James Baldwin Never Lied.

July 10, 2019

“Best advice I ever got was an old friend of mine, a black friend, who said you have to go the way your blood beats. If you don’t live the only life you have, you won’t live some other life, you won’t live any life at all. That’s the only advice you can give anybody. And it’s not advice, it’s an observation.” — James Baldwin (August 2, 1924–December 1, 1987)

“Go the way your blood beats.”

No, that term isn’t just specific to my ever evolving (and messy) dating life.

I’m in the midst of one of the best years of my life. 2018 felt like a rebuilding season where I often found myself trying to ride the wave and await better days.

For many years, the only thing my black ass had to survive on was optimism. I will always be desperate to cling to it.

Although I attended church every Sunday growing up, I’m not a particularly religious man. Regardless, without fail, the one thing I do when I rise each day is give thanks to whatever out there is (thankfully) keeping me here.

You’d be surprised how many blessings you can think of when you live in gratitude. That’s another post for another time, but when I found myself not living in gratitude, it freaked me out.

One year ago, I was in a bad place. I wasn’t digging my new job and I was losing the joy for the profession I have loved since I was a kid. I wasn’t enjoying the passive aggressiveness of my mediocre boss, daily microaggressions or the “alleged” work/life balance the job offered.

My jobs have always been about supporting organizations and their brand. Meanwhile, I’ve found myself pregnant with big plans and little time to pursue them.

Perhaps you can relate?

I had allowed myself to be swallowed by the fantasy of being booked and busy at all times. There wasn’t any room for me, let alone to think of myself. And for what? I’m not doing a Vegas residency!

After work and being a blessing to others, there has to be room left for yourself at the end of the day. If not, no one will truly be served.

“The golden handcuffs,” or the supposed safety and security of jobs are just that. The loyalty afforded is always one-sided and conditional, and I’ve never been without a Plan B.

So after much deliberation, I decided to leave my job. I could see the privilege of being a swinging single with little overhead and reasonable credit rating. (I am available on all dating apps, BTW.).

I knew I wanted to devote more time to myself, my writing and my volunteer work. At that point, I would’ve been satisfied joining the circus or joining the Rajneesh.

I was continually asked, “What are you going to do?” and “What if it doesn’t work out?”

Oftentimes, it was posed not as a supportive inquiry but with an overwrought, anxious tone.

Moments such as those are why it is so important to keep your plans quiet and specific to certain people.

You can’t ask for advice from people who have not lived your experience, particularly if they are ruled by fear.

I didn’t have to worry because I had given it thought for months. I had been saving money, making sure there was always money in the banana stand.

I consulted people who made leaps previously. Friends and colleagues who had been in search of adventure or those who had overcome near-death experiences and illness. Not only did they give me great advice but they reminded me of what was most important: Living life on my terms because nothing is guaranteed.

They aided me in forming an LLC. They recommended me for freelance work. They checked on me. They helped validate me.

Until now, few people know what I’ve just shared. There have been no “Woe is me” social media posts. There’s been no vague-booking. There’s was only hustling. As the Notorious B.I.G. once said, “Bad Boys move in silence and violence.” (The only thing I have abused are cookies and whiskey, by the way.).

Turns out, as my bible-wielding mother would say, there are no mistakes.

During last summer, I started a design company. I was fortunate to be able to tend to friends who became unexpectedly ill. I began a long overdue adventure of going to therapy. I took swimming lessons. I traveled frequently without trusty laptop. I even hit puberty and finally grew a goatee. It’s been very exciting to find myself, and to find an equilibrium.

The best part? I haven’t missed a beat financially, and the work I’ve taken on has been the most fulfilling and diverse of my career.

Those who don’t want to upset the apple cart will never get it: You never lose when you bet on yourself.

In this life, I’ve always known that if you perform your due diligence and proceed with honor and integrity, you should always expect things to go well.

If things don’t go your way, it’s a lesson. If they do, you get all the glory. It’s a win-win.

So while you may not be able to blow everything up tomorrow and start again, remember this: You can start somewhere. Make a plan. Start a vision board. Dream of what could be, and why it will succeed.

Make a promise to yourself. You will always be worth the investment.

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