Yes I LYFT…..bro.

Life as we know takes unpredictable turns at times, and although I hate the saying, there is valid truth to the notion that everything happens for a reason; although those reasons may not reveal themselves right away.  With that being said:

Have you guys ever wondered why I’m always recording IG videos from my car? (Probably not, but it’s cool)

What if I told you if you’re ever in the Syracuse area you may get picked up before or after a night out by a former professional athlete? Yes, that’s right; I’m a LYFT driver.

The Lyft idea was suggested by a friend. I am currently between jobs, and I didn’t want to commit to a full-time position in Syracuse knowing I had no intentions of being here long-term. Low and behold, although incredibly annoying and sometimes even frustrating, the experience has been priceless. Depending on the time of day as well as special events, you can make okay money; other times you can roll in it. I would never do the gig as a full-time job, but there’s something to be said about controlling your own hours which is obviously a plus. The biggest perk for me has been getting the opportunity to speak to random people and learn a little bit (or a lotta bit) about them. And I don’t know what it is about my car (must be something in the air fresheners), but whenever I ask a simple question such as, “How are you doing?,” it literally turns into a confessional booth.

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(My 100th LYFT Ride and a $500 bonus)

Over 3+ months of driving, 10+ car washes, endless gas refills, elementary school reunions, 370+ rides and 5 felons, I can truly say this experience has changed my life. To the older generation, if you remember the HBO show “Taxicab Confessions,” its like that only I don’t have a hidden camera (and GOD do I wish I did). As a result of some of the more interesting rides, the idea for my “Give it Context” Podcast was born. Some of these stories are so unbelievable that I exchanged numbers with those passengers at the end of their ride so they could tell you themselves.

I’ve learned a lot about  myself over the past few months and I know that in whatever I choose to do after this experience, I can truly say being humbled is never welcomed, but always understood.

Stay Tuned with my “Give it Context” Podcast. The LYFT chronicles are going to be to unique to say the least I promise.

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(Me and Chase after 21 Years in Mrs. Malbone’s 2nd Grade Class together!)

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5 “Heads Up” of Social Media

As much as we try to remove ourselves from labels, they seem to follow us regardless. With that being said, I figured this piece would be more geared toward the “Centurions.” These are some things I’ve learned that can help the next generation navigate this scary social media world.

Rule #1: “There’s Always One”

“Haters Gonna Hate”

A very generic saying, but it holds a lot of weight. For every positive post of encouragement or insightful thought, there will always be one disgruntled person in the batch, or a group of people who call themselves “setting you straight.”

Rule #2: Where do you stand?

As you continue to get more followers and likes, you must understand that it is not enough to just be what your fans know you for; they also want to know the values and the principles that make up the fabrics of your being. Of course be mindful of what you don’t mind being for public consumption, but share enough so that they know you’re well-rounded.

Rule#3: THEY always know what’s best.

Sarcastically speaking, your followers are the biggest “I told you so!” you’ll ever encounter. Whether it be good or bad circumstance depending on what you choose to share, they always know better than you about your own life. Go figure. Comments are a dime a dozen, some positive, some negative, and sometimes even enlightening. Comes with the territory.

Rule #4: Be Careful of the Clapback!

This is an important one! This stems from Rule #1; sometimes people will say some crazy things for 2 reasons: 1) To let you know they don’t agree or 2) Just to get a reaction out of you.

With any movement or cause you lead or follow, the occasional “You suck,” or someone bringing up some old stuff from your past is expected. Be wise on what claims you choose to respond to.

Rule #5: Take some breaks

At times this social media world can be the absolute worst so it is important to know your limits. Whether it be a social issue going on and everyone is posting their opinion, or the “explore” page on instagram, sometimes you can get very testy with some of the material and may not want to spaz. Take some time to remove yourself from the social media world altogether and get back to life without your phones occasionally.

