LessThanSignNumberThree

Weeks seem to pass every time I blink. And time this year has moved as fast as it’s moved slow, like years of life were compressed into the last 9 months. It’s been awhile since I shared anything publicly, mainly because I found myself desperately trying to catch up to a life that I felt slipping between my fingers. But it’s my Jordan Year, and the theme of this year has been reflection. There’s a lot that I could share, but given how impactful my birthday a couple of days ago was on my perspective on things, I thought I’d try and focus on what’s been on my mind since. So here goes:

It is so brutally easy to feel alone, to cut off people in a way that makes you feel like you live in a loveless world.  It’s so easy to extrapolate from a few Ls you take in pursuit of, or in the name of, or in fear of,  whatever that feeling is that we cradle in that four lettered word, that you believe that you don’t deserve it. So you sit idly in a perpetual state of solitude and bask in simple sadness. At least in loneliness you know what to expect, you don’t need to worry about the variable behavior of another human being once again dropping the ball on something so fragile and so sacred. It becomes your new normal, comfortable even. Blissful misery.

I spent most of 2016 feeling like that. My birthday a few days ago got me thinking though:

Maybe...

Just Maybe...

That’s some bullshit.

In fear of abandonment, I ran from the people that would’ve been there to support me, in effect, becoming the exact person I was running away from. But the surprises, messages, and well wishes from people that day reminded me how blessed I am to be a part of the communities that I belong to. I spent a lot of time forcefully blinding myself to people that, for whatever reason, will spend a bit of their time to make sure that a bit of mine is a little sweeter. As fast as life is moving, if I were to think of how I got to where I’m at right now, it’s all because of You.

You, the friends that drove me 6 hours and let me crash at their place and eat greasy beef sandwiches in Chicago and wallow in distress. You, the friends that took me off campus to a Chinese spot in Newton, IA  and wouldn’t let me leave until I ate something, while tears dripped down onto my shrimp fried rice. You, the friends that showed up unannounced to my dorm room to make sure I was alright. You, the friends that call randomly or message to say 'hey'. You, the friends that will talk real life with me in the carpet section of a Target. You, the friends I live with that understand my tendencies towards introversion, yet still invite me out to chill every weekend. You, the friends at work that make me feel at home.

You.

I don’t take the time to appreciate You enough. I don’t take moments to appreciate the love You’ve shown, and the support, and care. Lord knows I still don’t understand, but I’m trying not to ask questions. If I had a New Year’s resolution, it’d be taking time to remind myself that I’m surrounded by people that do love me, and that I have so much love for. It’d be reminding myself that I deserve it, and am worthy of it.  It’d be focusing less on the possibility of the relationships turning ugly, and focusing more on how beautiful they already are. It’d be letting You know more often, whether that be responding to texts more promptly, or calling/skyping, or writing. I know I’m terrible at that. But to y’all, I hope You know that I will forever consider myself a product of the relentless love You’ve shown to me, and my greatest wish right now is that I’m able to show You how much You matter to me. My greatest wish is to be to You what You were to me. Because You deserve that, not just from me, but from the world and everyone in it that you come in contact with. You deserve to show love and be shown love.

And so do you.

More Love. More Life. More Blessings.

Cheers to Jordan Year.

Nelson

 

TBH

Going to drop my sister off at Dartmouth for her first year of college y’all. So I wanted to post something now since I’ll be on the road for a while.

If you read my last post, you’d know that I’m trying to work more on developing my craft and passion as a writer. I’m taking lines that y’all recommend, or lines I think of, and I’m trying to create short 500-1000+ narratives inspired by that line. The first attempt is up! Would love to hear what you think. Feel free to send me a line you have in mind also! Preferably 10 words or less because I’d like the line to be the title of the piece. Thanks!

Once you do read it though, read the rest of this post. I’ve written a bit more about the behind the scenes aspect of that piece, the lens with which I viewed that line inspired by a conversation I had with my brother hours before writing it, discussed a tad bit below.

***

We all lie. All the time, everyday. To ourselves, to the people we don’t care about, to the people we care most about. We are all terrible that way. And while we all say it’s something we shouldn’t do, we’d be lying if we said we don’t and won’t continue to do it. Even the people we believe to be saints lie. Even that Facebook friend that is religiously using the 100 emoji and always has #RealTalk at the end of their statuses are probably lying to someone right now. Fair.

