It’s a scary world out there but only if you’re afraid of it. Fear used to be my best friend until I realized our friendship was hurting me more than helping me. I come from a community filled with goodhearted people who say they want the best for one another and try to look out for each other at all times. These people often genuinely believe that they are looking out for everyone’s best interest, when in actuality most of them don’t know the difference between being concerned and holding someone back from their true destiny based on their own fears and inability to overcome them. They speak from personal experience as if everyone’s life is the same. They think they are saving you from bad experiences that they’ve already gone through. The truth is, no one’s life is exactly the same and every person you meet along the way is on a journey that is specific and uniquely designed just for them.
From a young age, I’ve always loved music on a very deep level and I’ve always dreamed big. So big that most people I would come into contact with in life would try their best to shrink my ideas and dreams down to what they deemed to be more realistic goals. I think growing up being an only child without a father in many ways forced me to want more and use my imagination to envision a better reality for myself. A lot of this was done almost unconsciously. I always had a strong love for entertainment as a whole and to be honest I didn’t always know why. Maybe its because it was an escape for me and allowed me to focus all of my attention on something creative instead of focusing on what wasn’t there. Whatever the reason, I can’t remember not singing, not dancing, not wanting to always know how an album or a movie was made. All I knew is that when I was being entertained it gave me a certain feeling, a sense of excitement that felt like an escape from the real world and all of its problems. Whatever that feeling was, I knew I wanted to be able to give it to others through my own ability to entertain some day.
“I’ve been told everything from ‘you’ll never make it’ to ‘you can’t sing,’ ‘you can’t dance,’ ‘you’ll never be good enough.’ Or even, ‘if you do make it you’ll fail and lose it all.’ ”
There was one big problem though, and that problem was fear. As a kid I don’t think fear really played that big of a role when it came to my dreams and aspirations because I hadn’t experienced enough judgment yet. When I grew older it seemed as if I adopted everyone else’s fears for me along the way. Of course I developed my own fears naturally, but the amount of doubt others placed in my mind played a huge part in lowering my self-esteem.
At only 22 years old I feel like I can honestly say with a lot of certainty that I’ve pretty much heard it all. I’ve been told everything from “you’ll never make it” to “you can’t sing,” “you can’t dance,” “you’ll never be good enough.” Or even, “if you do make it you’ll fail and lose it all.” For a long time it was really hard to hear these things and still believe in myself without feeling crazy or insane. I found myself asking questions like, “how is a black kid like me with no parents and no real money going to make my dreams a reality?” It wasn’t until I lost everything that I thought I needed that I finally built the courage to say to myself “I’m going to do this for me and I don’t care what anyone else thinks, how long it takes, or how many times I fail along the way.”
Even that courage didn’t come without the challenge of shedding these ideas that maybe I wasn’t enough or that I didn’t deserve my dreams. I had to reconstruct the reasons why I wanted the things that I wanted. Changing them from reasons that had to do with other people’s opinions back to simply doing it because I love it; like the way it was when I was a kid. I realized that I hadn’t placed these fears on myself. I adopted them from others as a result of giving other people’s opinions more power than my own. Learning to let go of all these mental blockages didn’t come without a significant amount of fear, which I needed to overcome in order to take the first step.
“I knew I had to begin stepping into the unknown if I ever wanted to reach heights that I had never reached before.”
As corny as it sounds I really had to learn how to follow my heart no matter what. I had to work on becoming bigger than my own doubtful and negative thoughts. This process included change—change of mind, change in habits, and change in my beliefs. Change, no matter how necessary, is always uncomfortable at first. It is easy to go back to thinking the old way when change feels like stepping into new territory, because it is just that. I knew I had to begin stepping into the unknown if I ever wanted to reach heights that I had never reached before. Going through this process helped me understand why so many people tried to discourage me throughout my life.
For the first time, I was able to realize that everyone is a product of their environment and a manifestation of their own experiences. In other words, if someone told me something wasn’t possible, it was most likely because someone had told them it wasn’t possible and they chose to believe that. Maybe they never built up the courage to go for their dreams due to fear of what others might say and now they’ve become the “other” in the situation. I’m a firm believer in the idea that your thoughts dictate your reality and if you believe something isn’t possible then it won’t be.
Risk taking is very hard for some people because most people want to know what they can expect ahead of time and would much rather follow the norm because its safe. This is the very reason why a lot of people in my life tried to force the idea of college on me. It is what they were told they had to do in order to be successful or make money. Maybe a lot of those people didn’t go to college because they wanted to but out of fear? I have no problem with college but I knew that following the typical model of going to college straight out of high school wasn’t for me because like I mentioned earlier, not everyone’s life journey isn’t the same.
The biggest fear I’ve had to face is the “fear of failure.” The majority of the people in the community I grew up in believed that failure is the end but none of the people I personally looked up to saw failure in that way at all. Instead they chose to look at failure as a stepping-stone or even practice to get better at their craft. It wasn’t easy, but when I began to apply that same understanding to my own life it helped me stay the course. I’m an artist and there are so many of us in the world that it often times can seem impossible to stand out or be one of the few that actually makes their dream a reality. I guess I’m just crazy enough to go for it anyway and I choose to rely on my truth to take me as far as I want to go.
“The hard part is learning how to not be afraid. Be who you truly want to be in the world. Fear doesn’t decide your destiny, you do.”
I don’t worry about trying to be better than anyone else; I just focus on being the greatest and most authentic version of myself. There is only one me. You can’t lose at being yourself because only you know how to do it. Whether or not people gravitate towards my truth isn’t up to me but I do know that people tend to connect with things that feel real, and if it’s real for me, it’s relatable for someone out there who’s watching. The hard part is learning how to not be afraid. Be who you truly want to be in the world. Fear doesn’t decide your destiny, you do. You either choose to allow fear to stop you or to rise above it and take control of your life. Either way the choice is yours. It’s a scary world out there but only if you’re afraid of it.