If you took a look at my Twitter profile a week ago it read: “I work from home in my pajamas.”
That was my life for the last seven months.
Going from my room, to the living room, to the kitchen. Turning on ESPN, watching HBO and listening to music as long as I wanted while I did my work; and eating Ramen Noodle soups because if I was already saving on expensive downtown lunches and monthly metrocards, I wasn’t going to go ahead and spend unnecessary amounts of money on Dyckman lunches either.
Gentrification made things a lot pricier out here.
I had no office and no physical bosses (just virtual employers) around me. Nothing. My office was my bed, my kitchen and an office chair. I had a laptop table of sorts to prevent the heat from destroying any chances of future children for me.
This was my life. I liked it and I disliked it at the same time.
For those seven months I worked with two clients, one on the east and the other on the west. My days would start as early as 5am and end at 8pm on some days.
If you weren’t around for my last real post on this blog, I quit my job in November for two reasons:
1. I didn’t have the urge to be there anymore. I was no longer in line with their mission.
2. I felt I could help websites in the black news space grow and I wanted to challenge myself. I wanted to try my hand at SEO/Analytics which is something I did in the last year of my job at my old company. I wanted to see if I can build a business out of it.
Looking back on my decision, I don’t regret it one bit.
In the last half a year, I was able to sit down, study and learn so much about editing, writing, analytics and SEO that I probably never would have learned if I didn’t have that “freedom.”
In the same way I left my old company up in traffic by about 200 percent (with the help of others), I left these companies up in traffic at a rate of 100 percent.
I saw one site grow from 500,000 to 1 million unique visitors in my time there. I also saw a site come close to doubling its growth and continue its climb up the traffic ladder. I would have wanted to continue my work for self journey, but I found a non entrepreneurial position I felt was better for me.
I’m now back in the working world. By that, I mean corporate structure, daily train rides and suits.
While it’s no ones business where I am now, just know that I made my decision based on three simple factors.
1. After a few months of consulting, I realized that what I do is such a specialized skill that entrusting someone else would be difficult. Aside from that, if I continued to accrue clients I would not be able to perform to the level my clients would need me to perform. When you are SEO’ing for 2-3 sites a day, it can get extremely taxing and mistakes have and were bound to happen.
2. A man named Andreas who I would consider a friend and a budding mentor (referred by my friend Gabe) mentioned how a lot of companies were moving more towards social media optimization and not search engine optimization. He said if I could find a company that would give me the reins and also pay well, go for it.
3. I found a company that needed me. They need to grow quickly and felt I was the right man for the job. Better yet, I proved to them that there was no one better equipped for the position through my preparation. I also looked at the company and how small it is and realized it is a great growth opportunity for me.
In the end, I have moved around from job to job in the last 3-4 years, but I’ve also climbed in salary substantially at each job and landed a higher position at each.
Now I’m somewhere where I feel I will be for a long time and am just a few steps on the staircase away from being an executive.
My friend told me that I gave it a shot and wasn’t going to turn down an opportunity to continually say “I’m grinding and I’m going to make it” like a lot of others foolishly do.
But I sure did grind even if it was for a short period of time.
And that grind paid off with this new opportunity.
A few months ago, I was talking to one of my friends Ricardo about black and Latino men and their (sometimes) aversion to holding hands in the street with their women.
He told me that he felt it was all a root of black and Latino masculinity issues and how we feel holding hands makes us look weak.
Every girl I’ve been with (dating or a girlfriend) has always had the same complaint about me.
“Why don’t you want to hold my hand?” “When you hold it it feels like you aren’t really into it.” “Just let my hand go if it’s like that.”
My response would always be either: “I don’t do that” or “I’m holding your hand so don’t start complaining about the way I hold it.”
But I soon realized after that conversation with my friend that it was never about a personal preference but about perception. How I felt I would be perceived by others.
“Oh you in love, dog?” “Look at him holding his girl’s hand acting all in love. He’s whipped.”
I remember I told my ex-girlfriend that I thought holding hands made me feel like I was claimed. I got the ice grill for that. I think I even told my current girlfriend that. Same reaction.
The silly part of it all is that I am claimed by her, so as much as it may be a symbol of love or togetherness, it’s part “this right here – he/she is mine.”
In the last few months I’ve changed though. I not only learned from my friend but from other close friends too that showing affection whether kissing in public or holding hands isn’t something to be ashamed of. It doesn’t make you look weak. If anyone feels that you are because of that then they are themselves.
