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The Magic Key

School's back in session. But not in the "normal" sense. Of course, you don't need me to tell you that this school year is going to look and feel quite different. We're still in a pandemic, and it looks like it's not going anywhere any time soon. For many parents, there's fear and confusion on many levels about what to do for their children's education. Should they risk their children's lives and the lives of teachers and allow them to return to in-person teaching? Should they do virtually learning to keep everyone safe and not take any risks? Should they do a mixture of both? Look, I'm not a parent, so I won't tell you what I think you should do. But I will say that education is an invaluable source of a child's growth, both inside and outside the classroom. To miss out on going to school in a physical building is not something many of us thought would happen this upcoming school year. Especially for kids who are graduating this school year from major milestone grades, such as 8th, 12th, or even college and graduate school. There's much to take in from a child's standpoint - they won't be able to see their friends or favorite teachers in person on a regular basis. They will miss out on events like bake sales, school plays, games, and dances, which could be considered rites of passages. They may not be able to have official graduation at the end of the school year should the pandemic continue on into 2021 (newsflash: it's looking more and more likely it will continue into next year.) However, there were many creative ways to celebrate milestones in communities across the country. In my neighborhood, there are signs from the local schools commemorating a child's graduation. There were pics and videos of students celebrating their prom from home and at a reasonable distance. Parades were even held to celebrate the end of the school year and the student's success. And it all took place OUTSIDE of the school building and auditorium. Going to school shouldn't be restricted to a building. The whole world is practically the classroom, with its lessons and subjects waiting to be taught. Even when you reach 100 years old or more, you can still find out new things about yourself, your career, and the ever-changing world around you.