We all hate being lied to. Yet we all do it. The hypocrisy of humanity. But my brother and I were having a lengthy discussion on the art and tenants of lying and we were stuck on this idea that while everybody hates being lied to, everybody loves being lied to.

The issue comes not necessarily from the lie, but when A) we have reason to believe it isn’t the truth, or B) we flat out discover the lie itself. Otherwise, we don’t really mind, do we? Lies are so powerful because they, in a way, allow us to rewrite mistakes, rewrite ourselves, color moments with shades that didn’t originally exist, and create worlds that cater uniquely to the people we lie to. Is that not what we want? To believe that things are as we’d like them to be? Using the situation in the piece I wrote, if you were happy in a relationship, and had no reason to suspect your partner of any extracurricular activities, would you really want to know that person was having an affair? If we could die living a reality that makes us happier than most, but is built on a string of falsities, would we choose that?

I think the matrix is based on this, you know, the whole red-pill, blue-pill conundrum. Viscerally I think we’d all say “Of course not. I definitely would rather live in a world where I know the truth rather than blissful deceit.” But at the same time, how many times have we said to ourselves or others “I wish I didn’t know that,” or “Please, I really don’t want to know.”? How many times do we tell ourselves and others that sometimes it’s best that we don’t know the proverbial everything?

We don’t have an answer, it was simply a nebulous series of questions between brothers of one of the taboo shames we all indulge in but condemn others for. It makes for powerful writing, and it’s something I want to explore more.

To speak a bit more on the line and its role in the piece, I interpreted it as saying that nobody is an angel. Nobody is that good, that noble, that clean, because if they were, they wouldn't walk among us, at least not for long. At the end of the piece, we see the narrator being called an angel, which of course we know isn't the case. He's a liar, a cheater, yet, to his wife, he's all things wonderful. So I was trying to take the conversation and the quote to create that tension. The tension being that we know nobody to be angels, yet for us to see people as such, which we often do, is to be blind to lies that we are told, and false images we are painted. Angels don't exist in people, rather, what separates good and bad is nothing but the effort that we, as rather terrible things, put into being less terrible.

That's pretty cynical, and I'm not always in the mindset of course, but that's what makes this project so interesting to me. A different conversation, a different time of day, and I could have viewed that line in a different light. 

Thanks for reading, and thanks to the person who submitted that line.

You’re an angel.

Nelson

Draft Day

A lot of new things are happening around me y’all. I’m moving to the Bay to start adulting, 2 of my sisters and my brother are off at college in different parts of the country. The baby is starting high school. My father just asked for us to take a family picture because he doesn’t know how long it will be until all of us will be together again. My siblings and I like to joke around, y’know, saying things like “good riddance,” “I ain’t never coming back,” and “welp, bye forever.” And it’s funny or whatever, but it kind of makes me sad, and a bit scared. Everyone’s growing up, and I’ll miss them a lot. 1:03am, living room life, as per usual. This line keeps popping up in my head. The origin escapes me though. I want to use it for something at some point. It hurts pretty bad, but I keep saying it to myself anyway: “I look at photos of you, from time to time.”

***

This is the last Monday, of this first month that my site has been up y’all. I wanted to use this post just to thank everyone who has been rocking with me thus far. I’ve received so much support from friends, family, and acquaintances, and it’s been a huge inspiration to keep working on becoming a better story-teller. Thank you for the messages and comments. Thank you for sharing stories I’ve written and liking posts about the blog. Thanks to everyone who gave me feedback on the platform and the layout and the content and then design. Thanks for motivating me to be better and giving me reason to write even when life feels like a cinder block hanging from around my neck. Thanks for telling me that things I’ve said have resonated with you in some way. Thanks to the professors that supported me, and thanks to the people in my life that inspire the stories I share.

I’m trying to focus more on writing creative stories and pieces moving forward. I’m thinking maybe I can just spend more time reading different works, and then writing some short prose just to exercise different styles and narratives, hopefully finding my own voice in the process, which could be fun for all of us. For example, I feel like that line above should end up in a piece I write. As a matter of fact, I kind of want to take a line, and just write short prose, make a story, based on the inspiration I get from that line. I actually really like that idea. I’m taking line suggestions if you have any.  

...

