Not for Everyone: Reflections on the Summer of Twenty-eleven
Friends, I write this in the evening. It has freshly rained and my time alone in my apartment has been much needed. Kevin left some frozen chicken in the freezer, and I made use of it, along with some rice and some tricks imparted to me by Fitz. The meal was simple and good.
I cooked and ate it while multitasking, my most common state. My task of the evening was committing to a 1-hour and 52-minute video. The video was a conference-style conversation between Shawn ‘Jay-Z’ Carter and Cornel West, (moderated by Paul Holdengräber.) Decoded: Jay-Z in Conversation with Cornel West, which you can watch in the embedded video player below, was the best-spent hour and 52-minutes I could have stumbled upon. Make time and watch this:
After watching this video, I felt a sort of culmination of a Summer that has been both triumphant and devastating. As Charles Dickens wrote, “it was the best of times, and it was the worst of times.” There’s something quite beautiful about the disparity of those who are fighting for their place in the world–their place in a city, or someone’s mind, or in history. I believe that this is something my friends and I do every day. Seeing a conversation that chronicles and investigates the life of one of the world’s most influential artists really helped me put things into perspective.
There’s nothing I want more in my life, than to positively affect the world like Mr. Carter has done, but I’m nowhere near doing that. That can be very discouraging, but then I remember something. I just celebrated my twenty-third birthday, and Jay-Z didn’t release his first album until he was twenty-six. Since that time in his life to now, he has amassed millions of dollars and millions of people who love his music and what he stands for. How does that happen? Is it luck, or savvy? Passion, hard work, or time? Each of those factors lie like bricks in the road to success–if your road starts on Monroe Center. And mine does.
I think this is all to say that I have known where I’ve wanted to go and what I have wanted to do, but more importantly the fact in my own mind: that I could and would do exactly that. It is that self-confidence that I’ve found powerful. The power that’s been wielded by every successful person in history–but also by some of the worst people in history. And this is where I come to the real reflection: why was I a part of the Grand Rapids LipDub–allowing Rob, myself and our team international success? Why is my goofy hip-hop character, who raps about safety, opening a show starring two international music and film stars? And why has my main concern become figuring out how I’m going to pay for my rent or my food? It’s the gap between reality and potential. This is the journey of what Brian Gerrity described to me as that of a twenty-nothing–trying to become a twenty-something.
We can’t all be Mark Zuckerberg. You’re reading this, because he created Facebook and that’s where I posted this link. But maybe, just maybe, the next time you cross the street, you’ll remember my song. Or you’ll find yourself humming American Pie, and not know why. In the end, I have to treat people better. I need to value humility and long talks with close friends to be more my version of success, than a fat bank account or fancy dinners. Because when I’m his age, I want to feel just like Brian does. I want to recite his lyrics as truth from my own life:
“Happy is he, who holds onto the past. For at last, he has time to call it a blast. And he has reaped what he has sewed, and they call him particularly bold.”