TAIYUAN, CHINA - MAY 08:  (CHINA OUT) Allen Iverson attends a press conference ahead of a match during the US Pro-ball Legend China Tour 2012 at Kangzhuang Hotel on May 8, 2012 in Taiyuan, China.  (Photo by ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images)

Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.” Growing up, the lights were off here and there. I remember nights we prayed for food. I even recall sleeping in our car. Things stayed tough once I was grown. After completing a masters degree and starting a doctorate, I was unemployed three years: I mean McDonald’s wouldn’t even hire me. It got so bad that I contemplated taking my life, several times. I thank God that things are different now. I work in the political world, meet a lot of interesting people, run campaigns, manage a staff and never hurt for work. Thing is, at times, I wonder whether this is actually harder than being broke was.

Life was really hard when I was unemployed those three years. I was living with my folks or sleeping on someone’s floor/couch. If I wanted a 99 cent burger, I was 99 cents short. It was hard. No one- and I mean no one- would hire me, despite my degrees and prior work experience. I felt like I was cursed, as if God was completely against me. Once year three hit, I was sure the nightmare would never end. I had goals and dreams but they were out of reach. How could I date and marry with no money? How could I work to make positive changes in my community if I had no resources? I wanted to give up. The last straw was when a job offer came but days later was pulled. I called my dad and informed him I was ready to commit suicide.

Fortunately, the job was offered again because someone dropped off, creating space for me. That’s when my political career started and it took off. My common experiences with poor black people and theological degree all of a sudden made me valuable. I could think like said demographics and thus create strategies and messaging to reach them- that’s what I do. Today, I get calls for jobs I never applied for. I work on citywide and statewide campaigns and get compensated rather well for doing so. Still, at times, it seems as if this chapter of life is harder than the previous one. Working on a statewide issue sounds great until the consequences of failing register. Managing a large staff (this summer I have 35) and budget sound glamorous until you realize that if you fail, with all those resources at your disposal, your career is in the balance- no pressure.

There’s also the reality that even though I’m still trying to get my financial house in order (being out of work for years can create a real mess), people feel completely comfortable asking for money simply because what I take in is larger now. They don’t count the bills and backlog I’m trying to clean up, just the dollar amount coming in, unfortunately. It’s a lot of pressure for anyone but especially someone who came out of and from nothing. So maybe success is harder to manage than failure. Maybe I understand the rags to riches to rags stories of certain black athletes and entertainers- who came from nothing- just a bit more now. Maybe they were people who, understanding struggle, wanted to help everyone just a bit too much. Never having had to manage money or people, they had little skill in doing so. Where I’m hoping to differ from those individuals is, having watched them, I’m completely open to asking for help.

5 comments

Duane Terrell

Been There Done That. I went an entire year looking for work with people asking me when I could start and then I would never hear from them again and when I called they would give me the run around. Crap like that takes a toll on you. It would have been better, I think, to not have gotten an offer at all.

But we must understand that our worth as men, as people, has nothing to do with what we have. Because there are people who have everything we think we should have and then some who are sadly on their way to hell.

We have worth, not because of us, who we know, or what we have, we have worth because God says we do, because he sent his son to die for us, so that we don't have to die, so that we don't have to commit sucide.

D.M Hopewell

…well said, my friend.

D.M Hopewell

Just really hard, especially as a man, to not slip into equating your value and worth with your situation, ya know?

Duane Terrell

And it's made worse when people keep asking you "Do you have a job?" which just reminds you of what you don't have. If not for my belief in God, I already would have eatin a bullet. Why live if you see no hope of ever enjoying life?

Rashad

I fully understand this. I was unemployed for 4 1/2 months (I was fortunate to come out quickly…and during better economic times – circa 2007/early 2008) and remember at the end of the 3rd month starting to question my value as a human. Sad thing that we have been culturally conditioned to attribute our value as humans to our net worth at any one moment. That time off, however, served to be a tremendous blessing in my life. I learned quite a bit about myself and gained clarity on what I wanted in life in general. I also figured out how to NEVER be in that position again. I know one can never really say never, but I can safely say that I know all the things I can do to prevent having to deal with those circumstances ever again. I also figured out how important it is to be grateful for what I have. Most importantly I figured out the importance of investing my life (and time) in enhancing and improving the lives of others (professionally and personally). I realized that by focusing on others' lives I would build up a mountain of "favors" (or should I say "build up Godly favor") that would work in my behalf when/if I should ever fall on hard times. At the very least, I'd have someone to feed me…which becomes damn important when the paychecks stop coming.

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