This post is an excerpt from Twenties Unscripted: A Journey of Womanhood, Writing, and Relativity. The full essay is available in the book, which is currently available for pre-sale here.
My dream did not come to me in the neat package I assumed it would seven years ago during my freshman year of college. And, because it did not arrive complete with a bow the way I envisioned, I mistakenly thought it never arrived. Perhaps the irony is that in the precise moment I gave up on being a writer, I became a writer. What I originally saw as my plan B, my alternative, my watered-down version, was really my dream, bright, beautiful and not at all in the package I expected.
I’m living my dream. The hustle is real. The work is hard. The rewards are plenty. The sacrifice is unending. The letdowns are tough. The support is vital. The haters are alive. The love is brewing. I’m living my dream. And, this life, it is so good.
Oh, the life of the artist. It has the potential to be both fulfilling and glamorous. But the journey to make it to that pinnacle is strenuous and often comes with zero guarantees that you even make the first step. As a writer, I find that it’s harder for the artist to get to where they want to go than it is for the typical pick-a-color collar working [wo]man.
There are so many obstacles in the way of the artists. Of course you had to sift through the “bologna”—those who see other’s aspirations and hard work and believe that they could do it better. Sometimes, you had to eat bologna; it was all you could afford. But as you grew older, you found out there were foods and ones that didn’t come in a circle. No longer did you have to settle. You can aspire to have steak and shrimp and lobster. Wow, I just got hungry all of a sudden. The point is there are those who want things and those who LOVE things. That’s how you tell the difference.
Once separated from the pretenders, we have to promote ourselves. Sure, you’re aware that you write, rap, act or paint but that doesn’t mean others know. You can have all the degrees and certifications you want but the old adage holds true: it’s not what you know but WHO you know. You have to put yourself out there to anyone who will listen. Sometimes you’re met with intrigue and genuine interest and sometimes you’re met with skepticism and general ridicule. It’s a roll of the dice but it’s something that we have to take a chance at because we never know the potential of who we’re talking too. Our gift, our talent isn’t looked at as a potential career but rather a dream. And most people don’t like to believe in dreams. Some call them haters but I prefer the not-so-subtle “soulless fools.” You have to look past those types and remain focused. A dream to others is a passion to you and being passionate about something you love will always trump being “successful” in something you despise.
Artists can’t apply for their careers like Johnny B. Good and Jane O. Well. There is no application that states our desire to become authors, rappers, or what have you and no specific employer that looks at these applications. It’s literally scratch-and-claw to get to where we need to be. And an artist can’t go anywhere without a strong support system. If you don’t have people who believe in what you can do, it’s going to be difficult for the artist to ever make an impression to those already established in their lane. Think of it like getting references when you apply for a job. But unlike the typical working [wo]man, the difficult part for an artist is when you work hard on projects and you share them with others—usually on the wonderful social networks we can’t stop checking every five minutes—and those who have praised your work won’t push and promote for you.
As Tyece has said on here before, authentic support is strongly desired but also hard to come by. Those retweets or link shares do wonders for the aspiring artist and it only takes a second to do. But whether it’s jealousy (or as Drake puts it “love and hate at the same time”) or just the universal notion that reading or listening is enough, support is hard to come by if you aren’t established. Of course, that all changes when you start to get more exposure and publicity.
None of this means anything if what you’re selling isn’t up to par. There’s nothing worse than putting in time and effort into something you love but constantly facing rejection over and over. Maybe you network with the right people and find authentic support, but that still doesn’t mean you ever get your foot in the door. It’s a scary thought that I deal with it every day and that countless other artists face. It’s stressful but it’s something that need not deter you. Sometimes you may press too hard, using senseless motivations such as “proving the haters wrong.” The most important thing as an artist to remember is that you didn’t begin by using your talent for others; you did it for yourself. There’s nothing wrong with being selfish in this sense. As long as you’re in love with your gift, then you don’t have to worry about anyone else.
Oh, the life of the artist. It’s not the easiest of journeys. It’s a journey where you may not reach your ultimate goal. But it’s not about that. It’s about using your talents, your gifts to express who you are. If that leads to a career, then that’s a bonus. Even when we fall out of our twenties and into those dreadful thirties and have yet to make a significant step forward, remember that you’re passionate about what you do. Dreams do come true…so never stop dreaming.
