Change Yourself

“There was a time in my life I struggled with anger. I didn’t know how to control it or deal with it. Someone spoke to me about it, and taught me that if you feel a conversation starting to turn into an argument, if you pay close enough attention to that conversation, you can see the signs of anger creeping in, and you can stop it before it becomes a raging fire. You have to put your ego aside, and you’ll have a better opening to others. You can put the fire out. That was something I struggled with a lot growing up. My father was always an angry person, so I thought I had to be like that in order to get my point across. But I’ve learned how to get my point across without anger. I’ve learned how to calm people down when they’re getting worked up. I’ve learned that a simple ‘I’m sorry you’re right’ cuts through everything.

I don’t know if God is real, but I know I have a heart. I know someone can hurt me when they say negative things to me. I have feelings. I’m a human. There is love within me. So why not keep the negativity away? Why not take the love within me and share that. Life is too short. Why not let me try to join hand-in-hand with you so we can enjoy the little bit of time we have together. You can spend every day saying ‘I’m a good person. I look out for other people.’ But really… do you? Did you really ever change someone’s life? Is there anyone in the world that knows that they are who they are today because of you? Life is time, and time runs out. I don’t know when my time will run out. What have I done to be remembered by one person? You don’t need to be remembered by everybody. Just one person that remembers your name, one person who you’ve made a difference in their life. They can think of you as a positive force, even when you’re not around anymore. It all comes back to the time that you take to change yourself.”

Exercise Science

“I grew up playing sports. My favorite was definitely basketball, but now I play college football. I saw so many injuries in sports, it made me look behind them and ask questions like what makes bones so weak and how can we help make them stronger. That’s why I decided to study Exercise Science at Hudson Valley. It’s really all about personal training, physical therapy, injury management. When I’m done with school, I’d like to take what I’ve learned and start my own orthopedic medical practice.”

Stuck in food prison

“At 8 years old, I learned from my mom that I had a slow metabolism and that I needed to portion control. From that point on, I became obsessed with looking at food labels. By 4th grade, I was drinking Slim-fast shakes for breakfast. My mom had every good intention. She was chubby as a child and was made fun of by her own siblings, so she was trying to protect her daughter from having a similar experience.

In college, I studied abroad in Mexico. My first day there, I looked around and thought, ‘Nobody knows me here. They don’t know how I normally eat or look or behave. I can be anybody I want to be.’ So I just let myself go. I met this guy… I like to call him my Mexican lover. He asked me not to drink around him, so I experienced Mexico completely sober. Amazing! I was discovering who I really was for the first time since childhood. Getting away from the familial judgements and the influence of alcohol, I started to realize just how little I actually knew about myself.

But it was still me plus food. And after 6 months back in the states, I was at bottom of the barrel again. During a long road-trip with a roommate, I read this book that spoke my truth about all the crazy thoughts and feelings I’d had about food. Worried I’m going to run out of food. Packing food just in case. Eating it as soon as I’m out of the house. I had felt like I was the only one stuck in food prison, but this was the first time I felt like I wasn’t alone in my struggle.

The teachings of a guru I found at that time also impacted me deeply. ‘You are not your mind. Your mind is just an accumulation of experiences you’ve had.’ I had never even considered that before. All my life, I was my thoughts, but now I realized that I was something greater than my body and mind. It meant that I had the ability to control my thoughts, which was the most exciting thing I could have ever imagined.”

Library fee

“I just quit my job and got another one because they weren’t paying me enough. We’re actually on our way to the library to read for a little bit. I owe a late fee. When I get my first paycheck or my taxes back—whichever happens first—I’m going to pay it off so we can take the books home.”

On-the-job IT training…

“I graduated with a degree in accounting, but pretty quickly I saw the advantage of having an IT background, so I took a job with GE where I got significant on-the-job training. They trained me, taught me how to program. I started with a small in-house IBM 1401 computer and took to it right away. After that, I joined the development staff at SUNY Albany. I worked there for 7 or 8 years before deciding to move back into the private sector. That’s when things really took off.

Now I work for an IT consulting firm, staffing and recruiting. I used to do IT support… in fact, I know a lot of the staff that do that because I recruited many of them. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed being an IT manager. I got to do a lot of traveling for the company. I had the chance to visit a number of other parts of the country, from coast to coast and everywhere in between. I got to see a lot of beautiful places all across the country, but still maintain home base in Troy. That was enjoyable. Now, I’m not into the travel aspects of it as much as I used to be. I’ve got a family that I enjoy very much — a lovely wife, two daughters, two grandsons. So I’ve moved out of the technical field and more into the Human Resources aspects of it so that I could be closer to home but still get a chance to interact with people.”

Today’s a chance to make myself better.

