I’ve never believed in the mantra “Make your haters your motivators.” However, when one does find success it is only natural to think about all of those who may have made negative comments that could deter others from one’s vision. The second to last song on Jay Z’s mixed-reviewed Blueprint 3 is one of my favorite songs he’s ever made. The song starts with an a minor chord and Pharrell Williams saying “3 in the morning on the West Side Highway.” The chords and the quote set the mood for the song (There is nothing like driving on the West Side Highway at 3 AM. I find it to be one of the best time and places to reflect while driving). Off the bat, the song had me drawn in. Mr. Carter then raps about all of the people who have told him that he didn’t have what it took to make it a lack of intellect, talent, and ambition. In spite of all of that, he persevered and made his vision come to fruition. By the end of the third verse, he seems to be looking back with satisfaction at all that he has achieved in spite of naysayers, his environment, and executives that all in some way said “no.”
I felt so inspired by what my teacher said…
No teacher could ever tell me I’d amount to nothing. I was way too smart for that. I spent elementary and middle school bored out of my mind reading my social studies book cover to cover, talking, and passing notes even when it was science or math class. When my family moved from Queens to Long Island, my sister and I went to our new high school for a placement test to see which classes would we would be best suited for. My guidance counselor looked at my test score with widened eyes at how well I did. She told my parents that I should be put in all honors courses, but my report card said in every class “Frequently misses homework” so she thought that I should take the regularly tracked classes and see where things go. Her analysis made sense. I didn’t find school challenging and was acing everything effortlessly, so I didn’t do homework. I didn’t need to. Nonetheless, I made one of my missions to make my way into all honors classes by the time I graduated from Baldwin High School in 2003.
In the fall of 2002, I accomplished my goal: with the exception of math (because I didn’t want to), all of my classes were honors and advanced placement (AP for short) which gave me the possibility to earn college credit. The class I was the most excited about being in was AP English. I liked to write. I’d been writing music and song lyrics since as long as I could remember. When I saw my teacher for the first time I told her I was looking forward to her class because I’m a writer. She replied “I saw your writing. I wouldn’t say that.” That rubbed me the wrong way. I made it my mission to not give a shit, fly through the course writing pretty decent papers about books I never read. I only read one book in her class, and still got high eighties and nineties on all of my papers. I made it known I didn’t read the books either. At the end of the year when the AP test scores came in she saw I got a 3 out of five on the exam. A 3 was enough to not have to take English 101 my freshman year in college. My teacher saw me and said “You got a 3 on the AP test! I was actually surprised to see that.” I responded to her “That’s your problem. You never thought much of me. The day before the exam my grandfather died and I saw him blue in the face. I didn’t care when I took the test.” The look of disgust on her face at my brazen response was all of the satisfaction I needed.
Ten and a half years later, I wish I could run into her again. She lived around the corner from me, and part of me wonders if she’s there and that I would run into her at Pathmark one day. I’d love for her to ask what I’ve been up to, and me tell her that I’ve become a writer, I’ve been written about in major publications, and have a following in every continent but Antarctica. Now, in no way was my twelfth grade English teacher my motivation, but I do love to thumb my nose at a person or two who have said something negative about me.
I’m different. I can’t base what I’m gon’ be based off of what everybody isn’t…
A few years ago I noticed that my motivation to accomplish tasks was just to shut people up. I was someone who just wanted to prove people wrong and have the satisfaction of knowing that I did. I realized that this train of thought made me a slave to everyone else. What fueled my successes was based on what others wanted or expected and not myself. Almost anything I did had menial satisfaction and all accomplishments felt like hollow victories because of this. I say all of this to say dream big and let the only motivation you have be your own. If you have goals that you want to reach, then let the reason why you do them be for yourself. Only let others be your motivation if it is to serve others. At this point, my inspiration for making most things happen is for my daughter to be happy. I want the best for her, so I work my ass off for her. I do it for whatever other children I may have and whoever their mother may be. I want my nephew to continue to see me as a role model. Even with that said, these fuel my ambition because I want them to.