The Last Lecture

Pick your secret valentine, the Delray Beach Public Library told me as I made my way back from the fiction section where I had just picked out some Octavia Butler gems.

I stopped, thought about my difficulty making decisions but quickly realized that my eyes were fixed on a small book in pink wrapping paper with a heart glued to the material. The center of the heart had three words— biography, inspirational, philosophy; three things I’m down for.

Later that Friday evening, I unwrapped the book excitedly in my room and let my fingers run across the title, The Last Lecture. I had heard of Randy Pausch and this amazing lecture from a dying man back in college, but I never pursued the book. Perhaps, the Universe feels I needed to read the powerful work now more than I did back at Syracuse University.

What do I think 

Well, I have just finished wiping tears from my eyes as I finished the 206 page body of work. It’s incredible. Although Randy was a left-brain and I happen to be a right-brain, I found The Last Lecture moving, inspiring, and philosophical in that it encouraged me to think deeply about the meaning of life, death, love, family, and all the shit I hoard in my life.

Lessons that stuck most 

I read over 120 pages of the book in one sitting and probably could have finished it all if I hadn’t made plans to take myself to see an awful box office success.

Okay, back on topic. Here are the lessons that struck me most from The Last Lecture:

  • Brick Walls 
    • Nothing is impossible. Treat the things you want as a brick wall, you might not be able to jump it today, but work yourself up to make that leap.
  • Don’t think about it too much 
    • What other people think about you is none of your business, live your life.
  • Be honest 
    • Lies always come back to bite you whether you know it or not, so stay honest.
  • Communicate 
    • Talk directly about your needs and be willing to listen.
  • Materials don’t mean much 
    • If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. So what if your car has a dent or two, does it do what it is meant to do — then why spend money on vanity. Clothes come in and out of style, don’t waste so much money on a wardrobe.
  • ‘No’ isn’t an answer unless we’re talking about consent 
    • When you want something don’t take the first or second no, keep pursuing it — it’s like the brick walls.
  • You can lead a positive life 
    • You can be a left-brain like Randy and remain a positive human. An even more important point, you can be diagnosed with terminal cancer with months to live and still live life positively. Be a Tigger not an Eeyore. 
  • Watch how you spend your time 
    • Plan your day and watch how you spend your time. You can accomplish so much in this life, all your childhood dreams, if you spend your time strategically. Maybe cross a Netflix series off your list and work on pursuing one of your dreams.
  • Fundamentals matter 
    • I got a C in calculus in college despite how hard I worked because I never learned the fundamentals of math — don’t be like me. In whatever field you find yourself, learn the fundamentals otherwise you’ll always be playing catch-up.
  • Let your children dream, question, and write on the wall 
    • Don’t stifle your children. Encourage your kids to dream and when they want to do something get inquisitive with them.
  • Take care of your needs first 
    • You cannot do what you are purposed to do if you allow others and the things you encounter in life to drain your battery. Charge up then worry about everything else.

Although the above are what struck me most, all 206 pages offered insight. Randy wrote The Last Lecture after delivering his last lecture at Carnegie Mellon. The book and lecture encourage us to live out our childhood dreams and leave a tangible piece of himself behind for his three young children. It’s clear that Randy is in love with Dylan, Logan, Chloe and his beautiful wife Jai. It brings him great grief knowing that he won’t be around to live out the life he and Jai dreamed — that tragic realization and Randy’s openness about crying in the shower or how he and Jai cling to each other in tears is heartbreaking.

Despite all of that, I leave the book knowing that Jai, Dylan, Logan, and Chloe will survive (and have, since the book was published in 2008) without Randy in the present form but will carry pieces of him as they journey.

The Last Lecture begs you, the reader, to answer the following questions:

  • What is important to you? Are you working toward achieving it?
  • Are you living a logical and positive existence?
  • How are you doing on accomplishing your childhood dreams?
  • If you had to give a last lecture (no matter what field you’re in), what would you leave behind?

Dear Dr. King, your legacy is the source of our revival

The other night i watched our first black president address his nation for the last time

like you, he spoke to millions of faces — white and black faces that just seemed to blend together

through the glowing screen i watched your dream personified

his optimism echoed your message, Dr. King, but in the wake of November 8th i found myself angry, scared, defeated

and in that moment Barack was not enough

in that moment your dream was not enough

and so i began to sing

my country tis of thee, 

sweet land of liberty,

of thee i sing; 

land where my fathers died;

land of the pilgrim’s pride;

from every mountain side 

let freedom ring! 

i am reminded that— we are not free until all Americans can walk in equality

though unshackled and legs moving

we are anchored to a rock

a rock of injustice, racism, fear, intolerance

a rock colored red white and blue

when guns melt black bodies to tarred streets

I say let freedom ring! —-red white and blue

when the soil drains justice, peace, love and decency from the very fabric that stitches the American people together as one

