A priceless pivot

by | Oct 30, 2016

Alas, because The Curatours is a reality, I can somewhat return to reality myself. Until now, I only envisioned what unveiling The Curatours would be like, and I still dream about what it could become in the future.

Roughly three months ago, this project, ill-formed and nameless, first became an idea that constantly sent me adrift in my own head. At that time I was a summer intern at a big law firm in D.C. I had made great connections. I had learned more than all my previous internships combined. And nearly everyday, I ate for free at a high-class restaurant I hadn’t known existed in my hometown.

Yet something about the experience was deeply unsettling: I couldn’t find real meaning in my work. I had no fire.

Feeling like a big law firm was no longer a part of my vision, I had already decided that although I would finish my internship, enrolling at Columbia Law School for the upcoming academic year was a mistake. I walked away from the opportunity because it was best to simply think things over.

I knew the magnitude of that decision and understood the risk I was taking. I believe that you can create your own luck, so I didn’t second-guess myself — not once.

I prepared to go to law school throughout my senior year at Elon University. I had one day after graduation — to pack up my apartment and travel — to get ready for my internship. The week following my internship, I was scheduled to move into my apartment in New York City.

Clearly, patience isn’t always one of my strong suits. But I began to wonder what it would be like if I just slowed down. At 22 years old, I didn’t need stability; in fact, I needed to live a little. Perhaps by relaxing, I’d more naturally find my way. Perhaps I would become more centered.

I learned that forward-thinking and living in the moment are not mutually exclusive.

The beginning of August marked the end of my law firm internship. I didn’t want to start working again immediately. I decided to focus primarily on having fun with the people I love.

I skydived with my mom. My college friends persuaded me to visit L.A. for a week. AfroPunk and Made In America taught me that I love music festivals. I spent too many hours playing NBA 2K17 with my best friend, Anthony. After several trips to New York, I moved on the subway more like a native than a tourist. And I still had the time to read eight books. Through these experiences and others, I learned that forward-thinking and living in the moment are not mutually exclusive.

As I enjoyed myself, I was most appreciative that some of the people who cared about my well-being didn’t just ask about what I’d do next professionally. Instead, they enlightened me through stories about the critical pivots in their lives. Listening attentively, I learned about their journeys. Putting the details aside, their lessons directly applied to my life.

Dozens of individuals reached out to support me, but why? And how could their stories seem so similar to mine?

I originally shared my decision to take time off via a blog post. Honestly, it was more of a therapeutic act than anything — I didn’t expect it to resonate with many people, but I’m glad it did.

In failing to tell fuller stories, we’re unable to take advantage of personal narrative’s profound ability to help people live more authentic lives.

 

When I thought deeply, it was no coincidence that my decision was impactful. In being candid about my experience, I accepted being vulnerable. Furthermore, in following my internal compass despite the external pressures that suggested it was unacceptable to do so, I attained freedom. I reassured some and inspired others. But I’m not narcissistic. I know my story isn’t special. We all have laudable accomplishments, and often we’re forced to make tough decisions to obtain them.

The problem is that even if we share our accomplishments, we almost always neglect to reference the many crossroads we successfully traversed before reaching the mountaintop — those are the real learning points. In failing to tell fuller stories, we’re unable to take advantage of personal narrative’s profound ability to help people live more authentic lives.

Throughout this period, my most trusted confidante was my girlfriend, Dani. I’d realized that there was something tremendously uplifting about personal narrative, but I couldn’t figure out how to harness it in a constructive way. Dani listened to me sound like a crazy person, throwing around my ambitious ideas about how together we could build a platform, supported by personal narrative, that would make a difference. She agreed with my pie in the sky rambling, and thus we stumbled upon the original idea of The Curatours.

We shared the idea with my childhood best friends, Anthony and Marshall. I texted all three of them whenever I thought of something related to the potential project. Often, I sent several long messages at once — that’s socially unacceptable. I apologized for my mobile essays once and they told me I didn’t have to.

Was I developing a passion? I felt weird: I was always even-keeled, but whenever I talked about the possibility of creating a site for black millennials, I became giddy.

I imagine The Curatours as a place where myself and others can expand our understanding of blackness — unencumbered.

 

Let me be clear, everyone who shared a story with me in my time of uncertainty wasn’t black. I’ve attended predominately white, private schools my entire life; as a result, my friends and influencers are of many races and ethnicities. But due to factors like unprecedented political polarization — and the continued slaying of unarmed black men, women and children — I’ve become increasingly introspective about how my blackness affects the way I move through society.

For years I suppressed my black culture in most public spaces to make others feel comfortable — that’s assimilation — and now it’s second nature. I barely learned about my heritage in almost two decades of formal education, but innately I knew it was still important.

At 20-years-old, the alchemy of my experiences finally pushed me to intellectually and independently explore my culture and history; before, I wasn’t mature enough to critically do so. I imagine The Curatours as a place where myself and others can expand our understanding of blackness — unencumbered.

The Curatours is pro-black without question. Black lives are its sole focus, but that doesn’t mean it’s a negative space or anti-others. I’m fully aware some won’t understand how that is possible. They’ll be angered by my previous statement. Frankly, people who are that ignorant are better off elsewhere.

Non-black readers should still consider following The Curatours. No, they can’t experience the site in the same exact way that black readers can, but I guarantee the humanity in our mission will still shine through on them, too. The young black lives we celebrate here are awe-inspiring.   

I hope black millennials enjoy interacting with The Curatours as much as Dani and I enjoyed creating it — we invested in it wholeheartedly.  

The Curatours is a big experiment founded on the assumption that by reading about black peers who are courageously pursuing their dreams, others will discover commonalities that in turn motivate them to live with the same fearlessness. As a community, if we breed confidence in each other, our goals that are seemingly impossible will become absolutely possible. And ultimately, the world will be a better place because of it.

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