This brings me to a point that should be taken into account. All of our educational paths are different, and there is no one-way endgame to reach our dream career or life we desire the most. Life has an interesting way of throwing curveballs, particularly when it comes to our education. Finances might make it difficult to continue our education and we have to get a job in order to support ourselves and our family, causing us to miss out on going to school for an extended period of time. Sometimes, people drop out of school due to pregnancy or illness and might not return many years. Perhaps people discover that going to college is not the right answer for them and want to go into trade school or directly into their career field instead. Does this make them stupid? No! Does this mean they're a failure? Of course not! Are their paths of learning different from what is "expected" of students? Yes! Think about it: for a law student, they have to go through many years of schooling and studying in order to become a lawyer, which may include going to law school after college. For a doctor, there's plenty of education involved in anatomy, physiology, and other valuable sciences in order to understand and help others heal. This also includes a trip to medical school or interning at hospitals in order to get the education to succeed in their field. For dancers, on the other hand, it may lead them to their usual schooling during the day, but ballet lessons and more at night and weekends. But after elementary school, they may attend a performing arts high school which strictly focuses on their craft, albeit it may include the regular curriculum alongside the arts. And it may eventually lead them to one of the best dance programs in college to receive their training. For every occupation you want to pursue, there's a path that's specifically designed with you in mind. But does it always lead to college, or even many years of education on campus or a short internship? Not always. Sometimes, there are people who would go directly into their career field immediately following high school because they want to get a taste of the real world and put their knowledge to good use. Others may attend a trade school (which is rapidly dwindling and needs to be brought back as an option, in my opinion) after high school to receive further education that colleges can't provide. Somehow, we learn about our careers and ourselves through education, though it's different for each and every one of us. There's no one-size-fits-all way to receiving the lessons and experience we need in order to succeed and thrive at what we want to do for the rest of our lives. And it shouldn't have to be that way. I wish I could say that my path to becoming an actress was a straight and narrow path. However, I will quote something that has been said time and time again, and forgive my spirituality speaking: We plan, God laughs. I had this great idea as I was going through my senior year of high school that I would get into all the great music and performing arts schools because I thought I was the best and I would be a shoo-in to get in. Unfortunately, I didn't get into the top programs in the state that I applied to, and my top school choice that I wanted to get into wasn't in the cards financially. As disappointed as I was, my mom encouraged me to enroll in the community college that was closest to where I lived, and then I would transfer to a bigger school after my freshman year. So, I ended up attending Indiana University Northwest (IUN) in Gary, Indiana. I went in as a theatre major, and for a small campus, it was still a fulfilling experience. I learned the core basics of my degree program, which included acting, movement, costume design (which I'm not very good at, apparently!), and singing. I also had to make sure I completed the requirements for the degree, which included math, history, science, and an elective. I was very studious and took my program very seriously. I even made the Dean's List at the end of the year, which says a lot of how much I enjoy learning! Even with all of those accomplishments, I really wanted the authentic college experience - living in the dorms, going across campus to classes (and I mean ACROSS), eating in dining halls (which isn't a very bad idea if you're on a budget), interacting with a larger student body, you get the idea. I applied to several public universities during my freshman year, and there was one common goal I had - to get out of state. I longed to be away from the Hoosier State, and as scary as it is to be several states away from home, it's part of the growing experience and discovering your independence. I ended up applying to the University of Missouri-Columbia (Mizzou), and I was amazed at its history and legacy, and after visiting the campus, I knew this was the place I wanted to attend. After wrapping up my summer semester at IUN, I crammed the small jeep my sister owned and all of us drove down to Columbia, MO. (Did I mention my mom had injured her foot and was unable to drive? Talk about a nightmare! I still consider her a trooper for her coming along for the ride.) As I got settled in, I met the people on my floor and my roommate, and they all seemed friendly. I thought that things would be better at this public university, but boy oh boy, was I in for a rude awakening! I never really considered Mizzou a "party" college, but I was surprised to find out it was. Many people went out partying, starting with Thursdays. I went out with some friends of mine from the dorm to a party on Thursday at a club, and I ended up having a man who is twice my age dance up on me (really WORKING it). That was enough for me. I never went to another club or party that involved alcohol or twice-you-age-creepy men ever again. Do you know what else overwhelmed me during my first year? All the people! Mizzou is HUGE, and the number of people there was evidence of that. It was so easy to get lost in the crowd and be overwhelmed by it all. It was a lot to handle my first year, especially as a transfer student. Add to it all the issues I went through (see my "I'm A Survivor" blog series) and struggles, it was a very rough beginning to life as a college student on an actual campus. It also didn't help that only a month in the fall semester I had to switch roommates because the one I had was a poor fit for me. And here's something that I'm sure many college students went through, or you're bound to go through at least once in your career. I switched majors. Twice. Once by choice. The other by guidance and discretion from a professor in the program I switched to. Long story short, I started out as a