“Head Above Water”

“Got to get everything I wanted ’Cause this shit just last a moment” — Marian Mereba

Roughly 10–12 years ago, I fell in love with being on the radio. I still remember the very first day I got on-air. One of my friends from college was in our on campus radio and I stuck my head in the door to see what was going on. She invited me to come take a seat to listen to her show. During the commercial break, we were talking and she turned to me and said, “when we come back from break, I’m going to introduce you and you can say whatever.” Trying to contain my excitement, I had a whole spiel lined up for when she cued me in. But as you can guess, when she gave me the introduction, as if we didn’t just have the conversation, I got nervous and clammed up. From that moment on, I knew that radio was where I was supposed to be.

After she graduated, she handed down the title of station manager to me and that gave birth to my first project, TeamFlatRadio. For those who aren’t familiar, #TeamFlat was a group that was created by a group of my homeboys who always got together to smoke. But what made #TeamFlat unique was the fact that we were a group of educated Black men that took pride in making sure the homies grades were up to par. Every sesh composed of thought provoking conversations and going over grades with one another. If we happened to be in the same class, we would compare grades and celebrate the good grades while motivating our fellow classsmates to put forth a greater effort than the one being displayed.

When I started #TeamFlatRadio, I wanted to bring that same inspiration and motivation to the airwaves combined with the best artists in the Indie Hip-Hop scene. FLAT was an acronym for Forever Learning and Achieving Together. It was a platform intended to merge lyrics from a song and interject a positive meaning. What started as a class project, had blossomed into a way of life for me. It was a way for me to use my voice to encourage others on the same mission as me to strive everyday to be better. While I was taking 18 credit hours my last semester, I landed an internship at a gospel radio station that was minutes away from my dorm. During this internship, I got more hands on experience in a professional setting. As graduation approached, I was offered a job at the radio station but I turned it down due to getting accepted into the Disney College Program. I figured with the internship at the gospel radio station, an internship for KISS 104.7 in Atlanta, experience being the station manager at my college radio station and the DCP on my resume, I would be set to land any radio gig I wanted. Boy was I wrong.

Once I completed the internship, I began to apply for over 100+ radio positions, all of which I got declined for. The disappointment of not being “qualified” or “not having enough experience” ate my confidence up. On top of the mounting pressure from my family about not having a job using my degree, I decided to make #TFR my way out. In 2015, all was going well. I was finally getting noticed for my hardwork with TeamFlatRadio.com and began to gain some “clout” in the indie scene in Atlanta. While this opportunity felt like it was one click away from changing my life, out of nowhere, the momentum I was carrying came to an abrupt halt. I stopped getting high traffic numbers on the blog. The nights I would stay up burning the midnight oil used to consist of generating new leads to new artists to feature on my site, turned into emails with no response. While I would put forth great effort into doing single, mixtape, music videos, album reviews and etc, my work never got the attention because I wasn’t an XXL caliber blog. Not getting the respect I deserved and ultimately letting ego get in the way, I canned the idea of #TFR.

One night during a very emotional night for me, I deleted all of my social media pages. I deleted my social media accounts that had a combined almost 7–8 thousand followers and fell into a mild state of depression. I figured that because my resume was what it was and seen how little impact having DCP on my resume, I fell into the trap of helping someone else pursue their dream. The time I spent between then and 2018 consisted of poor spending habits, looking for love in the wrong places and the worst of all procrastination. I had procrastinated so much, that at one point, my laptop sat in the trunk of one of my exes cars for like 2–3 months. It wasn’t until we moved to Arizona that I came up with the idea of #TheRoleUp podcast.

Very similar (but different) to #TFR, #TheRoleUp was created to inspire those who didn’t believe they were worthy of a second chance. It was created to encourage every listener to begin their journey to self-enlightenment. I chose this route because there was a time in my life that I didn’t feel worthy of a second chance. There were times when I felt inadequate and quite frankly, I was almost ready to kick the can to get reincarnated to start this journey over. What #TheRoleUp has done for me, is the same thing that I hope it does for you. I hope it helps keep your head above water and helps fuel you to not only the belief in yourself but the belief that anything is possible. After reading a few books, “The Power Of I Am” by Joel Osteen, was the book that kicked me back into gear. I began to search within to find the strength to continue to pursue my dreams and add value to everyone who I come in contact with.

As author Lailah Gifty Akita’s quote says, “In the situation, we must learn to adapt, strive and thrive.” It was in these dark times that I had to learn to change with the times, succeed with those changes and put conscious effort consistently to be the candle to rekindle someone else’s flame. But before I could Adapt, thrive and strive, I had to gain a better understanding what those three words meant. To Adapt, one must “make (something) suitable for a new use or purpose”. To thrive, one must “grow vigorously”. Lastly, to strive one must “make great efforts to achieve or obtain something.”

One thing I’ve learned over the past decade, change is uncomfortable. To some, change can be unneccessary. But when you think about the direction in which you want your life to go, change is inevitable. It is in these times of uncertainty, that I’ve learned to search within for the answers I am seeking. To break old habits and create new ones is always easier said than done, but again, when you look at the life you want to live, the person you want to be is on the other side of those unfortunate situations that arise. It is during those times of adversities that turn the boys/girls into men/women. It is during those rainy days that one grows to appreciate the sunshine. It’s very cliche but in order to thrive, you must understand that beautiful flowers can’t grow without rain. Before you can make great efforts to achieve or obtain something, one must first have a concrete belief that things are working out in our favor.

It’s impossible for us to grow and be comfortable at the same time. It is impossible for us to strive for our goals and be successful 100% of the time. It’s definitely impossible to make something of yourself when you are constantly sitting on your hands. Something that I’ve been practicing lately is being more consistent with my intentions and my creativity. Sometimes life has a way of being “unfair” but in those times of confusion it is important that we keep our heads above water. We keep our heads above water by constantly keeping our arms and feet moving to ensure that we don’t sink. As another cliche saying goes, “Slow motion is better than no motion.” As long as we make consistent daily efforts to better ourselves and our craft, we will be building up strength to make leaps, even bounds over our expectations. Everyday we wake up, we get a fresh set of 24 hours. Within that 24 hours, it is completely up to us on how we use our time. Maybe you don’t want to jump in the creative space, reading books, reading positive articles (such as this one) and keeping the vision in front of you are all ways to keep your head above water.

Just like you, I have dreams and aspirations. I dream of lavish lifestyles and putting bills on autopay. But until that day comes, I am going to continue to practice what I preach and uplift others to do the same. The waves are going to come and make it seem as if your journey is impossible to complete but it is important that no matter what happens, we keep our feet moving. The second we take our eyes off the prize, we fall victim to procrastination. We fall victim to having the “woe is me” mentality and it hinders us from tapping into our true potential. As we pursue our daily missions, we must understand that our current situation isn’t our final destination. In order to succeed in any venue of life, we must all adapt to the situation, strive to put our best foot forward and use everyday as an opportunity to grow more. Everything that we desire relies on us moving out of our own way and stepping into our purpose.

Starting today, let’s continue to practice consistency. Let’s practice believing that we are worthy to acquire everything our hearts desire. Let’s put that play in motion that we’ve been waiting on, it might be the one to change the game. Starting today let’s do a better job of keeping our head above water.

- SB

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