Tag Archives: Chicago

To be Somebody’s Inspiration

We all have people who we look up to, who we view as our heroes and those who inspire us in one way or another. But to be told by somebody that you are their inspiration is a feeling that I cannot describe. This is a feeling that I had recently.

I look up to many people in my life, mostly political figures and those who stood up for equality and tried hard to pave the way for a more equal and just society. People such as; JFK, Malcolm X, and Barack Obama. And of course there was my mother who struggled to raise her three children and taught me to never back down , never give up, and never let anybody push you around. She also showed me a lot of tips and tricks to save money for we were far from rich, and I’m still far from it. But recently, a good friend of mine told me that I was his inspiration.

I have known this friend for some time now, he lives in Chicago and I met him when I worked in retail throughout college. We worked in the same department and became good friends. He eventually went onto a different job while I stayed but we kept in touch. One day he came into the store and we began talking. I told him that once I had graduated with my Bachelor’s, I was moving to California. It’s no mystery if you’ve read some of my blogs from last year that I left Chicago with nothing but my clothes and the few belongings I owned and made the nearly 3,000 mile drive. I didn’t even have a job lined up, I just had my dreams and my goals, and the faith that the Devas would guide me in the right direction.

Recently, I got a hold of this friend and I asked him how things were with him. He said that they were alright but he was hoping to get a different job. His dream, he told me was to coach basketball at some level and eventually coach in the NBA. I told him that he could achieve that goal so long as he was willing to work towards it and never gives up. He then told me that I have always been an inspiration to him. I told him that I was touched, and this was his explanation.

He said that when we first met, I had nothing, I was working long hours for low pay, dealing with my mother’s alcoholic boyfriend at the time, going to school full time, taking on all of these hard classes and working on all of these long and extensive papers and projects and holding so many internships. He said that when things weren’t looking up and even when he knew I was down, I always looked ahead. He continued to say, when there was little opportunity in Chicago or in the state of Illinois in general, you weren’t afraid to take that risk and move across the country to seek opportunity and to follow your dreams. I told him that I was working in private security and still working towards my goal of being a published author as well as my political endeavors and looking into graduate school in the next year or so. He said, “See, always fighting and never giving up.”

To hear these words from a friend, from anybody in general are truly touching and for them to be said of me, somebody who came from nothing, watched his mother struggle to get by, was picked on and bullied and told that his dreams and his goals were stupid and that they would never come true, even by those in his own family, to be told that I inspire someone truly touches the heart.

As I go forth and continue to chase down and capture all of my dreams, I’m sure I will inspire many more before my time on this earth passes, like my heroes and my mom did me. And for it, I don’t want nor do I need gratitude, knowing that I inspired you to never give up and never give in without a fight, or to not be afraid of taking risks and making sacrifices to make your dreams and your goals come true, is worth more than all of the wealth in the world. As the saying goes, “One person can make a difference in the world.” That one person can be you as a result of your actions, or the both of us inspiring each other to always move forward.

My Four Life Rules

  1. Never give up.
  2. Sacrifice everything or accomplish nothing.
  3. Remember that there is no progress without struggle and sacrifice.
  4. Never dwell in the past, doing so will only wear you down. Always look ahead.
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When you take chances, things change

It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog. The last time I posted one was after the Cubs had won the World Series. It’s not that I’ve been lazy or not interested, I’ve been busy. Recently, I’ve gotten into a new job, moved into a new apartment and have been gathering furniture and the home essentials. With all of this going on, I have began to realize how much your plans can change when you take a chance and sacrifice everything in order to accomplish your dreams.

Back in July I wrote several blogs, which I hope you will go back and read about my decision to pick up everything and leave Chicago for California. When I first got to California, I was staying with a friend who was helping me get on my feet and helped me get the job that I now have in private security. As these months have gone by, I’ve realized that my priorities have changed. The plan was to work for a while, get into graduate school and get my PhD. in Political Science, but now after much thought I have realized that this is not the best path forward to reach my ultimate goal. In fact I realized that my original plan before I decided to get my PhD. is the best way to go and that is becoming a probation officer. And California is the perfect place to do that.