Brandon “Tall Guy” Braxton is a 25 year old author of the poetry collectionRandom Commentsliving in Richmond, Virginia. Being six-foot-ten, he answers plenty of redundant inquiries everyday. Which is fine as long as there is a strong drink nearby.
I can’t legally have any wine, but I do think I have wisdom.
Truthfully, I have wine whenever I want. That’s the chase I play with while being an underage party animal. We all experience a chase more than once in our life; whether we are chasing a guy/girl, a job or all and a dream. Once we have what we want, we sometimes don’t want it anymore. It’s like the excitement is no longer there. We have nothing to long for; we have nothing to look forward to; we reached the light at the end of our tunnel. I’ve been told that once you turn 21, the chase to get alcohol and get into bars is clearly gone. I don’t want it to be gone, and what I’m trying to express here is that we should never lose the chase “feeling,” ever.
I think I can speak for a lot of people when I say that that feeling is exhilarating, regardless of the circumstance. Players, for example, play people because they like the chase; it is a lust journey for them until they themselves get screwed. Some partners who have affairs are looking for something they haven’t had in a while. The chase for something different is thrilling until you get caught. Players and cheaters have temporary highs. My high of getting alcohol with a fake ID is just temporary. Of course, this is reality.
Search for the feeling that should and could be permanent and never lose it. The chase feeling is too good to have just for one night, one week or one month. Lets say you are being interviewed for your dream job. Phone rings; you get the job, now what? If you were to ask me, I would say keep striving for better. Own that job and work what you got. Show your knowledge, and keep moving up the work ladder. Chase beyond what you want. Keep what you want in your horizon but look past it to even higher things. When you dream big, whatever it is that you are dreaming of, your mind wanders to greater heights and you reach more than you ever thought to accomplish- the key is never settling.
I am talking about this feeling like it is an actual emotion, because to me it is. I am sitting here going over all of my accomplishments in my head. I am 18 years old and I have my own website, I contribute for three others, I work two jobs and I just transferred to one of the top schools in the nation. When you have experienced that feeling of an endless explosion of light in your heart and the light that is constantly waking you up every morning, pushing you to never settle- I will applaud you. Chase your dreams and love like you chase cheese with wine. Life is meant to be exciting, don’t lose that feeling.
Erika Stern runs her own website, erikascouch.com. Additionally, she contributes to Elite Daily, Writtalin and The Eighty 8. She is a student at Stony Brook University. In her free time, she enjoys half-caf coffees, pinning her dream wedding on Pinterest and teaching people how to dougie.
More. A word that plagues my vocabulary. I should make more money. Save more money. Write more. Go to church more. Call my friends more. Date more. Travel more. Read more. More, more, more. The word that zeroes in on life’s voids without actually addressing them.
Less. Another word that infiltrates my vocabulary. Spend less money. Worry less. Care less about what other people think. Spend less time on social media. Less. The word that magnifies your hedonism, your self-indulgence, your insecurities.
More and less, two words in constant competition when it comes to how we spend our time and carry out our lives. They are probably two words embedded in the New Year’s resolutions of those who are opting to create them. But, I stopped believing in New Year’s resolutions awhile ago, instead converting to the school of thought that any day is a chance to change how you do things. I sometimes think New Year’s resolutions are a quick detour to disappointment as you proudly proclaim “New Year, New Me” on December 31, only to revert to your old ways by January 31. I don’t think there’s anything inherently more transformative about January 1 than say April 30 or June 16 or September 22.They are all days where you can choose to commit, to let go, to change.
Even so, I’m still in reflection mode like most of the world today, looking back on my year, what happened and the people who crossed my path. I could say the year was amazing or I could say it sucked and it’s all relative. I feel more inclined to say it was an amazing year, but the truth is, it was probably both great and not-so-great. There were days so good they deserved more than 24 hours and days so terrible I couldn’t see straight through my tears. Because, that is what a year is. Maybe some years, the good outweighs the bad and other years, the demons overrule the angels. But, no year is really complete without both.
I’m heading into 2014 without any resolutions and with few expectations for the year. That is how I came into 2013 and this year continued to surprise me in that holy-shit-is-this-really-my-life (good) kind of way. All I really have is a lot of faith because of what I’ve learned, seen and experienced this past year. I have faith in whatever bits of wisdom I’ve gained along the way to help me steer my life’s tiny sailboat without becoming completely shipwrecked.