But to close out the month, I thought I’d write some words about a comment I received from someone recently when I was sharing my ambitions as a writer with them. It went something like:

Chances are most of that probably won’t happen so keep that in mind, be reasonable in your expectations.

Fair. I heard that and was ready to quit all together though. I mean, that’s not bad advice, right? Actually, I think it’s very important that you be realistic in your expectations and what you can achieve in a finite period of time. Understanding constraints allows you to work productively and creatively within them. Understanding odds gives you to the opportunity to pursue ventures that are more in your favor. I feel that.

But then again, if my humblest of opinions, I’ve been defying bad odds for quite some time now. I think back to a lot of the times I would’ve taken an L had I succumbed to chances. I remember hearing that, because I was suspended on two separate occasions in high school, and failed a class my senior year, that I wouldn’t get into Grinnell, let alone any decent college, so why continue applying? I remember hearing that I’d most likely not land an internship at a big tech company with my background. I remember thinking that after only writing for a year, there’d be no way I’d actually end up winning an award for anything I wrote. I remember academic advising suggesting that I take the summer/another semester to finish my coursework because I was so far behind and may not graduate college on time. I remember having store clerks patting me down in stores, and officers swearing at me in daylight, and men that look like me being shot for reaching for ID’s and trying to support their families. I’m a middle class black dude, with 4 other siblings, with parents not from here. For pretty much any notable achievement, chances were never really in my favor.

So then what does that mean to me when I hear about bad chances? I’d be lying to you if I said that I believe we can change any and everything. Life happens and it’s not fair, and sometimes it’s out of our control. But, going full circle on y’all, perspective really matters when determining how you let chances dictate your trajectory.

It’s easy to just go ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ and tell yourself that you’re stuck and can’t shift odds. I did it all the time. Still do sometimes, shamefully. When we believe that the chances are that something won’t work, why not abandon the endeavor? Why not pursue something that has a better shot of working out for you? And how does one really argue with that logic? I still don’t really know, the only difference is that I met, who I’m going to call now, “Anywayers.”

I’m going to apply, anyway.

I’m going to work on it, anyway.

I’m going to go for it, anyway.

I’m going to ask shorty out, anyway.

I met people that somehow don’t care much about chances and bad odds. And I’m talking worse odds than me, the kind of odds that when they tell you they’re going to go for it, you stare at them blankly and can’t say anything else but…

Bruh.

So what’s the difference between “Anywayers” and “Oh wellers” facing the same odds? One believes they have no control, the other believes that they have some power in determining where those constraints fall. I don’t think you can get rid of all of them, but I think we have influence in determining how much they affect us. I mean on a very basic level, there is a huge change in odds simply between doing nothing and doing something.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

What’s interesting though, even Anywayers will tell you how bad your chances of success in an endeavor are, and they mean well, seriously. But I also have come to realize that while people spend a lot of time telling you all the ways in which your ambition may not succeed, entrepreneurs are entrepreneurs, people are people, because they spend the rest of their time telling themselves the exact opposite about their own venture. It’s easy to comment on someone else’s driving in the passenger's seat, but when you’re whippin the wheel down I-94, bumping Nothing Was The Same at 10:30pm, the last thing you want to be telling yourself if you want to keep driving is that car accidents are the leading cause of death in your area. Understand limits, chances, odds, and push them until whatever it is you want becomes your optimal bundle, or whatever that phrase is from my microeconomics class.

Yes, I’m doing all of this writing. I’m publicly documenting my life for the world to judge, and I’m inviting your gaze and your critique. I have so many goals and hopes for where this will go, and chances are, it might not go nearly as far as I’d like it to. Chances are that it won’t be as successful, or grow as fast, or be as dope. There are a million blogs (some created by the amazing people I was referring to earlier). And there are millions more being created as I write this sentence, maybe with similar content, written by better writers, with more knowledge and resources.

But a wise man once said “If I left this shit to chance, I woulda picked a name like Chance the Rapper.”

There are a bunch of reasons why something won’t work. And it’s good to know, not for the sake of quitting necessarily, but simply to understand what you’re working with, so that you can create game plans and next plays in the event that something doesn’t turn out the way you’d like. Because, in so many things we do, you can work your hardest, try your best, and still, chances are that it won’t work out. But as long you keep going...

