"Are you still making those YouTube videos?"
I almost spit out my tea watching videos of Issa Rae’s promo run for Insecure. She was making an appearance on The View and talked about that awkward moment meeting up with friends who really have no idea what you do. They all have gone on and got married, had kids, bought houses, blah, blah, blah and you’re still trying to get your dreams off the ground. I died because I literally have the same struggles trying to explain to people what it is that I actually do aside from my 9 to 5.
Writer is the short answer. But there is this whole other entrepreneurial side that includes consulting, creating educational products and hosting events and workshops. In various ways, just saying that I am a writer feels like I’m selling myself short.
I thought to myself the other day how I am setting out to do something no one in my family has ever done. There is no blueprint. There is no family member I can call for advice or ask for an internship to break into the business. Many of us are forging ahead on roads untraveled. Yet, somehow we think that we should snap our fingers and magically be where we want to be.
I related so much to Issa Rae’s comment because I remember that feeling. I remember seeing the updates on my Facebook timeline showing people from high school doing all the right adult things. Meanwhile, I’m still having peanut butter and jelly sandwiches some nights. What I learned though, is that you can’t really compare the two. It’s apples and oranges for lack of a better cliche.
You know what most of them did? They went to college, maybe grad school and got regular jobs. Banking, school teachers, sales associates - And not to knock them, just to say that the trajectory is very different than being a creative. I have yet to really meet anyone in arts and entertainment who graduated and got the dream job. And some of them that landed some type of job they were interested in started out making pennies.
Sure the 5-year happy hour reunion may provide a few awkward encounters, but you know who you are. You know that there is no cubicle that can contain your creativity. You know that there is an insatiable fire inside of you that cannot be doused. You know that there is something that God placed on the inside of you that won’t find contentment in just obtaining the mortgage or the fancy new car lease. You create because you have to.
And in that, the path is often a lot longer. It’s often misunderstood from those without the same desire and drive who have no idea why you can’t hang out because you have an important Periscope to host to support your next project or book. Or how your YouTube video is more important than seeing the new film released because you don’t find comfort in watching the films of others when there are films inside of you.
The moral of the story here is that those YouTube videos panned out. A show on HBO isn’t doing half bad when I think about it. But it wasn’t 1-2 years in the making. It was a slow grind, lots of investment and lots of people not really understanding any of it, I’m sure. I mean I have had trouble trying to explain to other people that I watch shows on YouTube. But guess what? You don’t need the approval of they. They don’t want to see you win! No, I am just throwing in a little Khaled there for your entertainment. Your friends, your family, they do probably want to see you win. They just have no grasp on how you actually make it happen until it’s happening. Until you sign the book or record contract. Until you license your show to one of the biggest networks. Until you are sitting on Oprah’s Soulful Sunday telling her all about the journey. And that’s cool. You just have to learn how to motivate yourself.
Things have to be tangible for some people. That’s what separates the dreamers. We have the ability to envision the unseen. We have the knack for forward-thinking, watching trends and seeing what’s next or what’s missing. And we can’t give up on that. Believe me, that would be the easier thing and I occasionally I contemplate it.
But at the end of the day, this is what you set out to do. And though it helps to have support, when you are walking in purpose, God’s support is all you need. It won’t necessarily look like the journey of others, but it has the propensity to be worth it. Find some other creatives that get it. Build the tribe and help one another along the road less traveled. Remind yourself as often as you need to that jobs will always be there, but dreams can dissipate.