I’ve learned that if you want much of anything in this life, if you want to interview someone for your blog or you want to get a chance to spotlight at your favorite poetry spot or whatever it is, you have to fight. You have to email people once, twice and maybe even three times. You have to be somewhat of a relentless pain in the ass when it comes to your goals because nothing comes easy and the world owes you nothing. People do not care, emails go to the junk folder and your dreams only possess that antsy level of urgency to you.
I’ve learned that you can find friends in the most unlikely places and under unforeseen circumstances. Every year, I learn more and more who are my life’s allies, associates and assholes. And, every year I weed out the latter two and focus on the first group, the people who have my back in this life 24/7, no questions asked.
I’ve learned how good it feels to stop letting my night-time schedule revolve around
what’s on TV. It seems absurd that I used to spend Sunday through Thursday basing my evening activities on whatever was coming on Bravo. It doesn’t mean I don’t have my must-watch shows or that I don’t tweet incessantly through some of them. But, I’ve learned the beauty of on-demand and re-runs in exchange for spending more nights with a glass of wine, Lenny Kravitz or Norah Jones or Joss Stone and just my thoughts.
I’ve tasted the sour sweet bite of cutting someone out of your life. I’ve seen unrequited feelings from both ends, earlier this year being the person far more invested and later this year being the person whose feelings did not quite match the other’s. I’ve learned the pang of admitting to yourself when the feelings aren’t congruent and the sting of knowing your only option in those situations is to walk away. Because no one deserves to be another person’s bookmark. No one deserves to be the crease in the page, abandoned there until the other person decides to return and continue the story.
I’ve learned a lot this year and I will pocket those lessons for next year and the many other years when I know I will need them more than ever.
Happy 2014, Twenties Unscripted kinfolk. Thanks for all you have done to support me, this blog and all of my antics.
31 Day Writing Challenge Day 15: “When I turn 30, I hope…”
People have asked me what happens to Twenties Unscripted when I turn 30. That is like asking a parent what happens when their 12-year-old child goes to college at age 18. There are still six incredible years left to royally screw up, make memories and document it all. So, I do not yet have an answer for that question.
I am not good at answering the “Where do you see yourself in five years?” question or any other queries of its kind. I have not ever been one to give myself arbitrary and ridiculous deadlines of when I should be married or have children. So, I can’t spit off those facts and figures. I understand life and the people around me well enough to know that plans change, deadlines get pushed up and pushed back, and surprises occur. So, today’s topic was hard for me because I can’t provide you with a clean-cut and coherent response. But, then again, do I ever?
When I turn 30, I hope that I am not writing about babies, breast-feeding or husbands. I hope, of course, that I am still writing. I hope that I still have a smartass mouth, a lot to say and an outlet to say it. And, I hope that people are still relating to that. Maybe they will hate that. Maybe they will love that. But, I hope they are still reading and reacting.
When I turn 30, I hope that I still give myself room to make mistakes. I hope that I do not believe I have to have it all together or throw myself into building a nuclear family to be the kind of person I want to be. Maybe I will want those things. And, maybe I won’t. But, whatever I choose, I hope that it will be OK. And, not OK for the world around me, but, mostly, OK for myself.
When I turn 30, I hope I have published a book. Maybe two.
I hope that by the time I’m 30, Twenties Unscripted became something. That, if nothing else, it drove people to figure their shit out and to make mistakes while doing it. I hope that it is a teeny tiny gem in the big bad world of Internet history. I hope the archive of my crazy twenties somehow is valued–not really valued by others, but mostly valued by myself. That I’m able to look back at what I worked on and sometimes laugh, sometimes cringe and sometimes wonder “What was I thinking?” or “How the hell did I write that?” But, I hope to look back on years of writing and see growth and evolution and myself. I hope that I have Twenties Unscripted to hold on to– a time capsule of what I did, what I went through, and precisely how I felt.
I hope that I’m happy when I’m 30. That I am adjusted, confident, and secure. I hope that I give way less fucks about what people think. I hope that life is good. I hope that the people around me are happy. I hope that I’m doing what I want to be doing and making my way through the world.
I hope that when I’m 30, I can close the chapter on Twenties Unscripted knowing that I put everything I had into it and it meant something. That this blog was one of my constants in a decade that threw nothing but curveballs my way. I hope Twenties Unscripted is just as important to me then as it is now.