I had told her about the hustle, about how hard I’d been working to have the life my ancestors died for me to have, and that was her response.
How will I know.
There’s no map for us – especially not today. We know to keep hands locked on steering wheels and eyes straight ahead, but we’re not always sure what we’re looking towards. We know survival. I know survival. I know getting to the next day and just making it by grace. I know paying bills and saving up – only the crack open the bank and watch it all fall out.
So, what’s it mean to build and sustain generational wealth? What’s it mean to maintain a home without fear of being evicted? What will our definition of excellence be when our baseline is whiteness and all the ways we don’t fit in?
Someone once told me that a poor homeless white man still holds more privilege than the richest most successful Black man you’ve ever met. It’s almost as if my definition of greatness can’t be rooted in money and possessions. It can’t be based on degrees on the wall. It has to have more legs than that, more meaning. It has to be God and only God. That’s my benchmark: how much do I trust Him in any given moment and what am I doing to serve others?
It feels good to write that, it feels harder to live it. And still, I don’t have an answer to her question. I won’t know when I’ve arrived. My family will be safe and our bodies clothed, but I’ll still have so far to go.
“I know it doesn’t matter to anyone else, but I’m not happy with it yet. (So, I’ll hold my breath until it’s right).”
Oh, and is this one you: “I can’t let them think I’m incompetent.”
I don’t like letting go.
In fact, I’m holding onto middle school grudges and hurt from lies that stung more than sticks and stones ever could.
I’m hold onto anger and fear and to the idea that something can be perfect. I’ve held my breath through tasks, miniscule tasks that no one else in the world even knows/cares about, because I want it all to be perfect.
If it’s perfect: my world won’t crumble.
If it’s perfect: they won’t leave.
If it’s perfect: I will matter until it is broken again.
When they tell me to take it easy, I become perplexed. These are words with which I am unfamiliar. Today, however, I desire to know them like black knows night.
I need to know them because my life depends on ease. It depends on my comfort with unfinished things. It depends on me leaving the men’s group I found to be so helpful, until several made it plain that my black life didn’t matter. I must “pass on this one, because I don’t have the energy for it.”
I must tread lightly or my blood pressure will spike and I’ll drop.
Most of all, my wife and daughter need me here, so I must let go some. I am breathing now – and now is always of importance.
What are you needing to let slip and fall? Loosen your grip.
🙋🏽♀️Thoughts on this message? Let me know at email@example.com.
It was an almost perfect evening. My wife and I danced, sang and laughed in the parking lot outside our apartment. We were still glowing, even though we’d seen “Black Panther” several times since it opened on February 16, 2018. We’d been following the movie’s star, Chadwick Boseman, since he played Jackie Robinson in the biopic “42” half a decade earlier.
Seeing someone who looked like me, a Black man, do larger than life things on the silver screen, was one of the more empowering moments from my own life’s reel. Chadwick was more than a great actor. He seemed principled to me. Like the older — more poised and regal — brother I never had. In many ways, I felt like I knew him.
I wish I could travel back in time to that night. While life still came with its challenges, the ground beneath my toes felt much stabler. It didn’t erupt the way it has this past year: one devastation after another. Thankfully, I was sitting on our living room couch when my wife told me Chadwick had passed away on Friday. He’d died from stage IV colon cancer. He was only 43. He wasn’t coming back.
There’d be no sequel.
My wife and I both struggled to breathe in our shared shock, as we scrolled through the collective grief that was our Twitter feed.
It wasn’t just celebrities who shared their hurt, it was everyday people sharing the ways in which Chadwick had touched their lives, the lives of their children, how he’d given them hope. Clips of Chadwick’s 2018 Howard University commencement speech auto played. People shared his quotes from interviews, while others shared tears, hurt, and the unbearable burden of grief for which we were never prepared.
All this from people who’ve never actually spent time with Chadwick. Who weren’t with him as he wrote plays in college, or braved the uncertainty that is Hollywood.
So, why do our hearts ache? It’s easy to get caught up on the specifics. We might ask ourselves, “Can I really grieve someone I’ve never met?”
And, the answer would be a resounding yes.
Earlier this year, in the wake of Kobe Bryant’s death, HuffPost interviewed David Kaplan, a former professor of psychology. Kaplan remarked that “we grow up with these people… so when they die, it’s like an extended member of our family dies. It’s somebody we feel like we know.”
Social media has brought us more access than any typical fan has had with celebrities. From cooking alongside Chrissy Teigen while clothes and books line the kitchen floor, to singing along with Lin-Manuel Miranda in his home office, it’s no wonder we feel suffocated and at a loss for words when someone we’ve followed for so long is no longer with us.
Now doesn’t have to be the time to solve anything, to put the pieces together, nor to prepare ourselves for the next inevitable blow. Perhaps it’s an opportunity for us to just feel our feelings and celebrate the life of someone we loved.