It was towards the end of 2016 when a friend of mine posted pictures on our groupchat of herself at a Hip Hop event with the biggest of smiles. Although I cannot remember the name of the event itself, judging by the pictures it was pretty much a mini-concert that included performances, panel discussions, and all around dope vibes. Not only was I pissed off that I wasn’t there, I was even more disappointed that the event had popped off about 10mins from where I live and had been totally oblivious to its existence. To add more flame to the jealousy fire was later seeing my other social media timelines flooded with photos from various folks who were at the EXACT same show!!! In short, the “Obvious” blimp had flown right over my head.  After a brutality honest moment, I painfully had to admit the issue was deeper than just missing this one showcase itself.  A realization of the bigger issue was that I couldn’t remember when was the last time I did anything for myself at all.

I had become so immersed in my workload daily routine that there was no room for self-care. Sure, I’ve gone to a few Happy Hours and chilled out at a few weekend gatherings with friends but the common theme was that my participation only came because I was invited. I hadn’t acted on an original idea that was for my own selfish desire in forever and a day. Whether it was seeing a show or ordering a burger at a dope bar because that what gangsta’s do; I had become too much of a visual board career goal workhouse to pencil in time for any form of self-enjoyment. A deep feeling of unfulfillment began to grow from within and I could not understand why. Was it not enough that I woke up every morning with a Diddy-Instagram inspired “grind hard” mentality? I had missed events in the past so why did this one hit me so hard? The answer was simple; I wasn’t being selfish enough. So, despite not being one to ever be big on a New Year’s Resolutions, at the start of 2017 I came to a hard realization that my personal life was in desperate need to be elevated.

Once I got over my feelings I decided to take immediate action by reaching out to like-minded friends for their guidance in hopes having a more productive personal life. Friend no.1(who was at the event I originally missed) gave some direct truth that hit hard like Oprah in The Color Purple.

Me: “Could do me a favor and hit me whenever things like this come across your radar?”

 Friend no.1: “No J, because I do not have the time nor bandwidth to hold your hand like a child who can’t decide what type of ice cream they want!!!”

That statement was the brutally honest vitamin boast needed at the moment to erase any doubt that my problems would be solved with any old lazy approach. She suggested I start off small by signing up with a few links that interest me and hold myself accountable by checking the email on a regular basis for any type of news feed instead bypassing them with an “I’ll look at it later” attitude. Friend no.2 approach was with empathy because of our work history in radio and various other projects throughout the years. She spoke how in the past she found herself in the same space where work had all but consumed her. She encouraged me to be open to new interest by becoming an explorer. “Take a random drive, train ride or just walk inside any building that interest you and go from there,” she said. I complained to Friend no.3 about how mix schedules make it hard at times to get someone to “Go with me to a cool spot.”He simply replied, “Go by yourself.” He was right because some of my best discoveries came from past solo adventures. Plus, I don’t have to worry about being late because a friend needed about 6 plus wardrobe changes before stepping out the house. In their own unique way, each friend’s advice was the fuel support needed on a road to fill my emotional void.

I took action on each friend’s shared wisdom in full speed. Besides my inner Fatboy love of a nicely cooked steak, I attended a vegan festival discovered through my email and surprisingly enjoyed myself. I learned about new foods while sharing good laughs with old friends I’d run into. I received such a natural high from the festival that I carried the momentum a couple of weeks later by attending a book signing followed by a few Open Mics event shortly afterward. I quickly noticed that the experiences gave me a rush that also helped increase my work productivity with a sense of satisfaction and balance.

One of my character flaws is that I tend to wear blinders for way too long in pursuit of goals. At times, I focus on the endgame ahead so deep that all present matters get ignored which can become an unhealthy way to live. In hindsight, I realize that neglecting opportunities for personal times of joy were making me feel less accomplished and more resentful. I am thankful that after an “Aha Moment” I was able to receive knowledge needed from a group of friends who specialize in a form of truth-telling that was direct, compassionate and simple. I make it a weekly purpose plan something for myself whether it’s attending an art expo or simply chillin at a jazzy coffee shop. The year 2017 was about taking action towards the things that I value. I learned that it is possible to be relentless in the pursuit of my future goals and yet making it a priority in 2018 beyond to enjoy life in the present moment.