"I am The Stone that that builder refused.
I am The Visual, The Inspiration, that made Lady sing The Blues.
I'm The Spark that makes your idea bright.
The same spark that lights the dark, so that you can know your left from your right."
- Asheru, "The Boondocks Theme"
It's 1:01pm. I'm sitting in a black leather bean bag chair that vibrates at adjustable levels. My eyes are enslaved to the view from my window. The breeze is playing the tree branches like a puppeteer. Every ten minutes for the past 30, the sky switches from smoke grey to powder blue -- as if God Himself couldn't decide between which wallpaper He wanted to use for his desktop.
I decided to write.
June is a busy month. From commencement ceremonies, Father's Day, Juneteenth, Tupac's Birthday, Pride Month and Men's Health Month to the Puerto Rican Day Parade, it's a month-long celebration of the spectrum of identity. The categories that we claim are celebrated because of their historical significance or because the category of attention directs our lives to a certain degree.
Since I identify as a musician, I've been digging through music libraries for poignant recordings to form my contribution to celebrate "African-American Music History" Month. What I didn't expect to find was my utter disdain for the category of 'African-American'. I say this because the hyphen that connects those two continents isn't reflected in my physiological circuitry. I have no conscious connection to Africa. I currently am unaware of what Africa looks like. I haven't inhaled the air. The soles of my shoes haven't embraced the soil. I don't view Africa as 'my origin'. I view it as a great destination just short of Heaven that I wish to be worthy of seeing one day.
The sound of "African-American" rings to be outdated, just as 'Colored' or 'Negro'. The persons in positions of power have been handing Africans in America updated identities since their kidnapping. The ordinances that were put in place before me have restricted my predecessors from being truly limitless. They only had room to operate within their social and legal confines.
Maybe my connection to Africa is a subconscious one. Maybe I'm linked to my ancestors by way of a generational relay race, in the pursuit of ultimate freedom. Maybe my connection to my heritage is hidden in the research of their lifestyle, culture and traditions. Perhaps my homage to them is traveling distances that even they couldn't imagine, which would make the next generation's objective to go further than me.
In this current moment. I'm unsure of my identity. I know my experiences. I know my emotions. I am halfway aware of my interests. My identity, though, is still abstract. Here's a list the of categories that I've adopted and the ranking that follows:
" Victory to me is when you spend your time right / Victory to me is when you get your grind right..."
- Nipsey Hussle, 'Face the World' (2013)
It's 12:15am. This specific time stamp serves as the bridge that connects Sunday night and Monday morning. The only thing that's working right now (other than myself) is the downstairs washing machine, tumbling a cycle of wet clothes in the same way that my brain is slinging around these dense ideas. I've been working overtime, trying to secure a sense of accomplishment that will justify my sleep deprivation. My most recent ideas are a leash that pulls me to operate outside the comfort zone of me keeping myself a secret. I want to assist others. I want to make an impact. I want to help improve the quality of life for the people that arrive 3 generations after me. I have plans written in my notebook for the year 2038. But here I am, in 2019 -- still in the stages of infancy. My anxiety for the future and frustration with the present is an internal war that can only be won through true equanimity. Rushing this current moment will only dilute my execution later on.
But what does my equanimity look like? I've meditated on it and have come to understand that it's me accepting where I am, while steadily working away at my habits that don't remind me of who I want to become. It's me waking up with enough time to fix breakfast and not have to rush to work. It's me not sharing negative opinions because it's funny or convenient. It's me respecting my craft by being well-rested. It's me being present in-person as opposed to being present online. It's me being just as productive for myself as I am for my employer.
Playing on my laptop speakers right now is a song called 'Face The World' by the late Nipsey Hussle. It encapsulates everything that I love about music in 3 minutes and 57 seconds -- a colorful motif, concise writing, potent messaging and a universal feeling. The song is about perseverance. Over a nostalgic soul sample, Nipsey details the process of practicing that perseverance and the patience needed to preserve it. No matter how many situations in our lives turn sour, it's our human responsibility to settle in our own version of victory. Nipsey sounds grateful for his shortcomings. He is calm when describing his own turbulence and coaches his listeners to behave in the same fashion through theirs. It's almost as if he's saying that even the things that seem to be working against you were placed in front of you for your own benefit, so long as you choose to transcend it.
I've grown to know that my desired finish line will never appear without me running the marathon that leads to it. I cannot run that marathon effectively without pacing myself. My life is my individual race. It's not a competitive sprint. So for now, I will sweat. My knees will buckle. I'll rethink why I started running to begin with. I will pray for a strength that I have not yet tapped into. I might even slow down -- but I will never stop. The process will be bitter. The victory will be sweet.
There's a plan for my life. Just like there's a plan for yours. Not every moment is Instagrammable, but every second is for you to decide how to handle it. The bitterness is there to balance the sweetness. Memories of the hard times keep me productive when things are easy. The bad things come to an end just like the good things do. My only two objectives are to maintain that balance and to operate from the center of who I am. Anything else is either secondary or irrelevant.
If you're not that familiar with Nipsey Hussle's music, here's a playlist of him on Apple Music & Spotify that I listen to in the mornings, before work, during my workouts and just about any other time that I need motivation.
Good luck on your marathon. Enjoy the process.