The Power to Walk Away


(read on the steps of the NYU Office of the Bursar)

Dear Dad,

A friend asked about you the other day. I completely forgot I told her you had prostate cancer and she was perplexed I didn’t have an update on your condition (or seemed to care for one). I don’t know where people’s idea that I hate you comes from. I figured I’d take this opportunity to speak my truth.

I don’t hate you. Quite the opposite: I nothing you.

I remember it like it was yesterday. We were in your temporary apartment in Queens when you whipped out the blueprints for the million dollar house you were building in Florida. It didn’t really click at the time the money going to the construction of that house was my college tuition. Almost fifteen years later, I guess I’m still in shock. For someone who grew up poor and then was able to build a middle class living, you know how critical education is for the success of Black men. I guess it didn’t matter I just happened to be the smartest one our town saw in a generation.

The lady at the NYU financial aid office, bless her heart. She could see the frustration on my face. All FAFSA saw was a father that made a six figure income. Not a son that got blindsided and was supporting himself indenpently since sixteen.

“Just pay the $15,000 and if the decision changes, they’ll reimburse you.”

Sure lady. The money’s in my other pants.

It definitely took a good chunk of my young adulthood to forgive you, but that was years ago. In fact, I’m actually writing this letter to thank you.

I see so many people in my life drowning in a sea of obligation. A false sense of obligation. Relationships in their lives are clearly not serving them anymore, but they refuse to give them up.

“We’ve known each other for years.”

“[insert university/program here] is the most prestigious school in my field. I can’t just leave.”

“We’ve been together for [X] years. What would happen to the children?” (As if children can’t tell when their parents can’t stand one another. Trust me, they can. And it’s no better than divorce.)

They give me excuse after excuse. And I watch as they spiral deeper into the rabbit hole. It’s depressing for all parties involved.

I don’t have that problem. And I have you to thank.

When a relationship with a person, job, etc. is no longer working for me, I reflect on exactly what is going on. Then (I try to) present my findings to the other party. Though it’s become clear over the years many people would rather stay with their head in the sand (your ex-wife being the obvious example). But that doesn’t change the impetus to leave, right?

The power to walk away is honoring the power of chosen family. To honor your truth. Once the ties of blood obligation goes away, you’re faced with the possibilities of seeing all living creatures worthy of honor, respect and care. I often wonder what the world would look like if everyone had this perspective.

And as I experience my thirties, I can honestly say I empathize with you more and more. With a bipolar sister, a drug addicted brother and liability of a mother, you clearly had a lot on your plate before any of us were ever born. I can only imagine what your life was like when you graduated from high school and thought about the future. Despite the horrid timing, I can’t spite you for finally taking control and seeking your definition of joy.

So while I don’t condone walking out on your family, I understand. It was probably the first time in your life you put your wants, needs and dreams at the forefront. I hope it’s working out for you.

Don’t worry about me. I have amazing people in my life. People who listen, people who communicate‚Ķpeople invested in my long term happiness and success. I wake up every day hoping to do my best to honor them. I pray you can say the same.

Take care of yourself,


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