18

A Year Later

It’s 4:15 a.m. Nas’ “Book of Rhymes” is playing on low. I know every bar and this is one of my favorite joints by the man I’ve loved since I was 11-years old. I had two stories due tonight. I finished them hours ago and now I can’t sleep. After posting both of the articles in the pending queue of the publication’s WordPress account I tweeted a verse from Kanye’s “Spaceship”:

Y’all don’t know my struggle
Y’all can’t match my hustle
You can’t catch my hustle

You can’t fathom my love dude

Lock yourself in a room doin’ five beats a day for three summers
That’s A Different World like Kree Summers

I deserve to do these numbers

Twitter serves as a distraction from my life most days. I scroll through my timeline a bit before finishing up the edits to the pleasant blog post I had ready as an ode to my one year anniversary of moving to New York. But “Why I Love NYC” wasn’t what was in my heart. As the songs on my iTunes library shuffled I got lost in music. To further postpone writing what was in my head I clicked on A Belle in Brooklyn. I read some of the posts for the second and third time for an inspiration of sorts. But I also just needed to read an intriguing and well written story. As I was reading I thought about how honest she was about her life, flaws and all, from day one. I could never do that.

Sometimes I wish I had created a blog where I was a faceless blogger with a pseudonym. With anonymity I could lay it all out on the table without consequence. Instead I am subject to being judged about every little detail. I can’t write about race without being called Hitler in the comments section. When I write about personal struggles I get nasty Facebook messages accusing me of complaining. Angie introduced me to this guy from our hometown while I was living in Bloomington. He wasn’t my type and I was his. We never really stayed in touch afterward. He randomly sent me a Facebook message with a grammatical correction for a post I had written. He had always tried to impress me by mentioning his PhD every time we talked. Granted he was rather young to have already earned a PhD, I was never impressed; and that bruised his little ego. After I told him both he and I were grammatically correct he ranted about how he no longer read my blog because I was always complaining. For someone who no longer read my blog I wondered why he was contacting me about a post he had obviously just read. I defriended him and kept it moving. If I didn’t write what was really going on in my life I still couldn’t escape the hateful emails. Another disgruntled male headed over to Clutch to read all of my latest articles only to hit me up via email to tell me how much money he had, how he got this alleged money and how I was talented, but I wasn’t focused. I’ve never met him a day in my life.

The day I realized the extent my words traveled to was the same day I found out about a guy who was stalking me online. Early on he followed me on Twitter. Any time I would post a link to my articles he would send me an at reply claiming he liked the article, but disagreed. It was usually followed by a link he wanted me to click on. I never did or thought twice about him. Until one day my S.O. Googled me to see what was coming up. You know how narcissistic us writers are (If you’re a writer I hope you’re Googling yourself often.). Stalker had written a bunch of rebuttal posts about me calling me everything from a “bitch” to a stupid feminist. He believed since I was a “public figure” that abuse from dissenters came with the territory. For some reason he had a strange obsession with me and Marc Lamont Hill. He was tagging my name in his posts to gain hits to his blog. I wasn’t the only woman he verbally attacked and stalked like this. I asked him to remove my name from his posts, which only fueled his vengeance. After failed attempts to provoke me he left comments on my blog, read everything I wrote for other pubs, left nasty comments and hit me up on Twitter until I blocked him. All he wanted was a rebuttal. I refused to give him one. Stalker crossed the line in one of his posts by putting a picture of me up without my permission. He also implied that he knew where I lived. My photographer him with a cease and desist order to remove the photo immediately. Of course he thought he was protected under copyright law and refused to remove it. WordPress removed it for him after I contacted them with a formal notice of the incident. After they removed the photo he arrogantly put it back up. Well, that was the death to his blog. WordPress shut it down for good. Companies don’t have time for copyright lawsuits over foolishness. If you’re going to be a douchebag you should at least learn copyright law. He started a new blog on Bravenet shortly after. I eventually turned off the Google alerts for my name, and have no clue if he’s still attacking me in his posts. I just don’t have the energy to care. But it changed how I viewed the Internet and what information I’m willing to share.

Can I live?

Not really. No one wants to read anything depressing. People are looking for inspiration, or at the very least thought provoking topics. After all, isn’t that what people read my work for: to see what controversial opinion I’m going to have on some hot button topic? I tuck my deeply personal pieces away in Microsoft Word. Password protected of course. Instead I write something light and bubbly to avoid accusations of complaining. Everything is ok.

