A Product of the Recession

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It’s 5:33am and I’m on the Long Island Railroad headed to a new day job.

I have been putting off writing about this for six months. I was let go from my high paying job a little over a month into being hired. I was at my desk and was asked to come into the second-in-command along with the head of human resources on a Tuesday afternoon. My boss, the VP of the department was on vacation and I assumed it was a talk about bringing me on full time because that was the plan since I started.

Instead, I was being let go on the grounds that I wasn’t getting the job in which all parties knew this was false pretenses. They had too much pride to say “Hey, we are over budget. We’re sorry.” They knew they fucked up. They let go of the person who looked over the department’s budget; which was completely dumb.

I was loathing coming home that evening knowing I would be back to staying at home and hustling freelance work for a fourth of what I was working. That’s what I have been doing since I graduated from college in 2007: hustling.

My first job out of college was running the photo department at Walgreens. It sucked. It was menial and the manager had the nerve to tell me “In three years you could become a manager,” as if I didn’t have a college degree from a great school.

I left Walgreens to work at a mortgage loan company in October 2008. Who knew what was about to happen at the time. The real estate market had crashed and the company went bankrupt the day before I started. I had stints of selling cars during the “Cash for Clunkers” clusterfuck, bussed down motorcycles, sold insulation in homes, and some of everything else while living in Atlanta. Atlanta is the international headquarters of many corporations; but because of the Recession they all underwent hiring freezes. I took the test to become a science teacher and even applied to business school to get my MBA right before Timile got pregnant.

My twenties have been one big hustle. I chose Timile over the music business which was what I wanted to work in since I was eleven. While I didn’t regret the decision I was lost ever since. I had to make my own experience. I started doing project management for my father in 2009 on the side in 2009 and that has been the beginning of me figuring out something I’d like to do.

My student loans are in collections. In 2011, I had to make a choice: feed my new family of pay Sallie Mae $783 a month. That was a no-brainer. With that said, it’s pretty high on my criteria in selecting a wife that she have good credit because one of us have to (I say that jokingly but I kinda mean it).

In 2012 I started this blog as a means to let Timile and my friends and family see Cydney grow up in real time. A year and a half later I met a girl who was a professional writer and that pushed me. I had a nice little following and figured one day I’d write a book about my experiences…but somewhere between trying to be impressive, having something in common, my work ethic, and some other things I made this writing thing work out for me. I started getting paid to write about being a parent and all that comes along with it. The doors continued to open and I write for a few places now (the other reason I haven’t been able to get to writing on this blog as much as I wanted to since getting fired).

This new job is definitely a part of the hustle. It’s not a career and I’ll still need something with health benefits because of Cydney. I work 7-3:30, get home, do homework, raise Cydney and my nephew for a few hours, and writing about ten articles a week between this blog and other publications while looking for a project management position.

There are many twenty and now thirty somethings who were put into a situation like me. We’ve had to get creative and make a way out of no way.

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Growing Up and Springtime in the Atlanta University Center

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It’s the first day of spring, it’s snowing in New York, and it’s that time of the year when I miss living in Atlanta badly.  In Georgia, the “out like a lamb” portion of March is seventy degrees, and the dogwoods have begun to bud leaving that weird floral smell in the air.  The thought of that sounds much better than what I am currently observing out of my window.

A Friday afternoon in late-March makes me think about my days in college in the Atlanta University Center.  After a relatively short winter compared to the ones in New York that I grew up in, a semester coming to a close, and everyone fresh off partying out of town for Spring Break everyone is back outside.  Everyone would skip that 1 or 2pm class to hang out on the promenade that runs alongside Clark Atlanta University, the parking lot by Morehouse College, or Market Friday at Spelman College.  It was all about seeing and being seen.

Those days seem like forever ago.  I graduated in 2007, so memories of those afternoons are between eight and eleven years ago.  I think what I miss about that time is that while we were all adults it was the last licks of childhood innocence.  The only real responsibilities were taking care of our grades and what were we getting into that weekend.  It would be dope to relive that time in life again for somewhere between a week and a month.