Dear Lacrosse…

Dear Lacrosse,

Before I address my concerns on the state of the game, I would like to encourage anyone who reads this letter to keep an open ear to HEAR the message, and an open heart to FEEL the message. The game of lacrosse has literally been the most important thing in my life for over half of my existence and I am nothing without the game. Through this sport, I have literally attained the thing I covet the most, my education; one through playing (Syracuse University), another through coaching (Queens University of Charlotte), and the other through exploring (Loughborough University in the United Kingdom). As a man who has accomplished so much in this game, it would be difficult to wonder why I am so incredibly disappointed in the game of lacrosse, but I am. As a black lacrosse player, or minority lacrosse player for that matter, it goes unnoticed the plight that we face once we join a lacrosse team. For most of our playing career, what matters most has nothing to do with the color of our skin, but only defined by one, simple question: “Can you play?” This letter represents the young boys and girls of color whose stories have went untold for far too long.

If you have never thought about what we as minorities go through, I encourage you to ask; you may be surprised at the answer you get. As I proceed, I will ask the game of lacrosse some questions I hope to get some answers to in the near future.

To begin, I want every coach, parent, player or referee to answer this question for themselves: Have I been a part of the problem or the solution?

After being involved with the Diversity and Inclusion Task Force for three years, I have realized that the game of lacrosse has two definitions of the word, “diversity;” every other hashtag continues to voice “#GrowTheGame.” One definition seems more concerned with the quantity of people playing the game of lacrosse rather than its quality; the other is more concerned with the growth of the MIND. Being more socially conscious of the world around them and understanding both appropriate and inappropriate etiquette on and off the field.

I do not have enough time to tell you how many ordeals regarding racial altercations that I have heard from numerous groups of people, friends and family in our sport where the issue was never addressed, but rather ignored (at least 20+ instances). We as people have the choice to be a part of every problem or solution. To continuously hear from my friends in the lacrosse industry that they had no idea some of these things were happening or have happened, is a problem in and of itself. It is understandable to an extent to be unaware, or ignorant to someone else’s plight, but it is another thing altogether to have knowledge of it, and choose not to act. It is fairly simple: Within the word “ignorance,” there is also the word “IGNORE.” This notion only upholds the idea that unacceptable behavior is acceptable. If you are not correcting it, you are allowing it. I encourage the game to heed these words, and understand their significance.

Recently, I attended the Lacrosse Convention in Baltimore, MD for three reasons:

1) Attend the U.S. Lacrosse Diversity & Inclusion panel Friday evening

2) Catch up with some dear friends and former teammates

3) Meet Alex Aust

One of these objectives was not achieved, and regardless of whether I completed my checklist or not, I was disappointed in the progress of the panel meeting. U.S. Lacrosse did their very best to give us the opportunity to find solutions, but there was only so much the voices in that room could do if the lacrosse world as a whole does not take action.

Although I am disappointed in my inability to meet with Ms. Aust, I do not hold any ill will towards her. The unfortunate symbolism of our inability to connect is parallel to the problems that we as minorities face in the game of lacrosse on the daily. Regardless of whether you have work obligations, or any other activities set up, you make TIME for the things you deem most important. The truth behind Mr. Underwood’s “Convicts” Instagram post of a month ago, or Ms. Aust’s unfortunate Instagram picture recently, is that they are not the first of their kind; this sort of thing has been an issue in our game for at least the past five years. Let us not forget when rapper, Jay-Z, mentioned lacrosse in a rap song. I found it somewhat confusing that the game of lacrosse was more offended that a multi-platinum rap artist referred to our game as “soft” yet minorities in our sport have so many stories of racial divide at the club, high school, and college level and there is no uproar. Please explain this to me. The reactions of the minorities that make up this game were simply our frustration reaching its tipping point. The disappointment comes more from the fact that besides an “apology,” WE as a community never addressed what transpired in either case.

