Extend My Hand In Friendship And Fairness

This week’s post is part 3 of 4 regarding my personal commitments to be a better human that are tattooed on my arm. (See previous posts at links below.)

Develop my mind and share my knowledge.
Face my fears and conquer them.
Extend my hand in friendship and fairness.
Master my body and control my actions.

Many years ago, I asked my mother if she hoped to pass one lesson on to her children (before she had us) what that lesson would have been. She said, “Just be nice to people.” She continued on, “Don’t do it because you hope for something in return, just be nice to people.” When I meet an animal, I secretly wish that I could communicate to them in some audible language and explain  “I mean no harm. I am a friend.” (If I were able to do this, I would have several animal selfies for proof of awesomeness.) When I meet a human, I attempt to communicate that same sentiment through my body language. Unfortunately, I am at the mercy of their perception of my physical vessel. Animals tend to trust their raw (uninfluenced) instincts. Humans are influenced daily by a choking amount of biased information and conjecture. I’ve created a few t-shirts with my Jet-isms (Jisms) and I’ve toyed with the idea of creating a shirt that reads, “Dear Human, I mean no harm. I am a friend.” Every time I entertain the idea, the thought makes me sad that only then would some people let down their walls of perception to receive me. While I didn’t choose my skin color, I make no apologies for it. I love my brown skin. I did, however, choose my body. My intention to lift weights, run, cycle, and train over the last 25+ years have shaped my appearance today. Assumptions about a person’s character, based on their body type, doesn’t just apply to humans labeled as “fat” by societal standards. Many assumptions are made about my character based on the athletic body that I’ve chosen.

It’s worth mentioning… Yes. We have more control over our bodies than we like to admit. Excluding genetics and other variables over which we have no control (e.g. identifying with the gender of the body we’re assigned) We choose our body. The human body is a gift. It’s a miraculous machine. In fact, it’s the only machine that gets stronger as a result of hard work (I’m talking overload principle here). When given this amazing gift, everything that we put into it and every way that we use it determines its ability level. We choose our body. Not long ago, I decided to stop giving (requested) health advice to people that smoke cigarettes. A friend asked what she could do about hair loss. I said, “stop smoking.” She said nothing in response. She’s choosing her body with every cigarette.

I mean no harm. I am a friend. I try to convey this with a silent smile when I see a bright-eyed human walking towards me on the street. The smile is rarely returned. I’ve often been described as “intense” by those who don’t know me. I mean no harm. With my mohawk, tattoos, and athletic build (I chose this body, this is not a lament) more than one person has described me as “menacing” or “intimidating.” I am a friend. I am not shocked, but still saddened, to admit that only white people have called me such names. It’s often said with a trail of nervous laughter and a mumbled proclamation of “just kidding.” Nevertheless, take a moment to imagine what it’s like to have your intentions of friendship and peace trumped by the perception of others.

I’ve often tried to approach new people in my life with an assumption that I’ll like the human and we’ll jive well with one another. When there’s a new member on the team at work, I try to welcome them with an extended hand in hopes that perhaps we can be friends. My hope is that every new person with whom I come in contact will accept me hand in friendship while releasing any previous notions they’ve had of mohawks, tattoos, brown skin, or athletic builds.

I met a friend’s sweet pup and asked permission to say, “hello.” I got down to the ground and rubbed, petted, basically made out with the sweetest Pit Bull ever. Pit Bulls often get a bad rep based on some asshole humans that have raised many of them to do awful things. I often find them to be sweet, loving dogs. Pit Bulls did not choose the way they look. Many of them still want to extend their [paw] in friendship and fairness. My friend mentioned how much different the world would be if humans were able to greet each other like that. We certainly have a lot to learn from animals. What if we accepted massage as a form of greeting (and no one crossed any boundaries of disrespect)? What if we treated all humans the same in the name of fairness and used that fairness as the foundation of future friendships? I follow these commitments in order to be a better human. Find your own life commitments (or use these if they resonate with you) and let’s all just be friends. Just be nice to people

Final Thought: I was at the AC/DC concert on Friday night. The next time you go to a concert, take a moment to appreciate when all of you are singing the same lyrics and breathe in that friendship. We are not all that different from one another.

Check out the Jet Noir Shirt Company to wear some of my Jisms around town! Check it out!


Until next week… Find me on Spotify under “JetNoirMuse” to listen to some of my music Playlists.

