When the impulse hit me back in September of 2007 to address The Chase...4Money/Power/Respect, I was very clear about the 'point' I was seeking to make. Now, today as I sit here to write my submission, not so much.
Hopefully for you reading this and especially for me, by the time we both read it, it'll all make sense. I can say that in the last nine years (since graduating from Howard in 1999), my attitudes surrounding money have changed in a significant way. I've been rolling in dough and conversely, I've been broke with not so much as a dollar to my name. Where I stand on money today is this. I'm clear that my happiness, my health, my well being are not at all connected to how much money I make at any given point, how much money I have in my bank accounts, or what kind of 'job' I'm holding at any given point. An even larger point I'm clear about now that I wasn't necessarily clear about before is that all three of these things...and how we deal with them can all be linked back to our pasts, our upbringing and our ever evolving belief system(s).
For the last 2.5 years, I've lived my life as a 'freelance artist'...which just means I haven't worked a FULL TIME job with benefits, salary, and the false sense of security that always comes with jobs of that nature. Instead, I've juggled. I've worked two sometimes three part time jobs at a time, in addition to auditioning and performing as an actor, and singer. Friends of mine joke that I'm like the fictitious Jamaican family that used to appear on the comedy sketch show IN LIVING COLOR in the early nineties. They say this because like the members of that family, I tend to hold more than one or two jobs at a time, with what appears to many others as EASE. That however has never been the case. All of my 'blood' family resides back in the midwest (where I'm from). That said, in my mind I have had to work and support myself because going back home and living with parents/family is NOT an option. I left Racine, Wisconsin for a reason after high school and I have no intentions of returning there for anything other than a short visit once or twice a year. Chalk it up to that, or to the fact that I've grown up as an only child and have always had to fend for self. Take your pick. There's probably some of all of that in there, which has joined together to make me the determined individual that I am. This is not to suggest that my parents haven't done their share of supporting and/or helping me at certain points during the last 14 years of my life since leaving home. The majority of that help I received was while I was still in college, during which time I STILL worked and went to school. Being lazy and not wanting to work has never been an issue for me. I've had a music habit that I had to support, along with a common desire to have things...clothes, shoes, gadgets, etc ever since I was in high school. Even then I can remember hearing my father saying..."Always put some money away for yourself. No matter what goes unpaid, or what doesn't get done, always put something away for YOU." Along with that, I remember growing up and having two parents who although they were divorced, both shared pretty expensive taste in clothes, furniture, nice stuff if you will.
That's not to say that we were rich and rolling in dough. We weren't exactly rich, nor were we dirt poor. I grew up in a pretty middle class environment where I learned that if you wanted something, you had to work for it. I also learned that money was something to be cherished, saved,and held onto incase of a 'rainy day'. Many of the ideas I've held for most of my life surrounding money have infact been unhealthy, useless and downright not true for me. That was however one of those life lessons I had to come to grasp 'the hard way'. Although most of what I had to UNLEARN about money came from my parents, my family, and those in my immediate circle growing up, never ever have I felt the need to place blame or point fingers at anyone for what was passed down to me. I've always been far more concerned with doing what I needed to do in order to change and have what I needed and wanted to have. Even with all of that said, unconsciously I've still been acting out much of what I saw growing up. What I'm getting at is a consciousness of LACK. Never enough money, enough time, enough love, enough wisdom, enough talent, enough of whatever there was that I thought I needed to be happy. Thankfully, life and its magnificent experiences coupled with my own will have enabled me to begin the process of healing.
I worked as an assistant Box Office Manager at a theatre fresh out of college in 2000, then as an associate at a 'prestigious' Opera company in box office/ticketing' and then finally again as an assistant Box Office Manager at yet another theatre. I had experienced what it was like to support myself, pay my own rent, bills, etc, and hold a full time job. One thing that remained constant for me throughout all of those stints in the 'land of the full time gig' was my participation in the arts. Even as a box office manager, I was still 'pounding the pavement' going to auditions daily, performing in theatres in the area (and abroad when possible). I was still writing songs, poetry, and always singing my heart out. The art...the music, the theatre, the poetry, was the only thing that kept me afloat in the midst of each of the jobs I held. I wasn't exactly doing something I hated, since it was all applicable to the B.F.A. degree in Theatre Arts Administration that I had worked so hard to earn, but I wasn't really doing what I LOVED to do either. At least I wasn't doing it full out and being paid for it. Around the time I graduated from college, I knew there were dues I had to pay and grunt work I'd have to do as an artist, so many times I'd be in rehearsals and performances until the wee hours of the nite only to fall out of the bed in the mornings to go do my 9-5. I recall being miserable heading to work, and ELATED as I left there headed to rehearsal for any number of plays that I was in over that 6 year period. Even then I found it ironic that the thing that I LOVED to do was the thing I gladly did for free, while I carried out mediocre, mindless tasks for equally miserable individuals at my full time jobs, all for the paycheck. The paycheck which STILL wasn't really ENOUGH for me to make it through all the time. Even still, I pressed on telling myself that the ends did, and would justify the means. I knew there was a reason why I was doing what I doing, even if it didn't seem to make sense at that time.
