“…the pieces of my life got shattered at some point and I haven’t found the glue to put them back together.”
In 2011, I first heard of Issa Rae in a CNN article about hair. The article pointed me in the direction of the Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, and I wasted no time telling all of my friends, sisters, and cousins to “Watch this show!” I loved watching her come up over the next couple of years and was fortunate to have the opportunity to work for her from 2014-2015 on a site called Tea & Breakfast, which no longer exists. Being the editor-in-chief of that online magazine was such a turning point for me and while it was one of the most traumatic times in my life, that opportunity working with her had anchored me to something that I’m grateful to still hold onto to this day: if I’m good enough to work with someone as talented and driven as Issa Rae, or rather if I’m able to be in the room with someone who inspires me, then maybe I have some of that energy inside me too. If recognizing who you’re in the room with offers us anything, I hope it’s that sense of belonging. And for me, I think somewhere in my mind I know that being in the room with people I admire, and that they see me too, makes navigating my creative career a little more clear and a little less lonely. The real work is figuring out what it is that I’m supposed to be doing that got me in the room in the first place.
Earlier this year, I worked the Roots Picnic again. It was really awesome because for a brief moment, Dave Chappelle stood in his doorway and gave me, ME (like he looked me square in my eyes) and gave me the double peace sign…before he shut his door. I could end this bit here, but I won’t. Anyway, that was at the end of the evening just as mother nature prepared all of her rain clouds to empty on us and cancel the rest of the festival. The day was exciting though, I got to meet the talented Tierra Whack, whose art I had spent the better part of the week consuming. I got to briefly speak with Questlove for the first time (we’ve been next to each other at numerous events but I never said a word), and I left realizing that when I first started working with these folks (during my OkayAfrica days) I had had a dream of being a musician and wanted to surround myself with other musicians to see how to get my musical career started. Six years later and I can’t say much for a musical career, but I can say that I’ve been fortunate enough to be in the room with people who figured out how to get theirs started. However, I didn’t recognize it then that I was surrounded by the people who I wanted to work with, the people who I wanted to see me too. It amazes me that in the one thing I’ve always been able to do, it’s the thing that I couldn’t do for others; just sing.
That same month, I was so fortunate and privileged to attend VidCon in Anaheim, CA. Thanks to working on BrainCraft, I got an all expense paid trip out to the conference where I got to be surrounded by all of these creators and go-getters who inspired me endlessly. There were so many creators who had such gut and grit, who were all just trying to create the work they wanted to see in the world, who were just being their most creative selves with the tools and platforms they have access to in this digital world. Again, I was in the room. I was surrounded by people bearing their vulnerabilities, working tirelessly to fulfill their dreams, regardless of how singular or communal their dreams were. I was in the room. I vowed leaving that I’d be back next year. I mean after you cut a rug with Evelyn, Jouelzy, Wahima (who all taught me how to play spades) and Hank Green, why would you not want to go back and resurrect your dance circle? I got to hang out with the PBS Digital Studios family, I got to meet and chat with the guys of Wisecrack, I got to be around the people with whom I’ve always wanted to be friends.
So with all of my opportunities, all of my blessings, why do I still feel as if I’m failing? I feel as if life is just happening to me and I’m just showing up, looking around, and then leaving once I’ve had my fill of canapés and refreshments. I feel like I haven’t actively created my opportunities and there’s where I want to make a change. I need to focus on this glow up that I foresee the next time I see Issa. I need to sing and create out loud so that when people see me they see the work that I put in. I want to live so vulnerably, so open, and work so tirelessly on my dreams that the next time I’m in the room I can feel as if I worked just as hard to be there and be seen. Over the next few days, I’m going to be writing out what I want to make happen over the next year. I know that I want to be in the room, I may even deserve to be in the room because my proximity tickles my skin and puts a flutter in my heart, and this is all the more reason to stay in the room and dare artfully.