I assume most of us watch sports regularly, or at some point during our week, and I ask of the game of lacrosse: If an NFL or NBA player outside of the demographic they represent says something racially insensitive that offends an entire group of people, are they labeled “brave” for apologizing? Athletes have lost endorsement deals for saying a whole lot less, yet lacrosse seems to be telling us this is acceptable behavior. With that being said, I ask the game of lacrosse:

Is our well-being not important to you?

How can the game truly “grow” if every group that represents it does not feel like their issues are properly addressed and/or handled?

Where do WE go from here as a sport?

Why do these stories not get more attention?

To my fellow Athletes: Are you silent because you are protecting your brand, or does this issue not affect you?

How do we ensure that these situations do no continue to happen, and if they do what is fair punishment for these actions?

                                                                                                       Until next time lacrosse,

                                                                                    Minorities in Lacrosse Leader, Jovan Miller

Hurricane Irma (9/9/17) 3pm

Hours before one the U.S. biggest hurricanes to record, I’m sitting here recollecting on…..everything.

The time for evacuation is over, and it is officially as they say “In God’s hands.” As human beings, we often like to believe that all things and circumstances happen at their appointed time for a greater purpose; I’m trying to figure that out right now. Continually in my life, I’ve always wondered why certain things in my life didn’t come easy. I never understood what my story would symbolize at it’s end, and with the actual possibility of my life being in jeopardy, I still have no answer.

With the approaching weather, one can only think about the unfinished bucket list of things they wanted to do. There are too many things on that list, some of them simple, others “pipe dreams,” but nonetheless realistic aspirations that all require one thing in common, Time. Very seldom in life does a man, or woman get the time to sit still and evaluate who they are, where they’re from and/or where they’re headed. At this moment, it feels like time is standing still; like I’m in a living purgatory. The time in life where optimism and reality have officially chosen to go for a coffee, and leave me here to speculate on what’s after “this.”

From the life I’ve had thus far, I’ve learned this about a person’s legacy: it’s not for the individual to exclaim who they are or what they attempted to be, but rather the impact to those around them whom shared their presence.

Once upon a time I used to think “scare tactics” didn’t work or rather that I never needed one because maybe I thought I was better than that; this past week has definitely been one of the most stressful weeks of my life and I’ll be eternally grateful to survive it. I look at the kids’ faces that I teach and find myself finally feeling like my pain had a purpose; the one thing I’d been looking for since I was 21. I don’t know how my story will end, but I do know it’s been quite the quest.

There are some things pending my survival that I’d like to accomplish:

– Getting married,

– Being a dad,

– Buying a house,

– Going to “El Clasico,”

– Winning the Nobel Peace Prize

– Be bilingual

– Do the “Running of the Bulls,”

– Other “pipe dreams”

But more than anything be the man I’ve always aspired to be. One of my biggest obstacles on this quest has been allowing the obstacle to control my circumstance. In the past few months, trying something different has helped significantly. Prayer only changes things when the person praying desires a change. I’ve been surrounded with good people, and more than anything, stability.

As I close, all I can say is that I’m not ready to die just yet. I understand that life and death are two things no man can escape, but at the present time, I have another 72 years before I’ll be okay with “kicking the bucket.” 🙏🏿

Adversity 

When you are at your lowest, most vulnerable point in life, how do you respond? It’s a question with an everchanging answer. With each year that passes, your perspective changes through experience. Although the trials and tribulations may vary, the feelings with every life lesson does  not change but the effects do. The late, great Muhammad Ali said that if you’re the same person you are today that you were 10 to 15 years ago, then you’ve wasted 10 to 15 years of your life. As much as we all desire merit for our accomplishments in life, it is sometimes the unspoken, internal victories that we should seek to achieve. Sports and life run that parallel like no other comparisons. Being able to bounce back after disappointment is the first step in learning the lesson of adversity. It is not enough just to find meaning in the positive results, but the self-awareness to re-evaluate one’s self daily to be the best for not only personal gain but for the benefit of those around. With every passing day take time to put your current state in life and your aspirations in perspective on how to get to where you want to go.