I say let freedom ring! —-red white and blue

when the rock solidifies hatred from every nook and cranny of our government

I say let freedom ring! —-red white and blue

red white and blue

i want to let freedom ring but i often see only, you — red white and blue

but freedom we often forget

freedom we often forget until about this time of year when we honor your words, Dr. King

this is the time of year when your presence illuminates every news channel, choirs sing aloud, parents pull theirs kids up on eager laps and tell your story

we tell a story of a heroic man who towered over injustice

a man who proclaimed words from a wellspring of love and wisdom

a man who knew his legacy would inspire 365 days a year

but lately, in the face of overt hatred and bigotry we have reverted to a hopelessness

some might say it happened after your dream was realized through Obama

others might say it was never realized because you still had much to do

whatever it may be we’ve come to a place where the weight of struggle has become a heavy burden again

but even as i write this i remember your very words

“we must continue to struggle through legalism and legislation” 

it was not an easy road that brought us here, and it is not an easy road that will take us to freedom

but freedom does not ring without fight

not a fight that calls for retaliation or burning what is left of red white and blue

but one that calls for unity and courage

today and everyday, Dr. King, you remind us that the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice 

everyday we need to act justly and move toward the light

our journey has to start small, right here in our backyards

i am reminded that before your assassination you moved to yet another grassroots effort — Dr. King, you found your way to Memphis and worked with sanitation workers

so, even in the face of major national losses, we have got to fight for justice within our neighborhoods —  here — in Delray

we have to choose between right and wrong right here in our community

that’s how the fight for justice prevails

Dr. King, you taught us that oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. the urge for freedom will eventually come. 

we, the American people will not idle in a castle awaiting another civil rights knight to save us. we will have to take action. we will have to turn our anger, sadness, and defeat into freedom for every single American so that your legacy can truly live on each and every day

Written by Flose Boursiquot, author of Close Your Eyes, Now Breathe 

*This original poem was written for Spady Museum’s 17th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Breakfast and later appeared in the February 2017 issue of the Delray Newspaper.*

How to make friends… It’s not as easy as it was on the playground

Moving to a new place is hard, especially when it’s a whole new state and you’re straight outta college. It doesn’t matter how many friends you HAD on campus. It doesn’t matter how many friends you HAD growing up. What matters is that you’re in this new space and you no longer have friends. What do you do?

Before I get down to what you need to do, think of this; you have a clean slate. When you move to a new state, you don’t have any of that Erykah Badu bag lady baggage, your hands are free — you can literally create your circle. That’s pretty cool, right.

Now that you have this clean slate, here’s what you do:

  • Acknowledge your loneliness — it’s a feeling that exists for a reason. Those days when you feel like crying, cry. If you want to drink two glasses of wine and cry-watch Scandal, Gilmore Girls, Being Mary Jane, Shameless or whatever, do it, and don’t feel guilty for it.
  • Learn to hangout with yourself. At times women get the message that we are not desirable if we do things alone. I say screw that. Take yourself out to the movies, have a meal alone, nap in the park or on the beach, read your favorite book under the sun or in your favorite cafe, get your nails done. The cool thing about these activities is that they’ll force you out of your apartment which means you’ll get some sunlight.
  • Change your idea of friendship. Don’t limit your friendships to just people your age. I live in South Florida so when I started seeking friendships I found myself hanging out with folks in their late thirties and these days even retirees.
  • Don’t be embarrassed to tell others that you want to make friends or that you are interested in dating. What’s different about making friends post-college is that you have to be intentional about it — you won’t just stumble upon some friends late in the library one night.
  • Ask people at work out with you. This can be tricky and folks might say no, again, don’t be embarrassed. You can also ask co-workers for recommendations. Tell them about your interests and see if they know anything happening locally.
  • Meetup groups are also the way to go, I hear. This is one tactic I’ve never tried out, but folks stand by it.

Now, none of these hints matter if you don’t talk to people. When you are out, approach people. Remember, you have to be intentional about this. So if you see someone at a coffee shop and you think you’d enjoy their company, go up and talk to them — put yourself out there!

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Women who menstruate

When the bed becomes extra difficult to crawl out of in the morning and sweets pay no mind to the sway of the hips, it’s Mother Nature who knocks at the door.

She comes with a powerful reminder; baby girl, your womb is a treasure.

Not in the way conservatism begs you to not share what is in between your welcoming thighs, but a reminder that says you can grow pearls inside the smooth walls of your oyster shell.

This month is not your time to multiply clusters of cells into a fully formed life, but there’s beauty in this process too.

Don’t throw away those stained sheets and period panties. They are your mural.

Isn’t it wonderful how your body paints. Beautiful reds and Browns.

Isn’t it incredible how the volcano inside of you ruptures, some quakes crack the walls and others only explode with a stir.

Isn’t it marvelous how your cells communicate just so, speaking in a language you can’t hear or see but feel with each cramp or temperamental snap.

My dear women who menstruate, you are part of a tribe. There are a couple billion of us all over this Earth. We’ve got to take care of each other.

Some of our sisters can’t afford white sheets or pretty panties, some of our sisters are bedridden for seven days, some of our sisters use diva cups, some of our sisters have to miss school because they have nothing to collect the reds and browns, some of our sisters are just starting out, some of our sisters bleed for a couple weeks, some of our sisters don’t bleed enough to create the life they crave…

Through it all we are a menstruating tribe, we’ve got to watch out for each other, period.

Written by: Flose Boursiquot, February 2nd 2017

Photos: Click for credit

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