I haven’t seen most of my friends that I hung out with regularly in college in years and I moved away from Atlanta in 2010.  Everyone is either knocking on thirty’s door or have already kicked it down.  One of the great things about social media is that we have had the opportunity to watch each other grow up in real time ever since we left college that wasn’t available to those who are just a few years older than us.  We may not interact with everyone; but we see everything…kinda like watching Cydney grow up.  I mention this because the reason I started this blog was so that almost all of us who were concentrated in one part of Atlanta, Georgia have dispersed to other parts of the country can know what my daughter is up to “Truman Show” style.

Many of the people that I hang out with and have referred to frequently on this blog are people I went to college with and we have got close since I came back home.  In fact, everyone who is a major character is.  Most of us were just acquaintances and we hang out because we have a common collegiate experience that is more fraternal than those who haven’t matriculated at these institutions will understand.

When Timile got pregnant and we relocated the goal was to move back to Georgia after Cydney was born.  Even when Timile was diagnosed with cancer, Atlanta was the home we had planned to get back to eventually.  I couldn’t see myself ever going back there to live.  I have too much going for me here in New York and I kind of like the idea of letting that be the dream differed that died along with Timile.

It’s almost 3pm and it’s snowing in New York on the first day of spring.  I’m looking forward to going outside and playing with my friends again.  I’m about to go pick my daughter up from school who just happens to be wearing a Spelman College shirt today.

The Homework Struggle

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April 28 will mark one year since Cydney started preschool.  My first post on this blog was titled “I Wasn’t Ready,” in which I lamented about my then eighteen month old daughter starting daycare that ended with me saying “That first day is going to be a bitch.” (Looking back at that first post made me cringe. We all have to start somewhere so thanks to those who have been reading since day one).

Cyd is an exceptionally functioning four year old and preschool has played a major role in this.  She comes home, tells me about her day, what little fights she got into with the other little girls, and then it’s time to do homework.  I hate homework time.

One would think something as simple as tracing letters and coloring something in would be simple.  Hell no.  Theoretically, it should take no more than five minutes; but on average it might be about twenty and even a half hour some days.  Why?  Because it’s Cydney.  She wants to do her own thing.  Her teacher says that she listens very well but sometimes gets into her moods and can be difficult.  Cydney is extra difficult with me just because I’m daddy.

We sit down, we pull out the pencil, Cydney will trace one or two letters, then she blows a spit bubble, she’s a lefty and starts writing with her right hand saying “I’m both handed!”–which actually is something I encourage, jumps around, makes noises, and then gets started on the next letter.  The whole time I am saying “Cydney!” in a soft tone that crescendos to the point where sometimes I am yelling.  She jumps, gets back to it, and then repeats the cycle I mentioned at the top of this paragraph.  I feel like I need a drink and go to bed but it will be 5:30 pm.

As Cydney evolves, so do I.  If I see something isn’t working, I must be proactive in changing how things are done in a manner to get the results I am looking for.  Cydney is practically scared of the number five.  This is because whenever she is behaving in a manner I don’t deem suitable I begin to count down from five.  If I make it to “one,” she knows I just might pop her or something is getting taken away.  As soon as I say “five” slowly and in a calming voice she jumps as if I just came out of a bush and scared her.

The five count has been my solution to homework time.  For each letter she traces she gets five seconds.  I’m not going to do anything to her; but I think the timer helps push her.  I count from one to five and once I get to six I begin to count louder.  Some letters take a little longer than five seconds, so in those cases I take it easy.  It has worked.  Most of the time, homework is completed within five minutes.

Well, that is about to change.  Cydney is an incredibly bright child and gets bored in class.  In an effort to push her, Cydney’s teacher has been giving Cydney less letters to trace and she has to write the letters on her own.  It takes a little longer and Cydney feels the urge to celebrate every time she finishes a letter and it looks good on her own.  I’m okay with this kind of distraction because she is encouraged to keep trying.  Eventually I will have to figure something out when this is no longer new to her.

In Her Father’s Footsteps

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It’s no secret that music is everything to me. There is always a song in my head and I talk about it all day. As much as I infer or refer to music in some sense it isn’t very long before an editor says something to me along the lines of “I know you’re a music person so can you write ______?”

The truth is I do kind of downplay it. Very seldom do I call myself a musician and it’s even more rare that I share anything I’ve created outside of my close friends these days. I guess it’s one of those things in which the more you deny it the more people see it in you.