Face My Fears And Conquer Them

You’ve heard it before, people fear what they don’t understand. You’ve heard it before, fear is false evidence appearing real. You’ve heard it before, there is nothing to fear, but fear itself. You’ve heard all there is to say on dismissing fears. What about the next step? What about moving beyond fears without sweeping them under the rug? Shouldn’t we acknowledge our fears and heed the sage reminder that “bravery is being afraid and doing it anyway”? (I’m not sure to whom I should credit that last quote. Let’s just assume that Frederick Douglass said it, why not.)

This week’s post is part 2 of 4 regarding my personal commitments to be a better human that are tattooed on my arm. (Read last week’s post at the link below.)

Develop my mind and share my knowledge.
Face my fears and conquer them.
Extend my hand in friendship and fairness.
Master my body and control my actions.

In order to face my fears, I’ve always found it important to dismantle them. I ask myself why I’m afraid of something and I try to trace it back to some watershed event in my childhood. For instance, I used to be afraid of drowning. Specifically, I was afraid of being in deep water and being unable to gain control and save myself. That fear was easy to trace back to childhood. One of my earliest memories was when I almost drowned. Even typing that sentence makes me laugh now, I’m being melodramatic. “I almost drowned when I was a kid.” sounds like one of those embellished empathy-magnet stories. Here’s the truth: My big brother was pulling me on an inflatable raft. He wasn’t paying attention and it rolled. In an instant, I was underwater. In that moment, I don’t remember freaking out or any fear at all. I remember peace and comfort. I remember looking up at the sun as I sank to the bottom. I remember a hand reaching in and pulling me back to breathable air. Over the years, that hand has belonged to my mother or father depending on how I remembered the story that day. So, when I took the time to face my fear of drowning, I had to look back and really break all of that down. Why should I fear a story, with hazy details, 30+ years after the fact? I shouldn’t. So, I stopped being afraid of drowning. Overcoming deep water took a few more steps.

Before moving on to the action item of the challenge, to conquer, I chose to flip one assumption on its ear. If we fear what we don’t understand, doesn’t it make sense to educate ourselves on the subject of our fear? [Brace yourselves! I’ll be using words from a site that I love, The Phobia List. You should check it out some time.] If your child is achluophobic, you can give them a quick education of what’s there when the lights switch off with a flashlight. If you happened to be coulrophobic, you can educate yourself on the history of clowns to understand that which you fear. Even though I was once afraid of drowning, I was never hydrophobic. I’ve always loved the feeling of being under water. Like I said, when I almost *eye roll* drowned, I felt calm during the entire experience. Whenever I get the chance to submerge myself under water, I’m all about it. Over the years, I’ve taken the time to understand what the brain and body experience when actually drowning. After educating myself on those gory details, I learned that a similar experience could happen if someone were to torture me with waterboarding. Once I realized that deep water wasn’t the only way that drowning could happen, I started to overcome my fear.

The actual conquering came in when I began taking swimming lessons. I’ve gone through a handful of teachers and swimming classes. I’ve learned a lot about water safety and drownproofing. Michael Phelps even called me up to get some pointers. Okay, that last part was some bullshit. But, my most recent swim coach told me that I have a nice stroke (heh heh). I still have some built-in challenges because of my body composition. While it is true that black people have denser bones, that doesn’t mean that we can’t swim. Dense bones just mean that we have to work a lot harder to stay afloat. Before you shake your head and try to dismiss what I’m saying, take a few anatomy or anthropology classes. My body has high bone density and low body fat. I sink like a cinder block in the water. I passed my last swim class, I have a good stroke, and I’m unafraid of drowning. Mission accomplished, right? Wrong.

Neither facing nor conquering a fear is as simple as checking an item on a to do list. It’s important to me that I get out of my comfort zone in the water on a regular basis. Deciding to conquer a fear means changing my life, not just doing one thing. What’s your fear? It doesn’t have to be a full on phobia, but figure out what you fear and take some steps to make a change.

