Oberlin Blogs

50 Pearls of Wisdom: Part Two

August 7, 2014

A few weeks ago I wrote "50 Pearls of Wisdom: Part One" as a convenient blurb of things that I had been thinking about recently. The post was written in a moment of reflection (what else is new?) where I asked myself what do I need to do to get ready for another challenging academic year? Strangely yet fittingly enough, I thought about the ways I teach my ten-year-old brother life lessons. We refer to them as "pearls" of wisdom or "keys" of life. At a very simplistic level both of them are shiny and important so it gets his attention as well as prepares him for some major knowledge to be dropped.

I try to give my mini me insights that he cares about. I keep them as simple and relevant as possible and hope that he cares enough to keep them in the back of his mind as he goes through life. One of the best joys of being an older sibling is hearing your brother or sister repeat the wisdom you impart to them. 50 Pearls is my own string of insightful wisdom for how I continually get through college. It is the advice that I revisit daily to refocus, buckle down, let go and embrace life as it comes. It is also very much so the same life lessons that I pass on to my younger friends who bless me with title of mentor and role model. So I shared that with y'all.

Here is the point where I am going to add fifty more pearls to the string. Before I do that let me quickly mention some things. My drafted version of this post, is titled "Links, Locks and Connections--A Summer in Oberlin Taught Me" for many a good reason. I like the idea of growth being an interconnected process especially after all the growing I did this summer in Oberlin. However, for the ease of connecting posts and for me to write this beautifully heartfelt pre-spiel it is simply a part two. The following pearls are slightly extended because of the personal growth I have experienced these past eight weeks. My summer has brought me into a bit more honesty and perspective, so please enjoy!

Personal Mantras and Motivating Truths

  1. Set goals every day. A focused day is more intentional, impactful and productive.
  2. Check in with yourself. Make an effort to deal with lingering things from the previous day and decide how far you will continue to carry that baggage.
  3. VENT. Whether it is to yourself, to a wall, to an understanding stuffed animal or to your best friend and confidant get it out and do not hold too much in.
  4. Find comfort in where you are. Whether "where you are" is a physical, existential, emotional or spatial state recognize that you are there. If you no longer want to be there, then that requires some change on your part.
  5. Cherish folks who challenge you and require you to do something.
  6. Surround yourself with people who strive, grind, succeed, fail, learn and experiment with you. Appreciate them.
  7. CRY. When the emotional bottle is too full (or as I have discovered is completely broken) stop using it. Cry, yell; shoot, cry and yell. Do what you need to do as you need to. It might be necessary to do.
  8. Distinguish between comfortability and complacency.
  9. Be honest with yourself and be fearless in your self-honesty.
  10. Create time and spaces in which you can reflect; it helps you to stay sane.

Decision Making

  1. Be confident in communicating your perspectives. Require respect for where you are coming from while simultaneously respecting where other people are coming from.
  2. Acknowledge your positionality in the things that you do. Recognize that often you might find yourself in awkward, borderline positions that are not easy to read or express. It is okay to exist in that precarious place.
  3. Realize the ways in which you present yourself and communicate your sense of personhood. No action, conversation or event is seen in isolation.
  4. The truth hurts and then lies heal. Choose wisely.
  5. Do not make it a habit to sacrifice your needs for someone else who may or may not be trying to fulfill your needs.

The Great Finesse

  1. Not every question needs or deserves an answer.
  2. "If they can't privately address you, then understand their public criticism is only for attention. Don't take it personally." ~Unknown
  3. Be about your business first and foremost.
  4. Prioritize your responsibilities, indulgences, luxuries and plain old things that "ain't nobody got time for that."
  5. Be both selective and intentional with how you entertain your time.

Setbacks and Forward Leaps

  1. Ask for help because it is not a sign of weakness; it can be one of the most strategic things you can do for yourself as well as involving others in accomplishing tasks important to you.
  2. Pride is useful in a lot of ways but can also inhibit you from creating and doing the best work possible.
  3. An African proverb says, "To get lost is to find the way." Just nod and say YASSSSS.
  4. Breakdowns (though potentially devastating) can be the most productive and heartfelt redirection mechanism we all have at our disposal.
  5. Humble yourself. Think about all the things you take on personally and how much the people around you take on. Without qualifying the struggle, embrace the humility around you.

Drawing from the Strength of Others

  1. Look beyond your experience and see what other perspectives others can share with you to enhance your views, politics, understandings of life and what have you.
  2. Support folks (in the ways that they ask you and how you best can)! Go to games, plays, research presentations (ayye), concerts and art installations. Love your folks and support them in the great work that they do.
  3. Engage with what you know. Find ways to tackle things you do not know. Be inquisitive, brave and a life learner.
  4. Be a scholar. Become the type of student who is about their business and their learning all the time. Develop an insatiable craving for sharing the knowledge and insights you have.
  5. Learn alongside others. Teach. Learn. Integrate ideas. Create institutional memory and prepare those behind you and in front of you to do the work you did as a community.