Only it’s not. I’m a wreck. I cry for no reason. It takes every ounce of energy I have to get out of the bed some mornings. I spend too  many minutes in the day daydreaming about the life I don’t have instead of living in the one I do. I’ve spent 95% of my summer, hell of the past year, in a tiny room with ugly green walls. There is no air conditioner. I write on a full size bed with my back against three pillows propped up on the wall for support. I would leave the room, but it’s the coolest place in the house. When I wake up my thoughts immediately roam to not having a job, and when I go to bed those same thoughts reappear. It’s been a year. After about the six-month, the 200th cover letter and resume, the 15th informational meeting, the umpteenth networking event, I figure it has to be me. The fact that 13.9 million other people in America are unemployed does nothing to comfort me.

I’d give away everything I own to be able to write like Joan Morgan, Danyel Smith, dream hampton, Greg Tate, kris ex, Denene Millner, Vanessa Grigoriadis or Lola Ogunnaike. Were they too ignored by editors early in their careers? Did they send pitch after pitch without an editor even acknowledging receipt of said pitch? I’ve never experienced the level of rejection I have in this industry. It’s unnatural. And it has taken a toll on my self-esteem. I stop reaching out to the writers I admire because it’s just too difficult to pick another person’s brain in an attempt to see how they got to where they are. I’ve never wanted anything this bad.

I continue freelancing with that ounce of hope that one day an editor at a glossy magazine is going to say yes. All it takes is one-person I remind myself. Freelancing is a grind. I’m owed more than $4,000 for stories I’ve written. My god I need that money. I’ve been broke before. What I’ve never been is dependent. I’m reminded of the comfortable life I had for the past five years with my own cozy one bedroom apartment(s) paying my own bills. Those days seem distant. When my feet hit the floor in the morning I think about how everything around me is someone else’s. From the towels I use to dry the water from my body to the plates I eat from. The only things I own here are my clothes and my books. All of my belongings are in storage waiting to be placed in a home of its own. Every day in this house is a reminder that at any moment one of the two people I live with could say, “You got to go.” And I’d just have to go.

Do you know what it’s like not to have $8.25 to take the LIRR train to get into the city? People I would love to build genuine relationships with invite me places. Listening sessions, industry parties, concerts, house parties. Initially I am stoked about the possibility to leave this green room in Long Island. I usually have to decline after I remember how much it costs for me to commute in the city. Forget about cocktails or dinner. I tell them I can’t go because I’m on deadline. Most times it’s true, but deadlines could have still been made. I’m too embarrassed to tell them I can’t go because my money is funny. I hate that phrase.

I haven’t had health insurance in two years, which means I also haven’t been to the dentist or had my eyes checked in equally as long. So much for Obama Care.

Emotionally I’m all over the place. I’m convinced I’m done with the relationship thing for good. It’s just not for me. I’ve managed to fall out of love with the best boyfriend I’ve ever had. Every day I look at him and wonder why he loves me. I wish he didn’t. He deserves someone who loves him in a way I can’t. And I deserve not to settle because he’s a “good man.”

For months now we’ve pretended we’re still a couple to avoid questions from family members and mutual friends. It’s just easier that way.

I’m lonely. In a city with 19 million people I’ve never felt so alone.

After two years of not speaking to my dad I finally called him. Last year he was diagnosed with cancer. He told me through a text. When my mom told me she heard he might be sick I refused to deal with it. I was stubborn. He should call me if he wants to talk. I’m his only child. He never called and it ate me up inside to think about something happening to him without us making amends. We’ve talked frequently since the first time I called him about two months ago. We laugh and talk for hours. His cancer is nonexistent. I’m happy. He’s blessed.

My great aunt Francis died shortly after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. I feel for only her daughter who is about seven years older than me. My 24-year-old cousin who lives in my birthplace has cancer and just suffered from a stroke. Did I mention she’s 24? My dad drops this news on me in the middle of a phone conversation last week. She has a young child. I must call her. Another cousin in Baltimore was fatally shot by her husband. He killed her, their twins and then committed suicide after an argument over financial troubles. She was almost finished with her RN degree. Thinking about the motherless children she leaves behind makes me sad even though I’ve never met them. Imagine attending a triple funeral with three caskets in the same room, same service. Life is short. We take so much for granted.