theatre major at Mizzou, but then switched to the voice program in the music department, but couldn't get into the program and was advised to take an interdisciplinary degree instead. So, I ended up graduating with a Bachelor of General Studies, with emphases in theatre, music performance, and media studies. I could give you more details about why I switched majors two times, but that would give away the details for a future blog. So, you will just have to wait until another time. :) There's one thing I remember about this experience, and it goes back to my first year at Mizzou. I was eating lunch in the dining hall one day, and I struck up a conversation with several of the students. We were all getting to know each other, and we discussed what our plans were. I was so sure of my plans for my college career that I ended up saying that I will get my degree within three years and graduate and start my career. Poor wandering one! Thou hast surely strayed! I didn't know it then, but as soon as those words came out of my mouth, God was probably laughing at me. The plans fell by the wayside VERY fast, and I ended up graduating in three-and-a-half years, as opposed to just three. And with a very different degree than I initially planned on studying. Now, that I think about it, I don't think there's any chance that what I'm about to write will make it to the next blog after all. If you're up for it, here's the long and short of my adventures at Mizzou. As I stated earlier, I entered Mizzou as a theatre major. The theatre classes were wonderful for the most part. Some of my favorites in my first year included the Vocal Performance Technique and Theatre of the Oppressed. One of the hardest courses I took during the fall semester was Movement for the Actor. I had previously taken that course at IUN, but I had to take it again as part of the requirement for the theatre major. I must've worked my butt off in that course, but I could never seem to please my professor. One day, I decided to meet up with him outside of class for a chat. We talked about how I was doing in the course, and he was brutally honest. He didn't think I was as creative as I thought I was. I admitted to him that I was struggling through so much - a preface to the abusive problems at home - and what he said next really shook me and made my blood boil. "Why don't you come back in 40-50 years and we'll talk about how rough life is?" He even admitted to me that the theatre department at Mizzou wasn't all that great, to begin with. I was disappointed and discouraged. That, and the fact I wasn't getting cast in shows in the department (now THAT'S for another blog, I promise!), led me to switch majors to music performance. I thought I would be happier doing voice since I had been singing longer than acting. Did I mention that the same professor I talked to said that the music department wasn't that great either? Well, the first time I auditioned for the voice program, I was in for yet another rude awakening. Much of the program is based on classical training and repertoire. For the voice specifically, it's opera. I had this thought that if I tried hard enough I would be an opera singer like Leontyne Price or Marian Anderson. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't get into the voice program. I seriously thought that I had a very good voice. But what was especially hard was a required set of courses ALL musicians - vocalists and instrumentalists - had to take. That was music theory. I learned the hard way that music theory is more than just learning the notes and reading music. It's also trying to write compositions without parallel notes, too many sharps or flats, and using your ears to successfully count beats and hear tones. I wasn't meant to be a composer, I can tell you that much! Add to that a required music history course that required listening to music during exams, I was literally a fish out of water. I struggled during that third semester at Mizzou. I was dealing with the repercussions of my sister abusing me and having to sign up for therapy and so many more things. I had to tell all of my professors what I was going through, and that I was going to need special help and space if I needed it. Only one professor was unable to do that, and that was for a European history course. Sadly, I was put on probation after that semester. I flunked the first level of music theory and barely passed the first level of aural training. I also barely passed a science course. It was one of the lowest points of my academic career. Along with several other students who flunked music theory and aural training, I had to take both the first level of music theory and aural training courses again the following semester. But this time, I was determined to get out of probation and do much better in my courses. To my delight, I did much better in both music courses, history courses, and even intermediate algebra. I was released from probation after that semester. Unfortunately, I had to play catch up with the other music students in order to be on the same page of the degree program. So, I returned to Mizzou for the summer session, which included an online college algebra course. Oy vey! I did much better in the second level of music theory, and once again I barely passed the second level of aural training. I even did a satisfactory job at the online algebra course. NOTE: NEVER TAKE AN ONLINE MATH COURSE! IT WILL BE THE DEATH OF YOU! It was the following fall where things really changed for me. After working hard on my audition song for the entrance auditions for the voice program during the summer, I was sure I would get in again with the extra help. Not so. I didn't get in again. And I made my frustrations known to the head of the voice department via email. It was there that I got quite the wake-up call again. The voice department head was a very nice lady, and so kind. She told me in the sincerest yet the most understanding way that I just didn't have the voice for opera. Of course, I was taken aback by this. But she didn't tell me to give up music. She encouraged me to look into the interdisciplinary and special studies department at Mizzou in order to combine music with another possible major. So, I did. And that's how through three grueling semesters in the music program I found my way into the interdisciplinary degree and returned to the theatre once again. I also had an interest in film, so I added media studies as my third emphases to the general studies degree. After that, things went on as smoothly and with many ups and downs as a college student can handle for the rest of my time at Mizzou. I even got to study abroad