I Can’t Sleep…What’s New

It’s odd to be back, but I return to my blog after an almost fourteen week absence. Writing is good for me and I am elated to push the black and white keys that spell the words that are my thoughts. Writing is necessary for me. Throughout my time away, I constantly thought about foreverizing certain moments in a blog, but repeatedly failed to do so. I did do some writing here, here, and here. While writing about music is enjoyable and I will continue, it was not the same as being here, home, at Betweentheworldandme.

Most people that know me beyond lit computer screens and incessant social media (and even those that know me only within those realms) know that I have poor sleeping patterns. It’s true, I do, and even detailed its history in this post. What I did not share, however, is what I do when the world seemingly sleeps and I’m wide awake. The overwhelming majority of the time I listen to my mind pace (but not limited to), constructing analytical dissections of a relationship to formulating potential initiatives for my work community to worrying about life and all the what-ifs of the future. *Sidenote: For those that wonder what I do the other times not included in the overwhelming majority: I work out, try to go back to sleep, read, work on my clothing company, check instagram, watch “Orange is the new black,” which I recently completed and loved (most of it). I do the things most people do throughout the day, but I happen to do them around 3am.*

Most of the time, I wake to a stream of words that often form the opening line(s) to a poem, paper, or prose. *Sidenote: While in college, I often woke up to my thesis sentence spilling from my mind and from there was able to craft my argument and eventually write my paper.* Though energized from the few hours of rest, I often resist moving from my bed to quickly jot them down. As a result, hours later, when I try to grasp them, they avert my grip like grabbing at free flowing water. Because I have had a strong yearning to write and empty myself again, I decided to get up this morning and write those words:

He didn’t say sorry. He had no problem forming the three-syllable phrase and forcibly uttering the words. Throughout his life he has said sorry numerous times when he didn’t mean it. Not tonight. He did not want to accept blame for his mistakes because he stubbornly believed that she was the only one at fault. So, he sat there, looking into her pleadingly eyes and said nothing. A mere apologetic whisper would have bridged the growing gap in the conversation and salvaged the quickly eroding relationship. The overdue pregnant pause, with each new second adding to the deafening shrill, could not budge him. No, he was intently perched on his rock of “asshole” “not my fault” and had no intention of moving for her, for reconciliation, or for himself anytime soon. So he sat there, determined, but he struggled to look in her eyes long enough without feeling guilt for his refusal. He could see her hurt and knew unequivocally he was the reason for it. Suddenly fiddling with his hands, a feeble attempt to break eye contact, he readjusts his position atop his ego. And she waited uncomfortably, tears forming in her eyes, damned by her eyelids or pride or both, as she watched her now ex-boyfriend noticeably squirm in his seat like a child, exhibiting the same uneasiness of an eight year old learning accountability. Disgusted and frustrated with her inability to lock eyes with him again, she begrudgingly asked, “Now what, huh?”

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Success Is Born Out of Struggle

struggleOne of my co-opted life sayings is, “If we all put our problems in a public pile, I will gladly keep my pile.” I was reminded of that truth recently while at a friend’s boozy (unlimited mimosas), board game/UNO playing brunch in celebration of her birthday. I notice that when the opposite sexes of the single variety get together the conversation tends to stray towards sex and relationships, which makes sense given that our lives revolve around the two in some form and fashion. This conversation, however, was slightly different largely because all the participants did not know each other well. We were all associates, having all seen each other at different music industry events and being introduced previously, but not everyone were friends. Thus, we asked those seemingly standard, non invasive questions, in no particular order, like: what do you do for a living? so why are you single? any kids? where did you go for undergrad?

After my round of twenty questions, which I dislike because once people hear that I graduated from two Ivy league schools their view of me often changes. Some become intimated, especially when they learn that I teach English; they become much more self-conscious about speaking correctly, whatever that means. Some are surprised because I “don’t look the type,”confused because I have a six year old son out of wedlock, live in the Bronx, and have tattoos. Their vision of an Ivy League grad is not me. *Shrugs* I’m used to it by now. However, the same way I am slightly irritated by people’s projections and assumptions of who I am or who I’m supposed to be, does not mean that I am excluded from doing the same thing. And I have to remind myself of that fact.

