Would You Like An Umbrella? #acui15

umbrella1This past week I was in the city of San Antonio for this year’s ACUI Conference and right off the bat I can say that I had a great time. I was a part of two panel discussions (one about the retention of men of color in our field and the other was #blacklivesmatter in our college unions) that me feel like I’m really giving something back to our community. Of course, with all the hard work and learning comes a slew of social activities because most of us have to enjoy the host city. It’s times like these that I realize that liquor and I aren’t always the best of friends.

I’m not a fan of the margarita. Sure, I enjoy tequila in limited amounts, but huge Texas sized chalices of margarita goodness is not meant for me. First night, I had one I felt like I was drinking ocean water with some flavored alchol. I admit, I’m not a pro but I made the attempt while enjoying the sights of the Riverwalk. However, the next night I discovered a place that had frozen coconut margaritas that completely rocked me and reminded me so much of a pina colada (which honestly is more my speed). From this point, I figured if other places had THIS flavor with less salt then perhaps I can hang.

So the next night a group of us hang out late again (work hard, play hard) and we go to a place that along the Riverwalk. We sit down and l look at the drink menu and all I’m thinking about is how I have to be up at 6 am so I’m really not trying to overdo it. Of course, this place does not serve coconut margaritas. However, I will rock the pina colada because that is what they have! So I’m good.

Waiter shows up and takes all the orders and I just happen to be last one. Please understand my colleagues are pros, they order these colossal sized drinks so I expected to be ribbed about the size of my drink because it will most likely not be in a goblet of goodness. Waiter looks at me as I order the pina colada and replies, “Would you like an umbrella with that sir?”

So let’s pause here. I know the implications of what he’s saying. I understand the language of snark and sarcasm. I’m also that dude that can take a verbal beating as well as dish it So, I know that he’s telling me he thinks this is a girl drink, which by the way, am I not paying for this drink? Doesn’t my tip depend on your customer service? Also, what’s wrong with a woman’s drink?

So I reply, “Yup, I will take the umbrella and make sure it’s pink too” (there is laughter)

I think he was stunned by my response since I’m very confident in my masculinity. He responds, “Sir, that’s a bit of a girlie drink, are you sure you don’t want another drink?”

“Unless you have a coconut margarita…”

“I will put you down for a pina colada.”

By the way, the drink I ordered was exactly what I wanted. To my colleagues who felt the need to tell the waiter to just leave me alone and let me order whatever I want, you are awesome. While, I was not angry, I needed to make the point that I don’t have time for his awful gender bias. A woman drink? Really? Women are awesome. I could’ve gone into a whole explanation of how I work for an all woman college, but what would be the point? He needed to see that I’m perfectly fine drinking what he thinks is a girl drink. I could care less what he thinks of me.

Which ultimately brings me to my point. We spend too much time thinking about what other people may think about us. We spend to much time thinking about how we are viewed by society. We need to just do what feels right because at the end of the day we are the ones who have to look ourselves in the mirror.

Once you realize that, then you can imagine how our students feel when they live their lives outside of what society feels is normal.

By way, they were out of umbrellas…

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.