By Jamari Jordan
This past weekend, I helped guide 20+ accepted African American males around the University of Georgia through the Black Male Leadership Society’s GAAME (Georgia African American Male Experience) Weekend. I don’t know if any of those prospective students knew this, but I think I learned more from them this weekend than vice-versa.
When I saw them interacting amongst each other, I was brought back to when I was in their shoes, an over-excited high school senior anxious to leave home for the first time. When I first stepped foot at UGA, I just knew I was at home. Something about Athens just reminded me enough of Stone Mountain to keep me comfortable and new enough to energize me.
Three years ago, I didn’t second-guess taking that next step. I couldn’t wait to be on my own in college living life without my parents looking over my shoulder. This past weekend, those 20+ GAAME students reminded me of that same feeling again.
I volunteer during recruitment weekends like this and Georgia Daze just so I can get that feeling again. That feeling of living a dream. That feeling of innocence. That feeling of not being able to wait to turn the page to the next chapter of a book. Only this book is my life.
Before I came into UGA, I wrote myself a list of goals I wanted to accomplish before I graduated. Last week before I volunteered, I searched for it. After digging through shoeboxes and pounds of paper, I found the sticky note that had the list of goals.
Stay in contact with friends from high school
Get involved with clubs
Get into Grady
Make a documentary
Make new friends and experiences
Help someone else on their journey
I was surprised to find out that I accomplished most of those things. I talk to my friends from Stephenson just about everyday. I got involved with numerous clubs from Georgia Daze to SGA to BMLS, to even creating one of my own with ELITE. I got into Grady and that opened so many doors professionally.
I made a documentary about the enigma that is BUGA (by far, the best piece of work I’ve ever done). The friends that I have made in the past three years are interesting to say the least. From “personal” business owners, to a use car salesman, and even a future celebrity, my friends never give me a dull moment.
I will take my personal experiences at UGA with me for the rest of my life. My successes like ELITE and my failures like falling out with friends all help identify who I am as a person. I own my shortcomings and I embrace them.
Besides graduating, the two most important goals on this list are No. 6 and No. 7. I wanted to be truly happy for once in my life. I owed myself that. But, I owed it to myself even more to make sure I made other another person’s journey a little bit easier.
A passion of mine is helping/mentoring. I never had a mentor or a tangible, positive role model to look up to while maturing. So, I promised myself that I would be that for someone else. All I ever wanted was to make someone worry a little less. I might have been too aggressive or critical doing so, but I like to think I’ve made someone else’s journey a little bit easier.
Now, all that is left is No. 8, Graduate. It is so hard to believe that I have been here for three years. I have so many memories. From the UGA16 meet-up in Atlantic Station, to the Kendrick Lamar concert, to the constant, shady nights on Twitter, UGA has been the best home I’ve ever had. I’ve grown so much in just this small span of time.
Three years ago, I couldn’t wait to get to Athens. Now, I’m a little apprehensive to leave. I delayed my graduation from December to May just so I could get a little more time at home (and get Sallie Mae out my DMs).
I wasn’t afraid to come to UGA because I knew I had a safety net with family and friends. I always knew this was a four year field trip. But, I never thought what would happen when the field trip was over.
Now, there is no safety net. I’m about to be on my own in the real world. While this may be foreign territory, I feel like I know what I’ve gotten myself into (at least I hope so).
Being around those students this weekend, I feel like my journey is coming full circle. I was once right in there position. A position I wish sometimes I was still in. I told them don’t be afraid to dream.
“Don’t be afraid to go out on a ledge by yourself. There comes a time where you have to do certain things for yourself. Don’t be afraid. Embrace that moment.”
I thought I was talking to prospective students, but I guess I was really just talking to myself. I have accomplished everything I wanted to do at UGA. Now, comes the waiting game. The countdown clock has a little over 365 days on it.
My next goal? Just to enjoy this next year and live life. Because on May 8 2016, it will be time for me to take that next step. And I’m not scared. I’m embracing it.