On 2016 – A review of the most hated year by a Dreamer-Doer

I think we can all collectively agree as a people that nationally (and even for the most part, globally), 2016 was a crappy year, without a doubt!

In the midst of everything that happened, including witnessing the year take a lot from the world at large, the nation, and even the people closest to me, I still managed to not just survive, but thrive.

2016 is kind of like the old lady who just recently moved into the neighborhood that everyone hates, because they think she’s a witch, and because it was when she moved in that kids started dying, husbands started losing their jobs, marriages started to split, car accidents (let’s say about 6) happened…and guess where, at the front of her house. I mean, it’s really kind of hard to not want to agree with everyone else that she might be somewhat responsible, but…

…then you remember the apple pie she baked for you when it was your birthday (you still don’t know how she knew it was your birthday but eh, who cares, you have apple pie to stuff your face with!), and how you were pretty much balling so hard during the summer, because, thanks to her, you had a job – helping her around the house, washing plates, laundry, mowing her lawn, etc. and went home with baked goods + the dopest meals every single night!

What I’m saying is, while I can sympathize with my friends and family members and the world at large regarding how messed up this year was for almost everybody, the same year was consistently good to me. What 2016 has been to a lot of people I know was what 2015 and 2014 especially were to me.

What I’m saying is that I can literally mention at least one thing that happened each month throughout this year that proved to be significant to my trajectory as a person. So, that is exactly what I’ll do, list at least one thing for each month of this year for which I didn’t even really expect but am grateful for.

This year started off, in January, with a feature in a local magazine here in Houston. Also, I started a podcast with my friend, Jose Avalos Estrada. It was mostly a learning experience, I’d say for both of us, but I’ll say myself definitely.

In February, my friend, Sade Champagne invited me to join her on her radio show to share some words. Also, considering it was the month of love, I release an audio project of love poems, titled my song is love. Also, I was also asked to be a digital ambassador for the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts‘ CounterCurrent Festival 2016.

For March, I was awarded a fellowship by the American Psychology Association (APA), pretty much the highest honor I’ve received so far in my field, and it didn’t hurt that it came with $6000 and expense paid trips to conferences later in the year. An interview I did with The Lunar Cougar, the online blog that features profiles of University of Houston alumni, in January was posted.

In April, I was featured as a spotlight student via the Graduate Studies department of my alma mater, Sam Houston State University. Also, my friend Sade Champagne gave me the opportunity to host the “Sharing Your Story” segment of her show, where I gave the listeners some tips and encouragement on writing, etc.

Also, my work (a write up about identity – how I’m coming to terms with my experience as a “black” immigrant to the United States from Nigeria) got published on The Black Expat.

In fact, I, , forgetful me, found out midway into this that I actually wrote a recap of the first quarter on the blog.

Soon after, it was May, and it was then that I graduated with a Specialist Degree in School Psychology from Sam Houston State University. In May, I got myself a passport as a graduation gift to myself. Also, my friend, Charles (a Teacher) sent me a message to tell me that he found one of my poems in his school’s poetry resources for teacher.

In June, I finished my internship with Humble ISD as a Specialist in School Psychology Intern. And an adventure started – my first trip, another gift to myself, outside of the United States, to Costa Rica. Also in June, the poetry community I call home, Write About Now, was featured in the Houston Press.

In July and August, the adventures continued. I got the opportunity to travel to New York, Washington DC, Baltimore, Denver Colorado, and Atlanta, thanks, in part, to the fellowship from APA. Many many experiences to recount that will have to be another post if I were to do each justice.

In August, I started my first year as a Specialist in School Psychology with the same district. I signed the lease to my very own apartment – the first I’d have all to myself; brought a one man play infused with poetry to the Houston Fringe Festival. Also, I got the opportunity to work with my very good friends at Goodspero on a series of videos for my newest project.

In September, I turned 26, which is to say, I made it past 25! Also, I shared again, the introduction to a video series of the new project – kin.DREAD (more on that later)

As September ended, I had the opportunity to compete alongside some remarkable individuals who also poet remarkably in what is known as Texas Grand Slam.

In October, I met one of my poetry inspirations – Rudy Francisco, had the courage to share publicly, for the first time, (through Facebook) a deeply personal story about my past struggles with mental health, spent a Sunday morning with new friends on a beach in Galveston, witnessed my work ( a poem from Texas Grand Slam) get featured on the Write About Now YouTube Channel for the very first time, and I announced the desire to tour the kin.DREAD project – which as I type this, is a reality.

In November, I voted for the very first time, celebrated 9 years of being a US resident, celebrated the very first Thanksgiving where the whole of my family is in the US, and handled the cooking, witnessed two of my friends get married to each other, and came out alive of a situation at my workplace that resulted in a lockout/lockdown of the whole school.

