Two Goals Down. #acui14

1978913_10101571371366036_2627168318887609916_nI made a list of goals (as I do at the end of every year) that I’ve been working on. I’ve been fortunate enough to complete two of these goals during my trip to Florida. Yeah, the place where I know I would never live, but my father does live near Orlando so trips to this state have to happen. What made it even better for me was that the ACUI Conference I was scheduled to attend basically made my travel plans much easier.

So just like that the first goal was already done. I wanted to visit my dad and step mother because it had been almost 5 years since I’ve been there and that is just totally unacceptable. Sure, I’ve seen them in NYC and even in the Dominican Republic, but I knew early on last year when I heard about this conference location that I was going to make it my business to visit family.

However, the other goal was for me to run a 5k at some point this year. In my head, I wanted to do this before I hit 40 in June. I circled April 9th on the calendar because I knew that the ACUI Fund Run would be that opportunity. The thing is, I know myself. I know that it wouldn’t take much for me to back out which is why I told no one that I was running this race. I signed up for this race last year in St. Louis but I backed out because sleep was my friend.

So, I knew in December I was going to try to do this. I did the best I could, in this cold ass winter that we had, to run and prepare. Of course, what discouraged me is that I would have to get up at like 5:30am on the day of the race so I can be up and ready to register at 6am. Despite the several beers I had the night previous and going to bed around 3am, I managed to get my ass up to run this race. How did I do it? Let me tell you a little story about that.

When you go to a conference, you should be personally challenged. You should be able to meet new people and rekindle old and existing professional relationships. I was on a panel the first day of the conference called Men of Color: Retention in the Profession. It was in that session that a fellow colleague sitting on the panel with me, Hayden Greene said, “You need to be a participant in the environment in which you want to thrive.” Those were very powerful words for me at the time because if there was any doubt on whether I needed to give myself to every part of this conference, it was gone at that moment. The 5k wasn’t just about me it was about being a part of something larger and like most conferences, these activities are there to help you get to your desired position in life.

So at any point if I felt socially inept, I thought about that one quote and when that alarm went off at 5:30am, I got up without hitting the snooze. I dragged myself down there with my Barnard sweatshirt prepared to run my legs off. The amazing thing about all of this was that there were so many people that were up that morning ready to do the struggle along with me through this course. Luckly, when the race began, I was able to latch on to a friend that I met two years ago in Boston and we pushed each other because after the first mile, I was ready to go back to bed.

So less than 40 minutes later (39:27 to be exact, because you know I just had to time myself), I managed to cross the finish line. No one there, except my buddy Jaime, knew how much of an accomplishment this was for me. That 5k represents all the things that I said I would do that I finally did. It made me think about this novel and how of a long road it’s been. It made me think about all the goals I have yet to accomplish. I can and will finish what I set out to do. It may just take me longer than I thought.

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The Next Chapter

writingAs I literally write my the next chapter of my novel, I am thinking about the next chapters in my life. My first school year is coming to a close here at Barnard and I have set certain goals for myself that will be set in motion before school starts back up in the fall.

I have the prefect opportunity to start school again and I would like to take full advantage of taking course at Columbia University. The process may be slow since classes are not free and I do work full time but I owe it to myself to get my Master’s Degree. I frequently tell people that I ultimately didn’t want to get my Master ‘s at Syracuse because I was tired of the SU point of view of the world. The other reason is that I would still be there right now if I went all in on that program.

Now that I have an idea of what my work schedule is like, I can plan to take classes accordingly. This will effectively change my life to be able to attend an Ivy League Institution. I had already investigated the possibility of this happening last summer when I was getting ready to be interviewed for my current position so I know what CU has to offer. I think going down this road will allow me to turn the page to the next level of my career.

Speaking of turning the page, I feel the need to say that I have resigned from the Latinegr@’s Project. I know this will come to shock to some because everyone knows how passionate I am about Afro Latinos. I am not going to get into the how’s and the why’s. They are a great group of people that are doing some amazing things. As proof from when I left SU last year, there are times when you just need to move on. I did wish them luck with pushing their agenda and ideas forward into the future. When I think about it, they really don’t need luck, they will be successful with anything they do, I can feel it.