in London for the summer, which was quite fun! So, I started out as a theatre major at IUN, transferred to Mizzou as a theatre major, and graduated three-and-a-half years later as a general studies major, with emphases in theatre, music performance, and media studies. See what I mean? God really laughed at me and took me on the crooked, bumpy, and uneven path of college than what I initially thought would be a smooth way to success. And here's what funny about this whole thing, now that I think about it. I could've saved myself a lot of trouble by going to a performing arts college and not having to worry about music theory or history or algebra or any of the courses at a public university. I'll let you in on a little secret - I decided to go to a public university because I wanted that full college experience of living in the dorms, being in a college town, seeing a new part of the country I never saw before, take courses that would invigorate me and challenge me, and enjoy my time being surrounded by like-minded individuals who had the same interests as I do. Did I immerse myself in the arts while I was at Mizzou? Absolutely! I got to go to many concerts on campus, which included B.B. King, LeAnn Rimes, Wynton Marsalis, and Clint Black. I actually got introduced to country music while I was at Mizzou, and now I enjoy it very much. I'm probably one of the few blacks who like country music, and I might be the only one in my family who does. I also got to be a part of two choirs on campus, and just singing harmonies with other sopranos and altos and hearing all the parts come together brought me so much joy. It's a feeling I would love to hear again when concert halls are open. I still enjoy choral music to this day and it brings such peace to my soul. And as a music student, I got to see student recitals on a normal basis, as often as I could. And there were some very talented musicians in the department. I even got to see an operetta for the first time, and it's my all-time favorite one to this day, The Merry Widow. My voice teacher (different from the voice department head) was one of the main characters, and she did a splendid job! I guess that's how I also appreciate classical music so much. It's so nice and lyrical. I also got to see the theatre on campus - for free! I had to write papers for several of my theatre courses, so I volunteered as an usher. I got to see wonderful productions of Into the Woods and Fences, among the numerous ones I saw. I was even part of an acting troupe when I started my third semester at Mizzou, the Troubling Violence Performance Project. I got to share my story of being abused within my family with the local Columbia, MO, community, and have discussions with others. Were there times I wished I could've done things differently at Mizzou? Of course! I wish I could've stuck with the theatre program and worked harder, but then I wouldn't have ended up where I was meant to be or who I was meant to become as an individual. I had to grow up a little bit and muddle through the struggles and issues from home that haunted me for so long, and that continued even beyond my academic career. I was still in that mindset that the reason why I wasn't getting roles or doing well from auditions was because of me and my talent. Plus, the competition had more people than what I experienced at IUN. It took me many years after graduation to figure out there's going to be plenty of individuals auditioning for the same roles you want to go for. And the reason why there are so many rejections isn't because of your talent. It could be many factors, but it's NEVER because of your talent. Many casting directors, producers, and directors want you to succeed in the audition room. They're not out to get you. I wish I couldn't have gone through so much trouble in the voice program to see that I'm just not classically trained to do opera. I've had so much experience in the church being a cantor and a choir member, but I learned that it doesn't always translate to being trained to do opera and other classical pieces of work. I was also quite intimidated by opera, and I was often discouraged by having that be the only voice training available because of my lack of training in classical works and my voice is more suited to the theatre. Just because my voice isn't up to par as other classically trained vocalists, it doesn't mean that my voice wasn't beautiful at all. I could still sing very well, and I decided to return to voice lessons again in 2018 to work on strengthening my voice and get it to a place where I was comfortable as a mezzo-soprano and alto. Was there ever a time where I wished I should've followed that professor's advice and not go into the music program and stuck with the theatre program, even if it wasn't the best? Honestly, yes. I could've had a chance to go to a prestigious performing arts program where I solely focused on my acting and music. I could've had the best training and experience being on stage, and I even may have had the chance to have an end of the year showcase being performed in front of casting directors, directors, and agents. It would've made things so much easier for me as an actor and singer. But I would've had to have taken out more loans than I needed to do and I would've had to drop out because I was afraid of not keeping up with the finances. And my mom was already struggling enough as it was with her part-time job not paying her enough and my father not helping out financially. To be frank, my father helped my sister out with her finances for college, but she ended up dropping out after several years. But he never helped me out when I entered college. I felt cheated and hurt by this. Was he that afraid that I would follow in my sister's footsteps and drop out? I wished he could've seen that I would finish college, one way or another, and make him proud. But then again, I never believed he was proud of me, to begin with. Even if I did things differently at Mizzou, I later discovered that I never would've met the people or had the events that would help me along to discover the individual I would eventually grow to become today. And maybe, God was molding and chipping away the pieces of myself that I had been carrying for so long, and as painful as that was, it was Him showing me and teaching me all that I'm capable of and how much worth I have to share with the world. Even if not everyone is willing to see that. Much of what I learned came from OUTSIDE the classroom along with the textbooks and lecture halls. And as I came to discover, later on, that's a great way of learning about yourself, your career, and even what's inside of you.

