To Be Young, Shiftless, & Black

Updated: November 9, 2015

Me on my 29th birthday last month.
Ten years ago when I graduated from high school, I always imagined that by 30, I’d be making $100,000 a year. I would have the title “Dr.” in front of my name, married, kids, and a big a** house in the hills with the white pillars like the Fresh Prince.  By February, I was {fake} searching for my dream home that had to, at minimum, have a fireplace, hardwood floors, and a covered patio.  Allegedly, according to some very UNreliable sources (who BET NOT let me catch them on the streets) Mr. “Most Likely To Succeed” had it all figured out.  
Then six months before my 29th birthday, I found myself experiencing homelessness and moving in with my parents, dropping out of school, stroke symptoms and other stress-related illnesses, unemployment, a failing business, and the internal strife  from a heavy secret I had been keeping to myself for some time. 
Did I mention that life itself was utterly, and completely, out of All chill? 
 Exactly 2 months to the day I moved home (March 7) my grandmother died (May 7).   My uncle died one month after her. Then, packing for his funeral, I was informed that my cousin Princess of just 32 years old had succumbed to a gunshot wound from earlier in the week. 
In 40 days, I lost – and buried – my grandmother, my uncle, and my cousin. For good measure, my car’s engine completely said No Thank You for good.  
My cousin Princess, Grandmother, and Grandfather.
By June, I was drowning in the Gettin’ Grown Blues and declining fast. I gave up writing altogether. I completely stopped taking care of myself.  Watching my mom grieve her mother, brother, and niece took a toll on me. I was buried so deep in grief at one time I didn’t leave the bed for two solid weeks. The shame brought on by dropping out of school and the self-induced humiliation, anxiety, and embarrassment of being unemployed, penniless, and without transportation brought about a depression so severe, that the mental mêlées of thoughts of taking my own life became a minute by minute scuffle. By the end of the month, I had completely stopped showering and eating. I stopped taking care of my hair (11 inches at that point), and relegated myself for days at a time to the futon in my parent’s office.


I am Young. And Gifted. And Shiftless. And Black. And Wack.

Listen, no dispute from me. I fully accept this as a budding strugglepreneur, semi-woke millennial, graduate school Super DUPER student. And, though I am only 29 (young), immensely talented (gifted), and fiercely motivated by the evolution of All Things Melanin, (Black) the truth is, inconsistency, laziness, and a lack of self-confidence keep me from being as bad as I know I can be (SHIFTLESS) and as a result, I am easily discouraged (WACK).
It was through these experiences that made me want to create a space within MEBDKX that deals head on with the Black millennial and thus the concept Young, Gifted, Shiftless, Wack & Black (#YGSWB) was born. #YGSWB is a series of post I will be using to chronicle my own struggles with unemployment, self-care, mental health, and my overall tales of navigating adulthood and strugglepreneurship.
“Sick & Tired of Being Sick & Tired.” – Fannie Lou Hamer
I woke up one day sometime in the middle of July and made up my mind my circumstances would only change if I had the get-up-and-go to do so.  I made the decision that day that depression and the Getting Grown Blues had to go and there would be no-entry.  Here are the 7 things I did: 
“An Attitude of Gratitude”
 I instantly started noticing all of the blessings that surrounded me and starting being deeply appreciative: I had family that supported me. I never went without food. Hot water, a mound of clothes to choose from, a roof over my head, several vehicles to get around in, air condition, seasoning. Everything. I always had the means to do what I neededto do. I started a gratitude journal and every night before bed, I wrote down 10 things – regardless of size or scope – that I was truly grateful for and appreciated.  
I Started Working Out.
I joined a $15 dollar a month gym and wore that joker out every chance I got.  By September, I was up to 100 pushups a day, 40 minutes of cardio, and at least a half of gallon of water.  I was walking an average of three miles day and, on a good week, would have walked 10 miles. 
I Started Writing Again.
Xavier Payne Illustrations: Living Single. Check out his dope work work here.
I just set in front of the computer one day, I put on John Coltrane, and I gave myself 60 minutes to do just that: write. Over 100 pages of solid content later, I am still writing with zero intentions of slowing down.  Just like that, I realized that God had a ridiculous sense of humor. He was sooo hilarious, He’d put my purpose in my last name. 
I Found My Brand.
I spent the last 7 months really understanding “branding” and the concept of building a brand and in doing so, I found my voice, uncovered my purpose, and was reassured in my commitment to being a disciplined man about my business. I comfortable with own my “brand” and building it. I now know the type of businessman that I want to be and strive to be that every day.  I got comfortable with being “Too Black” “Pro-Black” “Radical” and all of these other monikers that I had rejected over the years. I fully accepted that I am addicted to Black Excellence and I overdose on Black people every day and there is no cure for my disease. Pray for me. 
 I Started Meditating More.
I have been practicing meditation on and off since 2013. But once the GGB’s started cranking up, I found myself seeking stillness and mindfulness more than I already did.  I started waking up in the morning, and after using the first few moments to give thanks, I meditated. Every day, for an average of 15 to 20 minutes, I sit still and allow myself to just be. I become present in the moment. I feel my breath. I pay attention to my thoughts. Mindfulness and stillness-induced meditation have saved me several times from going down that dark path of negative thoughts. 
I Started Saying The Words “I Love You” to Myself.  
Every day. And meaning it. 
I Prayed.
To everybody; God, The Universal Creator, the ancestors, everybody. Heaven, can you hear me? Most importantly though, I became extremely confident in asking these unseen forces for guidance, protection, and discernment.   

