2018 has presented a whirlwind of distraction universally—no matter what country, city or state you live in. I can’t imagine a single person who has not been affected by the events of this year. There is a tremendous level of anarchy and sensationalism serving as a cover for a larger wave of major political, environmental and welfare changes, the result of which will soon become apparent in the next five years or less. Even locally here in Los Angeles, there are numerous changes being made to the internal LA landscape with the introduction of the Metro Rail through South Central and other key residential areas. These local changes, in conjunction with the massive residential and commercial construction, foretell a re-shifting of prosperity lines, wealth and assets. As an Angeleno, it has been overwhelming to witness.
Distractions generally serve two purposes. For the positive, distraction can be used to draw predators away to preserve the safety of things considered of value. Conversely, distraction can also be used to draw the attention of unsuspecting prey into a trap. Back in August, while in New Orleans, I had the opportunity to visit a camp owned by family friends out in Port Sulfur near the Gulf of Mexico, which also houses a chicken coop. As the chickens were being fed, the owner took advantage of their distraction to collect their eggs. As I was hanging back to observe, I noticed that one of the more prominent nests still held what resembled eggs, but seemed to look slightly different in coloring. They turned out to be wooden replicas that were serving as a decoy for crows and other predators, while the hens and rooster roamed the camp. The owner retold instances of aerial predators being spotted carrying off the decoys, and embedding their beaks in repeated attempts to crack them open.
While pursuing your creative career, there may be many encounters of failure, bad breaks and closed doors. It can be difficult, under the distraction of emotion, to distinguish the difference between the closed door of redirection and the decoy of rejection. How can you confirm if repeated closed doors of opportunity for your dream are for your protection to reroute you to a different path, or if they are only serving as obstacles in the path towards the achievement of your dreams?
There is an adage that is often quoted within the church: “What was meant for your harm will be used for your good”—which originates from the story of Joseph, who spent the better part of his youth into adulthood enslaved and later incarcerated without cause, due to the betrayal of his brothers. His life progressively descended into one pit, into another lower than the previous, despite his integrity, work ethic and beliefs. In the end, as the prophecy of greatness over his life was finally realized, his brothers asked for Joseph’s forgiveness—to which he responded: that the actions that they meant for evil, ultimately worked not only towards his good, but towards the betterment of the lives of all the people who Joseph was destined to affect through his prosperity, as second of command to the Pharaoh of Egypt.
It can be taxing to your morale to continue reinvesting and putting in the work towards your dreams, especially when you don’t see anything sprouting to head—or worse, when you witness your investments being picked off and carried away by the predators of hardship and betrayal. It can become even more aggravating with the distraction of worry pulling your attention towards areas of concern, real or imagined. It may feel better and sometimes logical to quit, whether you’re two years in or twenty-plus. How can so much rejection and bad news be meant for good, when you have yet to see the receipts indicating that anything good will come of your time and investments?
I never thought I would see the day that I would ever question my purpose or pursuit of a career in jazz, but over the years with all that has happened beyond the setbacks, health issues, and now the daily fight of overcoming the effects of domestic violence, I easily understand why people quit their creative dreams and career ambitions. It can register inwardly as an act of self preservation—to make the best of what you have and get out, while there’s still time to create or experience stability. To salvage what remains financially, emotionally or mentally. But in quitting or closing the door on yourself, who or what is really being preserved, with the eggs of your creativity going to rot unused?
The only answer that has been mirrored back to me in my questioning this year is to move forward and take action amidst the confusion and distractions of whatever setbacks encountered. I will be honest. The very thought of continuing the creation of more music or any creative byproduct creates an anger and distrust that is parallel or greater than the anger and distrust felt from my experiences. Why should I continue to be responsible to a gift that has led me into one setback and disaster after another? After you run out in your Charlie Brown jersey to kick the field goal so many times, and Lucy (all #kdot puns intended) pulls the ball at the most inopportune moment and you land on your back again and again, why should go back? My hope is that a continued effort will reconfirm my direction this fall in my preparation of new music. Lifestyle coach and advisor, Iyanla Vanzant of "Iyanla Fix My Life" was on The Power 105.1 FM Breakfast Club earlier this year recounting the turning points of her life, and she likened those moments to finding the bread crumbs which led to the loaf of bread of her self-actualization. Sometimes you have to perform or go through the motions and keep an open mind for the next level of instruction, even when you have no reason to believe.
To all those who are still working and waiting, I wish you the best for this week to come: a clear mind and a spirit of optimism to return and punctuate the sentence of your creative mission and objective, along with the faith and patience to work towards the revelation of the next steps leading towards the achievement of your dreams.