Family appears often in my writing. It comes from having strong relationships - my family's blood is thicker than Amber Rose. My mother’s three sisters, my Aunty Team, have been around since the beginning of my time on Earth and I can count on them to fight Hitler or hide yams if needed. Out of those three, only one ever married.
If I had to describe my uncle, he’s more of a (less loud) George Jefferson type than Phillip Banks. Strong willed, prideful, money motivated and always lost in thought, masterminding his next move. Firm handshakes instead of hugs, he's the type of uncle you rarely see at birthday parties but promises to take you to a titty bar once you turned 21. I used to spend the night with my cousin, and my uncle would stay in the downstairs den. The door was always closed, secluded, a true man cave. I saw my first King magazine down there, a bodacious beauty on the cover, with all the assets that rappers rhyme about. B.E.T was always on the big screen television, if he wasn’t watching boxing, it was music videos while jazz played from the speakers.
Real estate is his passion, and the source of his income. I never knew their financial situation, but they had two cars, my aunt didn’t work and they had a water bed, that was a symbol of wealth in my eyes. This was the early 2000s, and I didn’t know anyone else that had a bed of water. I’m sure you can predict what happened; once the real estate market plummeted everything went south for them. The hard times came fast and before I knew it my aunt, uncle and cousin moved from Decatur where it’s greater into my dad’s den. I don’t remember the year, 2009-2010 possibly, but it was a big change for everyone. Even while living with us, I didn’t see him much. We were like two planes in the sky, heading in opposite directions, overlapping but never colliding. I’m sure his pride and ego was bruised tremendously. I witnessed how quickly life can change, even while basking in success, longevity isn’t promised. No man in their late 40s wants to restart, that’s the age when your eyes should be on the retirement trophy case. It took them a while to get on their feet, the junk car business proved to be an easy transition, and he learned quickly enough to make a consistent amount of money. After finding a home of their own, it wasn’t long before he re-entered the real estate field, driven to reclaim what was lost.
Last week, my Uncle called his son, my two brothers, and I to meet him at a home that was being renovated. The banging of hammers and the buzzing of drills scored our meeting. The walls are painted a deep gray, not gloomy, but strong and serious like my uncle. There was a young woman with him, he introduced her as his latest business partner. She made a joke about our thin body structure, compared us to the men she’s dating in her age group. I guess once you reach your 30s metabolism moves a bit slower, and Gucci guts are born. My uncle started talking about how much money is in commercial real estate, and how he wanted to pass down his knowledge to the next generation. Back in the day, he was like the Young Jeezy of flipping homes, now that he’s returned to the game he needed to complete his legacy with a lineage. The numbers he threw around carelessly left my wallet drooling, he was pitching this business opportunity like a major label throwing a 360 deal to a starving artist. He then introduced the young woman, who’s in her 30s, but entered into real estate at 20-years-old. She became a millionaire at 24, the first millionaire I ever met that wasn’t connected to the music industry. Their enthusiasm was enchanting, throwing around words we didn’t understand, but I could see the dollar signs in the eyes of my siblings. Before leaving, we gave our emails out to receive books to read, podcasts to subscribe to and articles that will enlighten. Not every day does someone offer you the keys to a prosperous kingdom, but sadly I couldn’t find the interest. My mind was on Nathan’s podcast with Drew Millard, Kendrick’s album and my next article.
During my uncle’s speech, he mentioned his years working at the Post Office. He talked about that time with resentment, it was a job that he hated and what motivated him to conquer real estate. Money, he wanted more money. He wanted to be away from people who couldn’t see a life outside the 9-to-5 cycle. They were content, he wasn’t. The last thing he said to us was, “Don’t tell me you can’t, because you can.” That’s the kind of man he is, a firm believer that whatever you desire comes with self-belief. For the first time, I noticed the gray whiskers on his face, he’s been bald forever so I never noticed before, and he didn’t have the energy of a man five years from 50. He’s full of life, the same drive he had at the bottom has tripled since he regained his career.
A few days passed, three unread emails sat in my inbox from him. I was caught up in work, articles don’t write themselves. I decided that I wouldn’t pursue the real estate venture, it was a decision I struggled with. I called him on Saturday, it was the longest conversation we’ve had in a long time. Before I could say a single word, he went into a breathless lecture, I felt bad that he wasn't aware why I called. After he took a minute to breath, I told him I wanted to be a writer. I’m passionate about my current job, and want to focus on mastering my craft. He could hear it in my tone that it wasn’t a hobby. He gave me his support, but went into a long speech about goals and lifelong security. It stung a bit, hearing how he had everything mapped out, while I wasn't sure how things would look 10 years from now. Every time he said "goals" I remember walking through Barnes and Noble, looking at the magazines that would enclose my words one day. Back then I wasn’t daydreaming about money, but accomplishments. My hunger for success didn’t have an amount attached to it. I was naïve enough to believe that if I was good enough, money would be a reward, not an incentive.
Family only wants what’s best for you, hopefully they want to see you succeed and prosper without fault. I’ll probably look back in ten years, starving, wishing I would’ve pursued real estate, or I’ll be a successful writer not regretting putting all my eggs in one basket. I’m thinking about goals more, and my future beyond the moment. Fulfillment has no monetary value, but survival does. What I learned from my uncle is that quitting is the only way you fail. Life is a cycle of highs and lows, winning isn’t guaranteed, losing will happen often, but success is the reward for those that can withstand. Make goals, be passionate, and beat the odds. I'm reinvigorated with a new fire, determined, and ready to conquer.
Thank you Uncle Keith, I’ll see you at the titty bar. First dance on me.
[By Yoh, aka Money Makin' Yoh, aka @Yoh31]