1.) Figure out why you fear what you fear. After you answer why, ask yourself why again. Probe deeper and trace it all back to some source or event.
2.) Understand your fear. If you’re arachnophobic, learn all that you can about spiders. I mean really become a nerd about it.
3.) Find a perpetual way to conquer your fear. Using the spider example again, walking into a pet shop and petting a tarantula may be a huge step for you. But, how long will that experience last after decades of fearing spiders? The best way to make such a huge life change is by asking for help from people that you trust. Find some people in your sphere of influence who are unafraid of that which you fear. Talk to them about what they love about that which you fear and get a different perspective. Request their help as a sort of sponsor when you encounter your fear and need someone to hear you talk it out. Asking for help is a sign of strength. Strength is a choice.

All bullshit aside, I’m not a fucking therapist and I don’t have some magic wand solution as to how you can or should conquer your fears. I just know what has worked for me and that feels like a logical approach. (Note: Feelings and logic are emotional oil and water.) If you try what I’ve suggested and you get over your Tonitrophobia, great job! I’m glad that I’ve helped in some way. But, no one (not even an Anxiety Coach) can conquer your fears. No matter what tools you’re given, you still must do the work to face and conquer your fears. Only you can prevent a forest fire of fears from burning down your ability to function. I still have fears that I must question, understand, conquer, and embrace. I’ve always challenged myself to be fearless. But, a life without fear is a boring fucking life. I’m excited to find new fears as I keep experiencing all that the world has to offer. Recently, I came to a conclusion and I’ll leave you with this thought. If fear is the foundation of anger, one cannot have a temper while attempting to be fearless.

Until next week… Here are some music playlists for next week’s Cycling classes.

Studiomix Studio Road Ride, 9/21 @ 5:45PM

Studiomix Studio Road Ride, 9/23 @ 7:00AM

Develop My Mind And Share My Knowledge

In the basement of my parent’s house, in what used to be my old room, my brother hung a list of commitments. They read like a creed for self-improvement and all four-bullet points have always resonated with me. Over the next few weeks I’d like to share with you why those commitments were important enough for me to tattoo them on my forearm and the significance of the Brown Recluse.

My creed flows through my veins and follows those lines in a tattoo.

My creed flows through my veins and follows those lines in a tattoo.

Hanging from the bottom of a shelf in the room we once shared is the following:

Develop my mind and share my knowledge.
Face my fears and conquer them.
Extend my hand in friendship and fairness.
Master my body and control my actions.

The aforementioned challenges are listed, inexplicably without so much as a title or by line, almost like a dare to those of us that lament the descent of humanity. “Want the world to be better? Start with yourself, Sucka!” After all, we define ourselves by our choices. I later found out that these four commitments weren’t even in my brother’s handwriting. He told me that a friend of his had written those after she learned them in a Martial Arts course. I suppose that makes it fitting that I added the Brown Recluse next to the words. To me, the Brown Recluse is a reminder of my father’s advice. The BR is a very deadly, yet unaggressive spider. My father’s advice has always been “don’t start none, won’t be none.” The BR only attacks after others have started what’s perceived as a fight.

My mother’s advice has always been to “just be nice to people”. I often just want to help people. There are times when I have to be careful about how I present my help so as to not come off as arrogant or some sort of stereotypical male problem fixer. When I consider the first commitment*, I consider the story I’ve told before about the high school baseball coach that laughed at me instead of helping. I’m excited to help anyone that comes to me for help. The fact that the person was strong enough to ask for help is an indicator of their future success in the endeavor. I can’t see the future of anyone’s life or potential, but asking for help is a great start. In my vague life goal of helping those who are willing to help themselves, it’s important that I develop my mind in order to be able to share my knowledge.

*It’s worth mentioning… I’m unaware of a specified order to these commitments, but the order in which they were written has always seemed to have an ideal chronology in my opinion.

I’m on a perpetual path to development of the mind. I’m a lifelong student. Whether the identity as student is defined by tuition and textbooks or being attentive/present in my everyday experiences, I am a lifelong student. I’m a few months away from completing the course requirements for my BS in Kinesiology. In January, I’ll begin my pre-requisites for Occupational Therapy school that will begin in Fall 2017. It’s a three year program, which means I’ll be “finished” in 2020.

