Boston, Massachusetts is a special place to me because it’s where I grew up. It’s where my roots began to sprout. It’s where my base is. And it’s where I find strength. Like I get to travel all over the world, but there’s one place I go to, that reminds me of where I came from and who I am. And there’s a strength in being aware of where you came from and who you are. So coming to Boston, coming to Massachusetts and getting that reminder is life to me.
So the place where I was born was Chicago, Illinois, and I spent my, you know, pre-K and kindergarten years in Chicago and I was surrounded by family. It was a very black community. I was born into a community of like lots of family around, my entire family is in Chicago and just was used to that environment.
And I remember moving to Massachusetts, moving to Boston. I moved to a place called Waltham, which is in greater Boston. And it was a huge culture shock. It was the first time I was not around family. There were no cousins, aunts, uncles, my grandparents, and I was introduced to white culture for the first time. And even at that young age,
I was aware that it was different. I wasn’t really aware of discrimination at that time, but I was aware that like the rules of the world had just changed and I had to sort out what this new world was. It was scary. It was nerve wracking and it was hard. But that’s when it started for me to realize like the world is,
different in different places. And the transition from Chicago to Boston was hard and it was scary, but it’s now just a part of my story. So I moved to this house when I was 12 years old, I was going into my freshman year of high school. And it was a time in my life I was lost and I was struggling.
And there was a lot going on and my childhood was so hectic. And when we were moving all the boxes in, I heard a basketball being dribbled. So we got all moved in. I was here with my mother and my two brothers, my older brother, my younger brother, nervous about high school. I heard basketball dribbling. And I was so disappointed cause like, I don’t know anybody. It’s going to be a boring summer. We got done moving in I walked down there and I see Kyle playing basketball. And I knew Kyle from sports around, but I didn’t really know him. So the last day of school, I go find him. I’m like, ‘Hey, you walking home?’ He’s like, ‘yeah, why?’ ‘I’ll walk with you.’ And he’s like, ‘Why?’ I was like, ‘I live in your neighborhood now!’ The entire walk. He’s like, ‘No, you don’t.’ Like I’m for real. ‘I didn’t believe him.’ When we got to the house I showed…
It’s a pretty close knit neighborhood. You kind of know if somebody is moving in and out so… but when you’re poor and you’re moving in an escort, like you don’t see, you don’t see a U-haul or anything. And we get to the place, I’m like, ‘come on up.’ He comes up, literally spent the next four years hanging out.
I’m upstairs trying to sleep and he’s snoring so loud, it just was unbelievable. What’s the first time you found out that he snored that loud? Old Orchard Beach. Oh yeah, we took him on vacation with us. We made the mistake of taking him on vacation with us. Don’t call it a mistake.
This is like family to me. Like these people, I lived down the street, which we’re going to walk to in a minute. And my childhood was so hectic and crazy. They were just like, anytime you need anything, come here. And just over time we became so close. So when they got this room,
everyone put their hand prints on there and I was here and I was like, whatever. And they were like, look, you’re family put your hand up here. There’s my hand prints. She says, she’s never going to paint this room. And it’s, this is my sense of belonging. This is my, yeah, it was my home base.
Getting that level of acceptance and that level of brotherhood and that level of bonding from someone like outside of my family and being like accepted into his family was life changing. It made the transition easier. It made me have a sense of belonging. It made me, it started helping myself self esteem because it’s like, if he likes and loves me and wants to hang out with me and spend time with me, then it must mean there’s like something good about me. And that was a time in my life when I really needed that.
And it really helped that cultural transition. Kyle’s white, Irish Catholic from Boston and I was black and I was religious. But in my community, we don’t really think of religion in terms of like specific silos. And, he became so important in my life and I don’t know where I’d be without him. I don’t know where I’d be without his family. And I don’t know where I’d be without those relationships that happened at a crucial time in my life.
So I want to take you. I want to show you where some of the most difficult things in my life happen, but first I want to tell you why this house is important in my journey and how this puzzle piece fits in the journey of my life. When I was a kid, we lived with my mom throughout my entire childhood. And my father often lived in Boston. That’s where his jobs were. And when I was late in high school, like my junior year in high school,
my dad wanted to be closer to us. So he moved into this place from here and I felt bad that my father was here by himself and me and my two brothers were on the other side of town living with my mom. So I agreed to move in with my dad. And that was probably the hardest. It was the beginning of a very hard segment of my life.
That was the beginning of a very, very difficult journey. And some of the most difficult moments of my life happened here. For years Adam and I have been talking about the power of language because when you ask people detailed questions, it takes them back to a place in their life or projects them forward to a place in their life. And the strangest thing happened,
like when we drove up the street, I literally turned the corner and got hit with this wave of anxiety. And the specifics of some really difficult experiences hit me in a way that I hadn’t expected and some of the things I hadn’t thought about. And that’s important for us to remember as Solution Focused Therapists, because when we ask people questions, it takes them places.
So take them to places where they want to be or highlight things that they want to have highlighted. Like, don’t ask me what happened in this house. I don’t want to talk to you about it, but ask me how I survived it, ask me how I got through it, ask me how I managed it, but don’t ask me what happened here. It’s too painful.
The physical and verbal abuse that I endured as a child was so significant that I had really serious thoughts of ending my life. And in fact, like back in those days, when I lived here in Franklin, there were really two fast food restaurants. And as a kid, you loved fast food. There was a McDonald’s, there was a burger king.
