Karamo: My Story of Embracing Purpose, Healing, and Hope

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You ever read a memoir that feels less like you’re reading, and more like you’re having a beautiful conversation? That’s how I felt while reading Karamo Brown’s memoir, appropriately titled “Karamo: My Story of Embracing Purpose, Healing, and Hope”. Like any good conversation, this memoir is not in chronological order. He’s also notorious for showing photos in the middle of the conversation (pages). I found this to be a distraction. I would have preferred if he held them to at least the end of the chapter. Those are the negatives of the 284-page memoir. The rest was truly a beautiful conversation. Here are some of the highlights, told in a story of quotes from the book. For each word highlighted in the first paragraph, I included more quotes that expand on those ideas.

“I am an open book and never tried to hide who I was or what I’d gone through.” (155) “I am not judging anyone’s journey. When you come from immigrant parents, and you’re fighting with your sexuality and fighting with religion, and addiction fighting with being abusive to people, and just fighting to make a good life you don’t have any room to judge anyone. The key thing I want people to know is the reason I help them is that I needed to help myself to have a happy life; it takes effort, it takes maintenance, it takes gratitude for what you have. It takes checking in with yourself and with others. It takes remembering that molding the way you want to live doesn’t stop when your kids get older.” (238)

  • [Sexuality] “I came out at fifteen, although I don’t use the term ‘coming out’. I say ‘letting people in’. I think the term ‘coming out’ gives other people the power to accept or deny people who identify as LGBQT+ and takes the power away from those who should really own their power… I also realized that the term ‘coming out’ puts unnecessary pressure on members of the LGBQT+ community. We don’t need to let everyone in every part of our lives. It doesn’t mean we are ashamed of who we are. It’s called ‘boundaries.” (23)
  • [Addiction] “My thinking in comparison to other addicts was I am going to work, I am socializing, I am in control. Therefore, I am not like you. But I was not coping with my life. When you’re in the haze of any drug, alcohol, or addiction- you’re not coping. I was avoiding my emotions, my issues, myself.” (109) “Luckily, I have finally conquered this conflict, and am living a healthy life, but I still have to take it one day at a time.” (131)
  • [Abusive] “I now get it that my job wasn’t to jump in the middle of these disputes… my job was to listen and support their decisions, give them resources to use when they were ready and encourage them to take small steps toward a different life. When I was younger, I thought that you protected women from being abused by being violent toward the men who were abusing them.” (83)
  • [Good life / Parenting] “I used to think how backward it was that when I did something wrong and admitted it, I got in trouble. Honesty should never be punished. It should be celebrated, because it gives your child a chance to grow.” (199)
  • [Help myself] The spankings I witnessed my sister getting were one of the reasons I eventually decided, at the age of twenty-two, that I wanted to work in social services.” (77) “Leadership just became what I was going to do, along with being a social worker. Still it felt like a piece missing- and it was the vanity piece. I wanted to help people, but I also wanted people to know who I was…” (146)
  • [Takes maintenance] “The thing about mental health that’s similar to physical health is that you continuously have to check in with your mind, just as you check in with your body. You have to allow yourself the space to figure out what’s going on with you so you can grow with it. I never gave myself that space… I would think to myself – never expressing it out loud – that I wanted to die just to escape it all.” (121) “There is hope, joy and sunlight on the other side of these dark feelings.” (123) [PSA You can find help by calling the suicide prevention line 1-800-273-8255 and you can even text HOME to 741741 or go to the ER and ask to speak to a social worker.]
  • [Gratitude] “I’m so sad for younger generations [relationships], in some ways when it comes on the ability to pick up a phone and chat for hours. Everything is so rapid, text-text-text, and if they do get on the phone, its only for a few minutes. What built my relationship with Ian were those intimate conversations where I was up, pacing around my bedroom, laughing, going into my kitchen and grabbing something to drink, and trying to mute the phone while I used the restroom, because I didn’t want to tell him to pause.” (215)
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