My first Thanksgiving was in 2010 where I was taken in by a Muslim family in Pennsylvania observing Eid.
In 2011, I stayed with a dear friend in New Jersey where we prepared meals at a community centre.
This year, I spent some down time with my family in Florida.
When you go down there, you pay close attention to Dwayne and Ben! You really need to be reminded of what positive adult male role models look like. Those boys have worked hard all their lives – YOU THINK THEY ACT STUPID LIKE YOU?!
That’s my Mum going off at me over Skype for half an hour once she found out about what went down in Jamaica. It seems that I’ve lost my way a little. Lemme go back to my transition in starting over in Ohio. We’re coming up to five months since I took the plunge in my new position. Woah! While I love my role in helping develop these young people, I often struggle with the slower pace and social renunciation that can come with working within a university in a small town. I’ve gotten creative with keeping my mind stimulated though. I’m only a few episodes away from getting through the entire seven seasons of “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”! Nah but Buffy aside, I’m reading a whole lot more and even writing pieces like this to keep me occupied. After mulling it over with my Mum, we came to the conclusion that maybe I was sent to the Midwest for a reason and that’s to really settle down, reflect and learn how to bring some calmness into my life.
Well, that shit all flew out the window with my recent man down situation. My Mum ripped my head off all the way from Porirua [Why is it I’m still scared of her? I’m not scared of anyone in the universe except for her]. According to my mate’s analysis, what’s happening here is I’m a high energy person who’s not used to having this level of restraint on it so when I do get an opportunity to get out of Ohio and hang out with my old friends, I overcompensate and go 100% Beast Mode.
After having a full on weekend reuniting with everyone at Lehigh-Lafayette [with a self-enforced 30% Beast Mode limit], I flew down to Florida and took my Mum’s advice in really thinking about both Dwayne and Ben’s journeys.
If you’re Samoan then you’re related to ‘The Rock’. EVERYONE claims to be connected to him somehow. I remember telling a friend when I was 16 that our mothers were cousins but he laughed at me so I never told anyone after that. It wasn’t until 2009 when I made a trip to Miami that I would actually meet him for the first time while visiting my Aunty Ata and my childhood friend Kali who I grew up with in Porirua [she’s an amazing dancer who moved here with a performance group]. I was quite shy and if you know me, that RARELY happens – it wasn’t because I was a fan but because he’s one of those people whose very presence is striking.
For a more detailed account of Dwayne’s achievements in football, wrestling and tv/movies, you only have to type his name in Google. He’s killing the game at 40 with no signs of slowing down. Dwayne’s prominence today really boils down to his attitude and his support network that features his Mum at the top.
Over the last few years, my interactions with Dwayne have been intermittent but they’ve always been pleasant experiences. For me, that’s a reflection of his mother. She’s an upbeat person who loves to entertain and always speaks words of encouragement. Their relationship is one of a great love and respect which I liken to the relationship I have with my own mother. That’s what I admire about him the most – he really takes great care of her. Something the men in my family all have in common. What I also really like about him is that you’ll never find him acting a fool in the magazines. He always presents himself well in the public eye. There’s so many athletes, politicians, artists and actors involved in all types of scandal and spreading negative energy – it’s refreshing to see a Samoan with such a high profile constantly reinforcing positive values.
Then we have Ben. Ben and Dwayne are first cousins. I first met Ben this year when my Mum, my Aunty Tree and my best friend from Porirua, Tone, came to Lehigh for my graduation before heading down to Florida for a Caribbean cruise [oh wait, that’s right, me and Tone got bounced from the cruise part of the trip!]
Ben was a Navy SEAL for over 10 years and clocked up a Purple Heart and two Bronze Star Medals during his service. He’s been working closely with Dwayne and quickly building up his resume in the film industry. Ben’s a very likable guy. Witty but sensible. Married with two bright children and two French Bulldogs [my Mum calls them my surrogate brothers], he too takes great care of his family. When I looked at Ben this week, my Mum’s voice echoed in my head. Yes, he’s a positive adult male role model who’s worked hard his whole life. No, he doesn’t act stupid like me. I’m always thankful for my family and the opportunities they’ve afforded me but my Mum made sure that this Thanksgiving, I gave more consideration to behaving like I am. That means growing up and taking on more responsibility.
It’s been a big year for everyone in my Mum’s family. My Grandma’s passing is still affecting us all a great deal. I’ve also had to contend with some drama that resulted in severing a few ties for now but through it all, I’m blessed to have the continued support that I do. Make sure you surround yourself with people who have your best interests at heart otherwise you’re in for a draining existence. That might mean cutting individuals out of your life. Hopefully things blow over but if they don’t, it’s cool, you focus on the bonds that reaffirm what family and friends are about. I’m lucky to have my Mum and the crew back in New Zealand and also to have my aunty here in the US who makes sure I know family’s never far. THANKS! I’ve got a renewed confidence that I’m gonna keep growing from my time out here so fingers crossed! The challenge is on!
Oh and I bumped into Dennis Rodman’s random ass at the bar. Aye?