I once told my mother in jest I’m going to start living my life as a musical. I said I’m going to randomly break out into song about whatever is going on at the current moment if I feel inspired. I tend to do this with Cydney and it has kinda caught on.

Cydney will do something she’s not supposed to do and I will sing out my reprimanding. She will respond right back with her own song. Nowadays almost everything is a song she’s making up. There’s the “Daddy I Just Made Stinky” song, “Daddy Where Are Youuuuu?” and whatever else comes to her mind and heart. I love it.

She’s taken a liking to music and it makes perfect sense. I have a little studio in our home and I’m constantly working on something. She comes in the room and just wants to play with her toys to be around it. She will look up from her imaginary world on the carpet and ask “Are you mixing right now?” She really knows the difference. If something is particularly standing out she will sing along. And of course she has to get her turn on the mic as well.

If I am in creative mode she wants to help out. She’ll climb on my lap and begin to press on the keys. It’s a bunch of noise but she’s happy and more than anything I think she just wants to be playing with her dad.

Cydney picks up on things quickly. If she doesn’t know a song she will begin to mumble along until she catches the melody and shortly after will be reciting the words. I once overheard her in the bathtub reciting words to verse three of “Hip Hop Hooray.” I was impressed.

My nephew would have choir rehearsal and sometimes Cydney would just come along. At three years old she took it upon herself to get up with the kids in rehearsal, learn the parts, and would sing along with them. She’s not quite ready for Sundays because that would be stressful; but soon.

This is something I will continue to encourage. When she turns five I will probably start her on piano lessons. My baby is becoming a person with her own interests and ideas. But I absolutely love that one thing she seems to have taken a liking is music just because of me.

One day I’ll post something of mine to share. But in the meantime here’s one of Cydney’s most recent creations.

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If I Could Compare My Life To An Album…

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If there was an album that could describe my life, it would be Jay Z’s fourth album: The Dynasty Roc La Familia. Jay Z released this album at the tail end of 2000. He was about sex weeks away from turning thirty one and you could just feel that the rapper we had all known and loved was about to shift into something else after this album did its numbers. I remember seeing The Source Magazine rates it with four and a half mics. I was in tenth grade and knew that his next album was going to get the coveted classic five mic rating. I also knew it wouldn’t be anything like I had heard from him before.

The intro is one of my favorite tracks by Jay Z ever. Kleeer’s “She Said She Loves Me” was sped up in a key that made it sound sinister and Shawn Cory Carter just had some shit to get off his chest. “Never read the Qu’ran or Islamic scriptures. Only Psalms I ever read was on the arms of my niggas.” Clever and shit-talking Jay on his A-game. The album was supposed to be a compilation showcasing the talents of Roc-a-fella Records; but Jay was in a zone so it became a solo effort.

I loved shit-talking, misogynistic, gun-toting, drug selling Hov. The album slowly evolved. Songs such as “Parking Lot Pimpin'” became introspective and soulful songs like “This Can’t Be Life” in which Jay rapped about having a stillborn child and slowly took is coat off displaying that he wears his heart on his Rocawear sleeve. If you think about it, this is the last album where he made blatant club bangers and no longer was the thug.

The Blueprint was released September 11, 2001 and the guy we knew and loved for the previous five years was gone. He was in his thirties, had the weight of the world on his shoulders, and once again had to get some shit off of his chest; but in a more refined manner. He was polished. The way he dressed changed, he stopped wearing earrings, and fell in love. Looking back, he’s been that Jay Z almost thrice as long as he’s been the big pimpin’ dope man. He became a businessman who transcended hip hop staying true to “I do this for my culture…I’m overcharging niggas for what they did to the Cold Crush [Brother].”

I feel a lot like this. I took most of the last six months from my blog off. I have been getting myself together while doing this victory lap of my twenties. I’m still the shit-talking Chad Milner; but not only can I feel something in the air, I am changing myself. The pressure has been on for me. If I am a piece of coal going through a metamorphosis part of me is starting to crystallize and look like a diamond. Slowly but surely, everything in my life is changing and evolving. I’m almost thirty so this change is right on time.

Hov knew before he laid down one verse that he was about to change into something else…so he gave Dynasty as a means to meet his fan base where they were at to transition with him in a palatable fashion. I will be back to writing regularly as I am do the same.