Next, a friend (editor’s note: I use this term loosely because even though I consider him a friend, the following conversation made me question and think about what it means to be a friend) began his obligatory twenty questions. The barrage of questions, from the opposite sex, began with what he does for a living, and he quickly disarmed them with a curt response: “Whatever I want.” Taken aback by the ambiguous retort, they reloaded with a seemingly simpler question, “Why did you go to school?” Once again, he quickly responded, “I didn’t go to college.” Surprised once more, the firing squad asked the next logical question, why, which allowed for him to share a deeply moving personal recount of being homeless for roughly eighteen months after high school graduation. The questions increased as everyone’s interest was elevated. I had my own, but decided to be a silent observer.

The cheers of shots being given for losing Connect Four and the raucous laughter and conversation of a cacophonous sports bar during the Final Four were suddenly muted, and I only heard his voice. Not once did he falter when retelling his story because he knows it better than anyone else. He kept eye contact throughout the course of the questions, even smiling at times when the story took unexpected (Editor’s note: the whole story was unexpected) twists and turns, nothing short of divine intervention at one point. He even shared small things that I never considered, like knowing where to get water or where to use the bathroom without being hassled. As I sat to his left, watching his big brown eyes move around the table, fully engaged with everyone within earshot, I witnessed strength and resiliency firsthand. I wondered, while he shared his story, if I could have made it through those situations with the same high level of integrity. Could I be so open and honest about such a personal history with people that I see at various functions and parties? Could I…In the end, I had no response, but was grateful…not because I thought of my situation to be better or easier than his. But rather, I was grateful for the moment, an opportunity to share in something special. Needless to say, my admiration and respect for him grew a thousand fold.

After he stopped talking, the table was silent for a few moments, when one of the beautiful women said, “And look at y’all,” pointing towards my friend and I, “different paths but in the same place.” Her acute observation reminded me of how little assumptions should matter, and, more importantly, how much more valuable personal stories are.

Reflecting on the moment, I wonder why we don’t share our piles of issues more publicly, more often, probably out of shame or fear of judgment. Those few minutes, while our UNO game was suspended and our attention undivided, I felt so connected…to him and the others who listened. Understanding just this one part of his struggle, makes me cheer so much harder for his success.

The Single Years EP Vol. 1

andre3000

I always wanted to be a rapper. From the moment, I heard Snoop’s menacing, laid-back delivery blend effortlessly with the melodic Dr. Dre beat I knew I wanted to be a part of whatever I heard. I was scared by the graphic reality, but, more importantly, I was intrigued by it, largely because I connected with it deep in my pubescent gut. Their Californian urban squalor looked different from the working class community in which I resided, but the symptoms were the same: gangs, drugs, and this emerging sound known as Hip Hop. Like any 80’s baby who came of age in the 90’s, often cited as the “Golden Age,” I would write rhymes. But I failed at it because what I wrote was insincere. I rapped about what was popular at the time (and still is): easy money, easier women, necessary violence, and a flashy lifestyle. Yet, this seeming disconnect did not break my bond with the music and the message. In fact, I gravitated towards rappers (Biggie was my favorite at the time, replaced by DMX after his tragic death) that shared their personal stories, aside from the typical “I-got-money-hoes-and-clothes” lyrics.

Enter Andre 3000 and his song, “A Day in the Life of Benjamin Andre.” The song, along with the entire Love Below album, inspired me to want to write and produce an autobiographical cd. My rap career was back on track (pun intended). I even asked my producer friend to craft some tracks for me, but he did not pay much attention to my empty request.

