Five years ago I was on welfare in the projects.
Today, I live in a three bedroom house in the suburbs with a walkout basement, a great deck, a big backyard, and a beautiful view of the sunset.
A view of the sunset from my deck.
Pretty nice right?
A part of me never thought this would happen.
Another part of me always hoped it would, but I had doubts.
And an even smaller part of me believed and had faith, no matter how bad things became, no matter how dark my world seemed. And as I moved through childhood into adolescence and then adulthood, my world very often seemed bleak and dark. My favourite rapper of all time, Nas, on a song called, The World is Yours, once said:
“I need a new n*gga for this black cloud to follow, ’cause while it’s over me it’s too dark to see tomorrow”
I felt like this very often growing up.
When I would come home to an empty fridge and empty cupboards I felt like this. When I was in high school and my mother was in and out of the hospital for over a year hearing voices, experiencing delusions, and hallucinating, I felt like this. When, because I had no lunch and no lunch money, I was pocketing candy bars and sodas while the storekeeper wasn’t looking, I felt like this. When I was on welfare and spent my last $90 on clothes for Isiah, leaving me with literally -$999.98 in my bank account, I felt like this.
There were a lot of dark days.
That black cloud, it felt like it was attached to me like a shadow and there was no way to sever it’s connection with me. But then Nas said this on the chorus of the aforementioned song:
“Who’s world is this? The world is yours! The world is yours! The world is yours!!”
And that reminded me that I could still be something, that I could still make something decent of my life, that I had some control over my circumstances, that I could make it. Even though my life was pretty shitty (for lack of a better term), Nas let me know that I still had the power to change it, and if it were to change that it would be up to me, that I would have to do it.
Black cloud or not, the world was mine!
But I was still hungry. And poor. And my mother was still sick. And I was still alone all the time, with no family around and very few friends. And I was still stealing food just to eat, still washing my three pairs of underwear by hand with dish detergent twice a week. And I was still on welfare. That black cloud loomed over me, making it difficult to see a way out.
But I had faith.
When I felt like selling drugs could be the answer, that faith made me stop. When I was about to run up on that youngster to rob him of his iPod so I could maybe sell it for some cash, that faith made me say not to violence. When I felt like I was all alone and nobody was willing to help, that faith made me trust. When felt like jumping in front of a subway train, that faith made me take the bus. That faith made me think that as bad as it was, even with that dark cloud over me, that if I tried hard enough one day things might possibly get better.
So I worked.
I didn’t even know what I was working for at the time, all I knew is that if I worked, and if I didn’t give up, that there may be brighter days ahead.
So I didn’t turn to crime. Or suicide. And I didn’t give up.
Instead, I went to class everyday, even when I was hungry with crushing headaches and a boulder in my stomach. Instead, I completed all of my readings and studied as best I could, hunger notwithstanding, for all of my tests. Instead, I decided to start taking medication for my anxiety and saw a therapist for my depression. Instead, I handed out dozens of resumes over the course of a month, eventually landing a job. And then after I got that job, I threw myself into the social world–which for me, with my social anxiety and distrust for others, made me feel like a bloody lamb being thrown into a pool of piranhas–until I eventually made friends. Then I made more friends. And then more friends after that. And I learned to trust.
Somewhere, interspersed in these happenings, I began public speaking, telling my story, hoping to help others find their faith. My faith was the fuel for my engine that coughed with the maladies of my personal history. Faith was what kept me working, even though I didn’t know what I was working toward or if the work would have any reward. Faith helped me find prosperity and happiness. Faith was what kept me going. Faith saved my life.
I could say that Nas gave me faith, but that would be wrong. I always had faith. Nas just helped me find it, black cloud or not. So now, I live my life with faith and I tell my story hoping to help others find their faith, because after all faith can save lives.
Faith is everything. Release yourself from your black cloud like I released myself from mine.
The world is yours.