I have been known to call the next great thing way before anyone else a time or two and I pretty much have been calling it about Nate Parker for quite some time now. I mean, how could I not be captivated? My first time seeing him was opposite Denzel (who happened to be his director at the time) and I was so caught up I only saw Nate Parker (I generally say his whole name so don't mind me). He was really remarkable. Like super solid and handsome and leading man and yeah all of that lol. I'm sure my friends were sick of me with Nate Parker. Then there was a period where I still loved him just didn't dig his character or his role much. And that's no dig - it happens if you watch enough movies (same with books - you don't love every single character!). Then he came back so hood/gangsta in "Red Hook Summer", I was convinced he could do it all. And then came "Beyond The Lights" and that would get me all off topic (OMG super fine, saved the damsel in distress and preferred the natural girl oh yes Nate!). I digress...Read More
While cleaning last night, I found my old phone. I was shocked to find it had all of the music I assumed had been lost. I was very happy because I knew that today on the way to work, I'd have some good music which always makes my day flow better. As I pulled into the driveway at the office, a familiar K West beat hit and my eyes filled with tears. "A Dream" is one of my favorite Jay-Z songs because as he poetically share Biggie's notes from the other side, I can't help but realize their relevance to my life. So as I head into the second week of this year, it's the reminder there is NO ONE built like me (or you just FYI) as I build myself...my one of a kind self.
Confession: I'm lightweight obsessed with Ava DuVernay...and by lightweight I mean a whole lot. There are a plethora of reasons why - I'll skip the fact she used her savings to fund her first film or that she was the first woman (and person of color) to win the director's award at Sundance. I'll skip that she is a beautiful black woman who tweeted about her gown selection for the Oscars with so much excitement that I could tell she's more a jeans type of girl. Oh and then there's the fact she directed the story of one of our most prolific leaders, Dr. Martin Luther the King! I think the biggest reason I'm so obsessed with her is that I see myself in her. Years before she was a sought after director, Ava DuVernay was a great publicist working with all the top filmmakers. While she was working, she was also watching. Her craft was being developed and she's a great symbol to me of what can happen if I utilize my opportunities while doing my job. Then there's her work with AFFRM-how she not only used her publicity experience for more profit for herself but that she became an active advocate for all filmmakers of color. Oh and you know I'm petty, so there's the fact her name DuVernay has some similarity to DaVida with that capital V following a vowel that follows a capital D and all. And thus my obsession...Read More
This week I've been walking around in a daze. I had no idea a movie about a famed rap group would continue to enforce the power of gratitude, law of attraction and MAGIC at work in my life. When I moved back to Louisiana in 2008, things looked dismal. I'd returned home without work, very few friends and low funds. After trying to secure a "real" job and getting no results, I opted to go back to waiting tables. In the past, that type of work always led to new opportunities AND going home with cash everyday is always nice.Read More
On Saturday, I accomplished something. It meant a lot to me and that's what makes it sort of a big deal. When I accepted the job offer to come back and work in Los Angeles., I promised myself that I'd pursue my truest desire this time around. During the time I spent living/working in New Orleans, an undeniable artistic and creative side of me emerged. My promise was to continue studying my craft and to take advantage of the great learning opportunities Hollywood provided. I want to write, produce and act. I personally think I'm pretty funny so I wanted to take some form of comedy class. I opted for improv at The Groundlings simply because so many of my favorite comedians came from their program - Lisa Kudrow, Will Ferrell, Kristen Wiig, Kathy Griffin, Maya Rudolph for a handful of an extensive and accomplished list! I figured if I were gonna study, I should at least start with trying to get into The Groundlings.
I went to a free "audition" last December and was pleased when I found out I had enough to get into class. Unlike other programs, The Groundlings starts everyone off in basic level classes. Once I crossed that hurdle of being eligible to take classes, fear started to kick in. I began to talk myself out of it:
- Money is not falling off trees so why would I spend that kind of loot on a class to learn to act when clearly I'm too old to be starting classes!
- Rent is too high to be wasting money on comedy lessons!
- What if the actors that are clients where I work were to see me?
- What do you plan to get out of this anyway you're supposed to be writing?