Rant Tangent: Whenever I mention that I’m a student, the question that follows as a sort of sympathetic nervous system punch reflex is… “How long do you have left?” or “How much more school do you have?” or “How long until you’re done?” or something like that. I’m sure that all students can relate. I swear on Baby Jesus’ poopy diaper, I wish I knew why in the fuck everyone feels the need to ask that question. I’ve heard it so much over the past three years that I considered making a t-shirt that read: “Yes, I’m in school. Don’t ask me how much time I have left!” Could you imagine if we asked people that question about their jobs or their romantic relationships!? “You work for Verizon? How long do you have left?” or “You’re dating Felicia!? How much longer until you’re done?” It’s a pointless fucking question! If I tell you three years or nine years, do you know of a way to decrease my sentence in the American system of higher learning? You don’t?! Weird. Back to my point…

I’m developing my mind with each new course. The second step of the first commitment, the action initiative, is challenging because it’s important to share knowledge respectfully lest we come across as condescending or pedantic to others. Have you ever learned something new in a course that you’ve taken and then took it upon yourself to “educate” people as if the thing they’re doing (and you were just doing a week ago) is the dumbest thing ever to be done? While I’ve certainly been guilty of that in the past, I don’t want to be that guy. I work in a gym and in order to avoid coming across as a mansplainer, I’m very hesitant to approach a female and correct her form unless she is in my class or one of my clients. I make an exception if she’s about to hurt herself. In any case, I make sure that I have her permission to offer a suggestion before I attempt to share my knowledge. I’m hesitant to approach a male and correct his form for very different reasons. I’m not worried about coming off as a mansplainer with him. Instead, I’m avoiding the uphill climb of the male ego to get him to hear me.

In general, I’m willing to share with those that ask. Unsolicited advice isn’t solicited for a reason. As a future Occupational Therapist, I’ve been asked with which specific population I’d like to work. The answer happens to be the same for the clients that I’m eager to help as a Fitness Coach. As vague as it may sound, I only want to help those that are willing to help themselves. If a person isn’t willing to develop (and change) their mind it will be a challenge to change their body. Changing your body (gaining muscle, losing fat, increasing speed, decreasing stress, or improving hydration to name a few examples) may mean that multiple aspects of the way you think must change. If someone is unwilling to do something new, they won’t accomplish new goals. So, which population do I want to work with as an OT? The humble. If you have a sense of entitlement as if the world owes you strength, I may not be the therapist for you. If you acknowledge that strength is a choice and you’ve decided to step up and commit on an emotional level, we can accomplish something stellar together. If you’re only interest is the fastest way to get stronger and get back to what you love doing, I may not be the therapist for you. If you’re willing to be patient, put in the necessary work, and celebrate small victories on the journey of healing, we can accomplish something brilliant together. If you think that a few hours a week with me heals all and you’re not willing to do homework to facilitate healing, I may not be the therapist for you. If you understand that everything you do with and to your body (including sleeping habits) will have an affect on your healing, we can accomplish something spectacular together. If your mental cup is full of unverified information from pop culture magazines and you want to debate a science-based approach, I may not be the therapist for you. If you’re willing to approach with a clean slate (open mind), ask questions, listen, and read references to verify what we’ve discussed, we can reach your goals with conviction instead of hubris.

In order to become the best therapist that I can be, I am in need of a mentor. Regarding my motivation, someone once asked me, “how long have you been like this?” Before telling her the story of the Baseball Coach (see above) I told her, “When I was young I searched for inspiration in other people. When I found it in myself, I decided to be the inspiration for myself and others that have the fire. Anyone can burn hot, burn brightly and endure. Giddyup!” That’s my intention as a coach. Now, I’m seeking inspiration again in the form of a mentor. If you’re reading this and you know an Occupational Therapist that lives in the Bay Area (or is easily accessible by phone/email in another area of the world) and is willing to mentor me with guidance, tutelage, and possibly volunteer hours in their office, please put us in contact. I’m trying to accomplish something which I’ve never accomplished before and I’m seeking help to make it happen. I am willing to help myself and step outside of my comfort zone in order to make this life change happen. I need an Occupational Therapy mentor and I hope that someone reading this can help guide me to such an apprenticeship. I’m hoping to find someone that has developed their mind and is now willing to share their knowledge.

If a friend forwarded this to you, be sure to visit the site, scroll to the bottom and subscribe. Next week, I’ll share my interpretation of the second commitment: Face my fears and conquer them.

Spotify has made some changes that mean I was able to create an account without having a goddamned Facebook account. So, I’m back on Spotify so that I can share some music with you all.

Spotify Playlists for the upcoming Studio Road Ride Classes
Look me up under the username JetNoirMuse to follow my playlists/posts.

Monday, 9/14

Wednesday, 9/16