I currently work as a youth development specialist at a high school in Queens, NY. Monday through Friday, I spend my time advising students that need a second chance at their high school diploma how to maneuver their often very disjointed and complicated lives, while still prioritizing their education. Essentially, I teach them balance. When I leave the office, I get home at 9pm and start working on my poetry. This can mean writing, editing, practicing for a slam, or reading through stacks of poetry books to gain inspiration. I fall asleep face down on my laptop around 2am, wake up the next day and do it all over again.
After watching me leave the office and drive straight to Philadelphia to compete in a slam one Friday (Shouts to The Philly Pigeon!), my coworkers started accusing me of living a double life. I had never seen it that way, but truthfully, carving out time for your passion as well as securing a source of income simultaneously does often feel like a juggling act. This is the fate of many artists, due to the fact that generating revenue from the art one makes is no easy feat. I’ve been writing since the second grade and at age 22, I am just now figuring out how to enhance my brand as an artist and make my work better and more accessible. While I love the work that I do with my students, feeding my passion as a poet is something that I know I cannot just put on the back burner. So for this reason, I find myself optimizing every moment of my time in order to do both.
People love to crack struggling artists jokes. I laugh at them, but mostly in a “to keep from crying” kinda way. I can’t count how many times I’ve cursed the universe for not making me passionate about something like brain surgery or law or engineering. I can only dream of what life would be like to be in love with something that rests in a lucrative field. But no. God said here, have some pretty words and make do. Luckily, making do has been built into the very bones of passionate and ambitious black women since the beginning of time. Give us lemons and you will always taste lemonade. This is what I attribute my drive to balance all aspects of this phase of my life to. A struggling artist can only succeed when they stay hungry, and bitch I’m starving.
Every night I pray for the same things: Balance, peace of mind, and the courage to reach my full potential. Launching a weekly poetry and performance workshop at my job, securing a spot amongst the top 4 poets in The Philly Pigeon’s grand slam finals, and cradling this check every two weeks looks a lot like God’s answer to me. If I have to choose between art, eating, and sleeping in this process of becoming a successful artist, I ain’t tired.