Even once you graduate, the world is your classroom. In my case, once I graduated from Mizzou and later on moved to Maryland with my mom, I was still learning about myself. I learned the hard way that finding a job outside of college within your field is NEVER easy. So many people who have bachelor, Masters and even PhDs don't always start out in their field right away. More often than not, they may have to end up at lower-paying jobs in order to provide income for themselves so that they can reach their dream career and achieve the goals they want to have for themselves and others. I couldn't find any theatres in Chicago (aka Northwest Indiana) that I would work with, and I also couldn't even find any part-time jobs suited to my needs. Once I got to Maryland, I was able to find a job in retail, and I stuck with that field of work for around three years. It wasn't always pretty, but it provided the income I needed for my dreams. I was often asked if going back to school was in the cards for me. For a while, it was. I remember from my study abroad session in London that I had the idea of going to a prestigious drama school in the UK to get my acting skills sharpened up and even have a showcase. I was just that determined to get my career off the ground. Plus, I found out from doing research that going to graduate school in the UK was less expensive than going to school in the US. I applied to one university that had a promising theatre program, and I was accepted. I was over the moon! I was finally getting to live my dream of going back to school. But this bears repeating. We plan, God laughs. I couldn't go to school right away because of the funds, and I had to defer for several years. Unfortunately, I found out that the program wasn't performance-based and I ended up withdrawing from the school. Part of the reason I didn't go for the performance-based programs was because of my fear of auditioning. I knew I had the talent, but I was scared of rejection. (For all you actors out there, who ISN'T afraid of rejection?) I finally took a step forward and decided to go for it. I applied to two UK schools with wonderful acting programs, and I went up to NYC to audition for one of them. The head of the program told me that I had much passion for an actor. Sadly, I got rejected by both of them. What was I going to do now? I was so certain that graduate school was the way to go in order to get my acting career off the ground. Later on, I decided not to pursue schools in the UK anymore because of how expensive it is to get a visa and funding for the program since US scholarships don't apply to overseas schools. When I started acting lessons again in 2019, my acting teacher asked if I was interested in graduate schools again. I was hesitant after the experience with applying and auditioning for graduate programs in the UK. Plus, I wasn't sure if I wanted to spend the next 3-4 years of my life in school when I was already starting to have some success in my growing acting career in the DMV. After some thinking and praying, I decided to give it a shot once again. My acting teacher told me about the URTAs (University Resident Theatre Association) where a group of universities and programs would come to a city for the weekend and see over thousands of students auditioning for their programs of interest with the chance to be called back by one or several of the schools. It sounded very promising, and with some of the programs listed, I decided yet again to take a chance. I submitted my application in January 2020, and within days I got an appointment to come up to NYC and audition for the school. My acting teacher and I worked hard on the monologues I would be presenting to the panel, and I was also planning out my overnighter in NYC with his relative. The bus ride up was pleasant enough, and I even had a sticky note from my acting teacher that said the following things: *BREATHE *Simplicity *Trust yourself *James wouldn't have recommended me for the URTAs if he didn't think I was capable I was able to get to my host's apartment safely, and I had a nice home-cooked meal to go with it. Of course, it didn't help that I didn't sleep well that night. I was so excited and nervous. I arrived at the location of the auditions very early in the morning, and after orientation, I wandered around Midtown Manhattan for a while to clear my head. Once it came time for my auditions, I went in there and did my monologues. Afterward, I jumped up and down in success. All that was left to do now was wait. Later on, all of us received our letters for the callbacks, and as sad as this sounds, it's what I feared the most. I didn't get a single callback. I ventured out of the holding room and I cried. I was disappointed. Frustrated. Angry. Hurt. I thought I had a chance to be called back by at least one of the schools. My acting teacher thought I had a chance to be called back by one of the schools. My friends thought I had a chance. I thought I had a chance. And it didn't help as I trudged through the snow of Midtown Manhattan back to the bus that so many of the people I connected within the chat room got callbacks and it seemed like I was the only one who didn't. Do you know the real reason why I wanted to go to graduate school so badly? FEAR. I was afraid that my lack of experience as an actor at the time and seeing others thriving and succeeding made me a bad person and I didn't have enough worth or talent to make it in the business. I was certain that if I followed the path many other actors took, which included getting involved in the arts at a young age, attending a prestigious performing arts program, do a showcase in front of all the talented creative directors, talent agents, casting directors, and producers, and get my first show within a year of graduating college, I would be a success. Once again, I learned the hard way that not every way that worked for some would work for all. Each and every path to your dreams is different, as it should be, and as life has a tendency to do this, it doesn't always go according to plan. And it's not just for the performing arts. It also goes for those who want to be doctors, lawyers, chefs, fashion designers, bankers, historians, senators, you name it. Somehow, we may end up at our dream careers through going a crooked, uneven path than straightforward. It goes without saying that the best path isn't the easiest one. I found this out time and time again, sometimes harder than the last time I learned that lesson. It took me a while, but I think I finally learned my lesson. My path to becoming a successful working actor doesn't involve graduate school, but it does involve learning and training and understanding on a regular basis from others who are in the field and books. It involves asking questions and networking with others to receive feedback and get the exposure you want. It involves taking risks and going outside of your comfort zone to be a versatile performer. But most of all, it's seeing that not one path is the one everyone should take. I may have not gone to a performing arts school, or go to graduate school where I had the best teachers and even had a showcase, but I feel good about the path I'm taking as an actor because it's allowing me to grow, learn, and thrive in my environment. Even right now as we're all in quarantine and we can only do virtual theatre. No one path is the right path nor should it be a one-size-fits-all path. Life doesn't work like that. Take it from me. I've learned to put my trust in God, enjoy the wild ride called life, look for the opportunities, allow myself to be teachable and humble, and don't be afraid to ask for help. I believe they might just apply to your life as well. (This bears repeating yet again: I'm not an expert on education nor do I pretend to be. These are just my experiences and opinions. You are welcome to agree to disagree with me on these matters.)