Much like life, the lessons, the issues I was to deal with never came one at a time and in any kind of order. No....simultaneously was how things happened. What I'm getting at is this. During that same time went from audition to audition, I was made aware of several old adages/notions/above all else ...I now call them fallacies. One of those I heard most often during this time was that I 'wasn't getting any younger' and that I had to compete with others to accomplish what it was that I wanted to make happen. From day one, it never made sense to me that I had to compete with anyone. I can recall walking into auditions for plays and namely for television roles on HBO series and seeing 10 to 20 other black men who looked like me, all of whom were there reading for one or two, maybe three parts they were looking to cast. During these instances, I never felt the need to pick the brains of anyone else in the room, to start meaningless small talk in an attempt to pry or keep them from preparing for their read. Those are however some of the things I would encounter. It didn't sit with me then anymore than it does today. I would simply go in, do what I came to do, and leave. Competitition is the way of the world. We see it play out on practically every television 'reality show' today, we encounter it in the workplace, and sometimes in personal situations with friends and family. In short, to me it is an acquired taste for which I have no need. Even with whatever thoughts of lack that I've adopted over the years, still I've always thought that what is for ME is for ME and that I don't have to worry myself with someone else that may be attempting to take it away from me. I get it...there are those that would have us believe that without competition life as we know it could not go on...and to them....I ask...would that be such a bad thing? Personally, as I've continued to remind myself that there is MORE THAN ENOUGH....Money, love, success, abundance, happiness, and joy for all of us to experience, much of the confusion and chaos I USED to experience has infact disappeared.
Approximately nine months after I was diagnosed with HIV, (August of 2005 to be exact), I officially removed myself from the 'rat race' of having a full time job. I walked away from a job that I was unhappy with, turned down the opportunity to recreate the same experience again elsewhere in lieu of having the 'security' of a larger salary and insurance, and stepped out on faith. I filed for unemployment, continued to work part time, and threw myself into auditioning and performing....not as if, but BECAUSE my life depended on it. Nearly five months after collecting unemployment, working and performing in various stage productions, I was then charged with the biggest challenge of my life. Telling my story, starting an organization, and living my life wholly on an unwavering kind of faith that I wasn't so sure I possessed. That was February of 2006 when conceptually, the entity now known as Brave Soul Collective was born. Since then, life has been FULL. Full of ups and downs, full of uncertainty, full of challenges, but moreover, it has been FULL with triumphs, accomplishments, and work that I am personally, spiritually, mentally, & artistically invested in. Living life as I have has not been easy, but it has been A CHASE of sorts for me. The only difference now is I'm no longer chasing those things that the world would have me believe would make me happy. Now, I'm chasing the infinite number of possibilities and outcomes that exist for how my life and my art will show up, and play out next.
In a nutshell to bring it all back around, many believe that Money, Power, Respect & even Competition are essential in order to 'make it in life'. Personally, money comes and goes...I don't stress when I'm low on it because miraculously, a way is always made for me to have what I need. When I am in possession of money, I make efforts to spend wisely, but not to hold onto it as if my security is guaranteed by it's presence because clearly as life has shown me....it's NOT. Power and respect are most prevalent for me when I honor myself, speak my truth, and trust my instincts. Competition for me is illusory. As I stated earlier, what is FOR ME...is FOR ME...and there's no one that can take that away from me BUT ME.
...no longer chasin...
not runnin or fightin
instead i'm open 2 livin...
and growin....and lovin...
uncertainty & challenges...
as they all come...they too
no matter what the wind blows
my way...I stand