Pillars of Support

In a previous blog, Finding Hidden Value: People Assets, I talked about the value of people who enrich our lives. In my post, Ties that Bind, I spoke about how no matter our differences – ethnic, cultural, racial, religious – there is a tie that binds like a thread that runs through the fabric of humanity. Usually we find that connecting thread when we commune around a table.
For me, my family and circle of friends have been a pillar of support. In the civil rights movement, it was said that we stand on the shoulders of those that have come before us. Those that sacrificed, bleed, and died for freedom/liberties they could never attain in a “separate but equal” society, but hoped their future generations would enjoy. My parents sacrificed so that I might have a better life than they had. In my post, My Mom – She Stoops to Conquer, I reminded my nieces and nephews of her sacrifices so that their mom and I would be strong women. Where my parents were unable to provide guidance, I was fortunate to have mentors that became friends, who came along side me to help navigate college and professional life.
Everywhere I’ve lived, I have been favored with meeting people from all walks of life and cultures that have enriched me and become part of my larger collective family. Like salt, they add flavor and seasoning to my life, opening windows to the world unknown to me before. In order for me to be fearless and feel at home wherever I live, I need to assembly my new local family – pillars of support, encouragement, and blunt honesty to keep me true to who I am.
I guess that is why the transition to NYC was so hard. A couple of weeks ago in Sunday Service, the minister quoted from an article in the NY Times about busy-ness, titled “The Busy Trap” by Tim Kreider. In it, Kreider echoes my biggest critique about living in NYC. He states: “Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day.  I once knew a woman who interned at a magazine where she wasn’t allowed to take lunch hours out, lest she be urgently needed for some reason. This was an entertainment magazine whose raison d’être was obviated when “menu” buttons appeared on remotes, so it’s hard to see this pretense of indispensability as anything other than a form of institutional self-delusion. ”
I discussed this with a native New Yorker when I said I felt that New Yorkers don’t maintain meaningful relationships because everyone is “busy.” He replied, “faux busy.” New Yorkers have “FOMO” – fear of missing out – so everyone swears that what they are doing is the best and you’ve missed out on the event of the year. I’m a Midwesterner and a cynic. My take, if it was really the event of the year, then how did you get in? Seriously. Exclusivity is the hallmark of a premier event in NYC and if anyone was allowed in it could not be that great. What ?! I’m calling it like I see it. To say you have nothing to do here is like saying you’re poor. How pedestrian and quaint. I miss the joy of a lazy day in the Midwest. A day where you do nothing and just take in life, be it a stroll along Lake Michigan, sitting in the park, or just vegging out for a day – no phone no electronics. To say that here is like death – slothful slacker thou art! In the city that never sleeps, competition is insane, and who you know matters more than what you know. New Yorkers don’t like it when I say this but at least in LA people were real about their superficial ways. Here New Yorkers don’t want to be called “Hollywood” but they can be as shallow or more, but because they are involved in “good” works it negates the shallow pretentiousness. Oops – not making friends today having a Rachel Shteir moment in the reverse (Poor Chicago Indeed).
Here I struggled to find and cultivate meaningful relationships. I met a lot of people, good networking, but it took forever before I met someone that would call and check on me, ask me how I was doing and actually wait and listen for my response. Jeta was my first friend in NY. Her global background and perspective was exactly what I needed. We took each other to task. We’d allow the other to wallow in disappointment for a moment then kick each other in the rear to make NYC know that we’re here and ready to scratch our initials in its DNA – a statement from my website www.ronda-lee.com.
At the beginning of this year, I added to my NY pillar of support. I met a group of professionals through church that are passionate about their careers, life, and committed to making a difference in their local community. My Tuesday Night Group was as diverse culturally as it was professionally – lawyer, PR rep, finance, psychologist, chemist, nonprofit, social worker, technology, artist. We came from different ethnicities and cultures throughout the US and globally. As we gathered to discuss life, our goals, and celebrate milestones, we ate a communal meal. It was that bonding that allowed barriers to fall and made way for acceptance that our individual talents had a bigger impact as a group.
The strength of my collective family units was evident when I wrote That Thing Called Love. From LA, Chicago, Dallas, NY and Europe, I received emails of support and admonishment to give love a chance by forgoing my pride and apologizing. My Tuesday Night group already picked up on my vulnerability “issues” in our short time together. It was so encouraging. All of my family groups told me the truth in love so when they chastised me for running and sabotaging the relationship, instead of being upset, I humbled myself to the wisdom of those that cared deeply for my well being. The words were expressed differently depending on gender and culture, but the sentiment was still the same. They loved me and wanted me to be a whole person not just professionally but also in my personal life.
That is the strength of my pillars of support. They not only function as a pep squad cheering me along my dream chasing journey, they also pull me aside and give me tough love reality checks when I’m wandering on a path that isn’t healthy for me mentally, emotionally, physically or spiritually. The pillars are strong enough to administer both love and criticism without destroying the foundation of our relationship.
Right now, I’m finally starting to feel like NYC is home because I have established my NY family. The dream chasing for a literary agent and getting published continues, but at least I’m not alone. Until now, I used to tell my Chicago friends that NY would be perfect if they moved here too. Now my Chicago pillars can breathe easy knowing a NY foundation has been laid. They don’t have to relocate to NY, just visit and swap stories with my NY crew on Ronda-isms – the good bad and the ugly they have yet to experience. Thank goodness the pillars are strong!
Plus, I am moving into a new apartment, big enough for me to cook and have people over. Nothing says family to me more than a Sunday dinner around the table with people shuffling in and out of the kitchen sampling food before it’s ready, and a little music (preferably blues) in the background. Rent will kill me but at least like Dorothy in The Wiz (Broadway version with Stephanie Mills), I’ll be home.
(When I think of home)
My friends smilin down on me
Givin me their energy, oh
(When I think of home)
I think of a peaceful world and joy
All around me, yeah
(When I think of home)
And love that we share can never
Never, ever be taken away from me, yeah, yeah, yeah
(When I think of home)
I just sit down and think
And gets on down in my bone, bone, yeah
(When I think of home)
I can hear my friends tellin me 
Ronda Lee
Founder, Editor-in-Chief
Ronda is an attorney, writer, and entrepreneur. She is a contributing writer for the Huffington Post. Originally from Chicago, she has lived in Los Angeles and New York. She loves to travel and is passionate about education equity, especially for first generation college students.