Back in Illinois, they’re firing state workers left and right because the governor and the lawmakers can’t agree on a budget and the state is the definition of broke. In California, the state is in much better condition has a balanced budget and is looking for people to go into law enforcement and probation. Now when I first went back to college, it was my intention to graduate and become a probation before I changed my mind, now I’m back to being a probation officer. The reasons for this are as follows; one, I want to make a difference in the world and helping people stay on the track as their probation officer is most certainly a good way to make that difference. Two; my background in social justice will allow me to offer alternatives other than jail and severe punishment to those under my supervision and to the courts, and since California has began experimenting with alternatives to mass incarceration, the system is barking right up my tree. And three; being a probation officer will allow me to make connections with high ranking individuals, judges etc. that will pave the road for my political career. A Master’s degree however; is still certainly in the picture.

There was a time when I said that I would never leave Chicago, then one day after realizing how little opportunity there was there and in the state of Illinois, I decided to take the offer my friend had put on the table and it has been a good decision. And this experience has taught me one thing; that no matter how much we honor our roots and no how matter how much we  love where we come from, sometimes we need to pull up our stakes and try out new places. It may be a blessing as it has been for me, or it may be a disaster, but you never know unless you try. I can honestly say that after being in California for only five months, I have found opportunities and advantages that I did not have in Illinois and for the first time ever, I can see a clear path towards my goals.

When you take chances, things change. Your plans and ideas change. Your path to your goals and your dreams and the path to the destiny you have set forth for yourself changes. Taking chances might seem like a scary thing, but I can tell you from first hand experience that they may very well can be a blessing. One of the most important things to remember is that no matter what you believe, everything happens for a reason. The leaf falls from the tree for a reason. The bee pollinates the flower for a reason, and you end up in different places for a reason. So fear not when it comes to taking chances or embracing big changes in your life, it’s happening for a reason and it’s best not to fight it.

If you’re not a Cubs fan, you won’t understand

You don’t have to be a baseball fan to know that it’s been 108 years since the Chicago Cubs have won a World Series. It is also common knowledge that it’s been 71 years since the Cubs have even made it to baseball’s biggest game. You can blame silly curses and this and that, but whatever the reason was, this year, they made it. For those of us who are Cubs fans, this is the biggest thing ever! Of course it happens after I leave Chicago, but at least it happened.

The talk last night among Cubs fans was about all of those generations of fans who hoped year after year to see the their team win it all, but they didn’t and those fans are no longer with us and will not be seeing this historic moment. The talk was about the great players who have come and gone over the years, Hall of Fame inductees like Ron Santo and Ernie Banks who never got to play in the World Series wearing a Cubs uniform. I was reminded of my grandfather who is no longer with us. He once told me a story about how during 1945 while in the Navy and stationed in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, him and several other men who were from Chicago got up in the early hours of the morning while it was evening in Chicago. They were exhausted from battle but hoped that the Cubs would be champions, but they came up short. This has been the disappointment of Cubs fans forever, but the year is finally here.

We all knew that magic was in the air when Tom Ricketts bought the Cubs and hired Theo Epstein as president of operations and Joe Maddon as the team’s manager, not to mention the fact that the team is made up of the most talented young players in the league. Epstein crafted the team in Boston that won the World Series and ended their drought. Joe Maddon crafted a young team in Tampa Bay to be champions, we just knew that our dream was around the corner. It is true that if you’re not a Cubs fan, you don’t understand.

It’s not over yet, the Cubs still have more four more wins to get and the Cleveland Indians are a very good team and I suspect that they will give the Cubs a run for their money. But we’ve come this far, and we’ve waited this long, and we know that this is our year. Along with the rest of my fellow Cubs fans all over the country and perhaps the world, we hope to see that W flag flying high over Wrigley as the World Series trophy travels the streets of Chicago. GO CUBS GO!

