F O U R | Attitude Adjustment ‘Training’ (Step Two)
You ever take time off from doing something, and you take off so long that you forget you had something ‘important’ going on? That’s me, and work. I hadn’t even attempted to find a job for over a year after quitting the one I absolutely hated. I guess it was just my luck that I got this new one just a few weeks after applying.
Two weeks passed me by and the only thing I’d found time to do was work, work, work. Just like before I quit the other; it was a job that had nothing to do with the career that I wanted. But that whole ‘Broke, struggling artist’ thing can only fly for so long. You might love your art and of course there’s pride involved, but at some point you’ve gotta find a way to support your art, or… support yourself to get the things needed for the art.
With bills, responsibilities, costs of whatever you use for your art breaking or running out; in my case, my laptop crashing and a second one acting up right after I bought it… things get real expensive, real quick. All of the shit that makes you hate being an adult, to be very honest about it. I don’t know about others, but my pride kicks in when having to ‘accept’ or ‘ask’ for money.
Haven’t had time for what’s supposed to help me improve on my attitude; this stupid list of things Justin suggested I do. On top of that, I was ‘forced’ to sign up for that damn competition down at the Lamar Dixon, and I haven’t written anything that I feel will be suitable. Certainly haven’t written anything that will allow people listening to take me serious as an artist. The perfectionist in me is running around like a chicken with it’s head cut off and a butcher’s knife stuck in it’s ass.
Thankfully today, I got off early, and tomorrow, the 22nd, I have the day off. I knew that if I was finally going to get serious about doing this competition, and working towards feeling better about myself in general, I had to buckle down. That starts today, and if I have to keep my ass in the house and work all evening and night, then so be it.
Well rested, got a quick workout in, and ate something good enough to fill me up and give me a good amount of energy. With my notebooks, pens, music playing in the background, and Justin sitting on my couch as if he has no life of his own acting as my ‘coach’ and support system, I had a small amount of confidence that I could at least make it through half of the morning without wanting to give up.
Okay, without giving up more than three times. Five, max.
“Why do you have four notebooks again? You can’t possibly mess up that much.”
I looked at him, scoffing. “Please, you don’t see my trashcan before I dump it. I could write one line, and if I hate it, I trash the whole page.” Justin just shook his head. “But no, I separate what I write. One is just for ideas. One’s for the depressing stuff, one’s for the ‘happy’. You already know, that’s damn near empty. And the other is for when I write about certain topics.”
“Team Too Extra. But which are you writing for the comp?”
I shrugged, clearing my throat as I opened each notebook. I opened my fresh pack of pens and pulled three of them out, setting them beside the edge of my laptop. “As much as I want to just write what comes to mind, or go with what flows from my heart, there’s a very high chance that it will be depressing. While that’s cool for me to just read over by myself, to see what space I’m in mentally, that might not be cool for this. If I go out there, I don’t want these people to see me the way that I see myself.”
“Well, had you been doing the little things I told you day by day, you might already be in a more positive space by now. I’m not saying it all makes things change drastically in one day or overnight, but I know you understand the meaning of the saying, ‘I think, therefore I am’.”
I nodded, biting down on my bottom lip. “Man, these two weeks creeped up on me. I had started setting small goals for myself, right?” I heard him mumble ‘mmhm’ and I continued. “And I was doing good for like three days. It was simple stuff. Try to go to bed early, at a set time. Do short workouts here and there. Cut out certain things from my diet, one by one. Drink more water, and some other things. I’m still doing well with drinking water, but the rest. Like…not having time makes it hard for me to remember the small things I set for myself. I said I was going to write an hour a day, right.”
“And what happened?”
“I don’t have an hour to spare! If I’m not at work, I’m sleeping. If I’m not sleeping, I’m at work. This afternoon is the first time I’ve had the chance to stop and breathe. I’m so damn tempted to just lay in my bed and do nothing.”
Justin cleared his throat and I looked over to see that he was shaking his head. “But you’re not. No ma’am. Do what you need to do, and you’ve got all day to chill tomorrow.”
“Yeah, I know. Why couldn’t these people give more than a month to prepare for this damn thing though.”
“Be honest. Do YOU really need a whole month to write? I remember when I first met you in ‘08, you were showing me five or six poems a week, if not more and that’s while you were working and going through your senior year of high school.”
I looked at my best friend as if he’d lost his mind. “That was 2008. I was eighteen, full of hope, joy, and pride in my work. It is now 2015 and I’ve come to realize that since I started writing in 2001 … I’ve made no significant type of movement as far as my ‘career’ goes. Fourteen years of nothing Justin, FOURTEEN.”
“You chose not to go to school though. It’s plenty of opportunities you could have come across that way.”