Enter September 2012 (Editor’s note: The following is an unpublished post, now with edits):

With little fanfare, I unceremoniously commemorated my third year as a single Black male in New York City. I have spent roughly 1095 days without an “official” girlfriend. While my answer to the frequent question, “Why are you single?” has include answers that insinuate both choice and timing, I decided to create a tracklist of an R&B album (note: I cannot sing to save my life…so it will just be jam packed with lyrics) to best express my time spent single:

The Single Years EP Vol. 1 (Editor’s note: I have split the album, “The Single Years” into a three volumed EP, which I will release separately).

  1. Three Years of…(intro)-It would a beat, on which I would rhyme (had to sneak some rap in there), with no chorus or hook, straight for about 3-4 minutes. It would really serve as a brain dump of the last three years, describing but not limited to: failed relationships, introspection, sex, parties, and friendships.
  2. Last Words-This is easily the hardest song to write on this EP. It will serve as an analysis of my last words, “I do want to do this anymore,” which I uttered straightforwardly on the phone to my then girlfriend. It pains me to think about the lack of emotion that I expressed towards her that night, though I was filled with various feelings. Instead of engaging her about my qualms with our relationship, to which I had contributed, I decided to be cold and quickly build a castle, built of stone and mortar, around my heart, vaguely concerned with her feelings, which I just hurt. In the moment, I thought I was doing the best thing for me, protecting myself, but in reality it was the weakest thing that I could have done. It is a decision that I revisit occasionally and for which I have apologized, even though I struggle with forgiving myself.
  3. LES Dreams-This would be a fun, ironic party record. If one has ever partied in the Lower East Side, one knows that the nights only end when the sun rises. There are countless Friday nights during my singledom that were spent in the cluttered streets of the LES. I went through a phrase where I attempted to drink my sorrows away and hide them in clubs and lounges, populated with others doing the same. Very few people were actually happy in those locations. The second word, “Dreams,” explains how those sleepless nights felt like dreams, unreal. Yet, I kept dreaming…forcefully.
  4. Reluctant (skit)-This track would be a contrived, taped conversation between a woman and myself, in which I share with her that I do not want to be in a relationship with her, even though things are going well. Unfortunately, I have had to have this conversation a few times. The only way I can even begin to make sense of them is it demonstrates my reluctance to open up and share myself in the same way that I unconsciously and consciously asked women in my life to do.
  5. Cliche but It’s Me-The previous track flows into this song, in which I lament the fact the all my previous failed relationships contain one commonality, me. I have dated (not sure what the semantics of those relationships, but for the sake of this blog, we’ll just say dating) a few phenomenal women and yet none of those relationships worked…because of me. Though it is a cliche line, I truly believe that I am responsible for my part in those relationships not working.

Editor’s note: This post was difficult to write, yet feels necessary for my future.

Volume two…coming soon.

Where Would I Be Without Failure

failure gatesI shared the other day that I have been writing sporadically, but not posting them on the blog. Well here is a piece that I came across when re-reading some notes. I am on the admission committee for my school, and jotted this small note to myself after interviewing a student who impressed me with his confidence to take risks, something that I struggle with doing. While at camp, he decided to go on a three day rock climbing excursion with some boys that he did not know. He then shared that he was afraid of heights, and knew that he would have to trust these unfamiliar boys with his safety. Wait, what?! As a result of the trip, he is now an avid rock climber, going to different rock climbing gyms throughout the city. Additionally, he mentioned that because of the experience, facing his fears and trusting others even though failure was a strong possibility, he knows that he can overcome other obstacles, simply because he did it. He looked his fear in the eye and won. In my heart, I know that even if he lost somehow, he would have still won.

He’s 14. I’m 29.

He taught me in that moment.

I’m 29. He’s 14.

I learned from him in that moment.

When I left the interview, I hurriedly scribbled in my notepad:

I wish I failed more often as a child so that I would not be as anxious as an adult. Confidence is born out of failure. When you fail, you realize that you are still alive. As a result, you become less anxious because you’ve survived before and will survive again. Too often adults try to protect students and kids from failing. In doing so, they actually damage them in a way that becomes much more difficult to repair as adults.