Modern Day Pioneer (My journey across the country and my next steps)

It has been approximately one week since I packed my entire life into the back of my car, and dedicated the front passenger seat to my cat and to her crate and headed west for California. I felt like the pioneers who came before me, many years ago, who traveled west and transformed the landscape into what is today the Southwestern United States, even if they did some bad things along the way. I’m sure that many of you who will be reading this, have probably taken this journey before, traveling far from home to chase your dreams, but for me, this is an entirely new experience and for those of you who are considering it, or have never taken this chance, I will share my experience with you.

I’ve divided this blog into four sections and they are: The Trip, the homesickness and the deal reached to cope with it, the job search, and my goals.

The Trip

The journey began at 7AM Central Standard Time when I departed from Chicago. With my packed car and some snacks, I gave my mom a big hug, told her that I loved her and set on my way. My first stop was a rest stop in Iowa where my car’s A/C decided to take a dive, so, I had to put the windows down and drive fast, or as a gentleman I spoke with at a gas station in Nebraska put it, “Put the windows down and drive like hell.” The A/C not working wasn’t a real issue until I got out of Colorado where I spent my first night. Driving through the mountains, it was nice and cool so the A/C wasn’t a big deal, this was also the case when I was driving through the mountains of Arizona, though if you’re not used to driving through mountains on roads that twist and wind every which way and are barely lit when you’re used to flatland, you freak out and drive very slow. If I recall correctly, the speed limit on such roads in Arizona was 65 MPH and I don’t think I went over 45 as people whizzed by me and probably thought I was nothing more than a tourist not used to these types of highways.

I didn’t sleep very well the first night when I stayed in Colorado. This was mainly because me being the neat freak that I am, the Super 8 I stayed in could have been cleaner and could have used some major updating. This is not to say that it was filthy but it could have been cleaned a lot better. I probably could have done more research into pet friendly motels/hotels in Colorado, but this particular Super 8 had middle of the road reviews and was affordable, though I wasn’t impressed. I couldn’t wait to get out of there so I checked out early, stopped at McDonald’s for breakfast and headed for Arizona. The drive through the rest of Colorado through Arizona, I can only describe as a roller coaster through the mountains, up and down, to the left, and to the right, something that I would imagine takes some getting used to if you were to drive these roads daily. The La Quinta Inn in Phoenix was very nice. It was clean, up to date, and the staff was wonderful. I don’t recall how many times I stopped for gas or just to take a break, but every time I did, I made sure that the cat was fed and given water, though she was not so interested just because she hates the car.

Once I got into  New Mexico, I really began to notice how wonderful A/C really is, for even with the windows down and 75 MPH, there is just no replacement for a good working A/C when you’re driving through the desert. I noticed how hot the cat was getting as she began to pant and that really began to scare me. I stopped a few times to see if she would drink, but she wouldn’t because I suspect she was stressed. I had to splash water on her from a bottle to cool her off, she ended up licking the water off of her fur so I knew that she was getting some fluids in her. I got through New Mexico as fast as I could and into California, making my way to my friend’s house in the valley.

What I took away from all of this was; that everything about your car can work great and crap out in a matter of seconds. I realized that chains that I once thought extinct such as Sinclair Oil are still alive and well as you get further west and trucks stops are pretty elaborate with everything you need, you could live in one if you really wanted or had to. As I drove, I took a look at a lot of license plates to see where people were driving from. I thought that I had come a long way, but I saw a few cars with plates from Minnesota and even as far away as Maryland and Maine. People travel and they travel everywhere, and then there’s the people you meet. I have never been one for stereotypes. I believe that people should have an opportunity to show you who they are regardless of race or location or any other insignificant labels society places on people. Every time you think of a state, you think of that state’s residents in a certain way due to stereotypes, and you find when talking to people, that these stereotypes are just nonsense. I did not come across an unfriendly person.

