The other day while watching television, I came across an interesting commercial-an SUV promotion which entails a black man who looks to be in his 30s, educated and responsible. On his route home, he’s passing through his old neighborhood and wondering to himself, has he changed, or just grown up?

This is an all-too-familiar question. Does becoming educated, legally improving your finances or moving to a culturally diverse neighborhood mean you have grown away from your roots? Or are these simply the stepping stones of a productive life? Maybe it’s a combination of both.

While I realize the commercial was merely supporting the theory of age and time enhancement, it underlines so much more. Things should get better with time, right? I overheard a conversation the day after Thanksgiving and the woman said that she goes to her sister’s house to have Thanksgiving dinner, and a friend of her sister comes over to her and says, “You’re the stuck-up sister, right?” As she went through her response I could hear the hurt in her voice even though she insists it didn’t bother her.

It makes you think about the idea of self-improvement-the struggle, the sacrifice, the benefits and then the sometimes negative responses that come along with the image that some people perceive with growth. You hope to hear things like congratulations on your accomplishments, well done, and good job. But far too often we hear the terms “bijou,” “conceited,” “stuck up,” or in my opinion the worst of all, “sell-out.” It’s almost saying that to set out to achieve, to have self-confidence or want more for yourself is not allowed.

My question is: “What is really intended by such statements?” Does it mean a person shouldn’t make self-improvements? Should we not challenge ourselves and pursue life’s possibilities? Maybe we should just stand still, keeping in mind that time waits for no one. Or perhaps we should only dream of better things, discussing it with our friends and family but never actually pursuing anything at all.

Well, wouldn’t that be defeating the purpose of our parents and teachers telling us as children that we can do anything we set our minds to, so long as we work hard enough? Some of us actually took those words to heart.

There are great numbers of people out there who wholeheartedly believe that faith without works is dead. Because of this we say our prayers, trust and believe that we are entitled to progress, and we start the process by putting that ball in motion. I’ve never heard of a self-made successful person (the operative word being “self”) who sat around and waited for things to come to them. Successful people go out looking for success. When I say successful people, I mean simply people who get out there and attempt to make things happen.

The only losers of life are those who are too afraid to try.

I guess what I am working up to is this: Life is what you make of it. We no longer have to walk in the shadows of others; we get to create our own destinies. Because of this, we should support our family and friends in their accomplishments instead of signifying against them. Why not encourage each other to grab life by the tale (or tail) and ride it out to the end.

Kind words go a long way and, believe it or not, they come back to you. Let’s not stifle each other. Everyone has the opportunity of self-improvement. Why can’t we all join together and master the art?

I’m ahead of my time, maybe sometimes years out, so the powers that be won’t let me get my ideas out. (Kanye West)