It just might.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Nelson

Put The Hinges In The Hands

I’m writing on the couch, but at my Aunt’s house today y’all, had to switch it up. No TV, but Frank Ocean has got me thinking about going blonde...

***

Just learned a friend of mine didn’t get an offer to work for a pretty dope company, which has me reminiscing about the time it happened to me. My dude, if you’re reading this, it’s not too late…

I was sitting in my Craft of Fiction class when I got the call. The professor was in the middle of lecturing when my phone began vibrating in my pants pocket. I dashed out of the classroom as though my future depended on it; it felt like it did.

I'm greeted by the warm and familiar voice of my recruiter from the internship. He engaged me in some chill small-talk, asking how school and life was. I told him, trying to hide the sound of the seed of anxiety in my voice, growing with every word he uttered not related to the status of my offer. What was maybe a minute of casual conversation felt like like an eternity. Until finally,

I wish I had better news, but unfortunately…

And so on. I had spent the summer interning at a huge tech company. Turns out I hadn’t received the return offer to intern there the next summer. Now, I wasn’t the most optimistic, but I was certain I had worked my butt off, so in the back of my mind, when I got a call, (not email, which is how I usually expect the news of rejections to be broken), I thought, well maybe it worked out? Maybe I was freaking out about nothing? Can this be? This is it! Black Boy Fly! We made it!

...Or nah.

But I digress.   

This rejection felt like the biggest and worst possible failure in my professional career. According to many, I literally couldn’t be working at a better place. And considering how small of a percentage the black population is in the Silicon Valley tech scene, the fact that I managed to secure a position as a black male from a non-target liberal arts institution, on the non-tech side of the company, period, is nothing short of miraculous, and for that I am eternally indebted to them. But I thought I peaked when I reached this company, and being thrown back to the wolves, I had no idea where else to go. I hadn’t started searching for other internships early because of dumb optimism, and was so upset, that, for quite some time, I didn’t have the motivation to shoot for anything even remotely as competitive. I pulled it together way too last minute for my taste, and secured an internship position elsewhere that turned out to be the best experience ever. But along the way, I learned some things about failing miserably and such, and what can happen after, a few of which I’ll just share here.

In my internship evaluation, one of the critiques my managers made was that I wanted too much guidance. I had generally been under the impression that if you had a question or needed help, you should always ask. And this is still good advice. But what I learned from this experience was that there’s a difference between just asking for the right direction to move in, and asking if the direction you’re moving in is the right one. The latter suggests that you grappled with the challenge a lot prior to seeking help, while the former suggests that you went straight to the boss to have them tell you where to go. At this company, for a lot of reasons, I was so afraid of doing the wrong thing, of failing, that I didn’t feel comfortable making a move, whether that be completely 180 degree-ing my project, or changing the color of the bars on a graph I was creating, until I got the okay from my manager. Rather than acting on how I envisioned a solution to a challenge, and moving in that direction, I aired on the side of you’re the boss, what do you want? And frankly, the tech industry just doesn’t work like that. Most places don’t. I should’ve figured out a way to get it done more often, and had them tell me if there was a more efficient way to do it instead.

You may have to embrace the chance of failure to make progress, make the tools if you can’t find them, and avoid limiting yourself and your advancement just because you want to be safe. It’s okay if the draft isn’t perfect. I realized actually that it’s more important that you’re timely with your progress. Struggling through problems, being scrappy, figuring it out as you go along, is much more timely than having every tiny move you make thumbs upped by your boss. They hire you because, at some level, they trust your judgement and your ability to think critically. And the funny thing is, sometimes the product might even be better in the end when you use your own perspective and ideas to solve the issue, rather than having your manager tell you what they’d be doing, or how they think it should be done. If they were planning on doing the job their way, they wouldn’t have hired you to do it. Sometimes the only reason you end up failing is because you were too scared to fail in the first place. Irony be like...  

But I learned this too late, and found myself thrown down a few steps on the ladder of success. Which I learned is totally fine. I’ve had a few people tell me this, but whatever it is they’re climbing, they’ve usually been the people at the very top of it already. But as someone far from that, and still climbing, my experience tells me that they’re right when they say: the trip to success isn’t really a ladder, but a jungle gym. Often, for you to achieve at a higher level, the next play has to be latitudinal, sometimes you even have to take yourself down a few steps, in status, pay grade, brand strength, etc. Sometimes it’s your ego stopping you from making the next move. After interning at this company, for a while, I didn’t even look in any direction that didn’t promise a check as big as the one I got there, or didn’t have the same rep. But in humbling myself I became more open-minded and moved in a direction that proved to be perfect for where I was headed. It’s never 0-100 real quick. Turns out, it’s more 0-60-80-50-40-100. And that’s cool too, the story is much more interesting that way, anyway.