I read “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne a month ago after Necole Bitchie referenced it during our interview. I finished it in two days. I applied every aspect of that book to my life for the first two weeks. I knew my negative thinking had contributed to so much pain and unhappiness in my life. Did I even know what it was to truly be happy? Every morning I meditated after reading a passage from Iyanla Vanzant’s “Acts of Faith.” Just like the contributors of “The Secret” suggested, I only put out the energy in the universe what I wanted to get back. I removed the word broke from my vocabulary. I no longer said, “I can’t afford…” The book teaches you that when you focus on what you can’t afford or what you don’t have you’ll never have those things because you are subconsciously releasing that energy into the universe. Anytime someone around me said anything about being depressed, not having any money, or anything that wasn’t positive I stopped them mid sentence to share “the secret.” If I was going to change my thinking I couldn’t have people in my space that wanted to harp on their misfortunes. I realized this meant I had to cut off a negative friend of mine if she couldn’t do some self-reflection. She loved drama. Always did the same things and expected different results. I stopped taking her calls. I turned off my visibility for chat when I logged onto Facebook, and when I felt guilty I sent a quick text about how busy I was on that #freelance grind. “The Secret” mindset lasted a good two weeks. I eventually found it too hard to think beyond my circumstances.

A couple weeks ago I took the NJ Transit to Philly for NABJ weekend. I didn’t pay the $300 something odd dollars to register so I couldn’t attend much. But I was determined to make a few connects. Friday night I went to the Presidential suite after dinner function and had a few glasses of white wine. I chatted with a young Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, met the founder of a publication I wanted to write for and a few other notable people. I sipped my wine, laughed, talked about “the industry” and other stuff. I was a magnet for men that night. It felt good. Since I’ve gone natural men in New York rarely approach me. That night I partied with the locals at the Walnut Room. Shots were taken, liquor was flowing. We laughed like we had never cried. And danced like we’d never known pain. Cuba Gooding Jr. was in VIP with at least seven white girls. Erica walked right up to him to asked him why he was drinking with the white girls with all the beautiful black women in the club. She said it jokingly, but was serious at the same time. He shrugged it off and laughed. I laughed harder when she told me the story the next day. I thought about how this incident resembled the craziness world in my book I hadn’t written a chapter for in over a month. Not ready to end the night we headed to an after hours club across the street. VIP. My boy from grad school stopped by to see me and we chopped it up outside. It was good to see an old friend. After the club we had greasy, delicious cheesesteak. I couldn’t leave Philly without having one. I was still feeling nice. We walked into the apartment between 5:00 a.m.- 7:00 a.m. I don’t too much remember at this point. It was the most fun I’d had all year.

I daily look at one-way tickets to Nashville. I moved to New York with a suitcase, less than $1,000 and a cliched dream. What I didn’t really have was a plan. Maybe that’s part of the problem. For the first four months of that year I couldn’t even pay my measly $100 dollar phone bill. It was a miracle I even got my belongings from Indiana to New York.

A year later some things have changed while others remain the same. When friends call I usually avoid them. No new updates, what’s the point of talking? Besides, they won’t understand. “You’re published in ESSENCE magazine, Bene. That’s a big deal!” they screech. I want to talk when I’m in a better space. Once I finally have that first NYC job, move to BK, have health insurance, then I’ll talk. Instead of answering calls I update FB: “Interviewing Ron Isley today. I’m my own competition.” I get 25+ likes. If they only knew.

I never dreamed of the sacrifices I’d have to make. Life in NY is fucking hard. On most days I think quitting would be easier than carrying around this festering feeling of failure.

But I can’t quit. Too many people believe in me. Too many have made sacrifices in their own lives with the belief that I’ll make it. And I will. But today I just want to quiet my mind. If only for a minute.

 

 

  • Kamilah Mitchell

    Appreciate you sharing! Stay encouraged….you’re closer! Love you much and  miss you more!!

  • Oh how I feel you. I moved to NYC some years ago with little money, no apartment, and two suitcases. I moved under the guise of grad school, but it was still hard. They don’t say “if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere” for no reason. 

    But make it, you will. Your drive has already shown that. Are times tough? Hell yeah…but you get there. We all will. 

  • Dawnavette

    That post was so transparent, awesome and truly relateable. LOL. I made that spelling up. I’ve been struggling for well over a year and this post resonated with my soul. Had a conversation with a friend about something similar. Stay encouraged, it WILL get better, and you are still living the dream. Struggle and all. 🙂 

  • Bonnie

    You are NOT the sum of your accomplishments, Ms. Viera. The person you are is in spite of everything being negative, that you still push. When it does happen, there’ll be a young lady who’ll walk in the same shoes you have, and you’ll be able to mentor her on a level that goes past just ‘feelin’ her pain’ to sheer understanding. Keep pushing, Bene!

