An impromptu computer reset just evaporated 700 words from my very eyes. I laugh, thinking of all the writers that are now ghosts who never knew such a travesty during the age of typewriters. Shakespeare was lucky he didn’t have to write Romeo & Juliet on Windows 10. I laugh, thinking of all the rookie mistakes I’ve made during my rookie year, a year that feels more like a lifetime than 365 days. I laugh, reflecting on my first official day working for DJBooth, my first day as a writer and after receiving a message to insert a blurb into the system my chest exploded with pain. Breathing was excruciating, it was like Thor’s Hammer was crushing my windpipe. Before I could write a single word, I was in a hospital bed typing a message to Nathan about my left lung spontaneously collapsing.
I would spend the next four days in that hospital bed. After four years of writing and waiting, waiting and writing, I finally got the job I’ve dreamt of and was already met with an unexpected setback. I laugh, thinking on this current predicament and how since the very beginning it’s been monkey wrenches and curveballs, today is just another example that life is about how well you can walk through the fire.
I run my fingers across the keyboard, trying to get back to that place, trying to remember the feeling of the night when fireworks filled the sky as I locked the door for the final time, the excitement of escaping, the moment when I truly broke free. My last day at my old job was on the last day of the year. I believe it was out of spite that I was scheduled for the closing shift but it was fitting, there was no going back, I couldn’t re-enter once I left, that path was closed and I was the one who locked it. I thought I was ready for the next phase in my life, my life as a writer.
After the first few months of getting the good word down, I realized my least favorite part of the job was the question Nathan posed after I finished every article, “So what’s next?” After pitching idea after idea I soon realized a new, creative fatigue and came to truly understand that you can write the best article of your life but the moment you finish there’s no attachment to the present, a journalist can only survive for what he will do tomorrow and not what he has done today. There will always be news to break, a story to tell, beef to report, those that slow down will be left behind in a field where the fight is to stay ahead.
It wasn’t just Nathan, throughout the year I encountered the question from my parents, friends, and strangers, all asking, “So what’s next?” It was an inescapable question that I didn’t have an answer for. I spent so long trying to reach this point to be a writer who was actually being paid for this passion that I didn’t consider where I would go from here. The goal was to keep a roof overhead and the laptop illuminated while enjoying the small pleasures that life presents. Good concerts and great whiskey, ageless music with unforgettable friends and a few articles that will live longer than today’s trendy topics.
There was a time when the magazines were a goal, immortalized in print, but the place I thought would let me live forever is dying a very slow death. I also wanted my parents to read me for the first time in print, but someone went and shared something I wrote. I got this random phone call from my dad, it was like the moment on the Acid Rap outro when Chance’s father tells his son he’s proud of the work he’s done. After hearing my Dad compliment something I wrote after spending years watching me tucked in corners, typing away like a mad man, I knew any praise or accolades afterward would never leave me with that feeling of success. Not even Diddy following me on Twitter could measure up.
It’s been a great year, possibly the best of my life, one where the highs kept me up when the lows tried to take me under. It wasn’t all rainbows and strippers, there was much to celebrate and even more to grieve, but mostly, my world revolved around the writing, the music and experiencing life to the fullest. As an adult, it feels like you should always be looking ahead, trying to do better, in a constant state of upgrade and evolution. Maybe that’s why the question of “what’s next” has always left me in a state of awe. When you are so deeply rooted in the moment, truly enjoying how life is unfolding, you don’t even imagine leaving this place of bliss.
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Is it really a comfort zone if you ran through hell to reach it? Is it being stagnant if you’re mastering the craft that will maybe take you further? These are the questions that have haunted me as I get closer and closer to my one year anniversary. Should I shoot to write for bigger sites? Should I finally attempt to conquer the novel? Maybe a screenplay is in my distant future? All these possibilities. Where do I go from here? What is the next step on this stairway to heaven and how do I keep ascending without plummeting back to earth?
It’s something about being 24 that feels both old and young. That’s until you are standing before someone who is truly old, an elder that has seen the days before your birth. I met such an elder this weekend, he was on the sideline just a few feet away from a college football game, cameras in hand trying to capture a moment more magical than anything ESPN would be replaying tonight. The game took place in Orlando, I was 421 miles away from home, more worried about the drive back than the clash between Georgia State and San Jose. I don’t know what made this older, white gentleman speak to me, I remember thinking he had more wrinkles than days I've been alive, but his eyes gleamed a youthful emerald green. We spoke between the timeouts and injuries, first small talk about the weather and then somehow escalating to his health. He retired from a job I can’t recall because of a recent heart attack, he pointed to a monitor that was on his hip the size of an iPhone 6s. Any thoughts of exhaustion evaporated if he could run up and down this field without complaint so could I. He told me that his father recently passed away and how it made the writing difficult so he chose the camera over the pen tonight. I agreed that the gift of solitude that writing presents is a curse for a mind clouded with worry. Death and despair were surrounding him but he was out here with me tonight, maybe he read my mind, he said, “In 30 years they will be rolling me out in a wheelchair to the sidelines.” His eyes lit up, at the moment I knew he was more alive than me, more alive than anyone in that stadium. He found something that he would do until his very last breath, a man too alive for death, the reaper will need backup the day he comes for him.
This was a man who knew what was next, a man whose only worry was when the next game would be. The conversation brought me a strange comfort. I've been struggling internally these last few weeks, looking for a solution that will make 2016 an even more prosperous year. The answer was to write and keep writing until something happens. It was the naive answer, childish, but since I started pushing these keys it’s been the light that kept me going. Always strive to be a better writer than you were yesterday. That would open any doors that I desired. Talking to him reminded me of what it meant to truly be passionate about your job. Whatever I do next, I want to contain that same fire for life. I think about money, recognition, accolades, all these things that we spend time chasing because it’s human nature to want more. I want more. I also know, I don’t want to lose the joy that made me do this in the first place. It’s that joy that brought me here. The joy for the music, the writing, the culture.
I don’t know what will happen in the future. I never did, but I am thankful for this present. Thankful to Z, Nathan and Dave for giving a kid out of South Atlanta with no real experience a chance. I want to thank DJBooth Nation and all the readers for embracing me with a lot of love and the occasional hate. My skin is little tougher than before. Thankful for Lucas, Taylor, Erickson, Jake, Brenden, and Serm for being the kind of team that always made me want to do better. As I continue to write for DJBooth and search for what will happen next, I’ll look back on this year fondly. Knowing that it was the year that started everything. The year I got a chance to live the dream, now let's see how long I can go without waking up.
“I have no taste for either poverty or honest labor, so writing is the only recourse left for me” - Hunter S. Thompson.
By Yoh, aka Hunter S. Yohmpson, aka @Yoh31
Photo Credit: Tumblr