- You don't have enough time for classes.
- All the students will be young and you'll stick out as an old lady!
- I don't have time or money to waste on some class for 12 weeks!
Don't get it twisted. My inner voice can be quite a beyotch! I decided to compromise with myself and go to a special workshop. It was a one night committment and only costs like $10 or $20. The topic was overcoming the good girl stigma and would be a night with just ladies interested in comedy. I figured I would at least have a fun ladies night but was elated the session turned out to be a night focused on pursuing your dreams while in L.A. - a topic much more on my mind at the time! Long story short, that course made me ready for the basic class and I signed up the next day. I at least had to TRY to assert myself in L.A. the way I do back home. This class was my first foray into that world in this new place.
This past Saturday was my final basic improv class at The Groundlings. After 12 weeks of solid instruction, our teacher Liz put our skills to the test. I gave it my all. I used every technique we were taught and I openly performed with all the partners I was assigned. Most of all, I had fun. After class, we students all had private one on one sessions. I was elated to find out I was advancing to intermediate class. I was proud of myself. I felt very accomplished and it was a big deal for me.
Now in the grand scheme of life, it's REALLY not that big of a deal. (My subconscious is saying some slick ish right now that I'm ignoring so I can finish this post and eat some chicken.) But I'm tired of letting the moments of my life pass by with no celebration. My personality is so hard wired to seek out the next big thing, I can tend to overlook all the gazillions of steps that come before that moment. I've dreamed of doing improv and being a funny girl since the days of watching "Soap" and finding out that most of the actors were SNL alums. In addition to all the great feelings this accomplishment brought, it gave me a bit more confidence to go after the next items on my "when I move back to L.A." list.
I'm optimistic and excited for what will come next!
You're driving along in your car to a destination you've never gone. The iPhone GPS told you to make a left several miles back and you think you did, but you can't quite recall as that was at least 30 minutes ago. You haven't seen another car for some time and the sun is starting to set. Your iPhone service is going in and out so the GPS is sketchy during this stretch. According to your research and how long you've been driving, you know you should arrive soon but you can't tell for sure since your devices are tripping. You're getting nervous - you have only used a 1/4 a tank of gas and you have some water and snacks so you know you're safe it's just a bit weird and that icky feeling is taking over. You notice that in a few miles you'll have the opportunity to turn off the highway and go another route. You wonder if it'll get you there faster or if you'll end up even more lost and confused. Of course the phone is tripping at this point and now you must rely on your gut. Do you stay the course (even though you may not be on the right path due to that confusing left a while back), turn right and start a new direction (hoping your GPS might kick in once you hit the new spot) or do you just pull over praying that somehow your phone and the 4G you were so excited to get finally come to your aid? What do you do? Which way do you go? How do you get back on track or are you in fact on the track still having never left? How can you possibly tell where you're going if you don't know where you are? If you could, you'd ask someone for directions but there isn't another soul in sight. If your phone would work you'd call but again, how can they help you if you don't know where you are. On this journey, no matter what you decide, it shall be a decision totally based on you. So...which way shall you go? Only you can decide...only you can get you where you need to go...
On Friday night I got to go see Joel Osteen at the Staple Center. One of our amazing clients was kind enough to invite me out to the Night of Hope event - Joel pastors Lakewood in Houston but travels across the country and the visits are called "Night of Hope". I'm a fan of Joel's and listen to his podcasts often to find inspiration and motivation. It was an amazing opportunity to see him live and in person. I was intrigued when I found out the night's topic would be "The Valley of Blessings". A valley is defined as a low point or a condition-not usually the first place that comes to mind for blessings. In short, Joel's message revolved around the fact that in life we will all find ourselves in a valley at some point. While God will sometimes remove these valleys, other times we have to go THROUGH the valley to experience growth and to prepare us for what comes after this point in our lives. Without quoting him line for line, Joel said there are blessings in every valley. Further, if we can focus and rename our valleys, we'll be able to go through these low points with more ease. He gave many examples of valleys, including jobs, relationships and of course, Biblical stories illuminating those characters valley moments. It was quite revealing.