Make No Mistake About It: I Am Still A Mess’s Mess 

Do I get discouraged? Yes. Do I fail? Every single day. Do I look at my friends on Facebook and wonder what went so wrong in my life that I wasn’t able to buy a ticket to Dubai for $32 and an empty coke can? Probably more than I would actually admit. But, my focus is on the objective and the objective is clear: I am building multiple mediums for people of African descent and will remain steadfast on my journey to Black Economic Sovereignty while making “this” many apologies in doing so –>0
My doctoral program? I ended up converting my doctorate to a masters and will earn my 2ndmasters in educational policy ans

evaluation in December. I haven’t had a stroke symptom since I left school 7 months ago and messed around a built a chest from all of the working out this summer which is really right on time because after my first Chicago winter, I’m coming up out these clothes in May.

I’d gotten my dream house with the hardwood floors, fireplace, and covered porch with the big white pillars out front like The Fresh Prince –it was my parent’s house.  (That Ridiculous sense of humor….)
  And the heavy secret I had been lugging around like an invisible elephant strapped to my back? The night before I left for Chicago, I sat my mom, dad, aunt and uncle  down and informed for some but mostly (definitely) confirmed for others (everybody)  that I openly and proudly dated both men and women and would continue to do so. My mama just smiled at me and said, “Son, you’re ready.” My uncle reminded me of the blood that coursed through my veins. My aunt reminded me that she was indeed a “Lady of Luxury” and needed me to go build this Pharaohdom so that she could continue to remain that way.
 Then there was my father. The 51 year-old Casanova (The Fresh Prince, 1991) himself looked me in my eyes and said, “Son, that wasn’t heavy at all.  I still love you and you still my boy. I call you boy because you’ll always be my boy in my eyes. Now go to Chicago and step on as many toes as you need to, stand on as many shoulders as you have to, and roll as many heads that are required of you.” ‘
So On October 7th, with 200 dollars in my pocket and .38 cents in my bank account, I boarded a plane headed to Chicago. My return flight was scheduled for October 25th; but I knew I wasn’t coming back. This was it. I was going for mine.  The time had come for me to grow up and be The Man I always knew I could be. I came to Chicago with radical faith, radical focus, and the ferocious desire to be awesome. 
Every day I am afforded the opportunity be better than I was yesterday and I take full advantage of it.  Whether I choose to build for the future, or fester in the past, is entirely up to me. The Grand Ancestral Mother Muse Maya Angelou told me I was already paid for; I know this because my struggle is my receipt.  Simply put, the day I took my life back was the day that I knew that I had every right to live an abundant life, build an empire, eat great food, travel this marvelous world, meet dope  people, spread love, and be free. And you ou know what? That is exactly what I am going to do. 

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