I shook my head. I knew somebody would mention the fact that I opted out of going to college sooner or later. While it might be true, I don’t regret not going. I don’t regret it this month anyway. “College isn’t for everyone, Justin. I barely made it through high school, fucking around with a teacher that decided to fail all of her black students in the last semester just because she thought she wasn’t gonna get that ass whooped by parents. Why would I want to torture myself after having to give up my whole summer just to graduate? I was already a whole year behind ‘cause of my first school losing my records. I was over it. On top of that, I would have been pushed into fields I didn’t want to go into. Journalism, teaching English, or anything regarding the media.”
“Don’t you wanna be famous?”
“Yes, but I don’t want to be in front of anybody’s camera. I stutter, badly when I get nervous; what I look like going on somebody’s news station trying to deliver bad news with a damn speech impediment? Boy, bye.”
He laughed and cleared his throat. “So you’re telling me that you need to work on performing in front of people too? Or did you forget that there’s going to be an audience next Saturday?”
I sighed. “I didn’t forget. I was just hoping and praying heavy that it got canceled at the very last minute.”
“Tragic. Look, before you start writing anything, rip out a clean sheet of paper and do this little exercise. I promise, it’s going to ease a few of those negative thoughts.”
“What am I doing?”
“Ocean, Love, I want you to write down everything that you love about yourself. In fact, I’m going to do it with you. I’m going to write down everything that I love about you, and we’ll see what the lists have in common.”
He rolled his eyes, moving and sitting next to me after he locked his phone and put it in his pocket. “Whatever doesn’t match, I’m going to tell you why I love that thing about you and we’re going to build you up. Okay.”
I nodded, though I had some serious doubt that this would even work. We shall see though.
Just as I began to make myself comfortable in my spot, We Be Clubbin’ started playing from my google play library and I instantly got hype. “Yeah-Yeaah-ee!” Justin shook his head and I laughed, nudging him. “Come on, rap it with me.”
“Girl, I’m a pasty ass white boy. I don’t know nothin’ ‘bout that.”
“Like you’ve never seen The Players Club.”
“I haven’t, and don’t use that as an excuse to not do this exercise or begin your poem for next week.”
I shook my head, dancing in my spot as I rapped along. I just know I’m getting on his nerves. “We gon’ watch it when we finish though.”
“Ain’t that with women stripping? How’s that supposed to turn me on?”
I shrugged. “You might like the way Jamie Foxx looks, I don’t know, but we’re watching it. We be clubbin’! Everybody likes when the girls shake something!”
“Gawwwwd.” He couldn’t even stop himself from laughing. “This right here, this is what I love about you Ocean. You have your days, everyday, but once you find that one thing that gets you hype, your whole mood changes. Who knew it was stripper and club music.”
I shrugged. “I hate clubs and shit, but I’ve got an inner hoe and she’s been dying to get out for a year now.”
He sighed, writing on the piece of paper I gave him. “I love Ocean’s inner hoe.” I fell out, hugging my best friend. “Now get to writing. And be serious, what do you love about yourself?”
I sighed, finally calming down. “Ugh, I guess I like that I’m naturally goofy.”
“I love that I’m intelligent and wise. Uh-” I paused for a few minutes, really trying to think. “I suppose, since people say it, that I have talent.”
“You suppose?” I looked at Justin, seeing that he was mugging me hard as hell. “Bitch, you suppose?”
I sighed. “Alright, I have talent. I have great talent, and I’ve always loved that about myself. Secretly. Even though it gets on my nerves, I love that I get so many different ideas for stories and shows, movies and plays. I love that, even though I willing research on my own, I don’t always have to because my imagination and creativity is limitless.”
“That’s great!! And I love those things too, now write them down.” I nodded, doing as he said. “What else?”
“I love that I can make myself laugh. I love that I’m a great friend, at least I think I’m a great friend.”
“An excellent friend, one of the best I’ve ever had. Next?”
“I love that I know what I want for myself, even though I don’t always take the steps to execute and get what I want.”
“And that’s alright Ocean, it takes a little more time for some. What else?”
I shrugged, not sure how far he really wanted me to dig with this self-compliment stuff. “I don’t know what else yet.”
“Alright, well, you’ve got a start. Read all of the things you’ve written down over and over as you work on your poem. Every time you begin to doubt yourself, or your work, read what you’ve written about yourself. It’s nothing but positive things, it’s things that you’ve said about yourself so every time you see the words, you’re going to feel or think, ‘yes, that’s right’. And add to it as things that you love about yourself come to you.” I nodded. “It’s so simple, and so small, but I promise that the more you do this, the more it works. Like I said, it’s not a one day or overnight type of improvement, but it’s a start.”
“If I can pull myself up out of my darkest moments and all of the bad stuff I was thinking and feeling when I was hiding who I really am from my family, you can pull yourself up from all of the negative things that you feel about yourself. And it’s okay if you don’t accomplish all that you hope to by your birthday, or by a certain age at all. It is okay. Just take your baby steps, and you’ll get there.”
I took a deep breath, taking in all that he said as I picked up one of my notebooks and turned to a clean sheet of paper. I’ve got this, I hope.
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