I moved to L.A. to push myself to the next level of creativity and career advancement. I started writing, acting and producing in New Orleans and while I think I did pretty well, it was clear to me I need to become better at my craft. Since arriving here in August of last year, I've been all around unsure that I made a good decision. (Sidenote: Joel did say, we are where we are supposed to be and "if you were supposed to stay you would not been able to move".) My job has been a humbling experience. I've worked freelance since 2009, so returning to a "regular" job has been challenging. I'm very used to doing work in a systematic way that works for me. Now I'm in a situation where our work is based on a model that doesn't value my experience or input. I know I'm currently in a valley and I have been calling it "The Valley of WTF have I done to my life!".
In an attempt to apply what I heard at the Night of Hope, I felt renaming my valley was essential. In true DaVida fashion, I needed to research this valley and see what it is really about. My research led me to look toward people who have achieved the type of success I seek. I wanted to cross reference my valleys with theirs. I found quite a few similarities:
The Valley of Rejection: I still find it so amazing that folk really rejected OPRAH! The now mogul has often shared stories of being let go from news anchor positions for a variety of reasons. She was also talked down to by the casting director of "The Color Purple" during the process of being cast in Oscar nominated portrayal of Sophia. If Oprah bounced back I know I can!
The Valley of Are You Crazy: I've heard I was crazy a time or two in my life but I can't imagine literally being committed in pursuit of my dreams. Paulo Coehlo says that when he told his family that he wanted to be a writer, they thought he was surely mad so they committed him! Crazy? Coehlo has gone on to write 30 books and sold over 175 million copies. His most famous work is "The Alchemist", which is regarded as one of the most read book in the world.
The Valley of Isolation: While I have many friends and associates in L.A., it's not the same as my circle in New Orleans. There I was in a creative groove and the majority of my circle was in the same space. We'd create a lot and while we were learning as we went, we kept each other motivated. This feeling of isolation reminds me particularly of Beyonce/Jay Z. While there's so much speculation about the validity of their relationship, this I know for sure - both of them had to part ways with essential members of their team to advance to the next level in their career (which in my opinion has got to give them a serious bond that few others understand). They both caught flack for it and those losses could have halted their progress. Obvi no one really knows what goes on with them behind closed doors, but it appears they found a way to continue moving forward and pushing to toward their goals on their own. Seems to have paid off pretty well.
The Valley of It Takes Time: Taraji P. Henson has been working for years in Hollywood. She's been doing movies, TV and stage work for years. This year, she's suddenly become a household name for her portrayal of "Cookie" in FOX's phenom hit, EMPIRE. While she is a beast in this role, I'm moreso inspired by her tenacity and hard work over the years to get to this point. Taraji's trajectory is a great reminder there are no overnight successes EVEN if it appears to be the case.
The Valley of Dayum I'm Broke: I often get so upset over money. I often feel myself just getting by and am not able to earn enough to have a strong savings account. This bothers me so much and I find it hard to focus on acquiring wealth when I have no idea how I'm going to take care of my basic necessitates. Then I recall J.K. Rowling's story. Now boasting a net worth of $1 billion dollars due to the success of her Harry Potter empire, Rowling was a poor single mother on welfare (shout out to 2Pac). Talk about momma we made it!
While these are just a few of the examples that came to mind, I'm convinced these valleys all combine into one HUGE valley in which I now reside. I name it "The Valley of Artistry". I came to see everything I'm going through now is to make me a stronger artist. Great artists evolve into their craft and now I'm gathering more tools to perfect my craft. I'm also dealing with me, the deep down stuff that stands between me and my best work. It's all a process but now that I know what to call it, I already feel better about my situation. I'm confident that all the lessons I'm learning right now are going to be necessary once I move from this valley and into my next season.
The journey continues...
