I like how commencement means both a beginning and an ending. This is the season for commencements across the U.S., which mark the start of a new life as well as the end of a period of academic achievement.
I am having a bit of a commencement experience myself. This is my first full week at home in Virginia after completing the intense, initial phase of cancer treatment in New York. This experience is even sweeter since it comes shortly before my 50th birthday, which I thought I might never see.
On March 13th, 2020, when the nation shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, my world went into a tailspin. As the pilot of my family, I braced my wife and our business for impact. There was no Standard Operating Procedure for handling a pandemic, and many companies seemed to have the motto of “everyone for themselves.” I understood. Many small businesses have closed, with Black-owned businesses being hardest hit by the pandemic's economic fallout. I didn’t want Leumas Security Services to completely shut down.
While we were implementing plans to survive COVID-19, I found myself not sleeping or eating. I was afraid that my nearly 30 years of being in business would soon end. We braced for impact, prayed, and counted on our experience to survive. Just as the tail spin was leveling out and we were completing my book Rent-A-Cop Reboot, I was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer. I am a very private person, so I kept the diagnosis to myself for several months until I was convinced that sharing my experience could help someone else.
Helping others is what security work is really about, when it is done well. That is why I am so committed to it. It’s still a struggle to keep the business going since COVID and cancer, but I’ve learned a lot which I plan to keep in mind at the commencement of my next half century.
I’ve learned to slow down and rediscover the people and things that make me happy. I’m falling in love with my wife all over again. She has shared her pain while hanging tough throughout my recent scare. Strength is a very attractive trait for any man or woman to possess.
One of the greatest lessons of the first half century of my life came roaring back over the past year: don’t panic. As nervous as I became around this time last year, and when I found out about the cancer, I remembered that panic creates additional problems. Taking time to gather your thoughts helps you make better decisions and can help you reduce the levels of stress that raise blood pressure.
Most important, take care of the things (and people) that you do have as you dream of the things that you want. Sometimes that means making hard decisions, but decisions that have been my hardest to make have always been the best decisions I’ve made.
So, this season, what will you commence?