For those of you who have children starting school this year or you yourself are taking courses, remember that your lessons shouldn't always have to be within the classroom and lecture halls, or in this case, on your computer via Zoom. Allow yourself to learn every single day, whether that's through books, exploring your community or beyond your own state, meeting new people on a regular basis, even those who are different from you, taking on a new hobby that's different from your career, and allow yourself to be humbled every once and while. There are some things that can't always be taught in the classroom but can come from within your home and engaging with the community. Things like empathy, courage, respecting others, open-mindedness, compassion, humility, gratitude, curiosity, strength, and love. These important qualities are taught from generation to generation, and if hate can be taught from a very young age, so can love. Teach these qualities with an open mind, heart, and eyes. The last thing I want to see or hear from someone who is being disciplined at school is "I got it from my parents." Children learn from seeing their parents' actions and words at a very young age. Teach them accordingly, and be sure to continue teaching them even beyond their children and teenage years. Don't be surprised if your educational plans go awry and things don't end up the way you had planned it. Once more, with feeling: We plan, God laughs! A song I listened to once said this, Well you go through life

So sure of where you're heading

And you wind up lost

And it's the best thing that could happen

'Cause sometimes when you lose your way

It's really just as well

'Cause you find yourself

That when you find yourself. Sometimes, being lost does wonders for your mind and your heart. Especially if it's in a new town, city, state, or nation. It allows you to see things differently. Make choices about what really matters to you. Meet new people with a different yet effective outlook on life. Somehow, this educational path I took and the path I took afterward got me lost more times than I'd like to admit. But every time, I found my way back, seeing things with new eyes and a stronger heart. Perhaps it's happened to you more than you'd like to admit. As the song goes, it could be the best thing that could ever happen to you. Before I end this week's blog, I'd like to leave you with some important thoughts. The first is about all the teachers who have made their careers their life's work. They have been doing this for so many or for so few years and would do everything and anything for their student's success. The fact that we're in a pandemic right now and have had to change their schedules and lesson plans to accommodate their pupil's needs virtually is an act of creativity and courage. We once hailed them as heroes, alongside doctors, nurses, police officers, and firefighters. Now, they're being forced to make a decision - their job or their health. No teacher should have to choose between going into the building where there's a chance they or their students could infect each other with COVID or continue teaching virtually to keep themselves and the children they love so dearly safe. And there are parents out there who call the teachers who are putting their health and wellbeing before their children's selfish. I think it's the parents who are being selfish in this case. Teachers are NOT your children's babysitters, parents. You have just as much of a responsibility to your child's growth and development as the teachers do. And the fact that you want to place your children in a building where it could become a petri dish if there are too many children who won't wear a mask, social distance, or wash and sanitize their hands is a big enough risk as it is. No teacher wants to lose their students to a deadly virus as this has become. I'm not sure if you want that for the teachers, either. I get it. I realize that many parents are probably at their wit's end caring for their children and making sure they are getting in their schoolwork virtually. I see that many parents can't afford to take off work to make sure your children are safe at home and are doing their homework. I am aware that you want your children to succeed, even in these times. But should you have to force teachers to come into buildings just to satisfy your needs and take a risk with your children's health when it's clearly not safe? Think about it. Teachers are people, too, and they shouldn't have to have so much responsibility for your child's upbringing when it should be the parents doing so much of it. In essence, you are teaching your children that teachers and instructors don't matter and their health and wellbeing shouldn't be taken seriously. That's not a lesson that should be taught or learned to begin with. We're all in this together, and I do mean ALL of us. No life is worth losing at any circumstance. The last thing I will say is in regards to this week's title, The Magic Key. I got the inspiration from a deleted song from the 1963 Disney animated classic, The Sword in the Stone, written by Robert B. Sherman and Richard M. Sherman. The only thing you need to know is this one lyric: A noggin full of knowledge is the magic key. What does that knowledge look like? Is it a mountain full of books? Is it going to a new place? Is it attending lectures and seminars? Is it pounding the pavement to get your foot in the door to your dream career? Is it getting lost in a brand new place? Whatever it is, allow yourself to keep learning, each and every day. It's better to learn the hard way than not learn at all. It helps us grow and understand ourselves better. And don't be afraid to be wrong. Making mistakes is part of the learning process, too. Knock 'em dead this school year, everyone!

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