The Homesickness and the deal reached to cope with it 

I knew that eventually I would get homesick, but I didn’t expect it to strike so soon and be so bad. I will admit, that for the first few days I cried, and no, I don’t think it’s wimpy or whatever for men to cry. If you think that, you’re just ignorant. It had been a long time since I cried, the last time was over a year ago when I and my then girlfriend of five years went our separate ways. I had never been away from my mom before and that bothered me, her and I have been through a lot together, good and bad. And I really miss the dogs, yeah I have my cat, but the dogs are family too and  I miss them. I can’t say that I’m completely over being homesick, but I’m sure that in time it will go away. After all, people leave their country for others and leave their family behind to seek a better life, people go off to war and leave their families at home, I’m sure, I’ll survive.

However long my homesickness lasts, a deal has been reached between my mom and I to deal with it on behalf of both of us. First, we agreed to text everyday and call each other once in a while. This way, we know that we’re both safe and we can keep each other updated. 21st century technology is a wonderful thing. Second, we agreed that in roughly one year, after we both save up some money, I will find an apartment for the two of us, move out of my friend’s place and get a place with my mom, this way we will be together again, homesickness will no longer be an issue and I can take care of her as she’s getting older. Taking care of your parents in old age is something that we shamefully do not do in the west, especially the United States, this is just one of the many things that I admire of eastern culture for the younger generations take care of their elders. Knowing myself, I don’t suspect my homesickness will go away completely, but knowing that this is the plan and working towards that goal, will help me cope with it until this plan becomes a reality.

The Job search

Aside from the homesickness, there is one other thing that was truly bothering me about making the trip to California, and that is coming out here without a job lined up. I can’t recall the last time that I was unemployed and I’m the type of person who likes to work not only because I get bored out of my mind if I don’t, but I need to make sure that my bills are paid and are paid on time. I recall one of my favorite college professors from Northeastern Illinois University whom I took several classes with. He once told one of these classes that he grew up in a town in I believe South Carolina, could have been North Carolina, but anyway, he explained to the class that as an African American in the 60’s and 70’s, the town was not exactly friendly to him. Racial tensions were high, he explained. After completing his undergraduate work, he left the Carolinas and with nothing in his pocket made his way to Atlanta where his first job was at Popeye’s Chicken where he eventually became a manager before going to Florida where he studied to earn his PhD. After he had gotten his PhD. he taught in several states before moving to Chicago and getting on the tenure track at NEIU. I never forgot this story and as I made this journey, I kept his story in the back of my mind.

Since I’ve been here, I’ve applied to every place that is hiring. I have plenty of retail experience so I’ve been looking into that field as well. I did apply to the security company that my friend works for, they really liked my resume and my experience and want to bring me aboard, but I can’t start working until the state of California approves my security guard license, I’m waiting for the federal background check to come back and then everything should be ready to go.  This process can take 7-10 business days, today is day 7 since I submitted everything and to be honest, I am growing impatient. I have had several other interviews and two tomorrow. I have also been looking at and applying to nonprofits in the area and will continue to do so, for if I can get into one of those, I would be able to help make the difference that I’ve always wanted to. I should be patient, but I can’t help it. I need to start working, paying the bills, and saving up.

My Goals 

I came to California with several goals in mind. The first of which is my short term goal, to get a job and save up money so that I can get an apartment and bring my mom out here within a year. The second is find a tutor and study for the GRE and begin taking the steps to get into graduate school, which is one of the main reasons I made my way to California, the universities are excellent and unlike my native state of Illinois, there is no budget crisis, there’s funding for the state universities, as well as financial aid. Once in graduate school, I will be studying for my PhD. in Political Science. Once finished, I intend on teaching college for a while, writing, and pursuing some other endeavors. These are my goals and I will do anything that I have to, in order to make sure that all of these goals are achieved. I believe that I can do this and I will.

If you have taken this step in life, then you know exactly where I am coming from and you know exactly what I am feeling. If you haven’t made this journey to any location in the world, I hope that by sharing my experience with you, I have helped you decide or not decide to leave home, but if you do decide to go away from home, remember that it will all work out as long as you are determined and passionate.

Best of luck to you in all of your endeavors.

-Brett T. Mazzoni