I have also been thinking about the Syracuse University Commencement that just happened last weekend. I truly had mixed emotions about this day. I felt bad that I could not see the students that I’ve been in the trenches with for years. They made it very hard for me to leave and I wanted to show my appreciation. However, this Mother’s Day was the first time I have been with family in a very long time. Graduation weekend has pretty much always fallen on Mother’s Day so I spent 11 years in Syracuse on that weekend.

So it was VERY hard for me to look at all the ceremonious pictures on Instagram and Twitter because there was a part of me that wanted to be a part of that celebration. It reminds me of the discussion and arguments with the knuckleheads. I do miss them. Of course, since most of them live in NYC, I am sure it is only a matter of time until I see them.

I wont even mention that I am turning 39 in less than a month. The big Four-Oh is right around the corner which means all types of cancer tests that I am so not ready for.

The reality of it all is that writing this novel had been a another journey for me. The funny thing about turning the page on an old chapter is that is hard to go back. The story that I am creating draws from so much experience from me as well as the vivid imagination that I was born with. It has opened up some old wounds but also spawned some great ideas for future text. Writing this has been a mixed bag of feelings that has allowed me to think about everything in my life.

One thing is for certain, all this writing has given be a new appreciation for people who do this for a living. I am not even sure what I am going to do about it when I am done, but I suppose I will figure all that out in the next chapter.

Moves

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There is so much truth in the term “making moves”. At this point, it seems to be all I do in my life. I crossed off another goal from the list I made last year for 2013. After weeks of searching, I am moving again to a more permanent apartment in Washington Heights. Thank God for that because the entire search process can be ridiculous and way too daunting.

This will be the 4th time I move in less than a year. As a matter of fact, I will have moved 4 times in 9 months. Babies have be conceived and born within that time span. I have moved from a 4 bedroom house to a room within a house (both in Syracuse) to an apartment with my woman and her parents to now a place that is just for me and her. Did you get all that?

I have an insane amount of boxes and general crap in my brother’s garage that has been there in September. It will be nice to see some of my stuff again and yet I feel that even more of that stuff will get purged somehow. Every man should expect that when they live with a woman that much of his shit will get tossed or be put in storage somewhere. I am just glad she has nothing against comic books. I make it sound bad, but the truth is that it really isn’t. Since I made the first move, I have come to realize that there are many things I can just live with out. Last thing I really want to be is a hoarder.

What I am really hoping is that this will be the last time I have to move for awhile. I know sometimes things happen, but it would be nice to settle in for more than a few months. While I am very adaptable, I was never meant to be a nomad. I think this is one of the final pieces that solidifies my move back to NYC.

For those are thinking about it, yes, I did mention that I am moving in with my girlfriend. This is indeed another plateau that has been reached. Of course, this was part of the overall plan discussed by us. It would be nice to just concentrate on each other without having to worry about parents, who have been great. However, a person can never be comfortable unless they are in their own space.

I am set to move this weekend and the funny thing about this whole thing is that my office at Barnard College has been in bit of flux too. We are moving from one office to another this week. Actually we moved from our old office in December and we are currently in what we call a “swing space” until our new office is ready (which is tomorrow). So technically I have moved 2 more times which being my total to 6, but who is really counting anyway?

Clearly, I am becoming an expert at moving. Although, I think I would like to be an expert and making moves considering that I am 2 for 2 on my Goals checklist. Everything is smooth now unless something pops up to prevent me from the other 8 things I have on my list. I believe it is always easier to get the goals out of the way early. I personally thought that finding a place was going to take me a lot longer to do. Although, we did start looking in November.

I am looking at a busy week heading into the weekend. I cannot wait until I am all moved in so I can move on.

Looking back at MY 2012

“Neo, sooner or later you’re going to realize, just as I did, that there’s a difference between knowing the path, and walking the path” – Morpheus

I always try to take one look back before I proceed into the future. 2012 has finally come to an end and I cannot help but be amazed of how I ended up exactly where I wanted to be. I will say that as much as I wanted this to be a good year, I wasn’t so confident that it would end that way.