I’d go a bit further to say that the moves are a bit more like a rock climbing wall. When climbing those walls, even if you're starting from the bottom, you’re planning your next move. And that plan for the next place you put your hand changes as you start climbing because the view is different. I learned that even when you’re taking that L, the last thing you want to do is sulk and remain complacent. Start planning the next play, and preparing so that you don’t fall as far as you think you’re going to.

So sure, I didn’t get the highly coveted return offer. But had I gotten it, I would’ve remained complacent and not taken the time out to realize that maybe that company wasn’t the best fit for me at the time. It forced me to examine who I was, mature as a professional, and explore different opportunities. And now I’m somewhere where I’m going to be doing something I feel is much better suited for who I am right now, and who I want to be later.

Success is dope. But even in failure, there are diamonds left to be picked up out of the rubble. The only time I really experienced failure was when I just didn’t try in the first place. 

So to hound on everyone else that has probably been saying this to you my dude, If at first you don't succeed...

Well, you know know the rest. 

Nelson

 

EastWest

It's 12:42am. Still on my couch, it's got sheets on it now though because my dad doesn't want me ruining the fabric. Forensic Files is on TV, and "Nobody" by WasionKey is on repeat. Me right now, minus the company. 

***

If you’ve checked out the writing portion of the site, you probably noticed an introduction to a piece I’m writing titled “Cognitive Dissonance.” It’s a story I started in May actually, but it was put on hold because life happened. I promised myself (and the professor I was writing it for) that I’d finish it. The process of writing it has me confronting a bunch of feelings that take up a lot of head space, so it’s been difficult to write about other things while I work on it. But I wanted to write something, so I decided to talk about my ever so slight obsession with the theory behind cognitive dissonance.

People are so beautifully flawed. We are wonderfully and tragically blessed with messily complex minds, minds that can host a multitude of thoughts and ideas that can completely oppose each other. So much so that to act on one of those thoughts is to sometimes act against another residing in that same head. Cognitive dissonance is this two worded phase meant to cleanly wrap that mess into a nicely decorated box that we can open and study and attempt to understand. I’ve heard it defined in two ways.

It can mean the dissonance between one’s words and actions. I can tell you that lying is bad and that you should never do it, truly believing that statement to be true. I can then turn around and tell a professor that I’ve been working super hard on my paper, knowing good and well I really just got a title page.  The phrase can also mean the dissonance between your understanding of something or someone in the world, and the actual information that that thing or person is giving back to you. For example, you can believe a partner or friend to be kind-hearted and loving, but then that partner/friend is constantly saying things that make you feel terrible about yourself.

What’s so powerful about cognitive dissonance to me is that I don't think we can really exist functionally in that mindset. We constantly seek to reconcile these two opposing parts, finding the right balance or compromise to make sense of things. I might decide that lying is bad *except for these moments,* or, I might try and and reason my way through it so it wasn’t a lie: it took me a long time to come up with that title, so that brain power can be considered “hard work.” In the case of the partner/friend, I may have to conclude that in fact, these people are toxic, and don’t really love me the way I think. Or, I’d have to believe that maybe I am the problem, and that they are saying these things out of love, because I deserve it and need to be told those negative things constantly. People go both ways, of course, sometimes there’s a better compromise to be made, but in either case, it becomes clear that living with your head pulling you in different directions is even more painful.

In these examples, the phenomenon is formed through one’s interactions with people, though it’s not limited to that. But I think that the strongest connection that can be formed between people is love. Platonic love I believe is widely understood to be bottomless. But romantic love is different. Romantically, it’s commonly understood that it’s shared between two people. You can only have these feelings with another human at any given time. But, what if you find yourself feeling that kind of love for more than one person? How do you reconcile your feelings with your understanding of how those said feelings should...feel…? Maybe you don’t really love one of those people? Maybe one is lust, maybe it’s something else? Maybe, you come to the conclusion that it is indeed possible to love more the one person? What now? What if you still only want to spend your life with one person? To marry and create a future with one other person? If we can’t really exist in a state of perpetual cognitive dissonance, to compromise one way I suppose leads to polygamy, to compromise the other leads to infidelity…?  

