Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Stepping to Self

 Life is a journey.

It really is.

Moment by moment, encounter by encounter, experience by experience, for all the days we have on this earth, we are on a journey. 

And we are not on it alone. We are connected to people, always. It is the nature of being in a community, even if we are an introverted writer who observes society, engages deeply with it, and has lived a life of serving others. We are not alone.

The thing about it is also that we sometimes feel alone.

In our thoughts, in our images of ourselves, in our check list, in our aspirations, there are moments when we must all stand by ourselves. Alone. And be ok with that.

My oldest son is one of my inspirations.

He is a very talented renaissance guy - a writer, rapper/spoken word artist, illustrator, and sneaker artist, restorer, and investor. I never understood all the ways he managed throughout his adult life to let his entrepreneurial spirit flourish, but I have always supported him. He once told me that he had to believe in himself because no one was going to make his dream happen for him.

Hustle, that is what the younger generation of content producers, influencers, and movers are calling it.

Being willing to walk away, the way Michaela Coel did when Netflix did not want her to have the copyright to her work, she walked away from a million dollars. Others have walked away.

My son did when he was offered a recording contract but would have had to relinquish his sound, his look, and his masters. He walked away from it and instead doubled down on building one CD at a time, that was way back when MySpace was a thing.

He taught me something, that is why I am writing about it.

Step to your own dreams. The lesson from my son.

Taking a risk has some bravery to it, to go against conventional wisdom, and ultimately to choose oneself, to believe enough in what you are put on this earth to do, regardless.

Of course I know that is a place of privilege for many. Not everyone can walk away from the gig that pays the bills the way I did earlier this month. But everyone can still dream.

Artists, writers, painters, poets, sculptors, singers, songwriters, producers, so many up and down the creative entrepreneurship space are "working" even as they type letters, teach classes, create latte art, fold laundry, sweep floors, sell furniture, or any other gig they have to support their art until their art can support them.

My sons , the oldest and youngest, are both creatives. They are also Millennials who have some lessons for those of us a bit older  (I'm a Jones Generation perpetually in the middle between Boomers and GenX).

To know that choosing oneself is not a selfish act but an empowering act.

To know that these devices have changed the game in access.

To know that even great employers will still choose themselves over you.

To know that life is to be lived right now and not wait until we are too old or too sick to do so.

To know that worth is not in the designer purse or jeans but in great relationships.

To know that no is a whole statement.

To know that friends are the real wealth.

To know that their is power is pursuing your purpose.

To know that this is all temporal.

I listened with great awe as my children counseled me in making a big decision that the safety-mode of my generation was stopping me from doing. I walked away from a social justice non-profit that had encompassed every waking moment of my life for four years. 

Before I walked away, my life was twisted up in knots trying to decide. I have a huge LOYALTY factor, I'm deeply committed to what I do and those I commit to. I didn't want to disappoint the people I was working with or the programs I invested in. My kids made me realize I was giving away the best parts of myself and needed to turn that loyalty around to myself.

So I did.

Asha Bandele wrote daughters and a quote that has framed my life for over a decade,"I will be a collector of me and put meat on my soul." 

I spoke that quote and said, "I resign."

And the world did not shatter.

The sky did not fall.

They kept on stepping and so did I.

I've resisted checking in on projects that took up my time and for a while, turned off all notifications that were thumping and pinging on my phone for years. I needed to hear myself again, just me, without the intrusion of after-hours texts or must-do-now messages that needed to be posted.

It was quiet.

So quiet.


And I began to hear myself, revitalize myself, emerge into my worth, wrote some poetry, scheduled a facilitating event centering what I love to do, walked on the beach, and thought about what matters in my world.

Michael Coel in her acceptance speech wrote, “In a world that entices us to browse the lives of others to help us better determine how we feel about ourselves, and to, in turn, feel the need to be constantly visible — for visibility, these days, seems to somehow equate to success — do not be afraid to disappear,” Coel said. “From it, from us, for a while. And see what comes to you in the silence.”

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