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Narrative: Dax-Devlon Ross - My Imagination Has Become My Refuge

Dax-Devlon Ross wonderfully captures his personal learning journey from education to career.

"It was to my disappointment to learn that my scholastic education had only purchased me a ticket to disillusionment, but I’m finding my way back home, so to speak, even if it’s by foot."

There is a great deal of practical wisdom in the story he tells...

"I Felt Like I Had Compromised My Dreams"

Dax-Devlon's narrative provides us with insight into his learning process in spite of, as he describes, his education and social context. In other words, here is a concrete and authentic description of the power of learning via narrative. This entry is something for each of us to grab onto and explore in relation to our own lives. In it we find passion, relevance, authenticity, motivation, disappointment, a degree of suffering, hope, resilience, and many other qualities that make us human.

"Up until that point in my life I felt I had compromised my dreams in favor of the more practical end of things and yet that I had done so wisely, prudently if you will, and that now I would begin to reap some of the rewards for my efforts."

How many of us find ourselves in this place? The dreams of what we wish to do in life are easily the most practical "things" in living, yet the social and economic systems we find ourselves in often work against them. So we compromise in order to "earn a living" as if living needs to be "earned." How many students in education systems feel this inner conflict - the dissonance between what we want to do in life versus what we are compromised into doing? This dissonance, or for those fortunate enough, the resonance, between our inner passion for life and the outer reality of living is a primary influence on learning.

"It was painful to say the least because I felt the haunting sting of shame wherever I went. I wasn’t bitter towards my friends, but I felt betrayed by the same system that had told me to get my education."

The tension Dax-Devlon describes here is common, but for some reason it is not something we give full acknowledgement to resulting in the necessity of compromising and conforming to outside expectations. We often hear that education is a system that is able to operate in isolation from the world going on around it. But the situation is perhaps worse since it is possible that the education system is a system that is also able to operate in isolation from lives of the people that are immersed in it:

"At the time I was living in New Jersey, Newark to be precise, which meant all around me I had evidence of the life’s treachery, abandonment and disillusion. It was especially difficult to come back to Newark after a day of looking for work in New York only to be greeted by a host of homeless, or if not homeless, broken people. I wondered, no, worried that I might become yet another broken individual. It seemed as though it were a very real possibility."

Dax-Devlon also courageously shares this thought with us: "I wondered, no, worried that I might become yet another broken individual." Here is an educated, intelligent and passionate person staring into the abyss. This is a clear example of how we can be both successfully educated yet marginalized in life. There is no clear connection, and certainly no guarantee, between a achieving a successful education and living a rewarding life.

"What I’ve also learned is that what’s happening inside of me, what’s happening inside of us all, is only secondarily important in the everyday sense of things. What we tend to "be" is that which we present ourselves to the world to "be". Mostly we are what we do for a living. This was a terrifying revelation to me."

It is also quite clear that Dax's learning is self-organized and he and that he has accepted responsibility for it:

"I walk around New York City like a visitor from another planet these days. I am an outsider wherever I go, but I am also at ease inside my soul because I’m finding my way without the assistance of a so-called career to give me a sense of identity and worth."

How is it that many of us can successfully traverse twelve or more years of education without developing a sense of identity and worth that is separate from materialism and the drive for income?

The need and necessity for self-organization in learning comes from, at least in part, a deep sense of feeling adrift in life. It is entirely possible to be highly educated and, as a result, feel completely out to sea in our relationship to the outside world. Joesph Campbell brilliantly captures this sense of tension in living in The Power of Myth. Here he describes one the universal journies that each of us, to varying degress, must undertake - and that is the journey through the dark forest. Dax-Devlon describes his own dark forest and how he is finding his way out of it.


Dax-Devlon Ross is developing a number of interesting ideas. 1-on-1 chronicles a journey toward liberation with the close friend: "I heard a change in his voice, in his perception of the world, and I wanted to encourage him to continue. Thus was born the idea for an online conversation between two old friends: a good ol’ game of one-on-one." Travelogues captures Dan Eldon's spirit of safari as a way of life:

"The people whose journals this site will spotlight from time to time have traveled to distant lands with more than just exotic adventure on their minds. They’re spiritual seekers, intellectuals, students, volunteers, people with global perspectives whose writings reflect both the internal and external journey afforded through travel."

And in Azikwe Chandler's Travel Journal I read this wonderful and inspiring passage:

"This could be a poem about despair. Of living here and there but being nowhere. I could speak of longings and desires, and smoldering fires. Of being broke, feeling sick, and not having sh_t. I could speak of places I’ve never seen, or not meeting the woman of my dreams… I could speak of racism and misogyny, and police brutality…

But I’d rather speak of travels, good food, and having the right attitude. I’d rather speak of following dreams and other good things, like the joys life brings. How about sunrises and sunsets, and having no regrets? I mean, I’m a happy brother. Raised by a loving father and mother, who instilled in me, wisdom, courage, AND serenity. As well as the gumption to create my own reality. “I can fly high like a bird in the sky...”

The point is that I’ve had a few dreams fulfilled, and I thank God because I know it’s Her will. She’s spoken to me many times through many signs. And I’ve vowed to keep an open mind and enjoy Her reason and Her rhyme. I have no time for staring at closed doors, or falling into any kind of depression. I’d rather thank Her for life’s lessons, and count my many blessings. I am grateful for Her loving kindness, and I will ALWAYS light a candle rather than curse the darkness."

Book Release: December 2005

BEAT OF A DIFFERENT DRUM: The Untold Stories of African Americans Forging Their Own Paths in Work and Life by Dax-Devlon Ross. 2005 Hyperion Books.

The idea for Beat of a Different Drum was first sparked by Po Bronson’s best selling, What Should I Do With My Life?. I was troubled to find that a book, that contained interviews with 55 people about their struggles to find a true calling, had not included a single African American. What Should I Do With My Life? had inadvertently fallen victim to age-old stereotypes and quiet assumptions; a stark reminder that the American media still only recognizes a handful of specific black identities.

... Beyond those borders, though, is an unmined territory of stories still to be told: stories about role models who live significant, important lives that offer a different way of viewing black people and the kinds of lives we choose to live.

...And they want that same freedom to define themselves that any other American has. While What Should I Do With My Life may have informed readers that they weren’t alone in questioning their direction, Outside the Box shows us those who are actually finding their own way.

Chapter Analysis: Beat of a Different Drum is broken into four major sections. These sections represent general themes that have emerged in my conversations.

Part I, “Globetrotting and Gallivanting”, explores the theme of place by sharing narratives of people who have either traveled the world extensively or chosen to move to a foreign country.

The stories in Part II, “A Path of One’s Own”, examine fields that have been historically under-represented by blacks. They challenge our typical notions of value, meaning and success and present new and creative approaches to work itself in the 21st Century.

Part III, “To Be or Not To Be”, focuses on stories of existential uncertainty. As more young blacks are confronted with opportunities previous generations never had, they are also discovering the challenges of finding purpose and meaning for themselves. These stories offer a fresh, unique perspective on the modern American Dilemma.

Finally, Part IV, “If the Shoe Fits…”, examines lives of experimentation. These narratives focus on people who have taken chances with their lives. They express a deep-seeded urge within us all to find out who we are. Their methods vary between scientific, creative and spiritual experimentation, but their aims are the same: self-discovery.

See BEAT OF A DIFFERENT DRUM for a complete description.

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