Legacy

It is human nature to protect certain parts of your life from the general public, but how conscious are you that those things can influence how you’re remembered?

When you die, what will they say about you?

I know this is not a normal thought, but at times I hope you consider it. I assume at one time or another, we have all unfortunately attended a funeral. It’s obviously not something that happens everyday, but when it does, there’s nothing that puts life in perspective like death. I only bring this up because of the self-awareness we all have towards our actions publicly. A lesson I learned at a young age was not to let someone tell my story for me. Although that is much easier said than done, I realized in my own life how careful you have to be when you know your reputation has nothing to do with what you think of yourself, but rather by those who surround you and coexist with you on the daily. What I question is why are we so conscious of how we’re perceived when its out of our control? There is a difference in what we present and who we actually are when no one is around.

Of all the things that come across my mind, one  made me think that if you were your “behind the scenes,” no one’s watching, authentic, real self, would you receive the same amount of respect or admiration by your peers, family and friends? Maya Angelou said:

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

When private matters become public and there is no hiding and no escape, how will you be remembered?

They say what’s in the dark eventually comes to light. If that’s true, can your darkness be hidden in a closest, or do you need a cave and how dark is it in there?

 

Now what?

Recently one of my best mates (friends, you’re welcome Nimz) came to visit me in America to see what life was like in my country. We had some great adventures , but more importantly some great, insightful conversations. One thing that we spoke about was the difference be being content versus being comfortable. I think of all the conversations we had driving many hours on the highways and byways, this conversation stuck out to me the most. This is why…

How many of us set a goal whether immediate or long-term, and fell short but are content with where we ended up?

How many of you are comfortable with the career you’re in only because it turned out not to “be so bad” but you had alternative, bigger goals that you may never reach because you don’t care enough to keep pursuing?

I know I’m not the only person who has ever aspired to achieve a high level of success in whatever I’ve chosen to pursue. Maybe once upon a time, we may have wanted to be a doctor, or a lawyer, or a high ranking government official; regardless of the desired occupation, we ultimately committed two things toward that goal: 1) Time and 2) Effort. Before we chose to pursue whatever our goal was, we took the time to look up what the job entailed as well as making an effort to speak with people familiar with the field. There are certain occupations that you literally look at and say “I want to do that” until you find out how much schooling it requires to do so. (To be a lawyer for example, bachelors, Masters, LSAT’s, Law School, Bar exam, then maybe a job opportunity. You’re officially a lawyer by 27 if that.)

The reason I wrote this blog in particular is for two demographics: The aspiring professionals in whatever field you choose, and to those former student athletes like myself who went into different “professional” backgrounds.

The reason this piece is called “Now What?” is simply to discuss what goes through one’s mind once they’ve achieved a long standing goal. To those who are not aware, I’m in the middle of a career hunt, not a “job hunt;” there’s a difference. Let’s be honest, most of my followers via Instagram, Facebook, etc. know me from my playing (lacrosse) days at Syracuse University. I had a tremendous career where I was a part of two National Championship teams (2008,2009) as well as being selected as All-American Midfielder twice (2010,2011) and I was blessed to be a part of a class that went down as the winningest class in school history.

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After my collegiate career concluded, I got drafted to play professionally (still am currently) and its amazing. However, when I was in high school I knew that by choosing to play lacrosse in college rather than football meant that the dream of a professional career would entail a ton of hard work which I was willing to do, but more importantly, a huge decrease in potential earnings.  I understand that my decision to pick lacrosse over football came with this set of circumstances, but I chose what I loved a tad bit more. I’m not here to say I regret my decision, but to be honest with you, I do think about how differently life would be for me had I chose football. You see in my case although I made it to be a professional, my bank account wouldn’t tell you that. After my 2012 MLL All-Star year, I definitely felt like I was on “Cloud 9,” but that platform is so finite that when its gone you almost forget you accomplished such feats. This is not to take a jab at the league that employs me, but rather to highlight a set of circumstances that come with the “profession” you choose.