Throughout the course of my life, I've taken plenty of tests. I have a general test taking strategy that has served me well. Place the material under my pillow, get a good night's sleep, wake up early and say a prayer, take a shower and get dressed in something that makes me feel confident then go do my best. Yesterday I took the most challenging test thus far in my life and unfortunately none of my test skills could help me. I was taking my first ever screening mammogram, a test that uses images from an x ray to detect abnormalities in breast tissue that may be linked to cancer and other diseases. In general, I don't do doctors. I never had any major illnesses and I don't plan to in the future. I prefer more holistic approaches to healthcare and think that sometimes medicine is designed to make us sicker. Having said that, I do think alternative medicine can help but you've got to be aware. And since President Obama fought so hard to get healthcare for us all and I have a job that covers, I figured I'd go in for a physical. When I got there and explained my family history (my Grandmother has survived breast cancer TWICE) I was told that her history plus my age pretty much put me a super high risk. Additionally, I have some things in that I have come to know as unique to me and my boobies but my new doctor was not so familiar. I was ordered to go take a mammogram and so I made an appointment. I was gonna blow it off but of course I was reminded of my younger cousin who was not as fortunate as my Granny when she faced cancer (not breast but still). I also thought of my cousins, colleagues and friends who have faced the utterly stupid disease. I also had to remind myself that no matter what I face, it's a part of the Universe's grand conspiracy on my behalf. So I got dat azz up earlier than normal and heading to Beverly Hills for my test.
I had to make my appointment super early - this fine gig I have does take care of my health care but doesn't want me missing work time to pursue such appointments. The office was filled with women of all races and seemingly socio economic backgrounds. They all looked older than me and the room was filled with a weird vibe. Up to that point, I wasn't too concerned but as I scanned the room, I took on that energy and became quite nervous. What if they found something? What if my new elevation to DD was due to some viscous tumor looking to claim my twins? What if What if What if...I made myself busy filling out all the paperwork and signed away my right to a malpractice suit. After a brief wait it was my turn to go to the back.
I was given a cutesy dressing room and told to put on a pink coverup. Once de-robed (and snapped a selfie of course), I went in for my turn. The lady briefly explained what I had to do. As she talked all I could think of was Sir Mix A Lot's "Put Em On The Glass". That's literally what she was saying would happen. I have a habit at finding sexual inneundo in the least sexy situations. As I chuckled uncontrollably, I had to place my girls on a glass plate while a thing pressed em down flat! Talk about uncomfortable...and cold (but still funny bc it was so not really like the song but sort of kinda like it). I immediately knew this system was designed by some dude who had no idea how painful this felt (which made me think of feminist Beyonce so now I was singing "Grown Ass Woman").
All in all the whole thing took about 20 minutes and I was then left with the worse part of test taking - the wait. In school, I've always been the type to take the test then forget about the test until grades came. I am currently trying my best to employ that tactic since it'll be at least a week before I hear anything. (Reminding myself the Universe is ever conspiring on my behalf so all will be well no matter the results.) The worse part? If I do "pass", I am still have to take this test every two years from now until forever....just like other women everywhere...
Worse test ever...
One of the highlights of 2014 was attending my 20th year high school reunion. Yeah I know I look too young to have graduated that long ago. I was smart and they skipped me quite a few times...ok not true lol. I discovered so much about myself over the three days of spending time with the people I grew up with recalling the good ole days and catching up on where life has brought us to now. As I reflect on the year, going to the reunion had the most influential effect on my year. I hadn't been back to any events at Plaquemine High since I graduated. I take that back - I went to visit my aunt's class in 2005 to talk about pursuing non traditional careers. Other than that I hadn't been back. This may not seem abnormal - when I was discussing going back with my friends who grew up in larger cities, they never even considered going to a high school reunion because they don't recall their high school friends or lives. Since I'm from Plaquemine, Louisiana (and just for clarity, that's the city not the Parish), the people I went to high school with were my true peers. We literally grew up together. I went to pre school with these people and with the exception of a transfer student here or there, we sat in the same classrooms from first grade through twelfth! Nothing ever made me and my friends fall out-it wasn't that type of thing. We all went to college and stayed in touch for a while, but it wasn't the same. Now that I was at college I had so much more to do. I was in so many clubs/organizations, I worked a work study job and an off campus part time job, my family literally moved away while I was in college - my life was changing and keeping in touch wasn't as easy. (Truth is it became a pattern-I've moved A LOT over the past 20 years and whenever I relocate, I have to start again and many of my aces become strangers because I'm just not that good with staying in touch...)
