Reclaiming My Hustle

It’s official.

I’ve joined the ranks of the unemployed … or the self-employed.

Take your pick.

I’m leaning toward the gainfully creatively employed. Kinda cumbersome, but it fits my mission.

So today, I walked away from my cubicle for the last time. I wasn’t sure how to feel. I expected to feel exhilarated or fearful, but neither emotion surfaced. As I swiped my badge for the last time, cleaned out my desk and said goodbye to people I’ve shared a workspace with for the past eight years, I could have been a clone or someone outside of my body watching this final day on the job unfold. It was a brilliant morning in Southern California. I stopped by the coffee shop on the lot for my usual soy mocha latte and chatted with friends as if there was nothing on my mind but the bright blue sky, as if I was not saying goodbye to my sole source of income.

This is the price of following your dreams.

Following my dreams. I’ve been saying that a lot these last few months, ever since I made the decision to resign and become a writer full-time. For me, it’s not just a nice little Hollywood cliche to describe an elusive feeling of some larger existence “out there” waiting to be pursued. It feels like I’m picking back up where I left off years ago. Reclaiming my hustle.

When I first moved to L.A. from the East Coast, I wanted to be a screenwriter. I wrote several scripts, but one screenplay, “Bless the Mic,” was my passion project. It caused me to get out of my comfort zone and talk to people who could potentially help get my movie produced. I spent ten years networking, signing option agreements, renewing option agreements, pitching — but to no avail. My screenplay is getting dusty in the bottom drawer of my file cabinet, still waiting for the green light.

But I didn’t quit my job to revisit “Bless the Mic.” Not yet. For now, I’m focusing on promoting my collection of short stories, Escape from Beckyville: Tales of Race, Hair and Rage, but I’m putting that same hustle into getting the word out about this book that I did in promoting “Bless the Mic.” I feel so strongly about Beckyville that I knew I couldn’t work on it part-time. I had to bid my cubicle adieu and make this project my life’s work.

This is Hollywood. Every day in the trades, you read about people “making it.” Before, I used to look at those success stories with envy and tell myself that I could never get the contract, the agent, the green light. In this town, certain narratives are going to be privileged, certain stories are going to be seen as the standard. I’m willing to do something drastic to make the industry stand up and take notice. Not that I need Tinsel Town’s approval and validation. I don’t. But I want to insert myself, and to a larger extent, women of color, into the dialogue. It’s sad and disheartening that we have to resort to drastic measures for our stories to be heard. But I’m not going to feel sorry for myself or complain about bias. I’m getting my hustle on with all of the childlike faith I exhibited when I hopped down from the Greyhound Bus that I rode cross country to California to pursue a writing career. Over the years, my aspirations have been pummeled as well as my hopes. I tucked both away when I accepted the position at my job eight years ago and just focused on surviving. One day, I looked up and realized that I was more than thriving, but my passion for the written word had dried up.

I live in the land of reconstituted dreams. Anything can happen. It feels scary but thrilling to revive my passion and pursue my goals with gusto. I took the first step today by severing all ties to stability and jumping into the unknown. Only time will tell if I’ll free fall into the void or latch onto something that feels like solid ground. But at least I made the leap.

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