses in cabin pressure, and lane closures.
Our unique experience included losing a home to foreclosure, struggling to learn a new language, and moving to two countries. As the man and dominant financial provider for our house, I had more than a few moments when I questioned my self-worth. It was a tough transition.
I continue to have moments when I miss family, friends, and activities in the US.
My faith, disciplined practices, and creativity have pulled me through some of my most difficult moments abroad.
The heavy responsibilities of taking care of a family can make or break a man. No amount of muscles can contract the strength to carry the weight of paying bills and partnering with another person to raise children. I am strong, but it remains challenging to maintain professional and personal responsibilities.
Here’s where we are excelling.
Every day, my children witness our family's commitment to physical, mental, and spiritual growth. It is not uncommon in the mornings or afternoons to see my wife or me exercising at home. My wife and I prioritize reading books with the children to encourage intellectual curiosity. Before the kids go to sleep, we pray with them, read biblical scriptures, and ask them to share something positive about themselves or their day.
My family is not perfect, but we do our best to demonstrate gratitude and embody love for each other. I have the first letter of each member of my immediate family's name tattooed on my right arm. The ink symbolizes my endless love and the painful sacrifices I will make for my legacy.
When my time comes, I will leave books, courses, videos, money, and other things. More importantly, I rest knowing that I did my best to embrace values of honesty, discipline, love, and belief in a power higher than me through my relationships.
Before I let you go, let me borrow this question from the 90s tv commercial for Tombstone Pizza. “What do you want on your tombstone?”
If you need some help with answering this difficult question, I have something for you.
Pick up my latest book, Dear Brother: 82 Powerful Poems to Guide Your Journey to Healthy Black Masculinity. Through poetry and heartfelt letters, I share more about legacy, manhood, and the critical practices that can support your growth into a better version of yourself.