It’s been a year since I first thought to write this post and after what feels like a million attempts, I still haven’t figured out the best way to start it. I’ve been putting off writing about my frustrations with – well, everything – for so long now. I imagine myself to be a pretty open person, hoping that even in some of my most embarrassing moments it may help other people in some way.
I just couldn’t get this out, though. Too embarrassed by my circumstances. Too angry about where I ended up and how this time a year ago. Not ready to deal with any of it.
In fried chicken terms, I aspire to be a Popeye’s combo but I’m relegated to KFC two-piece special by default. Meanwhile, Church’s Chicken giveaway on the other side gets treated like Mr. Chows. It’s so unfair.
I considered that fried chicken analogy one way of beginning this post. That or me just saying fuck seven or a hundred times to drive the point home.
But yes, I’ve been quite pissed with life.
I suffered as a result. The anger took over me and it meshed perfectly with the residual anger I’ve carried with me since I was a child. The fact that I have remained in so much conflict despite having gone through so much to escape it only made me more upset.
A lingering thought ever present in my head is, “When will it ever get better?”
Truly better to the point where I am in a space in which I feel happy, fulfilled, and content. Where I no longer have to convince myself that every sacrifice was worth the larger goal. I want to know that beyond any doubt and finally enter a space where I feel all of what I put out there is reciprocated.
I’m not there by any means, but I am still trying. For me, that’s a win. A week ago I signed a lease for my first apartment in New York. It’s several years later than I originally envisioned, but perfect timing all the same.
This time last year I got in my car and drove away from Los Angeles. I had decided to swallow my pride and drive back to Houston. Ideally, I was only supposed to be there for a month or two. Then I would head to New York and start over.
That obviously didn’t happen and I complained about it every single day, but again, things happen when they are supposed to – sometimes regardless of how you feel the way it should go.
By the time I had driven away, my stuff had already been in storage for a few weeks. In late summer 2011, I lost one my main writing gigs. I normally find replacement work fairly quickly, but eight months would go by before I found two other writing jobs that would make up what I had lost. And while I did secure new work, I wasn’t being paid on time.
I was owed thousands of dollars and was left with no other choice, but to lay on the couch of a friend kind enough to allow me to sleep on. One of her cats was gay as hell and kept trying to hop on me in the middle of the night, but if not for her big heart and generosity, I would’ve been sleeping in my car – the one I had started to struggle to pay for. But I felt like I was testing her generosity as I was only supposed to be there for a week or two. It turned into six. Again, motherfuckers owed me money. No one was paying. I felt helpless and stuck.
This only made me more upset with myself given I initially had planned to leave for Houston in March.
The main reason I stayed past that was because I had just met an agent I was linked to after I had reached out to the president of a network that I met in a comedy writing program years prior. I asked for help and she gave me that. The agent told me all of these great things and where he felt I fit best (late night, animation, etc.), but ultimately I got lost in the shuffle of pilot season.
I was waiting on word on whether or not I’d be signed. For me, that would’ve been a sign to bear with LA for a little longer. Look past whatever personal emptiness I felt for the larger goal.
I couldn’t find another roommate and couldn’t swing that rent all by myself. Plus at that point, I realized that while I had made forge some genuine friendships in LA, it was only with a handful. You need to be around people who get you, especially when you feel as if you’re losing yourself in the midst of your struggle.
I understood the importance of that after I decided to stop overstaying my welcome in LA with that friend and go to NY for a week with another. I spent the very last few dollars I had to go stay with one of my best friends. I was so furious about my missing money from multiple companies (among other things) and though I declined her offer to fly me out for a break, when I arrived Charreah had a card waiting for me. She told me I was bigger than my situation and gave me money and a Metro card to get through the week. Another friend had given me money. As grateful I was, I had never felt so low in my life.
Everything I went through to get to Howard University, plus all of the internships and all of the work I had done – mostly secured by own pursuits – I felt like the biggest idiot. I started to wonder whether my mom was right to say that I should’ve majored in something more secure in college. When you don’t grow up with money, you don’t have the kind of support system usually needed to survive the sort of sacrifices required for success in a field like writing.
I should’ve left the first time I thought to, but it’s over now. Either way, by the time I finally did get my money I knew I couldn’t be in LA anymore. Maybe I’ll go back there, maybe not. Either way, I knew after a while that wasn’t where I needed to be in the immediate future.
Going home for me felt like the biggest defeat. Not just because I was in my late 20s, college educated, and going back into my mama’s house, but because it was that house. The one with the yelling; the fighting; where your rape was thrown in your face as an insult; where death threats were commonplace; where you would hear about secret siblings; where I can scratched “DIE” and “DIE Mom and Dad” into the walls; where you would have to sometimes get up in the middle of the night to break up a fight or fight off an angry drunk; where you grew up wanting so desperately to stab your father in his chest and watch him bleed to death for all the pain he caused to everyone around you that you loved; where everything that happened inside those walls followed you into your adulthood with vivid nightmares.