Love is a beautiful thing and the last thing you should be worried about are what other people think. You actually shouldn’t be worried about anyone at all. In a normal world, everyone would look at you holding hands or showing affection as a beautiful thing.
Looking back, I don’t know what made me a non hand holder. I don’t know if it was rap music (blame it on rap, right?) or just a plain old aversion to it (maybe a little bit of that). But it definitely wasn’t my dad because he holds my mom’s hand whenever they go out. They’ve been together for 34 years. And I’m trying to be a little more like him. A little more old-school and traditional.
But hey, I’m changing day by day. I may not hold it consistently but I’m getting up to that level. And there’s surely a lot of things a woman can request of you that are no-no’s, but this doesn’t seem like such a big deal.
In the end, It’s the little things that count and I was really making a big deal out of nothing. If a dude thinks I’m soft for holding my girl’s hand, it’s probably because he isn’t open enough with himself to not just hold hands with his woman (if he has one), but to be emotionally open as well…
What follows isn’t an inspirational story where I impress you with something I’m about to do. Or tell you “how I’m finna” like plenty others will and never deliver. I didn’t quit my job because I’m taking a leap of faith to launch my own venture. I didn’t leave because I had another position lined up. I’m actually home as we speak looking at jobs I will be crafting cover letters and sending my resume out for.
I’m a worker. That’s what I am right now. One day I may became a boss, but I’m not at that point yet. I know myself. But you know what I’m not? A slave. So whether I have a $100.00 in my bank account or $10,000, I know that despite how bad it could possibly get, I will survive. And I’ll survive because I have before. And that’s just what it is. I’m a hustler, and what I saw at the company I was working for was another group of hustlers trying to hustle me. And this wasn’t a rash decision because I felt I was being taken advantage of, this was months in the making. It was building up for a while and I carefully thought about this choice.
I left my company because for 16 months I felt like LeBron James on the Cleveland Cavaliers. I never had the necessary help to run a website of that magnitude. And while the Cavaliers made free agent signings and trades to help LeBron, I never received any help at all. So imagine being somewhere where your company says they don’t have a dime to sign a free agent. Or if they did, they didn’t have the money to sign a big-time free agent but someone like Eric Snow. Does that feel like help? If you know anything about basketball, you probably wouldn’t think so. And after a while, I realized that the company I worked for was only concerned with having one of the best records in the regular season, but never winning the title.
But despite all this, I accomplished a whole hell of a lot. So let me get my Ric Flair on for the 30 seconds it may take you to read the next paragraph.
In July 2010, I took this site that averaged 380,000 unique visitors a month and in a year and a half increased it to a 938,000 monthly average. I helped it crack a million unique visitors. I went to the White House numerous times and built a relationship with them. I ran the site with co-workers who weren’t necessarily interested in grammar, punctuation, or journalism as a whole. I worked 7 days a week for 80 percent of my time there. Every month I was at that company the website had its highest month ever. For the 3 years the site was open before me, none of their monthly numbers ever matched mine.
And while I admit I still had room to grow, my growth was stunted because I had the duties of both a junior editor and senior editor for 16 months, and never had the time to build on my own writing or focus on any of the things I do outside of work for myself and my community.
So I left my job for numerous reasons but mostly because I didn’t have the necessary resources to battle the job now — and most definitely not with the 2012 elections coming up; where I would see double the work with individuals with half the dedication. That’s not a winning combination.
And now I enter uncertain times.
I know the job market has improved, but by how much? Will I be unemployed for weeks, months, or even a year? Who knows. But what I do know is that when I left that office last week I felt free. When I woke up the next day, I felt free. When I woke up this morning, I felt free. And that won’t change because uncertainty isn’t always a bad thing, it can be good.
Every person at least once in their life has a stand up for yourself moment. Whether its being bullied in school or being taken advantage of at work. Last week, I had my moment and I’m proud of it.
This is going to sound like I won an Emmy or something, but I want to thank my parents, sister, whole family, girlfriend, and friends for supporting my decision and providing me with the support I need to arm myself with during the coming months. Without you guys and gals having my back and understanding where I was coming from, I’d probably still be in that desk miserable like the rest of my former co-workers still are.
A few months ago, I decided that I was going to open a hyper-local blog in the neighborhood called Above96th.com, which would be dedicated to the neighborhoods of Harlem, Washington Heights, and Inwood.
In my eyes, the site would fill a void because it would mainly consist of video content on the personalities, places, and landmarks of these historic neighborhoods. It would also be all original content. But after thinking extensively about the site, I came to a conclusion – I would be opening it for all the wrong reasons. So I had to sit down and really re-examine if this was for me.
