Dear Dad, Mom, Marcus, and Alex,
I’ve called you guys. I’ve emailed. I’ve texted. I’ve posted Facebook statuses. I’ve tweeted. But there just are not enough outlets for me to express the love that I have for you guys. We’ve been through some stuff, us Allens. (Yeah. I know. Allen isn’t as awesome a last name as Huxtable but it is what it is.) Through it all, we get stronger. We get closer.
I took my final final exam of my undergraduate career earlier today. So that explains my current sentimental mood. As I left that building and headed back to my room to figure out what to do with all this newfound free time, it hit me. Now I never walked around thinking I did it by myself. But I never really stopped to think about how I got here. My ambition coupled with God’s grace were some key factors there. But let’s not forget about the reason I am who I am: you guys.
Now this could easily be a letter to just my parents. But Marcus and Alex, you guys had a HUGE role in who I am, too. Have. You have a huge role in who I am. Marcus, you’re the oldest. Watching you have a dream since you were a little kid and doing everything in your power to see that dream come to fruition was nothing short of inspiring. When your goals changed even after you were handed that initial dream fully paid for and you took the road less traveled to do what you really wanted, you changed my life. You could have stayed on course and probably ended up super successful in that field as well, but you deviated. Deviation was never my strong point, and I admire that in you.
I’ve mentioned this to you before but maybe never with this intensity. You’re the reason I never worry when things don’t go my way. At the end of the day, the security net I have in you and the rest of the family dwarfs any fear I may have of failure. There are things you do that have seemingly nothing to do with me but still leave me thankful. For example: thanks for marrying the love of your life, Amber. She’s the sister I never had and having her in my life has been a dope addition as well. Seeing you live your life the way you do: bold, unafraid, stubborn tenacious, has encouraged me to go after my dreams no matter what. Watching you graduate, get your first apartment, buy your first car, and get married has shown me how to mature and how to grow. Thanks for being an amazing role model even when you didn’t know it.
Alex, oh Alex. Our relationship is hilarious. We moved around a bit as kids but I was never afraid of a new school. Why? Because it didn’t matter if we were at a new school in Virginia, Maryland, or North Carolina. I would always be able to eat lunch with my best friend. You. Remember that one time I snitched on you to mom and dad about something or another? Doesn’t matter. I do. I remember how you looked when that happened. Betrayed. And since then I knew I never wanted to jeopardize our bond. We’ve always had each other’s back no matter what. We didn’t even need to know all the details to know that no matter what, family comes first.
I always joke that Marcus is the older brother due to our age difference but you’re more like my best friend. And while you both know how much I love you guys I think that somewhat undermines the role you’ve played in my life. I look up to you. I’ve watched you grow as a person and it’s been amazing. You’re one of the most focused and determined people I’ve ever met. What I admire most about you is your humble moves. You quietly take over the world. You don’t make huge announcements that you’re about to change the game. You just do. You follow your own path and you always have. You’re brilliant, by the way. People always labeled me the smart one of us three (Marcus the all-American jock/Class President/Homecoming King/token Black guy of the year, and you the cool one) but that’s just because I was socially awkward so they had to give me a win. But you showed me you could be smart AND cool. You introduced me to greek life. You also taught me a lot about what I should and should not stand for in relationships. Thanks bro.
Mom and Dad, separate paragraphs are pointless. That’s one thing I appreciate about you guys. You’ve always been a united front. On every issue. I used to watch shows as a kid and whenever kids wanted to get what they wanted they tried the old “Ask dad first and if he says no ask mom” routine. That never worked. I stopped trying after the second time. I think you guys have telepathy. I remember when Marcus, Alex, and I were mad young. I was maybe 7 you guys asked what we wanted to be. I said Psychologist. Dad and his super annoying lovely excel spreadsheets then plotted a plan for us to get to that point. He worked backward.
“You want to be a psychologist? Ok you need to go to grad school. Which means college. Which means graduating high school. If you want to get into a good school you need to have the highest GPA and a competitive academic workload. That means taking advanced classes as early as middle school.”
You know what? We did just that. With some tweaking here and there, you guys kept us on track. You went to book stores and got us books in the fields of our passion and made us work all summer. Remember when we were all talking sometime around Alex’s graduation and we found out that Marcus, Alex, and I all took on Africana/African-American Studies as our minors? While it wasn’t planned among the three of us, that also wasn’t an accident. You guys instilled us since day one the importance and honor of being Black. Being Black was never a bad thing. I was genuinely confused as to how anyone could dislike Black people (but not ignorant to the reality). You never created a “them vs. us” mentality in me, either. And I appreciate that. Surrounded by Black barbies, Black paintings, movies and TV shows with Black actors, and then you two as my ultimate role models, how could we not come to love our people?
I say all this to say that as Black parents in America, the media might be saying that it’s hopeless. Black sons and daughters aren’t graduating high school. They’re not even making it 18. They can walk down the street, skittles and tea in hand, and be shot with no regard. But with odds against us, and you as parents, you put three amazing children through college. You made us independent thinkers. Question askers. Authority challengers. Change makers. I’m forever thankful for that. I’ve always respected you guys. Raised in a Black home, there really wasn’t room for any other option. But the admiration I have for you guys was built over the years. I know Marcus and Alex agree.
To this day I don’t know how you guys woke up everyday, worked out, commuted to and from DC, made dinner, cut the grass, ate dinner every night at a table with us, and still had the energy to help us with our homework. But wait! Then, after all that, you volunteered in city elections at polling places. You were on countless church committees. You made every parent/teacher conference. You made every Christmas and Birthday memorable. Honestly, if I’m a quarter the parent you guys are, my future, currently non-existent, please don’t read into this, kid will be super lucky.
So to my dad, mom, and older brothers, thanks. Thanks for making me who I am today. Thanks for always challenging me and loving me. I can’t wait to see what we do in the future. I know we’re gonna be great. We don’t really have a choice. We’re Allens.