With polygamy, the idea is that everybody is on the same page so it’s lit. But in the case of infidelity, someone’s heart ends up broken. And I think heartbreak presents one of the rawest, purest instances of cognitive dissonance in so many ways. When it happens, your love for that person really doesn’t go away, as a matter of fact, your feelings of that person don’t change immediately, rather, a million new emotions are just compounded on top of it: anger, sadness, confusion, hatred. You still love them, you still believe them to be all of these wonderful things, but the information you’re receiving from the world tells you otherwise. But but but, that’s bae though. How could they? This can't be over! So the dissonance kicks in. And you have to reconcile it. You can do so by finding excuses/reasons for them to validate their actions until you can take them back or maybe come to a point to forgive them and maintain some relationship with them. But you can also take the route of concluding they just aren’t good for you, so you leave. Either way, the process eats at you as much, and sometimes worse than most pains in the world. And what’s so special about heartbreak is the juxtaposition of the external battle between you and the loved one, and the internal battle you’re having with yourself. How do you reconcile your love for said person, with the hate you can’t help but feel because of the pain they caused you?

It’s like, you see them with their shoes untied, and you don’t tell them because, y’know, you want their soda to be really fizzy, and their shoes to get scuffed, and their knees to be scraped up a bit when they hit the ground, and their final essay to fly up in the air in a flurry of pages that are now all out of order because they were running late to their 11am and forgot to staple it. But then, in the event that they do trip, in a more visceral response than you'd like to admit, you're running faster than you thought you ever could, just to make sure you're there to catch them.

And you have paper clips.

Anyway, end rant. The story is my first attempt at creative a narrative that details some of this. I think it’s one of the most human things that we can experience, which makes it so beautiful and so scary and shameful. It’s one of the most complex feelings we can experience. It forces us to challenge our own views and ways of thinking. It makes us question things we’ve believed in so much that we would’ve bet any amount of money or gone to war for. And with all the rambling I’ve done, there’s so much else to further complicate the narrative. If you made it to the end of this, I appreciate you. You smart. You loyal. You the best. I hope you read the story when I drop it, and I’d love to hear about anything you have to say about any of this. I’m no expert on like, anything I said here, so I welcome any opportunity to hear other thoughts and such. Thanks.

One Love Y’all,

...or two?

Nelson

Backyard Shenanigans

So, when I engage with a work of art, whether a book, a song, or anything that particularly resonates with me, one question that I always wonder about is where that artist was when they created that piece of work. Where was Chance The Rapper when he wrote "Coloring Book"? Where was Kiese Laymon when he wrote "Long Division"? I just think it’s interesting to consider where artists chose to situate themselves before producing a body of work that goes on to disrupt the sphere of culture they exist in. What if Drake was in a hot tub in Dubai during layover, or at a Cheesecake Factory in LA, when he wrote "Views"? I hope to produce something that leaves an impact on the world one day, so I thought I’d chronicle where I was when I started a new piece or venture. Y’know, just in case.

It’s 12:26 am. I’m in my living room, on the couch. The Cleveland Show is cutting to credits on the TV, and my brother is listening to horror stories on the couch across from me.

Now, back to regularly scheduled programming.

In light of recent news concerning race relations in America, I wanted to briefly contribute my own thoughts and experiences to the dialogue developing surrounding tragedies plaguing the Black community.

I spent some time lounging around in my backyard about a week ago. It was in the early afternoon, so I brought a picnic blanket and my headphones with me and laid out under a tree to chill and listen to music. Some time passed, and I was startled by the presence of two White police officers standing above me in my backyard while I was half asleep. “Hey, do you live here?” That was the first thing they asked me. Bruh, you just pulled up into my whole backyard, do you? That was the first thing I thought. But I digress. I answer, to which they ask for I.D. to confirm. While the female cop ran my demographics, the male cop informed me that a burglar alarm was tripped somewhere around the neighborhood, so they were responding, though nothing was actually stolen. When I told them I hadn’t seen anything, I thought they’d leave. Instead, they asked why I lived in Wisconsin with an Illinois license, they asked if I had any altercations with the cops in Illinois, and they again asked for my I.D. to check for warrants out for my arrest. Then they left, finally.   