  • Wow! All of these sentiments sound too familiar. I damn near feel like this is a direct page out of the book of my life. My year anniversary in NYC is swiftly approaching and I must say this year has been very trying. It feels like every other week I’m depressed. It’s a serious fight to attempt to stay positive and hopeful. But I also know that nothing happens overnight. To still be here after a year is a blessing. I know people that have relocated and within a month they’re looking for a way back home. 

    Just know that you’re not the only one going through it. You’re talented and you’ve already proved that you’re steadfast. Keep pushing. Eventually it will get easier. I can guarantee you that soon we both will be looking back like wow look what we went through but, we “made it”. Much love. I’m here if you ever need to talk or vent. I’m all about positivity but, also not into false reality. Sometimes you just need to get what’s real off of your chest. Peace.

  • Bene – I’ve been reading your work for a while now. First caught wind of you on Clutch Magazine, then started following Writing While Black on FB and then your posts on Twitter. I’m a writer as well and I am so inspired by you. I literally cheered when I saw your byline in ESSENCE. You’re a beautiful writer and your writing will only get better by the richness of this very experience. I pray that things hit an upswing for you on all fronts. Thank you for your honest, transparent piece. You’ve blessed so many with your storytelling. 

    This too shall pass.Mame K. 

  • I’m thinking about creating a new platform, well at least come up with another name on Twitter to add some separation. It gets freaky sometimes because people think they really know you. 

    Either way I’m happy for you in New York. You seem to be doing well; so that’s good. I wish I had the courage and drive to move there. I know more opportunities are there but do I really want to deal with it. Anywho, keep up the good work like always. Inspired. 

  • Brilliant and raw. you are your own worst enemy 

  • You have definitely been grinding in just a year. Don’t give up! As a freelance writer who never took the leap to live and write in NYC, I applaud you. You are already living your dream. Those other “perks” will come. 

  • LaToya D. Townsend

    Thank you for pouring your heart out.  I hope you know how much it means to share your story with others.  You are an inspiration to so many people; myself included.  Tough times and life transitions can be rough yet refreshing when they are over and we have learned/experienced what were meant to.   I want to say more but I don’t want to cry.  We will talk soon.  I really love you!!!

  • Parisgray

    This was one of the best things I’ve read in a long time. Your struggle won’t go unrecognized.

  • Ladybleu1920

    Bene- thank you for sharing.  I literally teared up @ work.  Keep grinding.  Love your work!

  • Wow.  This is one of the most honest posts I’ve read from anyone.  It reminds me of a Chrisette Michele lyric “If I just say whats inside of me , I might set somebody free, If I just be me.” I believe your honesty and candor will set some people free.  Kudos to you.  Thanks for sharing. 

  • Les Misérables

    Bene,

    This post really resonated with me. This is from someone who’s been living in NYC all her life and still struggling post-college over a year later. You’ve become such an inspiration to me and I’m certain that your talents will be recognized. Stay strong : )

    Les Misérables

  • First of all, thank you for writing this. I am a writer as well who is starting the journey of freelancing and I relate to everything you have written. Like some of the other commenters, I have been following you since I first saw your work last year on FreshXpress, Writing While Black, Clutch, ect. and you are an extraordinary writer. At least you had the courage to move to NY, which I am still trying to muster up in myself to do. Writers should stick together; we should lean on each other for inspiration and encouragement and by telling your story here that is what you are giving me. I have faith that things will get better. Keep your head up : )

  • Chela Brito

    Such a brave and honest post, sis! As you can see, so many people are struggling through similar experiences. It’s not just you. And NYC can be a very difficult and lonely place if you don’t have a support system in place. Hopefully you will build that soon. In the meantime, keep your head up. You are definitely talented and your time will come.

  • I have been sitting here reading this blog for a couple hours marveling at what you have accomplished. Then, I came to this post. It spoke to me. I’m 21, living at home and still in undergrad but I can identify. A couple of days ago, I had to reschedule an interview because I didn’t have the $4 to catch the train. I’ve been in a funk for a while and reading this gave me some hope. It made me feel like I wasn’t alone and reassured me that I can follow my dreams too and I need to be a little more patient. Thank you. 

  • I’m always inspired by people who have the courage to be this open in a public forum. Parts of this felt so familiar to me. SO familiar. Great post.