The first thing I decided to so was to take more risks. The truth of the matter was that at this time last year, I knew I needed to change my life before I went spiraling down in a flame of debt and foreclosure. What I learned from my woman was that taking risks shouldn’t always be that scary. After a afternoon of learning how to ice skate –without falling once, I realized that I needed to invest in myself and take those risks that may turn my life around.
At the same time I realized that this blog was becoming a venue for me to complain and talk about things I would love to do but never follow up on. I was done with that. I need to stop talking and just do. The result ultimately ended up with me having less blogs than I anticipated but, the major goals I set were completed. Yet, as a writer, I did get more exposure than I ever thought I would with being selected as blogger for the Huffington Post. Yes, I feel like I keep saying this but I still find this to be amazing.  I wrote 4 articles and acquired a great deal of fans on that site.

Although, there were some bumps along the way, my second blog for the Huffington Post received some comments that I was not excited about. Looking back at it, it wasn’t that big of a deal but, I did feel a certain way about it. I craft my words carefully (which is why I was called a Word Ninja) so that people can understand where I’m coming from. Usually, there are people who take my words to mean something entirely different (I’m still getting used to that). There was also the time in which the Huff denied a post from me. That was particularly hard to swallow, but I got over it.

I still believe that this was a banner year for racism. Despite the fact that Barack Obama won a second term, I believe we have seen so many signs of racism in the country that it is almost laughable if it wasn’t so tragic. The death of Travyon Martin really took its toll on me when it happened. I think there is a lot to be said about the gun laws in this country and while I wrote nothing about Aurora and Sandy Hook shootings…I think eyes need to opened when comes to which populations are being effected by certain laws. I think more importantly it is the perception that people have that really shows how “tolerant” we are of other people. This does not mean I have strong words for just white people….my own people can be ridiculous too.

Of course with the things that I say or do, come people who have either a difference of opinion (which is fine) or people who downright cannot deal with me. This year, I have learned to take the good with the bad. Let those fester in there thoughts while I continue to move forward. I can spend a whole blog post on the telling of stories about people and incidents that happen earlier in the year that will be completely hilarious. However, in doing so, that will make them look bad. I am determined to be the better person always. I think I have succeed in that one thing before I left Syracuse.

There were several proud moments for me this year, but nothing did it more than me getting an A in my graduate course in the spring semester. Another reason for the lack of blog posts was the simple fact that I was taking a class. The reason why this was big for me is because I never got an A in any class in my college career. I think I did pretty good on this.

My, departure from Central New York involved risks has I mention above. I was lucky enough to sell my house and get an apartment for a short amount of time. There was also so much risk in just keeping the faith and hoping that my job search would find me something. I’ll be honest, there was one point where I gave up. With my last job application submitted, I told myself that it was either now or never. If I do not get a job in NYC, I would have looked into Grad School in California. I had schools already picked out when Barnard called for the interview.

I will never forget that afternoon when I was told that I was hired. With my return imminent, I thought about all the things I would do when I got back home. But, I had to ultimately say goodbye to good friend. Yes, it was hard to say my goodbyes to colleagues, friends, and students but it was the hardest to say good bye to Rocky. I still love and miss that dog. He has remained in Syracuse with the x-wife. I still think about him everyday. Sad to say that all good things come to an end…SU will always be in my  heart.

However, I did learn that everything is truly connected. In the wake of my decision to move, my mother suffered a heart attack. This required her to have a quintuple by-pass surgery that we all were very nervous about. Of course, Columbia Presbyterian is one of the best places she could have very gone to, there is was always that horrifyingly small chance that something may go wrong. The good thing is she fully recovered which made my return even more glorious.

The rest of the year was filled with apartment hunting while being broke, Obama was re-elected, Sandy damn near destroyed lower Manhattan, my Macbook broke, and I am near obesity.

I think this was a good year. Very successful. Next year will be better. I will share a toast tonight for my friends, family, and to all of you who continue to follow me. Happy New Year! 