Bigger Picture Issues

  1. Conversation is POWERFUL.
  2. Value can be found in everything on both individual and collective levels. Acknowledge that different things can have value in an immediate and long-term context.
  3. Many everyday binaries that are easily perpetuated are really divisive and can cause a certain kind of short-sightedness that is not productive for unifying groups of people.
  4. Realize the power of your words and actions and their resulting impact on people.
  5. Despite what it may look like, most people have a reason for why they do the work that they do. If they have a connection to who/where/what they do it for, do not belittle that, especially without knowing their story.

Soundtrack for Life

  1. Make a playlist with all your favorite cuts (songs that is) on it. Life is better narrated with dope music playing in the background.
  2. Quote it up! Draw from your favorite songs in daily situations; it will allow you to laugh and put things in perspective sometimes too.
  3. Do what makes you happiest no matter what it is. If working out floats your boat, if running puts a glide in your stride and if dancing puts a dip in your hip then rock on with ya bad self! Find your groove and do it well.
  4. Avoid keeping score. Somebody did you wrong? Let it go. Do you finally believe that some folks just aren't loyal? Do not hold onto that either. Your life is for you; leave the you-did-me-dirty count at the door.
  5. *Take great caution with the following advice* Speak your mind.

Blunt and to the Point

  1. Admit your fears and why they exist. Then explicitly detail how they are not going to hold you back anymore once you reach that point.
  2. Keep a small circle of your close friends. This means be discerning when thinking about who really holds you down the best at the end of the day.
  3. Stop making excuses for yourself and for other people.
  4. Align your actions with your words by striving for consistency of character. It is hard, I know, but it is so worth it.
  5. Regret nothing. If you did it, own it, and the only explanation you should ever give is you did the best you could with the knowledge that you had in the moment that was.
  6. Less truly is more, and this philosophy can be applied to many areas of life as one sees fit.
  7. Speak what is on your heart. Please note that I did not say mind essentially because what is on your heart is usually what needs to be said, what continually resurfaces and what usually compels us all to act. Speak on that.
  8. Believe that everything has a season and a reason it happens. A lot of things in life will come and go and the things that are meant to stay or change will and the rest will occur around that.
  9. Love yourself.
  10. I repeat... LOVE YOURSELF.

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Responses to this Entry

MAJOR TRUTHS. I've said all your Blunt and To the Point things many times last year, this year, and next year.

Never stop, Alex. Never ever.

Posted by: Ma'ayan on August 7, 2014 11:52 AM

Alex, the wisdom in this post is staggering. I've been reading it over and over, going through and reflecting on what each point means in my life. I wish I could pull out a few favorites, but they're ALL SO GOOD! This is an incredible list, and I'm bookmarking it for future reference. Just wow.

Posted by: Ida on August 7, 2014 12:04 PM

Thank you Ma'ayan! I'm glad to know that the Blunt and To the Point things are being said by other folks than just me. Those are by far the most important. I won't stop either.

Posted by: Alexandria Cunningham '16 on August 7, 2014 12:05 PM

Ida right now three tears are forming around my eyes because your comment just touched my heart. I'm so glad that this post is firstly something you'd read multiple times but secondly something that you want to look back on as you continue to reflect on its relation to you. I could tear up on site! Awww thank you!

Posted by: Alexandria Cunningham '16 on August 7, 2014 12:09 PM

There is a distinct difference between knowledge and wisdom and Alex you have wisdom beyond your years. It is always a joy to read your wisdom. I always come away with "pearls" to tuck away for myself.
Please know that I am always praying for you and cheering you on.
I never knew when my daughter started started Oberlin that my heart was going to expand so much to include so many brilliant, beautiful and extraordinary people. I am so blessed that you have become one.
As Ma'ayan stated, "Never stop Alex ever!!!

Proud to be an ObieMom

Posted by: Lynne D on August 7, 2014 3:53 PM

Mama Dunn you are the absolute sweetest! Thank you so much for encouraging my writing on this blog and for being a true inspiration and blessing in my life as well. I am so happy that these posts leave you with things to think about (I know I always say it but it's true!). Also, I am so very pleased to have you praying and cheering for me. The feeling is entirely mutual. Your daughter and you are amazing people that I am so thankful to have met!

Posted by: Alexandria Cunningham '16 on August 7, 2014 5:00 PM

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