Sharing my experience as a Black man in America is a new and daunting endeavor. The first time I did it publicly was in the writing of “Playing It Safe.” One of the biggest issues I face when trying to discuss general issues in the U.S. regarding race, and my own experiences, is the perceived absurdity of the experiences of Black men and women. It’s the notion that the situation being discussed, or the reaction I have, or a Black person has to a situation is so absurd that it just could not have occurred in the same world that the person in opposition inhabits. I see it play out often in hearing comments that attempt to justify tragedies or invalidate a Black person’s experiences: 

There must have been a good reason. 
It couldn’t have happened the way you’re telling it.
You’re overreacting.
Why do you people always make it about race? 
Nobody was shot or killed or arrested so what exactly are you complaining about?

In a world where so many people, particularly people with power and influence, can explicitly dismiss the reality you live in, it becomes incredibly difficult to engage in necessary conversations that need to be had at all levels of social and political interaction. You’d be hard pressed to validly argue that we don’t live in a country where racism and racial bias has existed and continues to exist in some form. And while many cases involve a multitude of facets to complicate the narrative, how wonderfully and thoroughly cloaked in your own privilege must you be to be in the mind that race just simply isn’t one of them? The default in a lot of discourse on this topic, especially in moments of tragic incidence, seems to be the claim that it had absolutely nothing to do with race.

I remember the fear that came over me when the officer asked for identification. I removed my hands from my lap and slowly started reaching over to my wallet. The entire time, I’m staring at the pistols at their wastes, their forearms resting on the holsters. The entire time, I’m wondering whether or not I was going to live to write about this. The entire time, I'm hoping someone from inside my house would step out, since the officers denied my request to go get my parents. The entire time, I’m hyper-aware of my body language and movements, thinking to myself about what it is that I could do at each step that may be perceived as hostile, wondering if anything could have been perceived as a weapon, wondering why these cops are in my backyard in the first place. I’m literally fearing for my life, hoping that I don’t get shot.

Is that absurd? Absolutely. Was I overreacting? I’d argue that I wasn’t. To any passerby, the whole ordeal may have seemed docile, routine, maybe even friendly. But what some don’t necessarily see in the stories that don’t end in cuffs or bloodshed, is what isn’t obvious in casual observation: paranoia.  As a Black male, I’ve seen more than enough video footage sprawled out on the news of someone matching my demographics losing their lives for reaching for identification, or while they were on their own property. I’ve heard stories of college educated young Black men being assaulted by officers for nothing. My father, who, the day after this incident happened, was stopped by the police on the way to an interview, was scared enough to call 911, before the officers got to the car to report the incident. When hanging with other Black men, we’ve shared stories with each other about “that one time”. That one time they were harassed by cops. That one time they were racially profiled and ended up in cuffs for it. That one time they thought they’d end up shot or dead in police custody.  And the irony in these conversations though, is that it was never one time. When you walk through life where you see melanin being criminalized, and blackness being cause for suspicion, of course I'd be scared, paranoid, and uneasy. Can you blame me?

I remember their question about why I lived in Wisconsin despite my Illinois license, how I ended up using it as an opportunity. I began rambling about all of my recent successes: 

Well, I went to Grinnell College. I just Graduated this past May, actually. I’m only here for the summer until I move to California, where I will start Working.

Did I do this to brag? No...well, maybe a little. But it was my way of trying to convince these officers that my life was worth sparing, that I was a contributing member of society despite my Blackness and thus, was worthy of life. It was a shameful, but automatic, attempt at telling them they shouldn't see me as a threat. That I shouldn't be shot. Is that absurd? Absolutely. But when all you hear following the death of a Black bodied person is media and other citizens justifying their deaths by saying that they were once criminals, or had a history of such and such, it’s so easy to begin to feel that my right to life is only as strong as my accolades. Now, I know this is wrong. I know that's absurd. I know that I shouldn’t have to be a college educated superstar to deserve life. I know that there is nothing, no crime, no history of crime, deserving of immediate and public execution. I know that I can’t hide my Blackness behind a couple of degrees and direct deposits. I know that I matter. I know that Black lives matter. I just struggle with speaking about it because in the back of my mind, I can’t help but wonder if it matters to the person I’m speaking to. But here's to trying. 