“I’m currently studying Applied Physics at RPI. I’m actually finishing up my second-to-last semester here. It’s been a little rough, but next semester looks like it’s going to be a lot more fun than difficult, so I’m looking forward to that, at least. My plan right now is to go to grad school for material science. If I learn a little more coding, I can do some neat stuff with supercomputers and the modeling of systems. But I’m not sure if I’ll be able to make that happen. At the moment, I’m looking more at going into research—material physics, stuff like that.

To be perfectly honest, though, I’m in the process of—pardon my language—getting my shit together for once. I’m dealing with a recent breakup, and while we’re both handling it very amicably and we’re still friends, I’m getting into the process of fixing all the things I realized were making me not the person I wanted to be. So I wake up in the morning and think, ‘Today’s a chance to make myself better.'”

Good Soul Food

“I build greenhouses for Lowe’s. I travel with a crew from state to state. We take the roof off the garden center and put on a new one—usually takes about a week or two for each store. I’ve been in Rio Grande, New Jersey; Brooklyn, New York; North Carolina; South Carolina; Detroit, Michigan. I just moved here from Orlando in November. I love traveling, but it’s hard. I’m just sick of the road. We get paid for driving time, but 10 hours one way, 18 hours another? My crew just went to Chicago, and I was like, I’m gonna sit this trip out. I’ll catch you on the next one.

Here’s the thing: when you’re on the road you don’t really eat that good. When you’re traveling from place to place, and you’re working 10-12 hours a day, you’re doing mostly like fast foods. What I really like to do right now is cook. I started cooking when I was 17. Little places like Burger King or McDonald’s, but I worked hard and made my way up to chef. Most of the places I’ve worked have their own recipes, but I made up a few dishes of my own. Soul food—collard greens, stuffings, things like that. I was tellin’ my crew. I said, man, you know what? I don’t see no soul food restaurants around here in Troy. Nowhere. I see all different other type restaurants, coffee shops, bagel shops, bakeries… but no soul food. The closest you can get to that is this Jamaican restaurant down by the 4th Street Market. I need to find somebody to invest in a good soul food restaurant. Small building, set it up like a mom-and-pop kitchen.

I can’t complain though. Life is pretty good. I just thank God for every day. Once I see the sun, I’m like, okay, I’ve got a chance to do something different than I did yesterday. I’ll make things better than they were yesterday.”

Married to Jesus

“I’m married to Jesus Christ. It says in the Bible that you can be married to Jesus. I thought you had to be a nun, but I started going to the Episcopal church and I learned that you don’t have to be a nun to be married to Jesus. You can take the bread and wine without going through a ceremony. I didn’t really grow up religious, but I’ve gotten a lot more religious in the last two or three years. Not sure why… it just happened.

My boyfriend belonged to the Episcopal church. I used to go with him sometimes, but for whatever reason I just stopped going. Then one day, I said to myself, ‘I’m going to make my bed for God.’ I don’t normally make my bed, but I decided I’d start making it for God. I knew this lady who went to this other church that was closer to my home, so I started going there with her. And then my boyfriend passed away. He owed $200 on his cable bill, so I went to the Episcopal church and asked them for the money, and they gave it to me. So I said to myself, well, I might as well start going there. That’s not the real reason I go there, though. I really started going there because I had just moved to new apartments and that church was closer. But it got me going to Bible study on Saturday and Sunday, and I’m learning a lot there.”

I make things that are useful for people…

“My story right now has two parts: my job and the people in my life.

I have four beautiful children, three grandkids, and my dad I take care of… he’s 86. I take care of him, and get to have dinner with him every night. I’m so lucky. I’m 60 years old, and I love what I do.

I was the city engineer here in Troy for 10 years. Born and raised here, and now I’m back in my engineering business of 28 years. As city engineer, I was responsible for 26 bridges, 10 dams, 7,760 feet of sea wall along the Hudson, 150 miles of road, drainage structures, and buildings here in the city. I love to study the behavior of structures. I love the science of it. It’s the combination of math, science, and people. I feel like I’ve got a little niche that not many people have. It becomes a craft, a trade. I get into it. I’m a mechanic. I design stuff in concrete, steel, and wood. I make things that are useful for people… and they appreciate it. I’m just so lucky.”

The prospect of death…

“As you get older, the prospect of death becomes more real, especially when you’re in your seventies. Your whole body changes. Your attitude changes. Sometimes, your attitude changes for the better. You become more mellow and you’re more appreciative of everything, especially the little things that at one time might not have mattered. And you certainly don’t get excited about things that go wrong anymore. Absolutely not. They don’t shake you quite as much.

I’m glad just to be alive. To be breathing. To know that I’m loved by my friends and my family. To be loved by God… I know he’s with me, seeing me every step of the way.”