This month, December, I started it by sharing the news about my tour. Soon after, another video of a poem, the most important I’d ever written if I’d be permitted to say that, from Texas Grand Slam was posted by Write About Now. Also, I finished paying off my school loans from Grad school (thankfully didn’t have any for my undergrad, thanks to Dad and grants), an interview I did with Millennial Faith Podcast got posted, and… well, it’s still December, so…

I’m sure I missed a few things and there sure are many more seemingly small moments over the course of the year that I could have shared, but these are just the highlights that, as I said, added substantially to my development personally and professionally.

As I’ve shared on Facebook, my word for 2017 will be BLOOM. For 2016, it was TRUST, and it was the perfect word to guide me through the year – to be reminded constantly to let go of my desire to control everything and trust that everything is working for my good. As you’d notice, there was a lot of firsts this year – and it was hard to not want to spread my wings for fear of falling, but then again, that’s where trust came in.

This year, for me, though a lot happened, was a lot of preparing, planting, watering, pruning, etc. I so cannot wait to share the flowers I’ve been tending, in all their glorious shades and hues, with you all in the coming year.

I sympathize with you if 2016 wasn’t as kind to you. I do hope though that your 2017 is grand! And it definitely can start now 🙂

Change Happens…Accompanied by Growth

I’ll make this short…or at least attempt to 🙂

Believe it or not, Change Happens is actually the name of a Non Profit Organization here in Houston. I was opportune to take a tour of their facility today. It was arranged by my Coordinator in Justice For Children, the organization where I currently intern.

Anyways…

The building is located right there in the middle of Houston’s Third Ward…it’s pratically the only good-looking building in the area. Third Ward if you don’t know is grappled by the infestation of drug and pretty much everything else that is to be expected of a community of such reputation!

We (2 other interns with myself) approached the door, and pressed the intercom, the door was opened for us and we sat in this serene reception area, with two marble angel sculptures adorning the corners to our right. “It looks like church”, one of the intern remarks.

And then we were directed to this conference room – named Gabriel – where we watched a video that summarized what Change Happens does. The founder, one Rev. Leslie Smith took it upon himself to start a rehabilitation project in the neighborhood – and it’s been 20 something years since then. He is said to have named the two conference rooms in the building after Angels (the one on the 2nd floor was named Michael)

Now what do they do? In summary, since I promised to not make this too long, they are involved in the community by providing outreach services – like helping families to apply for CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program), Medicaid, Food Stamps, etc; helping youth prevent engaging in risky behavior – teaching abstinence , prevention programs; Mentoring Programs for juvenile offenders to transition into the community; Homeless Services Programs, where they provide housing for homeless individuals, and help them transform their lives such that they can apply for jobs, etc; HIV Prevention and Education; Summer and After School Programs for the kids…

Now what really attracts me is the facility itself!

As we continued our tour from the Gabriel room, we walked into the LIBRARY! Yes, they had a library which contained a lot of books, and a reading section for the kids. By now, I had already started noticing on the walls that there were artworks, only I didn’t know that they were going to appear everywhere…even up to the  third floor. We were shown the classrooms where the kids studied, and there was a transparent window, where they said parents could peek to see, smile and wave at their kids and stuff…

Especially in the break rooms, the artworks there were specifically from Haiti where the founder goes about twice a year…and these are original artworks from painters and artist there!

Another thing I loved is the open space of the facility. We were told that because everyone was really involved in the field, they don’ really need an “office” as much… I love that!

I’m excited about this today because I have a reassurance that my vision is doable! Read the about section if you’re not familiar with it. It is very similar to my vision, and to witness the beauty of something that started from two crack houses, which were renovated, energizes me! They started their offices there – 20 years ago! And today, totally a different story!!!!!!

That’s what growth is about…and GROWTH happens to be one of my core values. I believe we never stop growing! Growing for me is accompanied by these other supporting values; knowledge and learning – which is what I’ve tried to spend the most of my life doing! It’s the end of the first half of the year, and I’m somewhat proud of myself that I’ve read about 20 books, some of which are completely antithetical to beliefs I’ve held strongly for a while – all for the sake of growth. I’m also grateful for opportunities to grow, like this internship for example, and even something as simple as attending some local event, volunteering, etc! It’s not something I take for granted! Life is a learning field, and I’m willing to learn as much as I can before I pass on to the great beyond! – hoping before I do, I get the chance to use what I’ve learned to impact the world in some way.

And to understand why this tour today is huge for me, Change Happens is directly connected to most of my core values: Growth, Service (which I wrote about here –>), Creativity, Balance…

Don’t know if this is too long already…but I’ll end with what would be my theme song for this CORE VALUE of mine – GROWTH!

Baby steps Ayokunle, baby steps…and soon I’ll get to that PLACE I LONG TO BE!