I could go on, but the point is made. Going back into that place brought up all of these residual issues I have yet to work out.
The very first night I drove back, I almost left. My brother said something intentionally hurtful to me inside of a club, so instead of reacting on him the way I thought to, I had to step aside. Filled with rage, I started throwing whatever I could find and ended up kicking a dent in my car. Like a fucking idiot.
I came back and told my mama that I was leaving, only she said she wouldn’t hear of it. At least not for a month.
Before I left for NY to get away from LA, I was scaring the shit out of Asians as I screamed into the phone at the Laundromat – telling my mama to tell my brother and sister to leave me the fuck alone. They meant well, but I didn’t want to hear it. Not long before that, a cousin of mine had my family worried that I was going to commit suicide.
I made my mama cry. I felt bad. She’s had enough tears for a lifetime.
So much was going on last year. My anxiety levels were getting so high.
I was starting to wake up every morning feeling like an asthmatic running circles around a smoke house. On Thursday night it became a bit more intense. A few months into being in Houston, I went to D.C. for homecoming, but I couldn’t even handle the trip.
Again, yet another trigger in my life and hurt feelings had me losing m mind. You just don’t know how bad you are at dealing with your deep-seated issues until you’re on the passenger side of your rental car fighting off the urge to punch through the glass and leap out of the car. So you can breathe.
One reason I stayed in Houston far longer than I ever imagined myself to was that once again, motherfuckers owed me money. I wouldn’t say I was feeling sorry for myself, but I did realize how much of a broken record I sounded to friends. I couldn’t help but question my choices, wondering why in the hell would I be one of the few from my hood to go off to college only to pursue a career not exactly known for being lucrative.
Writing is who I am, though, but I was resenting myself for that. My mama told me that I needed to save $10,000 before I went anywhere. Because motherfuckers were constantly owing me money. Because jobs come and go now more than ever. Because, because, because.
My response was, “What do you think this is?” I needed to catch up on the bills I fell behind on. I was in so much of a rush to get out of Houston. I love my family so much, but not everyone understands that I’m not running away from my problems. I have tried to confront them with the people around me, but no one wants to deal with them.
My mother doesn’t want to accept my sexuality. My dad isn’t going to ever acknowledge his wrongs. If I can’t fix the situation, I have to place enough distance between it. For myself.
I don’t what to be the person I’m describing here. I worked so hard not to be that person and every month last year I was losing that fight.
I’ve consciously tried to stay clear of laying it out in this space. Then I came across this quote from Zora Neale Hurston: “If you are silent about your pain, they’ll kill you and say you enjoyed it.”
Not long after I saw this quote from Lena Horne, “Don’t be afraid to feel as angry or as loving as you can, because when you feel nothing, it’s just death.”
I don’t have a happy ending to any of this yet.
I remain frustrated with all of the agents I’ve come across over the last year who seem to like me, but don’t know what to do with me, and thus, won’t commit. That may change with one I met recently, so here’s hoping. Even if it does, fact remains I have to convince other fucks of my worth as I’ve learned in recent meetings with people in other areas.
People have started to pay me on time, but some motherfuckers still owe me money.
I cannot pretend that my heart doesn’t hurt and how much I long for someone who will love me back and not feel guilty or ashamed or conflicted about it.
I continue to worry that I my relationship with my mom may be strained because she can’t accept my sexuality and would rather work to pretend that it doesn’t exist.
In hindsight, I now realize the money isn’t necessarily the issue. Overall, it’s been a lifelong frustration with the notion that I’m not completely in control of my circumstances.
But, I can say that I for the first time in a very long one, I believe I am where I am supposed to be. Little by little, I’m seeing signs that people recognize my talent, my voice, and though it may not be easy, I’ll get to where I want to be.
I still want to be the Black Donald Glover and I hope I can one day use a line like “Make a movie with your bitch, Steven Speil, nigga.”
A few months ago, I saw someone say that it’s better to hide all of the struggles on the road to your success, so it looks as though you did it all on the first try. I unfollowed the fuck ass on Twitter as that is the stupidest shit in life. That is not real life, or at the very least, not everyone’s life.
I’m not even sure if publishing this was the smartest thing. I question a lot of the audacious behavior I’ve engaged in lately. Say, as early as today. Then again, I know I needed to get this out. If not for anyone else, for me.
I carry a lot with me and it’s time I truly learn to let go. Maybe it’ll help someone. Maybe it won’t. Maybe someone will try and use someone of this against me in the future. Should they, you know, good luck with that.
Whatever, point is all I want is to fight through my Kelly Rowland and be the Beyoncé I obviously am. I am trying. That’s all I can do.
P.S. I forgot to note, I did listen to mama, re: saving that much money. Mama be knowing.