Tony FAQ

I wanted to compile a small list of questions that people have been asking me since I moved back to NYC:

The number one question that I have been hearing lately is “how is the new job?” It can often times be more specific like “How is Barnard?” This is a fair question and I feel as if I need to come up with a universal answer since I have often been repeating myself. That is not to say that I do not like answering the question because anyone who switches jobs will tell you that the question of how your new job is will happen well past the first two months from the start date.

Barnard College is great. I cannot be happier right now. The job I have right now is very similar to what I had at Syracuse University with some differences. The campus is smaller but the fact that it is so neatly tucked into Morningside Heights makes it really special. There is hardly any sense of apathy which is a real change from Syracuse. These young women are very attuned to what is happening in the world and it really impresses me. I suppose being at an Ivy League institution will do that. (Which freaks me out — Ivy League??)

Here is another question I get, “How’s the transition?” The funny thing is, I never considered moving to NYC to be a transition. It was very easy to go back to the public transportation mode. My work hours are relatively the same and I am treating my living situation similarly to what I had before I left Central New York. The only things that took a while to get used to was not having Rocky in my life and the constant Parking Wars that go on in the streets of NYC everyday.

There is not a day that goes by in which I see a dog that reminds me of Rocky. There is always someone walking their small dog that bears that resemblance. There is a dog park over by Riverside Drive that is called Rocky Run. I took him there once and I am the mayor of that place on Foursquare. Perhaps it sounds silly, but I think about him every time I check in. Of course, I am over that way because I have to park the car, which is also about 15 blocks from where I reside. These are the parking wars that I am getting used to and can probably dedicate an entire blog post on this subject.

“Where are you living now?” I am still in Washington Heights. It is interesting to not live in the Bronx or in Mount Vernon. The parking wars are serious in this section of Manhattan this for sure. I do feel very comfortable living here, more than I thought I would. Perhaps because I was so used to everything being slower and quieter. When I was in Syracuse, I felt like I was moving faster than everyone else or that perhaps I was just a little bit louder. I feel like I fit right into a busy neighborhood that plays so much Musica Latina.

I think there is a lot to be said with me coming back to a place that has had the culture that I have missed so much. Before you assume that I am making this all about Spanish food and Latin Music, there is a definite culture in being a New Yorker. It is the feel of the city, the thrill of the sports, and oddly enough the subway train rides. It is these things that have made my return easier for me on all fronts.

Finally, “How is your mother doing?” She is doing remarkably well. I often say that you would never know that she had a quintuple bypass surgery. I believe there is a part of her that feels she now has a second chance at life. I have often wondered what it is like to get older and face death, but I think that because she was a nurse in The Bronx, she has seen her fair share of death.

She is walking around more than she did in the past. While she may not be as strong as before she will get to where she needs to be with PT. Her body is not just recovering from the surgery, as I mentioned before that she does have Diabetes. Taking that into account will all the other ailment, like Arthritis, and you get a picture of how she should look and feel. But, she doesn’t look like one of those old ladies. As long as she continues to pay attention to diet and maintain her exercise, I think she will be fine for years to come.

If you have any more questions feel free to send me a message on here or through Facebook!

That Crazy Life!

This NYC life is crazy. Many people ask me if things have changed since the last time I lived here and at the moment, all I can say is no. Perhaps the fact that I have visited the city enough to understand its evolution over the last 11 years. The main thing that has changed has been the names of stores but that is the type of evolution that comes with cities. People come and go in the big city and so do businesses.

Transit seems the same to me. No matter how fancy it gets with it’s metrocards and computerized announcements, mass transit will always remain the same. There will always be someone asking for money in between stops. There will always be some delay that will hold up your trip. However, buses seems to have changed. They are bigger and come a little bit more frequently than I recall. I will admit that even though I am stating this, I am not in the Bronx waiting for the ill timed Bx 39.

Yet this life is crazy because there is now so much to do and not enough time at the moment to do them. If I thought I was busy in Syracuse with work, being at Barnard is only busier due to all the stuff that I am learning and doing. Days are flying by and I just realizing that this is the end of my second week work AND I left SU 3 weeks ago. That is crazy to me.