So I was a bit nervous about the reunion. I wondered if it would be awkward seeing everyone again. I mean it had been literally twenty years since I had seen my former best friends! I was also nervous about who I had become - enter the DaVida Drama (insert dramatic dun dun duhhhhnnnn music). See although the reality is that I was scared to death to see my peers. I mean I used to be pretty cute and was definitely slim-code for super skinny like before I got these current hips lol. I had a nice smile, REALLY amazing hair (except that time I chopped it off in the 8th grade which these people would recall so I couldn't go with bad hair!) and back then I was in a power couple! Like totally on the high school level but we literally won best/couple like all the time lol. And now I haven't had a real boyfriend in dayum near as long as the reunion. Plus my friends were super intelligent and we were all competitive! We did not play over grades and we all had big goals for ourselves when we graduated. I wondered if they'd get where I was on this artistic path...would they see me as a failure?!?! I was S-C-A-R-E-D!
Then it hit me. I was going HOME. These people knew me. They BEEN knew I was scared lol. But what I now knew was that I was so much stronger. Oh don't get it twisted, I'm not saying their opinion didn't matter, it mattered a lot - I had to go get the super duper press for my hair and even got my sister and her friend to do my makeup and styling that night to make the focus on the hips not the belly fat! S E R I O U S! LOL but I was no longer afraid to do things as I had been growing up - partially because I was free from the threat of getting beat or super punished! I was grown and I had grown up a lot over the 20 years. More than scared to see them I was excited to see who they had become and how they had grown. I remembered their dreams and I wanted to see if they were coming true!
Going to my 20th year reunion became one of the turning points of the year for me and I think in retrospect, probably my life. We had a lovely time, I saw people I hadn't seen in 20 years. We'd all changed but not really. We were still deep down who we were then. Of course life had happened but everyone was good - REALLY GOOD! It reminded me that I didn't grow up friendless in some small town finally escaping to Hollywood to pursue my dreams which is the melodramatic story that plays around in my head on my bad days. Going home for that reunion reminded me of the truth. I grew up around some pretty amazing people who have grown into even more amazing people with families, careers, and lives that make our small town proud. Going home reminded me of so many great memories as well as my childhood desires. I've wanted to tell stories all my life. Going to that reunion helped me make the decision to come back to L.A. and give my dream another chance...
This was the final weekend of 2014. I had no desire to get out and about. Instead of turning up one more time, I laid down a whole lot. I rested and relaxed and didn't give much thought to many things at all. I did find myself feeling nostalgic for Saturdays past. As I reflected, I realized I spent many a Saturday in (SOFA SATURDAY!)! Luckily I had quite a few out and I think it was because of my good friend Megan getting the party portion of the year started! On Saturday, January 25, she hosted a Roaring Twenties Birthday Celebration. Megan is a costume designer for film and television so her hosting a costume party is not only apropos, but totally excited as I knew folk would push their costumes to the limit. She turned her home into a speakeasy and got an amazing DJ that had the entire place jamming (or whatever they called it back in the 20s)! The party was so memorable because for that night I was surrounded by super cool people and all of my moon sisters to that point were in the same place enjoying life together. Megan's theme party helped me see I needed to add at least one Saturday night out a month to my preplanned Sofa Saturdays!
On February 22, 2014, I embarked on my first cruise. The experience changed my life. I love to travel but had not gone on an adult vacation to that point. I'd had girl weekends here and there and super cool birthday/bachelorette weekends, but never an escape type vacation. The cruise meant disconnecting from my normal life (cell phone an wifi rates on the water are hefty!) and spending a week away, exploring new beaches (one of my fav activities in the world), eating great food, reading books I'd neglected and just unwinding. This trip also meant bonding with my family as the trip was to celebrate my sister's 21st birthday and was sponsored by my mom! This trip was amazing - relaxing, beautiful, exotic - but it changed my life in a different way. The month before the cruise I had a huge argument/disagreement with my mom and my sister. I had no desire to go around the corner with them, let alone leave the country with these two people that had hurt me so. My grandmother who knows how much I love to travel persuaded me to go. I was still mad but attempted to start getting my attitude together around the trip. I was a bit concerned about money-when I'm mad at folk I detest getting anything from them so I wanted to ensure my financial independence from my mom on the trip. The week before we were set to leave, I entered a contest on Instagram and won $250 - super random contest where all I had to do was share an inspiring quote. Maybe the day or so before the trip, I won $50 on a scratch off lottery ticket. I'd gotten $300 seemingly from no where to go on this trip. At this point, I figured the universe was conspiring on my behalf so I was more excited to go and the night before I was super anxious and excited, barely getting any sleep.
