I’ve always had swagger! No, not cockiness, but swagger. It wasn’t always called “swagger,” but I had it. My “personality” was one that wouldn’t exclude me from many groups. I never was aggressive or loud, but I could impress others enough where they wouldn’t mind being in my company. I never had to worry about being in the “in” crowd ’cause I was normally part of it; and if I wasn’t, that “in” crowd just saw me as an individual who wasn’t in their group, not someone of a lower echelon.
You have to respect swagger, ’cause if you don’t you begin to lack humility and you start to exhibit hubris—swagger becomes “swagga.”*I paid no attention to the genuine love I received from people liking my character, and I embraced the swagga that caused me to devolve a bit. Fortunately, I didn’t lose friends because of this, but I lost something else precious.
My friends and family loved me for who I was, not what I could do. I didn’t understand this. I was emblematic of egotistical persons that become “full of themselves.” I began to accrue respect from the streets, and this further enlivened my swagga. I revelled in this false adulation, not realizing that the streets nor individuals outside my realm cared nothing about me.
I went to Dobbins High School, and by then my legend had reached a crescendo—at least in my eyes I was legendary. I had already disavowed the traits that TRULY made me a lovable person, and in doing so I could’ve garnered an ugly personification.
One day my English teacher, Ms. Cohen, decided to call me out in the middle of class.
“Yesterday one of our students was shot during a robbery. Vern, I see you out on that corner, and the same thing will happen to you if you don’t change.”
Damn! In front of the whole class?!
Instead of being ashamed, I felt slightly invigorated. I was just acknowledged as one of the cats who was known to brave the mean streets! Yeah! Forget her! She inadvertently gave me my props and she was wrong. I didn’t…get shot…not dead. Or…did I?*I didn’t get shot, nor am I dead. I’ve lost a lot, though. If this is not death, it’s surely a continual near-death experience. Why did I write this story? Well, I just wanted to talk about misplaced ideologies and priorities.
I don’t think many of you have made a decision that was as detrimental as A FEW of the decisions I’ve made, but some of our actions can be revisited from time to time.
I was mainly talking about following things that had no REAL meaning. We all remember Ving Rhames’ character in “Baby Boy” when he talked about the “guns and butter.” But too often we chase things of little value, or as Ving Rhames said, “Things that depreciate” with time. I’m not necessarily talking about just material things, even though y’all know we’ve been falling for that trick since way back when—have to get that name brand and keep up with the Joneses!
I’m mainly talking about our focus on each other, family, and friends. Let me make this clear, I AM NOT A PREACHER, nor do I profess to know what ails you. I DO have a lot of time to think—too much time—and I think about mistakes that have been made. How can I right wrongs. Who can I stop from making the same mistakes? That’s my aim, to somehow give back to those I love and others.
That stuff I loved from the streets, it was all a facade. Honestly, I detest all of it now. To top it all off, I put effort into an entity that had no concern for me, and I paid for it dearly. All the time I could’ve concentrated on something as precious as y’all; my reward would have been much greater. The fruits of my labor would have been an appreciation in value!
We all love money, nice things, and our own “vices.” But take time to really understand the things you are putting stock into. Make sure it is something of true worth that will grow in value and be beneficial to more than just your immediate appetite. JUST sating your appetite is selfish and can hurt later on.
Look for bigger pictures, not smaller portraits.