To get to the age of 30 the way I’ll be approaching it in about 1 ½ weeks, I believe that a person has to get through life with the assistance of 9 mandatory people: (1) a stern parent, (2) a person who teaches you about money, (3) a wingman in times of trouble, (4) a person with incredible timing, (5) a person who prays for your spirit, (6) an archrival, (7) a person who incites a horrible experience, (8) a benefactor, and (9) a realist. In today’s post to The 24 To 30 feature, I’ll cover the realist of that bunch in the story of Shermika Dunner…
THE BACKGROUND. I met Shermika in the same place I reconnected with Jeremie: Honors US History 10. All 3 of us sat in the same row. It was Jeremie that actually introduced me to Shermika when he borrowed a quarter from me to buy some candy. In addition to a backpage of books, Shermika kept a smaller bag that had a lot of candy and chips that she sold in class. It was her hustle. By the end of that school year, I think I ended up being her top customer…I pretty much bought all of the cherry Airheads she sold, leading to an addiction that still exists today. Things really came together for us as friends during our junior year in Mr. Moore’s Honors US History 11 class. Everybody knew me and Jeremie were tight but Shermika and I were just as comfortable with each other as friends. She was often the person I partnered up with on team assignments in Mr. Moore’s class and it was her that lent me notes on The Jungle after Rani Chapman stole my book and my notes. Even after we graduated high school, we stayed in touch. She’s the only other person besides Jeremie from high school that I even keep in touch with on a regular basis. As we progressed into adults, my life took me away from Alabama to Ohio and eventually into the Air Force and around the world while hers kept her local as she flourished at UAB. Nevertheless, we always got together on occasion whenever I came home to visit. As time passed along, she established herself as one of my closest friends…in fact, she’s one of my co-best friends and a member of the Elite 8. Much like Jeremie, she’s always been there to keep me from being too high on myself or too low on myself. The only difference is she’s always much rawer in what she has to say highlighted by her “I’m not gonna sugarcoat this for you AnJuan but the way I see it is…”. That’s a dynamic that has endeared me to Wavvy, a nickname given to her by our Honors US History 11 teacher. In March 2010, during my last few weeks in Tokyo, I played host in her Asia debut and treated her to a great experience…one in which we still chat about from time to time. Today, we’re still tight. She was the one who urged me to get back into blogging after I retired in 2011. Though the extensive travel involved in our respective jobs doesn’t allow for us to see each other as often as we’d both like, when we do talk and I hear her trademark “hey friend”, I always find myself overcome with happiness and deep appreciation for her friendship.
THE MOMENT OF IMPACT. I mentioned at the outset that Shermika represented the realist slot of those 9 mandatory people you need to get to 30. That’s where her impact comes in. Shermika is usually one of the first people I call when I’m experiencing alarming moments in life. She’s always been able to lend perspective about what I did wrong and what others did wrong. Either way, she’s always stressed that there is better for me and that everything evens out in the end. A particular instance to comes to mind is when I dated outside of the race for a few weeks in the Summer of 2008. I got blasted by some of the black women at Yokota Air Base—some of the same ones who declined to go out with me—about that and they were really nasty towards the woman I was going out with, a Portuguese-Japanese woman. She actually broke things off because of the teasing and I voiced my frustrations about the whole matter to Shermika in a phone conversation. She lent her perspective on it and urged me to not take a “victim” approach to what happened. She also sent me a copy of Shake Loose My Skin, a poem book by Sonia Sanchez. Shermika actually got the book signed by Sanchez, who left a heartfelt message in the book…probably speaking to that experience a little bit. I took it to heart and it has turned into not only words for that particular season in life but words for life in general.
HOW IT GOT ME TO 30. Having a friend like Shermika in my corner makes life a lot more tolerable on a number of levels. I could probably say that, of everybody in the Elite 8, she understands the most why I do things the way I do. She’s never backed down from me even when I’ve been heavily armed with statistics and experiences…likely because she’s a seasoned debater. As I chug along towards 30 and beyond, my friendship with her remains one of my greatest possessions. When I find myself veering off the straight and narrow path, she’s the one who makes sure I know the ramifications behind it. That’s why I love her…that’s why she’s a co-best friend.