Why simply living as a black man in America is exhausting.

I’m so tired. You really don’t know what I mean.

I live in a neighborhood filled with beautiful homes, but I don't feel safe admiring the architecture for too long or too obviously because eventually someone will think I’m casing the property.

I keep my hands clasped behind my back when I’m browsing in stores so employees might feel less inclined to follow me quite as closely.


I slow down when I’m walking behind someone or cross the street if it’s at night because nothing good happens when my fellow pedestrians start with the nervous over-the-shoulder glances.

I make sure to wear Columbia University gear if I have to travel, whether I’m feeling some school pride or not. I do my best not to get any bigger, not just to be healthy or feel good, but because the only thing scarier than a black man is a large black man. I know this.

Me and my parents at my 2012 graduation. Photo courtesy of Khalil Romain.

I smile and laugh, even when I’m miserable or angry, because these pinchable cheeks might save me some headaches down the line. I never raise my voice, and I never ever lose my temper in public — even when I’d be in the right to do so. I know how to manufacture joy and charm as a defense mechanism and survival tool.

I do all of this extra work, these constant calculations in the back of my head, fully aware that it’s bullshit.

It’s all bullshit because respectability politics have and always will be bullshit. If the police can gun down a 12-year-old boy in under two seconds of arriving on the scene, of course I don’t stand a chance. Body cameras and smartphone evidence still don’t get an indictment, much less a conviction, so of course what I say, how I dress, or what I do doesn’t matter. Who I am doesn’t matter. It never will, not until my life does.

I do all of these little things for the placebo effect — to feel like I have some control over what does or does not happen to me when I walk out the door. It’s not real.

In every single direct interaction I have had with a police officer, their weapon has been unholstered. I know for a fact that those conversations often begin with a gun pointed in your face. I know they’re not supposed to, and for the majority of Americans, they don’t. I know that knowing that doesn’t matter. This is the way it works.

So I’m tired. I’m tired because the nonstop mental math, which runs in the background like a computer program every single waking moment of the day, is exhausting.

The futility of turning every single one those precautions into a habit is fucking exhausting. Watching people die again and again and again for being black in public is exhausting.

Knowing that one day it will be you or the people you love — that it will be someone else’s loved ones until then — is exhausting. Knowing there will still be people who respond with "but all lives..." is exhausting.

Figuring out how to be a functional adult is hard enough. Against all odds, I have managed to carve out a teeny tiny slice of life for myself in which I’m actually happy.

Friends and me in Brazil. Photo courtesy of Khalil Romain.

I have, miraculously, made a home with a person I love with a depth and sincerity I never imagined I’d be so lucky as to share. I’m increasingly certain my cat, Langston, is getting fluffier every day. I have incredible friends and family that I adore. It would be an unimaginable privilege to give my whole heart to living these parts of my life and not always chain a portion of my mind to simply trying to survive.

I am very, very tired.

Images courtesy of Mark Storhaug & Kaiya Bates

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The experiences we have at school tend to stay with us throughout our lives. It's an impactful time where small acts of kindness, encouragement, and inspiration go a long way.

Schools, classrooms, and teachers that are welcoming and inclusive support students' development and help set them up for a positive and engaging path in life.

Here are three of our favorite everyday actions that are spreading kindness on campus in a big way:

Image courtesy of Mark Storhaug

1. Pickleball to Get Fifth Graders Moving

Mark Storhaug is a 5th grade teacher at Kingsley Elementary in Los Angeles, who wants to use pickleball to get his students "moving on the playground again after 15 months of being Zombies learning at home."

Pickleball is a paddle ball sport that mixes elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis, where two or four players use solid paddles to hit a perforated plastic ball over a net. It's as simple as that.

Kingsley Elementary is in a low-income neighborhood where outdoor spaces where kids can move around are minimal. Mark's goal is to get two or three pickleball courts set up in the schoolyard and have kids join in on what's quickly becoming a national craze. Mark hopes that pickleball will promote movement and teamwork for all his students. He aims to take advantage of the 20-minute physical education time allotted each day to introduce the game to his students.

Help Mark get his students outside, exercising, learning to cooperate, and having fun by donating to his GoFundMe.

Image courtesy of Kaiya Bates

2. Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids

According to the WHO around 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression. In the US, 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness and 1 in 20 experience severe mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Kaiya Bates, who was recently crowned Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen for 2022, is one of those people, and has endured severe anxiety, depression, and selective mutism for most of her life.

Through her GoFundMe, Kaiya aims to use her "knowledge to inspire and help others through their mental health journey and to spread positive and factual awareness."

She's put together regulation kits (that she's used herself) for teachers to use with students who are experiencing stress and anxiety. Each "CALM-ing" kit includes a two-minute timer, fidget toolboxes, storage crates, breathing spheres, art supplies and more.

Kaiya's GoFundMe goal is to send a kit to every teacher in every school in the Pasco School District in Washington where she lives.

To help Kaiya achieve her goal, visit Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids.

Image courtesy of Julie Tarman

3. Library for a high school heritage Spanish class

Julie Tarman is a high school Spanish teacher in Sacramento, California, who hopes to raise enough money to create a Spanish language class library.

The school is in a low-income area, and although her students come from Spanish-speaking homes, they need help building their fluency, confidence, and vocabulary through reading Spanish language books that will actually interest them.

Julie believes that creating a library that affirms her students' cultural heritage will allow them to discover the joy of reading, learn new things about the world, and be supported in their academic futures.

To support Julie's GoFundMe, visit Library for a high school heritage Spanish class.

Do YOU have an idea for a fundraiser that could make a difference? Upworthy and GoFundMe are celebrating ideas that make the world a better, kinder place. Visit upworthy.com/kindness to join the largest collaboration for human kindness in history and start your own GoFundMe.

The Schmidt family's Halloween photoshoot has become an annual tradition.

Two of Patti Schmidt's three sons were already well into adulthood when her daughter Avery was born, and the third wasn't far behind them. Avery, now 5, has never had the pleasure of close-in-age sibling squabbles or gigglefests, since Larry, Patrick, and Gavin are 28, 26, and 22, respectively—but that doesn't mean they don't bond as a family.

According to People.com, Patti calls her sons home to Point Pleasant, New Jersey, every fall for a special Halloween photoshoot with Avery. And the results are nothing short of epic.

The Schmidt family started the tradition in 2017 with the boys dressing as the tinman, the scarecrow, and the cowardly lion from "The Wizard of Oz." Avery, just a toddler at the time, was dressed as Dorothy, complete with adorable little ruby slippers.

The following year, the boys were Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Chewbacca, and Avery was (of course) Princess Leia.

In 2019, they did a "Game of Thrones" theme. ("My husband and I were binge-watching (Game of Thrones), and I thought the boys as dragons would be so funny," Schmidt told TODAY.)

In 2020, they went as Princess Buttercup, Westley, Inigo Montoya, and Fezzik from "The Princess Bride."

Patti shared a video montage of each year's costume shoot—with accompanying soundtracks—on Instagram and TikTok. Watch:

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."