For me, athletic accolades were always easier for me to achieve. As I continued to reach for goals on the field, I always captured them believing that in the long-run they would benefit me to a professional level. When I got to the pros I remember thinking, “That’s it?” as if in some way I had worked my whole life to be a professional athlete and the aftermath of it was wildly underwhelming. I’m 6 years deep, a regular in the lineup, but still broke, not because I mismanage my money, but because of the “profession” I chose. “Now What?”

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(2016 MLL finale, I’d be in England 2 weeks later finishing my dissertation)

As I briefly mentioned earlier, there were many occupations I thought about pursuing once upon a time. To name a few of these possible career paths (Don’t Laugh!), I wanted to be an astronaut, a pediatric surgeon, a veterinarian, or wait for it….a professional athlete (Now you can laugh…). Of these four examples, three were “pipe dreams.” not because I wasn’t smart enough (Back then I believed that), but simply because I wasn’t willing to put in the TIME and EFFORT necessary for those occupations. In my adolescent years, when the “Career Fair” came around, I would go just to go. As most adolescent teens, you think you know who you are (which you don’t) but more interestingly, what you want to do for a living. My thoughts in High School was:

What’s an education if I have a few million dollars in my bank account right?

I was always a B- student (Always have been) and I remember most of the time while I was in school, I was happy, or content, with a pass. I didn’t need to get an “A” just as long as I didn’t see a “D” or “F,” I was eligible to play sports. When I transferred to Christian Brothers Academy after my freshmen year in 2005, I was failing 4 out of 6 classes at one point there, not to mention one of the classes I was passing was Phys. Ed (and I had a 100, who saw that coming?). Because I had transferred I was not able to participate in Varsity sports that year, but if I was eligible, I would not have qualified academically anyway. My sophomore was the first and only time I had ever had to go to Summer School (which is the worst thing ever). Once I adjusted to the high academic standard of the school, I did fine (ish). To officially graduate from high school I had a Government class that was the death of me in which I needed a 69 on the final exam to pass, I got a 70. That was one of the scariest days of my life, but I passed…barely.

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(Christian Brothers Academy High School Graduation 2007)

There were many times where I didn’t feel smart enough, but I started to chase the feeling of relief of accomplishing something with my mind rather than my physical abilities. School was like a drug for me in the fact that the better I did, the more graduation receptions I would attend. I never thought I was smart enough to get one bachelors degree let alone two. I was always told that being a scholar looks really  good on your resume, so more school for me. I had once again reached another height I’d never thought possible, a Masters degree.

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(Syracuse University Graduation 2011 with Mr. Sparks , my 7th Grade Social Studies Teacher. This man saved my life.)

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(Queens University of Charlotte 2015, Bachelors Degree in Sport Management.)

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(Loughborough University (U.K.) 2016, Masters Degree in Sport Management.)

The conflict I face is that the environment in which I have experienced is sending mixed signals. On one side of the coin I’ve reached the pinnacle of an athlete’s experience, to play professionally and standing out in the process yet I don’t feel like a professional both financially and publicly (I’m A-OK with that, let me be very clear). While on the other hand, society stresses education and I have enough to contribute to a Sport Agency yet I continually am turned down for at least internships with these companies.

I love to play the game of lacrosse, not talk it 24/7. It’s something I respect enough to let be and not tamper with, but it’s something I know so much about. I see many of my talents as an opportunity for something so big that I’ll be overwhelmed by the doors they open up for me, but my biggest fear is choosing a career in which some of the things I do best are not put to use because the job description does not require some of those skills.

So the question now is:

“Now What?”

Choose a career path that I’m content with having because it pays the bills, or not settling for being comfortable in an occupation in which I’ll regret not taking that leap of faith to pursue my deepest desires in life?