And then one day I was driving with my, with my mom along this road. And I saw they were building a taco bell and everybody around got super excited. Like we’re going to get a Taco Bell back then there was no Mexican food. You could get like, Taco Bell was a big deal. It was going to be a huge thing that we’re going to have this Taco Bell.
And while it was under construction, I had this intense sadness that I didn’t think I’d be alive to see the Taco Bell open. I didn’t think I’d be alive to like have Taco Bell. Of course I survived. I made it through. And now I have a habit of going to where the Taco Bell was. The Taco Bell is now moved down the street and now what’s in its place is a Chipotle. For years,
I would come here and I’d go into Taco Bell and I would order something just to like remind myself that I made it, like I got through those difficult times. And now to this day, even though it’s not a Taco Bell, I still go to the same spot and I go in and sometimes I’m hungry and I’ll have a meal.
And other times I’ll just have a glass of water, but I go here every time just to make sure that I can like remind myself that I made it like, it’s like my own ritual to remind myself that anybody can get through anything.
So this, this baseball field is really special to me because I think this is where I started to build a healthy level of self-esteem and, and a level of confidence that let me know I could accomplish goals. You know, baseball saved me when I was a kid. Baseball was a really big part of my life. It connected me to friends that I still have to this day, including Kyle and his amazing family. But the other thing baseball did was it was the first thing that I knew I was really good at.
And things that you’re good at. Like people can’t take from you, like they belong to you. It was the first goal I ever had. Like I played at this field when I was 11. I was 12 years old, 11 years old was kind of my first year of like, you know, taking baseball seriously, or at least as serious as an 11 year old could.
And back then, like the goal of the season was to make the All-Star team. So we played like 22 games in the spring and everybody made the All-Star team. You spent the whole summer traveling. And I wanted to be on that summer travel team when I was 11 and I didn’t make it. And I remember walking down to this field and I was watching the All-Star team play.
And I was so like disappointed and angry. I mean, not angry at anyone. I didn’t feel like I was cheated or anything. I just wanted to be on the team real bad. So it’s like, I’m going to be on that team the next year. Like I’m going to be on the All-Star team the next year. And the next year I led the entire league and batting average home runs RBI’s.
And I led my team to the town championship and I was not selected to the All-Star team. And I felt completely like it was stolen from me. They made me an alternate on the All-Star team and I felt robbed. And I was so disappointed. You know, it was a 12 year old kid and I was just completely devastated. Like I felt robbed.
One of the coaches came to my house and admitted there were some shenanigans based upon me being like the only black kid and just lots of stuff. His name was Mr. Taylor. He came to my house and he had an open conversation with me and my mom. And I remember thinking like, never again, like I’m going to leave no doubt. And for the rest of my childhood, I, I was just so like determined to achieve every athletic goal that I had. I think that was the building block for my work ethic. Like I I’m going to work so hard that no one will ever be able to take something away from me that I had earned.
And it sticks with me to this day, like that confidence that started building as an 11, 12 year old kid, that like, I could do this thing and I can do this thing really well. And that work ethic that came from having that All-Star experience removed from me when I was 12. It still sticks with me to this day.
Like I think, I think hard work is the only variable on the pathway of success that you can control. So when I had that experience, I was I’m going to work harder than someone’s ability to take something away from me. And every time I come to this field, I think about the gift that youth baseball gave me when I was 11 and 12 years old, because it was, those lessons are still, are still with me today. Like I have positive memories. I could hit my first home run on this field. Like never forget it went over left center field. I hit it off a kid named Mark Tossi. I can remember hitting scoring game winning runs. I remember pitching on that, on, on that bay.
I remember stealing second base. I played center field and I remember making diving catches and all the things that that I could do, but I didn’t, I didn’t realize the confidence that was being built. It was the first thing in my life that I was ever good at ever had a talent for. And that confidence is with me to this day. Cause I believe I can accomplish anything. And the building blocks of that belief started here.
So I think confidence is one of the most important traits that a human can develop. Like the confidence of knowing you can get through a hard thing or you can accomplish a difficult thing. And for me, my journey from completely like just no self-esteem at all towards having supreme confidence started right here.
I think good history is good because you get to be nostalgic and you get to go revisit things like on this trip to Boston I’ve had some of my team here with me and we’ve gone to some of my favorite places to visit my favorite food places. Like gone to places where really positive, wonderful things happen. But we also visited some places which really hard things happen.
I took my team to the home I lived in when I experienced some of the most traumatic things in my life. But even those are good because I get to look at those places and remember I’m not there anymore. And remember, I’m not in that space anymore. And remember that I’ve come from that and gone to this. So, so the difference between like good history and bad history is
kind of not important because they all teach you where you’ve been. We’re going in, and they all are reminders that you’ve gotten through things and achieved greatness. When you’re working with clients, history is so important because evidence of their greatness, their resilience, their toughness, their strength, it is all in the past. In Solution Focused Brief Therapy there’s always been this complete misrepresentation that we’re only interested in the future and that’s not true. To ignore someone’s past is to ignore evidence of their greatness.
So we have to develop the ability of going backwards in time, because that’s where people show how amazing they are. I honestly believe I’m a very strong person. And the only way I can communicate that to you is to tell you what I’ve been through. I can’t really communicate to you how strong I am if just by telling where I’m going, the only way you can be aware of my strength is if you knew where I’ve been.
So we can’t ignore client’s past because that’s where evidence of their resilience, their strength and their greatness is. And if Psychotherapy could do one thing, it should be to remind people how amazing they are, how strong they are, how great they are, and that will provide hope for what they’re capable of accomplishing in the future. So the past is important because that’s where the evidence lives.
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