The day we were set to leave, I set an intention to have a peaceful trip and asked that I can be more forgiving towards my mom and sister while on the water - after all I was going to be sharing a cabin with my sister and I didn't plan on throwing shade toward my mom for an entire week! I just wanted to go and relax and be happy. The cruise was amazing. I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of it - my fav part was parasailing in tandem with my sister. While we were miles above the boat we got lifted from, we proclaimed our intentions to the universe! Our adventures were numerous and I did feel more connected with both my mom and sister as we discussed life at dinner every night. It was again very awesome, but here's the life changing part:
The trip made me realize that the Universe is indeed working constantly on our behalf. One night on the cruise I decided to go get some lemonade alone in the middle of the night. As I walked on the deck where drinks were, I realized I was the alone, just me and the stars. I was surrounded by darkness all around me but I felt no fear (which is odd since I can be pretty scary). I felt calm and peaceful. In this great expanse of the ocean, I knew for a fact I'm never alone and that I'm always safe. I felt protected and surrounded by love. I felt like being there in that moment on that ship was a metaphor for life. I embraced it.
After the trip, life was still life. There were many ups and downs as the year continued to unfold. 2014 went on to be the year full of the most change in my world. And although I'd get scared and freak out as per usual, I'd think back to that night on the cruise often. That was the shift. I no longer wonder if things will work out. I know and believe I'm protected. Always in all ways. Since the trip, I'm closer to my mom and sister (even though we did have a physical altercation months later but I digress lol). That cruise, from the fact that it was provided as a gift to me by my mom and my spending money was taken care of by my winnings, was a blessing. It serves as a constant reminder the Universe will provide and that was one of the biggest lessons I learned in 2014.
“Freedom is not something that anybody can be given. Freedom is something people take, and people are as free as they want to be.” ― James Baldwin
I want to be free and that desire led me to see what or who was keeping me bound.
Imagine my shock when I found out it was me! There was no high powered white man cracking the preverbal whip, no family matriarch looking down on me, no authority figure waiting to beat my ass into submission. Nope none of those. My thoughts, my beliefs, my actions. All of that was leading to my bondage. Held captive to a myriad of self-inflicted torment. Aggressive physical and mental abuse in a variety of forms including but not limited: self sabotage, fear, martyrdom, doubt, lack, inadequacy, seeking validation outside of myself, lies, hurt, poor diet and drama.
But now that I know what keeps me bound, can I just walk away and step into my freedom? How free do I really want to be? No REALLY? If I truly desired freedom, wouldn't I be able to step right into it? Shake off those shackles like they were a polaroid? Start fresh and forge a new path free of all those things that no longer serve me. Free to just be me.
Yet freedom remains elusive...
I've always had a fascination with time travel. Growing up, one of my favorite shows was "The Twilight Zone". There's an episode where the main character decides to go back in time to correct some things about our collective past. He attempts to thwart Hiroshima, kill Hitler and get Lusitania off course. All of his efforts are unsuccessful and he even plays a hand in a tragic event in his home town. He decides the past can't be altered and returned to the future.
During the mid 80s when "Back to the Future" hit, I was again intrigued by the prospect of going back in time. Since Marty McFly was only going back in time to correct his family's issues, I wasn't that big of a fan but the story line won me over. The movie made me feel as if one day the technology would allow me to hop through decades at some point.
The show that really sold me on the idea of time travel was "Quantum Leap". This show changed my perception of time. Because the main character was a governmental scientist, the writers/show creators did a great job of convincing me that there was classified technology that would allow people to leap into other time periods. I became fascinated with "leaping" to the 70's.