Sidenote: I recently started a t-shirt business, Ambitious Addicts, with my friend and our motto for the company is: Do trust failures.

A New Year Has Begun

2013

“Every new year people make resolutions to change aspects of themselves they believe are negative. A majority of people revert back to how they were before and feel like failures. This year I challenge you to a new resolution. I challenge you to just be yourself.” -Aisha Elderwyn

Thanks to my mentor and friend who sent me this message to start the year. My resolution, which will be challenging, is to just be me…consistently. That’s going to be the hardest part, consistency.

I haven’t written in a while…well…that’s not entirely true. I have been writing, but I have not posted or shared them on this blog because it received a fair amount of internet traffic when I posted the cuffing season calendar. The increased attention spooked me because folk were visiting my site solely for something that I did not create. The increased daily views were unearned and I responded negatively to it; I simply stopped writing, waiting for the day the numbers would drop off. During that waiting period, I developed the unhealthy habit of not writing. Thus, when the hyper popularity of the cuffing season calendar ended, I continued my new learned behavior and wrote nothing. I’m sorry I did because I felt the absence of writing, a time to clear my mind and be honest with myself in a way that I find difficult to achieve during the other twenty three hours of a day.

As a result, my cluttered mind thankfully enjoys my pushing of marked alphabetical keys. My soul craves the purge and release.  So let me begin with a short piece I wrote during a pre-conference exercise that challenged the participants to think about their system of beliefs, faith, and religion:

My system of beliefs leads to believe that love is paramount, failure and mistakes are essential, and judgement and shame destroys each.

While there is an increased introspection present (sidenote: shamefully, as a nation, we are most introspective during the last few days of the year and the first few days of a new year, leaving the other 360+ days barren of self-examination…yet, we entrust ourselves to somehow make improvements during that time…nonsensical logic), I ask you, will you accept the challenge and just be you in 2013?

Growth in Silence

His gigantic hands covered his face, a feeble attempt to hide his tears. He even tugged at the neck of his sweaty shirt. Yet, he could not hide his body’s shake, an instantaneously recognizable sign of crying. As his broad shoulders heaved up and down, I silently watched him, feeling like a voyeur during his intimate, seemingly private moment. I turned my head to respect the privacy that his hands and covered face demanded. As my focus shifted to the trees and the surrounding park equipment, tears flooded my eyes.

I’d been where he’d been. Heart broken. Overwhelmed by a random moment’s intensity, often spurned by an unexpected flood of memories and thoughts that break the dam protecting one’s eyes. I did not cry then.

I started to cry now because I love him and understood the pain. But I valiantly fought back those tears, refusing to wet my cheeks. I wanted to be strong for him in that moment, or so I lied to myself in those quick seconds. However, I truly wanted to put my arm around his shoulder and weep alongside him. I undoubtedly have some unresolved issues that more than likely require a good crying.

But I did not do so. I gave him his space.

After a few minutes passed and we completed the workout, I hugged him and told him that I loved him and I was here for him. Tears once again attempted to stream down my face but they did not break out of their lightly sealed ducts.

We sat on a nearby park bench and in silence our friendship grew, watered by unseen tears.

My Challenge to You is Write

Ernest Hemingway once wrote a story in six words: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

While the new school year has limited my time to write, I thought it best to share my recent thoughts via a series of six word memoirs.

Hurt feelings, concealed, sting the most.

Joy undoubtedly returns when he smiles.

Fighting daily to realize my ambition.

Only promise: never lie to mirror.

Impending wedding bells create cacophonous expectations.

My plea: be better than me.

Taking risks because monotony bores me.

Time heals, so give me time.

Only in control of my own.

Stop second guessing my instincts. Word.
In comments, I challenge you to share a six word memoir to capture a recent thought, feeling, or experience.