From the Desk of...
by Dr. D'Angelo Taylor
During my childhood in the south side of Richmond, Virginia, I knew my upbringing would not be my future. Watching the news and being observant, I knew my family had our obstacles, but we still pushed forward.
I can recall my grandmother encouraging (telling me) to get a job at a local fast-food restaurant. Being the persuasive person she was, my grandmother convinced me that making my own money would be better than spending hers. So, I gave in and started my first job at Long John Silvers. My first day was one I will never forget. I walked in and finished all my paperwork before I received my first duty of the night. It was a Friday, and unbeknownst to me, it was the busiest day of the week. The manager gave me the task of being a cook that day, and I recall doing everything wrong because a flurry of directions was coming at me. I did not know this at the time, but the fire of that night was molding me for the better. Being immersed into the blaze known as the "Friday night rush" was no joke. And while I can recall being placed on dining room duty due to my poor performance in the kitchen, it felt good to know that I was finally making my own money.
As the night continued, I was asked to take out the trash, but in doing so, I exited the wrong door forcing an alarm to sound throughout the entire restaurant. I was embarrassed, but I had not been fired, so I kept on working. I worked at that job until the early stages of my college career because it provided me with perspective and the foundation of treating people with kindness and providing excellent service under duress.
As I navigated the rigors of college life, all my job-taught lessons were tested in a new environment across the country. As luck would have it, I met Dr. Jack Thomas by chance in a residence hall cafeteria, an encounter that led to another where he agreed to mentor me. Equipped with my previous lessons and newfound mentorship, I felt great about where I could go in my life. The constant challenges from my mentor and his circle pushed me to do the same with my circle, thus paying it forward the best way I knew how. This service, mentorship and professionalism mentality helped me grow beyond the young fast-food worker or the average college student. My newfound outlook on life allowed me to impact lives in a way that can only be explained by those whose lives I have touched. I share excerpts of my story with my students every chance I have because we all have an anecdote or life lesson that may present itself at the perfect time to help someone else.
These days, I think about how listening to my grandmother convincing me to get a job was one of the best decisions in my life. That decision forced me out of my comfort zone. I echo the words of the keynote speaker at my doctoral commencement ceremony, "Good, better, best. Don't you rest until your good is better, and your better is your best."
My best is yet to come...