I was so caught up with becoming part of the crowd that I wasn't becoming a leader, I was becoming a follower.
He was young enough to be my son, yet wise enough to be my mentor. I met him less than a month before he came on the show. His brother, Kentavius Jones, was recording a new album and was opening a few of his recording sessions to the public in a local art museum. I introduced myself and we connected right away. After speaking for only five minutes, I knew I had to have him on My Bad. He was honored that I extended the invitation. I was honored he accepted without a moment’s hesitation. We only got to speak for about an hour the day we met, but I would soon learn that Cameron McCoy was not your average 18-year-old.
Cameron expressed an interest in coming to the school where I worked so that he could mentor some of our young black male students. While most students, myself included, would have spent their last few days before going back to college, relaxing and sleeping in, Cameron spent his last two days listening, teaching and talking to countless students that needed him. He spoke to entire classes, he spoke to small groups and he spoke one on one with students that needed his full attention. He had had only been with us for a day, but students began to look for him.
I wasn’t there when it happened, but apparently when it was time for him to go, he almost had to be pulled from the school building. He had become that connected. He promised that the next time he was home on break he would visit. And I have no doubt that he will. And to think, if I hadn’t decided to make that thirty-minute drive, one cold rainy morning in December, we might have never met. Although to be quite honest, I believe in fate and I think that Cameron and I were destined to meet one way or another.
Since, Cameron was the first student I interviewed for My Bad, I really did not know what to expect. As I mentioned previously, I could tell after speaking with him for just half an hour that he had much to offer listeners and a lot to teach me. Once the interview began, it was obvious that he had done this before. He was prepared. Cameron began by reading the following quote:
Lead with ingenuity and not with ignorance.
While Cameron was excited to come on the show, I think I was more excited because I knew it would be the first time that My Bad listeners would be hearing about a mistake from a student’s perspective. And not just any student, but a freshman double majoring in Business Administration and Economics that attended Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia.
Would my listeners be interested in hearing what a student had to say? I think I already knew the answer to that question, but I was a little curious. It’s one thing to spend ten minutes listening to Todd Whitaker or Dave Burgess share their stories. These guys know how to grab your attention and never let go. But would listeners take time out of their day to listen to an 18-year-old kid whom they had never heard of? Time would tell.
It just so happened that many did. I have no doubt that some listeners tuned in because Cameron was the first kid that had appeared on the show. Like me, they were probably curious as to what he was going to share. And share he did. Cameron took on a topic that people his age rarely like to discuss. That is because we, yes we, often think/thought that when we are young we are/were invincible. And to an extent we are/were. We don’t need as much as sleep, we recover faster and we believe that we have our whole lives ahead of us.
Cameron put that myth to rest. Right away! The big mistake he shared, was thinking that he was invincible. That he could take on anything and everything. Having grown up the small town of Easton, Maryland, Atlanta was a whole new world. And while he was quite active in high school, nothing could have prepared him for what he would experience his first semester. He freely admitted that he overcommitted to the point that it landed him in the hospital.
About the time I was writing the first draft of this piece, my family was obsessed with the soundtrack to Hamilton, the musical. And for good reason. It is incredible and infectious. I bring this up because one of the songs sung by the character, Alexander Hamilton, reminded me of Cameron. More specifically, some of the lyrics to a song that Hamilton sanf in his younger days, My Shot, made me think of Cameron.
I am not throwing away my shot
Hey yo, I’m just like my country
I’m young, scrappy and hungry
And I am not throwing away my shot
I’m ‘a get a scholarship to King’s College
I prob’ly shouldn’t brag, but dag, I amaze and astonish
To be clear, it is the message of the songs’ lyrics that remind me of Cameron, not the way in which they were spoken. Cameron has worked too hard and is too driven to let a trip to the hospital discourage him from achieving his dreams. He is fully aware of his potential and he is not about to waste it nor is he about to let it go untapped. Finally, it is worth noting that like Hamilton’s character, Cameron is confident. But unlike Hamilton, Cameron is the furthest thing from cocky. Spend just five minutes with him and you will find him to be one of the most selfless individuals you will ever meet.
As a forty-six year old with gray in his beard and dust on his transcripts, I found this college freshman’s vulnerability to be quite refreshing. Thank you, I thought to myself, as he was telling his story of fatigue and over-commitment. While I realize that the overwhelming majority of My Bad listeners are adults, I hope Cameron’s story is heard by students everywhere. Because I believe it is one they need to hear. And I believe it is one that is not told often enough.
But I think that things are about to change. Cameron stepping up and sharing his story is just the beginning. Hopefully students everywhere, of all ages, will begin sharing their mistakes without fear and without repercussions. Together we can do this. I am and will be speaking with kids and adults all over the country to show them that we will make this happen. It has become my personal mission.
The sooner we begin to share our mistakes with the people we serve and the people we love, the sooner they will stop thinking that they have to be perfect.
In case I've peeked your interest and you'd like to give the episode a listen, I've included the link below.
* This is the third in a series of 10 pieces I'll be publishing weekly in which I highlight a past My Bad guest. I hope you enjoy them. And if you do, please pass them on.