My uncle empowered me with 2 gifts that I employ today in all my endeavors as well as my personal life. I have always been an insightful observer but my uncle, being an entrepreneur since his early 20s, inspired me to intentionally think openly to find solutions and to understand the results of my choices as it pertains to everyone around me.
I was an overly stubborn kid before I hit my teenage years. Impulsively I have some of those qualities now as an adult, but my uncle helped me to evaluate my mindset/emotions to make rational decisions that were not ego based. To elaborate, I had aspirations of being spoiled but could not afford it.
If you had not gathered this by now, I lived with my uncle and few of his kids/relatives for most of my teenage years. I left Jamaica at the age of 12 to live with him in Lauderhill, Florida. I would say it was during this time of my life where I learned the majority of the life lessons I live by today.
The Sliding Scale Budget
To share a quick story, there are 4 quarters in a in the Florida school year, and our back to school shopping had a sliding scale budget for each kid in the house bi-quarterly. The sliding scale affected our weekly allowance for the designated year and other clothing as we grew out of the ones we currently had. The older kids had a certain amount, the in-betweeners had a certain amount and the younger kids weren’t really old enough so their amount was managed solely by my uncle.
The sliding scale worked like this. The more you spent on back to school shopping, the the lower your weekly allowance would be, which for me could be between $25 and $35 a week. So we had to be thrifty to a certain degree to look fly but also balance spending money.
The First Shopping Experience
Like normal my uncle did the initial shopping for the younger kids. The In-betweeners shopped with the older kids who provided guidance, because they understood how things worked financially.
For the first go around, the older kids did most of my shopping, so I received a combination of 1 or 2 brand name shoes and clothing, but they keep the cost manageable by including mostly stylish off brands. Regardless we were all Phresh from head to toe with some sizable pocket money everyday.
Well, given my affinity to brand names, I was not satisfied. I wanted better brand name shoes like Jordan’s, starter NBA Jackets, and south pole baggy jeans. Of course, this was the mid-90s so that was the style back then. I would hear my friends at school talk about their Jordan’s and others would tease you if you didn’t have brand name Jean’s or T-Shirts, so I decided that the next shopping experience I knew where I wanted to invest most of my shopping funds.
The Second Shopping Experience
When I received my shopping money for clothes for the last 2 quarters of the year, I went straight to Foot Locker with my cousins to get some phresh “kicks”. I knew Jordan’s would break the bank so I settled for something close. However, even the pair of shoes I got doubled the amount that was normally spent on shoes. My thought process was that “hey, I’ll just save on other things like jeans and t-shirts.” Well those brand names were a little pricey too and I started to knock a few dollars off my weekly allowance as I bought more pieces of clothing. By the time I got done with shopping, what was normally 2 to 3 pairs of shoes only turned out to be 1 expensive pair of Nike shoes, and what should have have been 4 to 5 outfits turned out to be only 2 outfits for the end of the year. Here is where my pricey decisions hit me hard.
In the process of shopping, my cousins kept asking me if I was sure on what I was doing as I picked up the pricey items. I assure them I knew what I was doing and they should focus on shopping for themselves. They would look at me and slightly shake their heads, but I paid them no attention as I knew how phresh I would be at school.
My anticipation for the first day of school was at an all time high. I could not wait to impress my friends at the bus stop as I laid out my outfit on my bed that Sunday night. I thought in my head, “You bout to Kill em Rish.”
The short term gratification
As I walked up to my bus stop, I saw my first crush Siveta the ballet dancer, and she smiled at me for the first time. I thought, “whelp this is going to be the best day ever.” I got a few compliments about my outfit from a few kids, and the school staff that made me feel amazing, so I was beaming for more than half the day and most of the week.
Living the Results of my pricey decision
However, I had less pocket money so my after school beef patty hang out time with my friends were no longer something I could participate in, because I didn’t have enough money after buying lunch so I had to head home right after school ended. Also it is hard to imagine, but third quarter I grew about 4 to 5 inches within a month and a half so my jeans were now becoming ‘quarter waters’ or ‘ankle biters’ or sock munchers… Yes, those were all the names that you were blessed with when that was happening. Also my feet grew a bit as well so those brand names shoes turned out to be a bit too tight to walk in for the remainder of the year. So no matter how phresh my kicks were, I was still getting called names and on top of that I couldn’t hang out with my friends after school, because I didn’t have the funds I normally had.
The Talk that changed how I think now
My Uncle sat me down one evening I got home early and expressed to him that my shoes were beginning to hurt with a frustrated look on my face. He started asking me questions like why do you think your shoes hurt and why can’t you stay after school with your friends any more. As I answered these questions, I started to realize that my choices did not match my specific situation, and I was letting the outside influence from my peers my overall lifestyle.
He explained to me why he chose this system and why it has worked for so long and how it helped in the grand scheme of balancing the rent, the bills, the gas for both cars that takes me to school and him to his businesses on a daily basis, the dinners we eat every night, the fun weekends at the Swop Shop circus and game area etc. At that point I felt extremely selfish, because all I thought about was me being brand name phresh and my feelings. And even though I had momentary success in impressing my friends, I was now unhappy with all the things I chose to buy for school, because I outgrew most of them and was still being made fun. So he had to buy me new shoes and new clothes the last 3 weeks of school which in some ways affected all of us in the house.
It was the first time I looked at things from a wider perspective. I realized people are going to make fun of you regardless of who you are. You spend what you have in a balanced manner to support your specific needs, and you thank those who continue to work to make your life. As 12 year old new to this type of living and country, it created the building block for my thought process now as an adult.
How this story applies to what we are experiencing now
This corona virus has most of us confined to either a mindset, lifestyle or emotion that we are not familiar with. Just like my peers in my story, the media as well as our government officials are all feeding us outside influence that may mislead us as we make decisions. We still have to consider the big picture instead of emotionally buying toilet paper out of fear.
We have to consider everything the world is experiencing and think deeper. Think in consideration of each other, ensuring that who we are and what we do, puts humanity in the best position to succeed or make it out of this thing stronger. So don’t get caught up in your own world that you can’t think openly and rationally. Yes, we want to protect our selves, but our individual decisions also affect the majority. So be responsible. Still live your life given the limitations, but do so with consideration of everyone. Give everyone their 6 feet, don’t promote gatherings of people outside of your bubble. Don’t let this new situation scramble your thoughts and debilitate you emotionally. Your body’s ability to fight infections successfully requires physical, emotional, and spiritual health. So keep eating healthy, start doing those things that made you happy in the past, find new things that make you happy now, continue exercising at home, and start a new routine of trying new things. Most importantly, read more or listen to those more educated on this matter, ask more questions of why or how so we can figure this out and make decisions that benefit all of us. That’s what we were meant to do as people especially when we have no control over the effects of this virus but limiting how it fast it goes through the population.
So evaluate where you are now emotionally. Evaluate the decisions that may have been limiting according to how you thought before this new situation and make a plan to implement some small changes that will impact your life and your internal happiness for your future and the future of those around you. This is how I believe we should all treat this situation we are experiencing together.
So like my uncle did for me, I hope my story inspires you to intentionally think openly to find solutions and to understand the results of your choices as it pertains to everyone around you.