Chapter I – The Beginning
I am Jude. I am 50 and my life has changed dramatically. “Mr. Clyke, You have Stage 4 lung cancer”. Those were the last words I actually understood as the Doctor spoke. After that he was just moving his lips.
One year later, my wife fell ill and required an emergency liver transplant to save her life. Not to mention, my pregnant daughter, who experienced complications with her first pregnancy and delivered our grandson at just 26 weeks.
Needless to say, my family, or “Team Clyke” as I refer to us, has certainly had our hands full. I am grateful that the cancer was a misdiagnosis – but that’s another story. My wife’s transplant was filled with some terrifying moments, however it was a success and she is thriving. And my grandson? He is now a healthy, vibrant little three year old. Team Clyke for the win.
Those events now seem like they took place a lifetime ago, when in reality it’s only been four years. However, they prompted some serious soul searching and self-reflection. They also resulted in some positive lifestyle changes.
My wife no longer drinks alcohol except on very rare occasions and my drinking has decreased dramatically. Never saw that coming. I have become 90% vegan – still struggling with the haddock and salmon. I have also remained active despite chronic back pain. I no longer go to the gym or lift weights but I work out at home, walk daily and we love to bike and hike.
The biggest takeaway? Things that were once a priority for me are now far less interesting or important. I am alive. I am grateful. So, I am spending more and more of my time focusing on trying to be the best version of myself. I haven’t clearly defined what that means yet, but I’m working on it. As a result, I am slowly becoming more accepting of myself and confident in who I am and who I am becoming. I did mention slowly – right?
I am starting The BOOK of JUDE to share my personal development journey and some of the life lessons that I’m experiencing along the way. I have recently adopted the motto ‘Break Free and Be Better’.
For me, it’s fitting and represents the need to escape the limits we place upon ourselves. It also pays homage to my career in the criminal justice system and the tireless struggle of Afrikan people to Break Free from the shackles of oppression.
Recently, I began a year-long assignment in Human Resources as a National Project Lead for Black employees. The new position has presented some significant new challenges but the experience has been amazing. The benefits and growth have far outweighed the adjustment. The supportive work environment, the outstanding leadership and the opportunity to work with Afrikan people has been invigorating. I am actually enjoying work right now – and within Corrections Service Canada no less.
What’s my WHY?
When I look back, I am amazed at my progress. I have been engaged in some deliberate efforts to “Break Free and Be Better”. This has already led to some immediate and somewhat surprising results. I am uncovering new facets about myself, things I never knew I would like or be interested in, from food to music and the things I read.
I am becoming more confident in my skills and abilities and what I have to offer. Most importantly though, I am fully committed to this new course. I feel more fulfilled, more purposeful and content. I am convinced these intentional changes are leading me to greater happiness.
We all struggle with change, adversity and self-doubt. Believe me when I say I experience it in abundance. But, I understand it is part of what makes us human. As a result, I want to inspire people and be a living example to my family, the global Afrikan community and the world.
I know I can help others find motivation, develop discipline and reach their goals. I am also confident that no matter your age or your current situation, you have the power to Break Free and Be Better. I’m not saying that change is easy. However, I am certain that if you want a different outcome – action is necessary.
So What’s Different Now?
Where do I start….I have stopped watching Television and Netflix completely and have limited my access to social media and the news. Instead, I have intentionally replaced this time with constructive strategies related to self-awareness and personal development.
I am an avid basketball fan/coach/enthusiast – Basketball season is returning and for the first time in memory there’s no excitement for me. King James continues to dominate the narrative, the game and the culture – what else really matters?
I am realizing the power of a positive attitude. I am realizing that my thoughts determine how I see the world and my place in it. I love the quote “What you think you become. What you feel you attract. What you imagine you create”. Our thinking shapes our realities. Consequently, we must become guardians at the door of our minds. We must fill it with good things and defend it against all negativity.
I have been reading all of my adult life but have only recently begun focusing on books that promote personal growth. Books such as Atomic Habits, 7 Man’s Search for Meaning and Emotional Intelligence have challenged my thinking and inspired me to Be Better. They provide concepts and strategies that promote the qualities and behaviours I want to manifest in my own life.
I’m also watching inspirational videos and following sites dedicated to positive change, business, leadership, (grand)parenting and more. There is a wealth of positive and uplifting content on the internet if you use its infinite power for good. However, get in and get out, because it’s easy to get distracted and lose your way.
New interests are emerging. I’m developing a passion for landscape photography and am seeing the natural world differently. I have begun capturing and editing video for home movies and have become more comfortable with technology. Please note I said comfortable and not capable.
I have been journaling every day to help process my thoughts and emotions. I have also started expressing myself through creative writing. I struggle with dedicating the time required but it is becoming a ritual that provides me with joy. I’m no Colson Whitehead or Lawrence Hill, but I’ve been pleased with my progress and commitment so far.
Part of my evolution has been the decision to invest my energies into a yet to be determined side-hustle. I have never really considered starting my own business, especially after obtaining a comfortable ‘government job’.
However, I find myself intrigued by the idea of entrepreneurship. In fact, it’s becoming a bit of an obsession. It’s all completely unfamiliar and I am plagued by fears of failure and self-doubt but I am somehow certain that I will be ‘successful’. Maybe not financially, but in other far more important ways. Stay tuned….
If I can imagine it…I can achieve it…if I believe it …I can become it.
The Best Parts – The Vegan Icing on the Cake
The best part of this process has been the fulfillment. It has been surprisingly rewarding! I am discovering and embracing a lot of new things about myself and am beginning to take more ownership of my life. I am redefining myself on my own terms. I’m realizing that I alone determine my attitude and that I am solely responsible for how I respond to the world. This shit is powerful! I am truly the master of my fate.
I am confident that the efforts of Being Better will ultimately result in more meaningful relationships, greater happiness and inner peace. I am experiencing this already! However, I also remind myself that I am unpacking a lifetime of negativity, resistance and poor decision making.
I understand that I’m going to fail and fail again, but I welcome the failure because that is how we learn! My belief is that with the right principles, hard work and good habits, I can fail forward to being the best possible version of myself. So be patient with me, I’m failing as fast as I can. I encourage you to follow my journey. I am Jude.
Point of Clarification
I will be using the term Afrikan interchangeably with Black to describe persons of African descent throughout the world. I find it more practical and emblematic of how I identify. I personally define myself as an African Nova Scotian to acknowledge Mother Africa and our storied history in this province. The Afrikan community is a rich kaleidoscope of diversity and culture and to me, the term ‘Black’ falls short.