Yes!!! Yes!!! That was the first thing to come to mind during the celebration of achievement. The thrill of being the first long-time Prospect resident to graduate from a 4-year university was finally a reality. I have always had my mind set on having millions and billions of dollars upon arrival to Charlottesville. Money was not the only factor though; upon arriving back home after graduation I thought of the opportunity to reconnect with my childhood friends and how good it would be to have them celebrate with me. I also thought of how much I missed home, and how great it would be to live the “old” but improved Charlottesville lifestyle. Old as in: great, fantastic, relaxed, safe, and last but not least, comfortable.
I must say I have always felt that Prospect was the safest place in the world for me. The improved C-Ville lifestyle recognizes, from my time at college, how much more there is to life, new confidence in what I’m capable of accomplishing, and a deeper sense of responsibility for myself and others. I thought that being back at home would be great; boy was I wrong. My first week back, I began to realize that Virginia State and Petersburg had become “home” to me and that I really missed being seen as capable, mature, and intelligent. As I started reconnecting with my childhood friends I soon realized that I had a lot less in common with many of them than I remembered. Some were still doing and participating in the things that I didn’t find fun or appropriate anymore. Some treated me as an outsider because of my college graduation. I’m thankful there are still a few guys that I’ve been able to reconnect with that don’t view me differently and that aren’t getting into things that I’d rather not. Still, it has been weird to feel lonely in my hometown; I feel betrayed and left out by many of my friends since coming back.
Shortly after graduation I learned that a job that I was counting on was no longer available since the company was going out of business. This, coupled with feeling like an outcast in my hometown, started to make me feel more and more stressed. I felt like a failure. My goal of being an example to the young men in my neighborhood was slipping away since I didn’t have a job lined up out of college. Things continued to get more stressful with having too much time on my hands by not working, and being around old negative influences. I almost lost my hopes, my goals, and myself in the process. I began to participate in things that my friends were doing. I lost focus and didn’t have the same drive to be successful. I really started missing Petersburg and the circles I was in there. My friends and professors there saw me as someone with abilities and talents. They would take my dreams seriously and their positive energy would encourage me instead of drag me down.
Knowing that I wanted to work with youth and be a positive example to kids in the community, I checked in with some old friends, Rydell and Richard at Abundant Life. Add sentence about growing up in Abundant Life programs. Rydell worked it out so that I could come on staff there. I had worked with Richard at Abundant Life when I was 18 and played on an adult basketball team with him when I was in high school. He was a big help as I talked about coming onto staff and as I shared with him some of my struggles. He explained that as humans, we have a lot on our plate the majority of the time and we have to handle these situations piece by piece, and God has given us other people we can trust to help us along on our journey.
Because of my involvement with Abundant Life in the past, I received a majority of the things that were missing upon returning home. Abundant Life introduced the opportunity to earn a living allowance, reconnect with some great childhood friends, gave me an everlasting sense of “home,” and gave me the chance to serve and be a positive role model for children in the same position that I was once in. Also, they seemed to be excited to have me; who wouldn’t?!?! It goes to show, “Positive motivation can rub off on others.” Through this process, I learned that it takes steps forward to reach your goal and the support of others. I believe you can get through any hardship that you are facing because faith heals all.