If there is one thing that I am struggling with, it is this thing that I have deemed “Parking Wars”. Every few days (expect on weekends), I have to move my car because of alternate side of the street rules. For those not familiar, the city cleans the streets on certain days at certain times. If you do not move, then that is a ticket for you. If you park in place you are not supposed to (like in front of a school on school days), then you will be towed.

This is should sound all very simple if not for the fact that I live in a city where parking is like gold. Not to mention that they are multiple ways to lose this war. There are days when alternate side parking rules are suspended. Those days are normally holidays but more frequently is it Jewish holidays that last two days. Most Jewish holidays mean that public schools are off. I emphasize most because if you make that mistake (like I did) thinking that Sukkot (a Jewish Holiday) meant that all schools were closed, then your car WILL be towed (like mine did).

I wont event talk about how people squat parking spaces for others. There is one lady that thinks she is slick by holding her spot for this guy (again, I am NOT getting into it) Despite this crazy life, I am doing well. I will figure out the car situation. For better or worse, it is a reason to get up early in the morning sometimes. It also gives me a reason to drive since I do not do that as much.

The craziest thing so far has been a surprise welcome back party thrown by former students of mine 2 weeks ago. That took me for such a loop. I never saw it coming. It was nice to see these young adults now having to deal with life outside of school. We all left at a decent time because they had to work the next which I cannot help but smile about. It is crazy to know that I have an established network here.

I wont consider myself full settle until November. That is when this NYC life will finally settle in for me.

All Good Things…

Now that I am back in New York City, I can now think back to this last few weeks with fond memories. I can also relax this week since I do not start at Barnard College until Monday. More importantly, I can look at the future and think about what is coming up for me.

I will, once again, reiterate that I will miss Syracuse University and everyone that I have come in contact there. I’m sure the students don’t think I will miss them all that much, but I will. The feeling of me ending this chapter of my life felt very familiar. While I made a similar change in life 11 years ago in leaving NYC, this familiarity came from a different place. I would have to go back to May of 1994 to feel a certain way, and at the risk of sounding even more like a nerd, I am talking about the last episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

This was a show that I was very fond of. My dad and I really got into it when I was in High School and leading into college. Star Trek: TNG was on the air for 7 years and it was one of those shows that I couldn’t imagine ending. But, on that fateful night, May 23rd, the show came to an end. It left me wondering, what is next? However, the very theme of this show was centered around where this cast has been and the possibilities of where it could go in the future leaving the door opening to anything with one question looming: can humanity evolve?

Which brings me to my ultimate point for leaving Syracuse. The title of that episode was called “All Good Things…” The main villain Q simply states, as he is judging humanity that “All good things must come to an End.” Ultimately when it seems that all is lost, humanity proves their evolution is possible. This remains one of my favorite episodes of TNG which always leaves me nostalgic when I see it because I believe they never should have left television.

Now back to reality. The fact of the matter is that all good things do come to an end. I have known for awhile that it was time to move on because I feel that I went through an evolution of sorts when I was employed at Syracuse University. My life was changing and so were my priorities. The things I was doing 11 years ago are not the things that I do now. The whole nature of maturing and living life dictates for some of us that we need to move on to different things. Sure, my future may end up with me crossing paths with my alma mater again and its students and alumni but that is something that we will just have to wait and see.

The future is bright I am just glad that I made some awesome memories and friends along the way.

“Let’s see what’s out there.” – Capt. Jean-Luc Picard

10 Days

This is just crazy. I am excited to be starting a new chapter. I am sad to say the goodbyes that I know I have to say. I am scared to see what happens after all this done. I love the fact that everything is changing.

Mixed emotions is something that I am feeling at the moment. Everything that I have been fighting for is finally coming to fruition and I all I am thinking about is just closing the book on this place. I feel like I am living the last few episodes of a long running sitcom that has been on the air for 11 years. I get that familiar feeling when Cheers closed or when Theo graduated from college in the Cosby Show. You want to cry but that wouldn’t be right because (even though it is a show) you know that life goes on.

