Today is my 46th birthday. I do not mind aging so long as there is wisdom, maturity, and growth. While most people party hard on their birthdays, it is typically a day of introspection for me. I prefer to be alone as I consider where I have been and paths pursued. My birthday is time to take inventory on the benchmarks and milestones in my life. This is probably not a good thing because I am my harshest critic, but I believe in self-reflection. I do not want to drink the kool-aid and lie to myself about my shortcomings and weaknesses. This year is tough because I always had lofty goals and big dreams. I studied and worked hard, but those efforts were not often rewarded. My dad used to say, “We don’t always get what we want, even when we deserve it.”
As I reflect on my life, becoming a lawyer was an accomplishment because I was a first-generation college graduate. I had a once in a lifetime opportunity to work with the late great Johnnie Cochran. My father would say, “You don’t want to get to the end of your life and wonder what would have happened if only you tried.” My other dream was to become a published author. I have been writing since I was 8 years old. I would write plays and short stories. This dream I buried and pushed aside. It did not seem practical. A few years after my father’s untimely death, I embarked upon my dream deferred. At 39, I packed my bags and moved to New York with dreams of becoming a published novelist. I knew it would be hard because I did not have a degree in journalism and no connections to the journalistic community. I just had a friend in NY that said stop sending emails and start a blog to get exposure. After years of sending writings to my college writing professor, he replied that I should stop sending it to him and pitch it to the New Yorker. He said that I was ready. So in 2011, I came to New York City with a dream and the words of E.B. White. About New York he said, “It can destroy an individual, or it can fulfill him, depending a good deal on luck. No one should come to New York to live unless he is willing to be lucky.”
I came ready to pound the streets, stare down every rejection, and hoped that luck would be a lady to me. I did have some success. In 2014, I became a contributing writer for the Huffington Post and several of my articles were feature articles. Yet, as much as I tried to get hired by established publications as a writer or get a literary agent, no was all that was offered. I am used to working hard and fighting, but at this stage I am tired. I have experienced failure more than I can count. My motto for my website is “failure is an option and it’s okay, just keep trying.” Dreams are powerful. They can start a revolution and give hope to the disenfranchised with the simple phrase, “I have a dream.” For the dream chaser, they can be haunting. It is now that I begin to understand the words of Langston Hughes in his poem Harlem.
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
- Harlem by Langston Hughes
I have been reflecting on this poem. I have a dream that is unrealized despite my tenacity and best efforts. At first, it was a dream deferred. Once I pursued it, I did so understanding that failure was part of the process. Unfortunately, what happens when a dream is not deferred but unrealized? I feel like a raisin in the sun drying up. This unrealized dream has become a heavy load. It seems like I have been pregnant with this dream for so long. It is ready to be birthed. The labor pains of trying to make it are excruciating. I need something to make the pain bearable so that I won’t die birthing this dream or worse yet, give birth to a stillborn dream.
As the writer of The Alchemist Paul Coehlo said, “Before a dream is realized, the Soul of the World tests everything that was learned along the way. It does this not because it is evil, but so that we can, in addition to realizing our dreams, master the lessons we’ve learned as we’ve moved toward that dream. That’s the point at which most people give up. Every search begins with beginner’s luck. And every search ends with the victor’s being severely tested. We who fight for our dream suffer far more when it doesn’t work out, because we cannot fall back on the old excuse: ‘Oh well, I didn’t really want it anyway.’ We warriors of light must be prepared to have patience in difficult times and to know that the Universe is conspiring in our favor, even though we may not understand how.”
My birthday wish, “please let the Universe conspire in my favor!”