I was no big fan of history class in my academic studies. My grades school and high school history class teachers are not ones I remember (except the one from high school my classmates and I figured had a drinking problem but I digress). I don't recall ever getting really excited about the things that taught EXCEPT when we grappled the 70s. I was drawn in particular to 1976, the year of my blessed birth. I took pride in the fact that I was a "Bicentennial Baby," having been born in July 200 years after the Declaration of Independence was signed. I always felt very patriotic due to when I was born. I wanted to leap back to the decade of my birth with my current level of intelligence to see just how much America had changed 200 years after the founders penned their intentions for this country.
Fast forward to present day. My fascination with time travel expanded not just to going back in time but to the possibility that time is non linear. I also got hip to the possibility that there's parallel universes and it's possible our souls are living multiple lives at once. These new theories and expanded possibilities of how I view time, made me begin to wonder, have I actually some how leaped back into the 70's? Clearly I know it's 2014, but I wonder if i'm currently living the 1970s experience I had imagined "leaping into"? Follow me now, here's where it gets interesting...
I grew up in a small town in Louisiana. When I visioned myself in the 70's I always figured I'd head West. I was into images of New York's "Studio 54", but always saw myself living in a warmer climate with the option of the beach. Additionally I always felt as if I would be better suited to Los Angeles. I've always wanted to work in entertainment and I was always fascinated by the variety in belief systems that seemed to come from West Coast'ers. The women from this time seemed beautiful, intelligent and not afraid to stand up for what they believed, whether it was racial or gender equality. I always wondered how I would have been in the past. Would I have been marching and protesting? Would I have been blowing shit up? Would I have been a Black Panther? Would I have been an academic or a politician making waves that way? Or would I have been a hippie dippie artist type, living life on the fringes but using my work to state my politics? And less poignant questions filled my head as well. I wondered would I rock an afro or cornrows or get fresh blowouts? Would I be super fit and baring my midriff or would I be super conservative?
As much as the country has advanced today, there are quite a few similarities to this current time and life in the 70s for American citizens. The 1970's are historically viewed as tumultuous, with people at home fighting for equality and soldiers or foreign land fighting as well. There were huge economic disparities between the haves and the have nots. Citizens were increasingly distrusting of the government and it's leaders. The country was left divided from the uproar of the 60s and many people with conservative views supported a new regimen called the "New Right". The New Right fought against high taxes, affirmative action, desegregation in schools and government meddling. Sound familiar?
Right now those seem to be the issues of the day. The economic disparities are huge and some experts proclaim there is no longer a middle class in this country. Our students are falling behind as our educational system seems to be in shambles. Citizens today are highly distrustful of government and that distrust is only extrapolated by media pundits second guessing everything our elected officials are doing. And today, black men continue to be arrested at a higher rate that whites and tragically are also being killed at high rates by police officers entrusted with their protection. While I don't mean to exaggerate the situation by saying we haven't progressed, I find myself often disappointed at our current state.
In this "new world" I'm often left asking the same questions as I did when I was contemplating time travel. The difference is that now my questions have very visible answers. I'm no longer considering what if's but rather living the realities of what is. Now I know what I would have been doing because it IS what I'm doing daily. While I'm not always voicing my opinions in a visible way, I'm dealing with my emotions in a creative manner. I've had long term issues with living in America and wanting to be an upstanding person of color. I now realize that those are confines I set for myself and trying to win over racists with my excellent personality is a futile goal! I've opted to channel my emotion, talent and energy into my creative work. I never really thought I'd be a hippie-dippie artist type, emoting all over the page, but that's where I am. I fought it so long trying to be a more dynamic, outspoken and captivating vision of myself that wasn't quite lining up with what my soul was saying.
