Wednesday, December 26, 2012

It's Hard Out Here For a Pimp and a Writer Too

     There's a Grammy winning song by Three 6 Mafia called It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp that I'm about to make my theme song. Although the lyrics are about a man trying to get his hustle on at the expense of the women working for him, I'm beginning to see how the lyrics can apply to most of the people I know in this Game. It seems nowadays everyone has a hustle and they're trying to find a way to get over on the next person.
     Lately I've felt like a bit of a pimp myself. Thankfully I don't have a stable I have to take care of. I'm responsible for only one, and as an author I'm constantly having to pimp myself. Every now and then I have to hike up my skirt and parade across social media because that's what new authors are supposed to do. I hate it because I'm a private person by nature. I would rather exchange meaningful dialogue over cups of tea instead of  Tweets. I'm not a Twitch or a Twigger and I honestly have more to say than what can be condensed to 140 characters or less. Don't get me started on Facebook. Every time I type a status update I feel like I just got naked in a back alley.
    According to Pimpology: The 48 Laws of the Game by Pimpin' Ken, all pimps must Get a Name in the Game, so I do what I have to do even though it's not natural to me. I write, I edit, I push send. Another of Pimpin' Ken's rules is that Pimpin' is What You Do, Not Who You Are so I guess, maybe, I need to just grin and bare it.
     It really helps to think I'm the pimp, but honestly I'm probably not. When I think about how most new authors like myself are treated, I realize that we're getting played. We hustle all day and all night and then turn over most of our money to the man (or woman) in the suit. It doesn't really feel like prostitution as it's happening, but afterwards you realize you just got screwed.
    Earlier today I spoke with a very successful writer friend of mine. Thankfully he talked me off the ledge and reminded me that in this business no one is going to take care of me better than me. I've watched enough movies to know that once the pimpin' begins the friendship ends so I need to be about my business.
   So I'm waxing off the Caddy and putting on the flashy suit and the big hat with the feather. I'm selling me. I promise, though, if you look closely enough you will see that behind the pimp facade is a shy writer who only wants to share her stories.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Holding On Too Long

     When I look back at my life, I see that I have a history of holding on too long. Normally I wouldn’t say this was a bad trait because it has actually served me well in many aspects of my life. For example, in my teaching career, there have been students who were struggling with the lessons and with life. I knew that I should just give them the failing grade they earned and move on, but something inside of me wouldn’t allow that, so I kept at them until they saw their own potential. Each time I see a former student and he or she says "thank you Dr. Thompson for believing in me" I realize that I did the right thing. 
     In my own academic career I have been extremely persistent.  When I was in graduate school, there was this one professor who said I was a pit bull because once I bit into something I wouldn’t let go. I've always  wanted to go a little farther and push a little harder until I could see progress. Maybe that’s why I’ve started marathon training. I like to push the limits and since there are no mountains in Florida I have to run. 
     While running last Saturday, my friend Natalie and I were on mile 11 and it was cold and dark and we were both ready to quit, but I reminded her that at that point it was all mental because our bodies had already proven that we could run long distances, we just needed to focus and push a little more to make it to the finish line. 
     Anyone married for as long as my husband Lynn and I knows that there are times when you want to quit but you realize that it would be best for everyone to try a little harder for a little longer because you don’t want to give up on what could have been.
     But as I watch the last of 2012 slip through my fingers, I know that there are some things I need to let go of. There is this one business relationship that I have held on to for far too long. I’ve listened to the empty promises and the flat out lies and I've kept hoping that things would get better. They haven’t, so it’s time to say goodbye. There are also some vampires who suck up all my time with their trifles. It’s time for me to begin guarding my time the same way I guard my energy.
     I promise not to give up on my students and others who I see have the potential for greatness and I’m sure as hell not going to give up on my own hopes and dreams, but I am going to begin charging a higher admission into my life. I am also going to do what my writer friend Karen suggested when she paraphrased Ronald Reagan “believe, but verify!” When a person makes a promise I’m going to believe them only until I can find out if what they're saying is true and if I discover it’s not I’m going to move on.  No more waiting around for them to try to make it right.
     So here it is December 2012 and I am releasing it all. I have no idea what God is about to do, but I am ready because I am no longer clutching tightly to things that should have been released a long time ago.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Roy's Miracle

Recently I was invited by my friend Sheila to speak at her husband Roy's graduation." Roy's the only graduate and it'll just be a small group of family and friends," she said.  "I know it's not what you're used to, but it would really mean a lot to us." I was already over scheduled, but everything else would have to wait because it's not everyday that I get to witness a miracle.

It all began in the late 1950s when Roy was unable to obtain his high school diploma. Growing up in the rural south in the late 1950s taught African Americans many life lessons, but the lessons Roy had to learn were bitterly hard. He fled his home at a young age in order to seek a better life, and a better life he did find. One that included a wife, Sheila, who loved and supported him, seven beautiful children, and more family and friends than he could have ever imagined. Although he knew that God had protected him and blessed him all of these years, there was still something missing:  his high school diploma.

Over forty years later Sheila began to make his dreams come true. Together they found an online program that would allow him to earn an actual high school diploma and not a GED. In the evenings after work, he would study and his entire family encouraged him during those times when he thought he could not go on.

It was only at the end of this story that I entered the picture and I played such a small part, but it touched me in a big way. I got to see first hand what faith, love and courage were all about.

Before the ceremony Roy was insistent that we practice, so I slowly donned my full academic regalia and waited for instructions. Sheila pressed a button and Pomp and Circumstance played from mini-speakers connected to her phone. Before marching around the small room, Roy said apologetically "I know you've done this a million times before." I listened to him and smiled and followed Sheila who had assumed the role of Commencement Marshal. In my peripheral vision I saw Roy wiping tears from his eyes as he took it all on.

Later when I got up to speak I was able to look into the faces of those who came to share this moment with Roy and Sheila and I saw how proud they were of him, but more importantly I saw how proud he was of himself. Not only was he about to receive his diploma forty-plus years after he should have received it; he was graduating with honors (he had earned a 3.6 grade point average)!

I work on a university campus and take for granted the degrees on my wall and the cap and gown that I have to wear twice a year during commencement. I barely even remember my own graduations-and I did it three times for three different degrees, but Roy's ceremony will stay with me forever as a cherished memory. I was humbled because I've taken my own experiences for granted and had failed to pay attention to how important every achievement was. Roy had accomplished something amazing and I wanted to pay attention this time. I wanted to honor him for never giving up on himself even when others had written him off. I wanted to bear witness to the love that Sheila had that made her put everything else on hold to help him achieve his dream, and  I wanted to acknowledge that something amazing had taken place.

After I spoke I sat down trying hard to fight back the tears. Then Sheila got up, this time as a devoted wife and not the person in charge, and showed the audience the class ring that she was able to design after learning that the high school Roy would have graduated from had closed many years ago and she explained the significance of the color of his cap and gown. A benediction was given and the ceremony was over.

But Roy's life was just beginning. He had achieved the one thing he wanted more than anything else and it was miraculous!