Run from what’s comfortable. Forget safety. Live where you fear to live. Destroy your reputation. Be notorious. I have tried prudent planning long enough. From now on I’ll be mad.
This month marks five years since I started my own company, Greenlight Global Research. When I started GGR, I had little idea of what I wanted to do because I had fallen into what I loved doing 18 years earlier. Much like falling in love with a partner, you go about your life then slam out of nowhere this lover is in front of you and consuming you. That’s how my career(s) had unfolded.
I remember early on, after leaving my job, I had an idea for an advertisement. I had been covering Global Media trends for almost two decades, and thought I knew a little about commercials and so here was my idea: I’d be the star of a mini video about my Ford F150. It would be an autobiographical short film about one woman post-2005 Federal Flood in New Orleans, focusing on self-empowerment (I bought by truck because the contractor on my house was ripping me off and I wanted to haul my own debris back and forth to the dump). I also got the truck because it reminded me of the scene in Cast Away where Tom Hanks arrives at the crossroads that is his life and the artist drives up in the pick-up truck. I romantically wanted to be her, and realistically I was her, became her, am her.
I seem to have a knack for envisioning or dreaming up how my life will be from a starting place – a romantic dream and this was one of those times where my truck became the linchpin for that romantic vision turned reality.
I was reminded of my idea for a Ford commercial while in Boston when a friend took me to the Sarah Silverman show. One of Silverman’s jokes was about her mother insisting she had a great jingle for Progresso soups. I was also reminded that a media source had told me in 2011 that he could help me contact the right people who might be able to help me with the commercial. Years later, when he visited New Orleans and I met him in person for the first time, he told me I had sounded so desperate back then, he had cringed.
Wow – I cringed.
I want to be kind to who I’ve been in the past as well as who I am now. I take some pride in being a round peg in a square hole. I also want to surround myself with people who are kind to me as well as to themselves. Understanding who I am is the rewarding part of aging. I know that I have a stubbornness that either acts as a ballast or a noose. I don’t think I was desperate, I think I had an idea and he had the connections and he offered them and I wanted them. What he read as desperate was his knowing my situation and placing my actions in a context he understood. Yes, I had lost my livelihood, but the company I had worked for was no longer the same, it was corporate and stagnate and dreary. Was he projecting? Maybe. He had been my source through many of his job changes, and throughout them all he had a partner supporting him and had now separated. Hmmmm.
Under GGR, I started another company called Transracial Parenting, because after meeting my son, I wanted to take on the work of helping parents raise culturally competent children. Although TP absorbs more of my mindshare than my original company, I invest my creative energy there intentionally.
This week, I have returned from New York where I had the good fortune to participate in a roundtable discussion about policing and communities with people interested in the work I do with racial justice. Yes, legacy work still puts my food on our table, but I’m working slowly to turn the spokes of my wheelhouse round and round so that my purse aligns with my spirit. My motto has become I’m gonna follow my spirit not my plans.
Is it mad? Indeed, it is, but I’m the creator of my life and where I’ve stumbled or wallowed in languishing regret, it has only been through the failure of my imagination.
[Thank you Florentina for this concept you shared about your own experience working alone for racial justice.]