Somewhere in these last 2 years in Washington Heights and Inwood I became friends with a lot of talented individuals. I also noticed that all these people were (or trying) doing different things just like I was in the neighborhood. I have my Brunch and Supper Club and Washington Heights/Inwood Radio Show. Others have their own things launching soon or already have stuff in motion. But as this neighborhood has gained notoriety, I’ve seen a lot of egos swell, a lot of projects launch to spite another, and saw people in an endless race to do something just to say that “they” did it. Not to say that I don’t have an ego because I do, but I feel like I was infected by those who are more in it for personal reasons than the betterment of the barrios we call home.
So why was I opening the site? You guessed it, my own personal ego. And there’s nothing wrong with that, but when its not attached to a pure passion for something, that’s a problem.
This past summer, I went around and told everyone I could that I would open this site and I will, but when I’m ready. I feel like I gave them a feeling that I don’t go through with things. That’s fine. People can think what they want. But I rather launch a project with passion than launch one without it. Because when the former isn’t there, the latter cannot be accomplished.
I also had to take into consideration the work that it takes and the lack of help I’ll receive. I never want my site to be straight aggregation. I want it to have its own feel. I want people to come to it because it will be original. But if I have work, a ticket business, this blog, and other miscelleanous projects to attend to in my life, how can I really say ill do it “on my own?” How can I really ask people to help me when they have their own responsibilities? How can I hold people to deadlines when there are no finances being exchanged?
I’ve seen the same happen at other local sites. A bunch of writers listed who don’t contribute a thing. Not because they don’t love the site, but because they don’t have the time/energy nor are being paid. And while those sites still run, they run off passion, not ego in my opinion. While I have plenty of friends who would help me without a dime, I know that you can’t always depend on everybody when they don’t feel an “obligation” to do something.
So now, the battle inside of me is one of figuring out how to sustain a site (if I had to do it on my own), and figuring out if I have the passion to do all that work for this particular project on my own.
In final, Above96th.com will stay as a locked domain. I will do something with it in the future, but certainly not now.
Some rappers become famous without even having love for rap. Some rappers who love rap don’t ever become famous. I don’t need the fame. But if it comes with a project that I produce, I want the love for the project to show through the fame. Without it, I couldn’t live with myself.
That’s why this project isn’t being thrown in the trash can, just being put on the shelf for now.
One of the main factors that hurt my development as a professional, a person, and a partner in the past has been my inability to communicate effectively or at all. 90 percent of the moments in my life where I’ve been frustrated have probably had to do with communication in one way or another.
Thankfully, I’ve changed that.
But a few years back, my decision to internalize my gripes and complaints just made me an angry, bitter person whether it was at work or in any of my past relationships.
When I graduated from college, I remember former employers encouraging me to speak up because no one would be able to tell what’s really going on if I didn’t. And if you internalize in the professional world, people will never know what’s wrong with you. They will believe things are fine when they really aren’t. When it comes to relationships, it’s the same.
I remember numerous instances in my previous relationships where my ex-girlfriends or women I dated would tell me that they never knew I felt a certain way about things. And with some of them, when I relayed my feelings about certain situations, it would be so far back in the past that they would either discount it or say they didn’t remember it. That would infuriate me but what could I do but blame myself. I’m the one that chose not to relay my concerns.
Now, I look at myself and see the changes I’ve made.
In a managerial position at work, I have to make tough decisions and offer critiques of co-workers who I am friends with. I’ve learned that I need to separate the friendship at work to properly help us succeed as a team. I have to relay all my concerns if I feel I’m not being provided with the proper help or resources to higher management; and I have to come down on my co-workers if I feel they aren’t producing at the levels they should be.
In my current relationship, before I even embarked on it, I said I would express everything I feel. To date, I have. If I don’t communicate my issues — they will just accumulate — and it can result in a blowup that can threaten a relationship. It’s a snowball effect.
I’ve seen people lose jobs over a lack of communication. I’ve seen relationships end or be threatened over a lack of communication.
So in the end, the best approach is to always relay what you’re feeling. If at work, do it in the most political way you can depending on the relationship you have with the person you’re speaking with. If in a relationship, you keep it as real as can be. There’s no other way with a person who you are supposed to know inside and out/love.
I see plenty of people say they can’t talk to their own mate or voice a complain at work, but post Facebook statuses all day and 20-30 tweets as well (umm isn’t that a form of communication?)
That’s all wrong.
Just realize that if you never learn to communicate, you could not only be risking your happiness but in some cases, your livelihood as well.