The thing I most enjoyed about "Quantum Leap" was that the main character remained himself no matter what body or time period he leaped into. His belief system and his nature/personality remained the same-his SOUL did not alter. What I've found is that as much as I grow and evolve, my soul too remains the same. If I were to go back in time, I think I would bring my light to the world then much as I do now. I believe we all have been given gifts that will need to be utilized before things get better. Our souls are burning to activate and change the world for the better. Ever little thing we do in the name of fairness, equality, compassion-basically everything thing we do in the name of love gets us closer to where we are going. As I sit and type this, I struggle. It's hard for me to grasp that this is enough. I want to be a part of social change and I wonder me sitting around writing and attempting to become better at storytelling in general is enough...
Then I recall all this started with the desire to time travel and I got the idea simply from watching an old school TV show.
When we do the best we can, it is always enough.
THEN: The first time I met OUTKAST was in the fall of 1994. It was my freshman year at college, and I was working for the Southern University Student Government Association for Homecoming. My job was to assist with the artists performing at the concert. I was assigned to Aaliyah. While she was doing soundcheck, I was sitting in the stands and I turned around and no shit OUTKAST was sitting there. We struck up a conversation...which really means I started talking to them as per my usual. They were super cool and humble (at the time they were OPENING for Aaliyah so) and I was excited about where their career would go.
Fast forward to spring 1997. The fall 1996/spring 1997 school year was one of the best moments in my life! Seriously. I was on the homecoming court in the fall and that spring I pledged Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority. The previous school year I had become a total Outkast fanatic. I had also found out the hype behind marijuana and no artists mixed quite as well with weed as the ATLiens (still a fact lol). This was the life. I was wrapping up my junior year at college, I'd risen to the high ranks of the social scale at school and I was feeling pretty optimistic about life. Icing on the cake? Guess who came to perform at Springfest! Yup OUTKAST! This time there was something different about the group.
In the three years since we'd previously met, they had sold a gazillion albums and even introduced the world to GOODIE MOB. These were no longer just two young guys pursuing music, they had put the south on the map in a major way. I was super excited to meet them once again but this time I found them more focused than laid back and cool. They inspired me that it was time to get a plan. In 1997, my life became focused on getting to Los Angeles. I felt if I could just be in the City of Angels, opportunity would come. I felt I'd get discovered for whatever my talent was and I believed with all my might that it would happen.
In the 17 years between Springfest '97 and today, so much has happened. I moved to L.A. - twice. I discovered my talent (for myself, no one ever magically appeared to tell me what it was). Outkast stopped making new music. They announced they'd do a 20 city tour to celebrate their 20 years in the business. I was confident I had to see them. I was fortunate to go to Voodoo Fest in New Orleans for their Halloween night performance. The show was amazing. While there I began to ponder on my life and what I had done over the 20 years since first seeing the guys in the FG Clark Activity Center.
My initial reaction was sadness. When I first started listening to OUTKAST, I wanted to be so many things. I really thought I'd be an MTV VJ one day-that was my highest aspiration to be the next Downtown Julie Brown. That didn't happen. I hadn't had a horrible life but I also hadn't reached the goals I'd set for myself. My mind quickly shifted from what I had wanted to accomplish to what I wanted to be. When I was in college, I often dreamed of the person I wanted to become. I wanted to be a single woman, very connected with her friends but also committed to her career. I wanted to go to amazing concerts and get to know music artists in social situations so I could ask them questions and share how their music influenced me. I wanted to work hard on creative endeavors but also play hard, traveling often and enjoying life. I dreamed and longed to not live a status quo life. I wanted to experience everything that life had to offer, not just what I knew in my small town upbringing. I wanted to be an adventurer, fully engaged and open to what the world had to offer.
As I stood awaiting the group I'd followed for two decades to appear on stage, I realized that I AM who I wanted to be. I have seen the vision for my life unfold and I've done even more than I imagined. Life has been pretty amazing. As the night went on I couldn't help but focus on the future (especially since my costume was from the year 2076). I began to visualize who I want to be and what I'd like to experience in the next 20 years. As I shared my vision with Andre 3000 later in the night, I looked around and saw my line sister from 1997 and my homegirl from my days at Purdue-both people who were there at different points of my OUTKAST journey. I felt myself in the flow of life - how vision becomes reality...how all things align. It felt like a story unfolding...it felt pretty damn Spottieottiedopaliscious!!!
For your listening pleasure...