I’m fortunate to be here to share my own experiences. And to those who can’t, may they rest in peace. To those who won’t, I hope you come to see that your story matters, no matter how much you may feel otherwise. And to those who may share in completely polarizing experiences, I guess all I’m saying is that the presence of absurdity does not mean the absence of reality, even if it’s a reality you don’t live. Those that want to dismiss our stories are quick to say that we live post-racially, and that the tragedies of late have nothing to do with the color of the skin of the victims.

But we know that seldom anything in this world is ever that Black and White.

#BLM

Nelson

 

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I thought it’d be cool to dedicate the first post on my blog to why I almost didn’t make it in the first place.

I’m only just starting out in the tech industry. Over the last couple of years I’ve held some pretty dope internship positions at some pretty dope, big name tech companies, and now I’m embarking on my biggest, and dopest, adventure with LinkedIn (Microsoft?).

I’m also only just exploring the world of writing more seriously. I’ve been doing it for years recreationally, but in these last few months, I made this site and I wrote this, which led to this wonderful thing happening.

In my experience with tech, the big buzzword is innovation. It’s this idea that everyone’s ideas are built off the ideas of a predecessor, the building block of the entrepreneur. When the Mesopotamians rolled the first stone wheel into the proverbial pool of humanity, entrepreneurs were the ones that capitalized on the the ripple effect, and started the wave that was 22 inch chrome spinners on candy painted whips in rap videos. But innovation rests on the shoulders of those willing to bet it all on an idea that they’ve heard hundreds tell them either exists in some form already, is in the works by someone else, is not wanted or needed, or is just plain ridiculous.

I’ve encountered this same concept in writing. Mentors and authors alike have told me that virtually everything there is to write about has been written about already. Love, tragedy, race, gender, sparkly bloodthirsty superbeings, cursed wizards, and BDSM fetishes are topics with several authors associated with them. With that in mind, for the same reason that I was once afraid to speak up about anything during my internships, I’ve been afraid to write down anything.

Some of the biggest fears that I grappled, and continue to grapple with when creating this blog, or generally just throwing an original work or idea into the ether, are the ideas that what I have to say A) has already been said, B) doesn’t really matter, or C) is just stupid. Because of these fears, venturing into the world of writing, and feeling confident enough to publicize my work on the monster that is the internet is extremely daunting. But somehow, for every million stories on a subject, a million more arise, several of which gain a non-trivial level of notoriety. So the natural question then I think is: why do so many stories exist on the same thing and how do some manage to resonate with an audience during different moments in time?

In my opinion, what innovation is to technology, perspective is to writing and storytelling. In the same way that Lyft and Uber, or Desiigner and Future, can both exist, different stories tackling similar things can exist. It’s why personal accounts during a tragedy matter, or why diversity in the workforce is so desperately needed. New perspectives invite new ways of looking at age-old concepts. They allow for the development of 3-dimensional, well rounded discussions that can both be inclusive and open-minded to differing opinions. Additionally, different perspectives on the same topic can resonate with different demographics of people. It’s why me and another black male going to the same school, same major, doing the same extracurriculars, with similar goals, writing about our stories would still both bring something new to the table.

The combination of our journeys, coupled with the uniqueness that is how we mentally engage with and view our respective journeys, to the targeted audience that we choose to engage with, breeds new pieces of wisdom, new lessons that can be gleaned, and new connections that can be created between the reader and the writer. It’s a struggle to internalize that, and the fear that I may post something not worthwhile still looms over me, but the excitement that something I have to say may resonate with someone who I’ve never met in a big way, continues to inspire me to never remain quiet about anything. There’s power in the words we speak, and power in the ones we write down. It’s amazing to think that if everyone’s perspective matters, that everyone on the planet is equipped with the power to create change, to inspire, motivate, and engage. It’s scary to realize and even scarier to act upon, but even if we stumble on those words as we begin to learn to wield the mighty pen (laptop keyboard), I’m learning that as long as you have faith in your capability, the story continues.

So again, welcome to my (hopefully) insightful and entertaining stream of consciousness. Hope you enjoy. Please feel free to let me know what you think about whatever you find on the site. Until next time.

Keep Writing.

Nelson