In 10 days I will be home and I’m not really sure that people really understand what that means. I have been like a prodigal son in may ways. I left NYC with the idea that I would never come back. Being in my mid 20’s trying to make it was difficult and I left because I couldn’t succeed in my hometown. I had this delusion that I would stay in Syracuse and live the American Dream. There was always that pull for me to return home even though the relationship with my mother became worse before it ever got better. For all my failures at love and life, I achieved greater successes at many of the same things

Now, I coming back home with things being so different. My life is not the same as when I left. I feel smarter and wiser because I learned from past mistakes. I’ve learned how to forgive and I’ve learned how to sacrifice. Most importantly, I have learned how to love. I’ve grown to love myself and appreciate the world around me. I do love Syracuse and I will truly miss everyone that I have had so much contact with.

Before I started taking the things off my walls in my office, I kept thinking about the many students who have seen my office for what I hope it was…a place to feel welcome. The Puerto Rican flag, being the first thing that many students see, represents my commitment to all students about being proud of what I am and never being afraid to show it. I had to take pictures of it for prosperity. If I am lucky, I will have a similar set up at Barnard College.

As joyous as I can be about leaving, sometimes moving means making hard decisions. In many ways I want to start a new life or “volume” when I get back home. I find myself getting rid of things here and there and selling other stuff. However, the most difficult decision is to leave my dog, Rocky, here with my ex-wife. He does belong to her too and I know this is the right decision for him. He is getting older and needs a person who will love him and care for him in ways that I may not be able to. Out of all the things I have had to do during this transition, I will tell you, this is the hardest. It almost breaks my heart to have to say goodbye to Rocky…

But, like everything else, I will deal with that moment when it happens. My students mean the world to me as well and I hope they know that. I am just glad that everyone has been understanding that this is not really a goodbye, not this small world of email and Facebook. I will treat this more as a “see ya later.”

The Return

I was certain that once I  was offered the position at Barnard College that I would be blogging everyday about it. However, I pulled back because of the background check that was going on at the time. This is where my paranoia becomes paramount. Since this was the first time I’ve ever been subjected to one, I had no idea what to expect, but as a friend just reminded me, I really had nothing to worry about.

It is one of those things where the Human Resources person tells you that even though the position has been accepted, the job is contingent on passing the background check. I was too busy being happy that I am finally leaving SU to really understand the gravity of the situation. Of course, the actual gravity seemed to only be determined by my mind. Let’s face the facts, I’m not a criminal and none of the information on my resume is falsified. So, why did I make such a big deal of this within my own space?

First, I originally thought that there was a credit check involved. According to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, all my information can be released with my permission. When I saw this on the paperwork, I automatically panicked thinking that my credit information was now on the table and who know what was going to happen now. So, I put on my big boy pants and called HR to ask if indeed my credit was going to be looked at. Thank God this was not the case. Background checks like these may have a credit component in it depending on the type of job someone is going for, so I did not have to worry about that.

My credit is something that I have been trying to work on but it turns out that it is not very easy when you have other factors in your life. I am not talking about having a girlfriend either. Many of the reasons to get rid of the house were financial in nature. I was living from check to check despite receiving rent. The money that my tenants/roommates gave me barely covered the expenses of the house. Winters are brutal in Syracuse and so is Niagara Mohawk. While I was able to catch up on some things, I’m not where I need to be. I plan on fixing that very soon.

With the credit check off the table, I still ended up being nervous. Much of this is my fault. I was nervous that perhaps there was some false report that may come up or that one of my jobs misplaced some employment records. I didn’t want to have to explain to anyone that I was ultimately not considered because of something unknown in my background. It was a very silly thought but we are in a age of identity fraud and stranger things have happened.

In the end, I am proud to say that I am all set! Background is clear (of course) and my start date with Barnard is September 24th. Many plans have been set in motion to assure my safe return to the city I grew up in. I cannot believe it has been 11 years since I last lived and worked in New York City. The list of things I intend on doing is so very long and trust me, there will be a blog about it.