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Change and Betrayal

A final word from my short trip to New York. I mentioned that I had the honour of seeing Jhumpa Lahiri speak at the NYPL on west 42nd street near time square. The host and speaker was a man named Paul Holdengraber and he said something that has stuck with me since that evening.

“Every change necessitates a betrayal.”

He was quoting someone else and referring it to the conversation with Jhumpa, but to me those words were everything.

Thinking about the word betrayal; how deep it is, how significant it is within that phrase. Not sacrifice, but betrayal, meaning you mustn’t just remove something from your life as sacrifice suggests, but you must directly oppose that something if you hope to achieve change, or drastic change as I see it. 

In the context of the conversation with Jhumpa, the speaker was referring to her leaving New York for Italy and learning the language so intimately that she has recently written her latest book in full Italian.

In her initial move from the city, Jhumpa left her entire library of of English books behind. All of them. She didn’t take any. For me that showed that she not only had to sacrifice “something” to learn the language, but she had to completely abandon and betray the English language in order to attain the level of fluidity with Italian she set out to achieve.

How many of us can honestly say we are willing to be that bold?

How many of us are willing to go against our common way of thinking, of behaving, of seeing things, so we can transform our lives? And believe me when I say transform is the precise word. The sharper the betrayal, the greater the transformation.

Let that sink in for a while. Let that concept really take its course. So many of us want to do great things, want to be seen as great influencers, but are we willing to betray…

I had to take a hard look at myself, as well. I post so much about my passion for writing, for being a novelist. And though I feel like I can certainly answer affirmatively to the former question, in my own mind I’m left to wonder what exactly that betrayal will look like.

#HistoryOrNothing

Read my debut novella "THOUGHTS OF A FRACTURED SOUL," here.

Life Can Be Your Passion

I write this from my hotel room in Manhattan, in the early hours of the morning on the fourth day of my week long trip. Coming to this city has been such a blessing. The affect New York is having on me has been unexpected, and the lessons I’ve learned equally as curious. Last night I saw Jhumpa Lahiri speak at the New York Public Library. She’s a Pulitzer Prize winning author for a collection of short stories called Interpreter of Maladies. I admire her writing more than you can imagine, and she’s directly impacted my own writing more than any author I’ve had the pleasure of reading.

But it was after her dialogue that was equally as memorable. Walking through Times Square, feeling the energy of the city as I strolled down 42nd street. Before that I was with a friend in Harlem, and we walked around 155th street before meeting up with another friend who drove us through the east and west side of that relatively small, but historic section of Manhattan.

This evening I’ll be headed to Williamsburg, on the suggestion of some colleagues I had lunch with in Greenwich Village a few days earlier. And what’s been amazing for someone like me, someone who is more passionate about my career than anything else, I realized that it’s possible to be just as passionate about life itself.

Life can literally be your passion. And I feel very humbled to be saying this. I absolutely love writing, love words, love reading other writers. Writing is my life, it’s both what I do and who I am.

But that’s me. And being here even I have to admit that for those who are struggling to find what they want to do with their lives, what career they want to pursue that will fulfill their passions, know that you can find fulfillment in life itself.

What I’ve learned perusing New York in the manner I have is that it’s possible to still be content even if your career doesn’t define who you are. In fact, I would even suggest that those still searching for who they are seek refuge in life itself. And that doesn’t even have to happen through travelling, although it will certainly increase your appreciation for the world we live in.

But you can find passion in your family, in your friends, in your city. You can find that contentment in your hobbies or in your partner. Jhumpa Lahiri spoke about finding that passion in her learning of the Italian language, and how it has made her feel a kind of wholeness she was missing her entire life.

And I’m not saying you should stop pursuing a career that would fill whatever space you’re looking to fill, I’m saying look to what’s already around you or within you to find that comfort. Because those things can be just as magnificent.

#HistoryOrNothing

Read "Thoughts of a Fractured Soul," here. 

Don't Put Me In That Writer's Trap

Please don’t put me in this trap. This “black author” trap. This is no way disrespecting either side, and I hate that we’re still living in an age where I have to mention this, but this is where we are so it must be said. Yes I am black. Yes I am a writer and an author. But NO this doesn’t mean that my books need to be about some kind of racial issue that myself or other black people have faced in the past or are currently facing.

I don’t want to write about those things. If you are one of my readers and you’re of colour and want to read about slavery, black struggle, or some kind of racism or marginalization, I can refer you to some amazing books or literature.

But you’re not going to get that from me. Of course those stories are significant. Their significant to history and to our present culture. I would never dispute that and I don’t think anyone else would either.

But my stories are my stories. They are based on what inspires me, what moves me, what calls me to write. My stories are and will be about culture and characters within that culture that endure real world shit. That can be anything, not just “black” things.

I’ve just heard that question time and time again. People ask me if my first novella “Thoughts of a Fractured Soul,” is about race. They ask if the novel I’m working on now will touch on race.

NO! NO! NO! In fact, my first book doesn’t even mention the race of any of the main characters. And the manuscript I’m working on now is taking that same path. I’m just not interested in telling those stories and guess what, IT’S MY CHOICE.

So again, just please don’t try to lead me to that trap. I’m a writer, and artist, and I am and will always express myself through my words however I want to. All artists regardless of colour should have the freedom to do the same.

#HistoryOrNothing

image by David

 

Why The Heck Am I Watching Oprah

OK so it was one of those odd occasions where I had a few minutes during the day so I flicked on the TV and it magically landed on Oprah's "O" network. Please don't judge me too much LOL, and to my defense, my brother's wife was over so I feel somewhat justified in watching a segment or two. But talk about eye opening. From what I could tell, the guests on the show were all women who had finally ended their marriages. And I say finally because all of these women were unhappy, unfulfilled, and outright miserable in their marriage for years before finally ending it. I heard one woman say she had checked out of her marriage after the first ten years, but stayed with her husband for SEVEN MORE YEARS despite not feeling any emotion for him at all and herself being constantly unhappy.

Fear of change, maybe?

Can you imagine being stuck in a situation you hated for seven years? Having to wake up everyday and deal with that situation knowing you absolutely don't want to be there. Then I thought a little deeper and realized this is what so many people deal with every day. Not just with their spouses, but so many people hate their jobs, or hate the classes they're taking or their majors, hate where they live, and on and on and on.

And despite feeling deflated, hopeless, dejected, disconnected, and whatever other negative emotional adjective you can think of, they stay. And some stay in their situation for much longer than seven years. Now I don't want to sound insensitive or even ignorant. I know there are always mitigating circumstances and other factors to think about. In marriages, children are always a consideration; with jobs, finances and bills are always a consideration.

There's always something, right?

But that's just the point. There's always going to be something holding your feet to the fire. Some reason, real or manifested, that prevents you from getting out of a situation that's draining you of your energy and your soul on a daily basis.

At what point does that something disappear and your need for happiness take precedence?

Me personally, I protect my happiness at all costs. And not saying I haven't done jobs I've hated or been in bad relationships. But I've always had goals with any job I've worked with the vision that it was either a stepping stone or a necessary evil to get to where I am now. And with relationships, once I could look at myself in the mirror and say I've given it my best shot, that I've tried honestly and intently to make it work and it still isn't fulfilling my expectations, then I have to move on.

And I have a daughter, so I understand all the repercussions involved. But to me, it can be more psychologically damaging for a child to witness a loveless relationship than it can be to end that same relationship.

I'll leave with words from one of my favourite musicians:

"Leaving you is hard, being here is harder." Lana Del Rey

#PassionAndPaper

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