How Much Should Your Roots Define You?

Feb 5, 2020  |  By Arthur Ebuen  |  

CreativeMornings is a free talk series for creatives, entrepreneurs, developers, and crafters in advertising and marketing. It’s held the last Friday of every month with varying topics. These talks are meant to bring us together and hopefully inspire our work (and maybe personal) outlooks.

After almost every one of these, I leave aspiring to do better. But for those of us lucky enough to catch January’s CreativeMornings session, I don’t think we were ready for Carlos McCray’s vulnerably honest talk. January’s theme was Roots. Quoted from the San Diego CreativeMornings site, “The roots exist to provide sustenance and a strong foundation for the rest of its body. Examine your own ‘roots.’ When you retrace them, what do you find?”

Without hesitation, McCray revealed personal struggles you wouldn’t expect so easily talked about. His raw honesty with how he got through it all to not only help himself, but ultimately others, left a visibly inspired group.

Human Roots?
McCray shared how he explored this theme for his talk. He understood roots for plants but asked himself, “What are roots for humans?” McCray then realized he has a disconnect with his roots.

As an adopted kid, he doesn’t have much access to his past, what has created him, and what feeds his natural instincts. With the help of the internet he met with his uncle to learn very little, but does his lineage determine his roots? Does being raised by his loving adoptive family become his roots? He walked us through his inner dialogue on what it means to understand our roots and how much they can, or should, define you and whether we have control over that.

Focusing on the Past
McCray has been a social worker for underserved communities since 2006, “Transition aged (foster) youth, that’s where my heart lies.” A lot of the kids he helps wonder about their past, their roots, what defines them. He shared examples of some youth who are reaching the 100 mark in being placed in and out of homes.

“Where are their roots? What do they hold on to every time they’re ripped out of another foster care home?” McCray asks. He compared that to those he helps who are struggling with addiction, those who have parents that are addicts. He ponders if that’s their roots.

Uprooting Yourself
After learning the very little he was able to dig up of his past, McCray believes he’s blessed by being adopted, having his roots being cut from under him. He still dealt with drugs and alcohol, learning to process being a victim of molestation, he wondered if being a victim defines a person. Why keep worrying about where we come from? “See, unlike the sequoia, we can get up and put our roots somewhere else.”

His philosophy is, “F__k it! What’s it matter if my mom was a prostitute? What’s it matter if she was a multimillionaire? I can be whoever I want to be if I think about it starting (pause) today, moving forward.” (Followed by applause).

McCray empathized that while we all had hardships in our past, try not to give our struggles too much power, stopping us from going forward.

McCray co-founded Dojo Café in City Heights. A café focused on creating a safe space to bring the community together through fun events offering connections to resources.

My Takeaways
My work at the agency – Every new client, project, or meeting: each new interaction is an opportunity to reset and give that new moment a chance to be just that, new and full of potential. Not to be prejudged and sandbagged by past experiences.

My professional development – Try new things, no matter how difficult it may seem, especially if you want it. Only you can get in your own way, step aside and let yourself grow.

My personal life – Be an example to my kids by having a positive outlook, seeing each moment as an opportunity to grow or learn from, especially from mistakes.

See You There
At this talk, it was revealed that the San Diego chapter is the third largest in the world, out of 211 chapters in 67 different countries. Good job, us. If you haven’t joined CreativeMornings and you live in San Diego, give it a try. The worst is you’ll get free coffee, the best is you’ll leave inspired and maybe grow your creative connections.

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