Friday, April 22, 2011

Birthdays and Milestones JC style

Tuesday marked 34 years of living for me and while I usually do very little on my birthday beyond my normal daily activities, this year I decided to change my approach to April 19th slightly. My first change was to tweek my Facebook settings and see what all the hoopla was about in terms of receiving birthday shout outs from the friend base. Since creating my Facebook page, I'd been skeptical about shenanigans so I restricted the ability to post on my wall. Three years in, I've come to realize that 1. It's not that serious 2. I can delete foolishness quickly, so I threw open the gates. The other thing I decided to do was take advantage of the fact that Mom (aka Grams the Child Spolier) is in town and get out for a change, so I invited some folks to join me and the Mrs. for a night of Live R&B, food and drink. Both decisions proved to be worth their weight in gold. The number of posts on my wall, messages, and texts far exceeded my expectation. Yes, Facebook interaction is not the same as picking up the phone, but it's something, and I know how busy people are so I was touched and made sure to respond to every birthday wish I received. I do not consider myself someone who has a large circle of friends, so to hear from so many folks was an affirmation that the folks I'm connected to are quality folks, and that I'm at least important enough to warrant some key strokes on the computer or phone when 4/19 rolls around. So again I say thank you to those who hit me up this week to wish me well on my birthday. Your thoughts along with typical California weather made for a great week and have been like a cold cup of Gatorade that energizes as I'm in the midst of a run.

The way I look at my birthday has also forever been changed because of the proximity of it to my man Fran Crippen who tragically passed this October while competing in and Open Water race that had no business being contested in the UAE. In a cruel twist of fate, I got the horrible news via text while getting ready to celebrate the marriage of my Fraternal line brother. It had been almost 12 years since I met Fran when he was a sophomore at Germantown Academy. We developed a relationship over those HS years where we kept in touch as he compiled numerous accolades at the University of Virginia and as a member of the Mission Viejo Nadadores. The last time I saw him is the perfect snapshot for my memory. He had just won the Open Water Nationals 10k event, and helped a teammate win the 5k race two days later. I met him and some of his closest friends and family at a Long Beach restaurant to celebrate his victory and the marathon I had just run. He was truly at the top of his game and I looked forward to his eventual coronation as an Olympian, which was his dream. The fact that that opportunity was taken away from him, means that for me, enjoying the milestones takes on a new meaning. They are not moments to be played down, but instead should be given their proper recognition. When my son danced all over the house Monday as he presented me with my very own Star Wars light saber, all I could do was watch and take it all in. The fact that my wife, parents, and mother-in-law chipped in to surprise me with a computer, two weeks after my laptop died moved me to the point where my eyes were "sweating". The motto of the Elevation Foundation, created in Fran's memory, is "Live Your Dash", and for me, the emotion generated by people's large and small acts of kindness is what that mantra is all about. Fran embodied that in all aspects of his life while he was with us, and he leaves it behind as a valuable reminder to us all.

As I move beyond the celebration of my birth this week, the countdown begins to the end of my doctoral program, a milestone five years in the making. I have no idea the emotions I will feel as I defend my dissertation, participate in the Hooding Ceremony, and walk the stage at graduation, but I know that I will be surrounded by family and friends who have supported me the whole way. It has been a process that has not only developed my skills as an educational researcher, but has also cemented my commitment to use the entirety of my skill set to have an impact on the lives of as many young people as possible. I have been blessed with much, and have had a privileged life in many ways. The friends that I have developed over the years have been a huge part of that along with my family. I'll be checking in here on the blog more often now that there is a functional dissertation with my name on it. I feel that the most exciting part of my journey is just beginning, and it's not fun if you can't share with those who you not only care about, but have played a role in making it happen.

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