I said my final goodbye to my grandmother yesterday. About 30 minutes away from the burial site, the alternator in my mother’s car gave out; therefore, my mother, Cydney, and were unable to attend. Before the alternator ceased, we managed to make it to safety, parked, and waited for a tow service at a gas station alongside the Long Island Expressway. Less than minutes after the car was towed, my father picked the three of us. We traveled back home, the three generations to remain from our direct bloodline, crammed into a Jeep Liberty. After a moment to recollect from the day’s events, we all went out to eat as a family. I found solace in how the afternoon played out.
A few days earlier, my good friend, Fritz invited our crew to watch him venture into stand-up comedy. After years of “you should give stand-up a chance, you’d be good at it,” Fritz went a few times with his significant other; but he was ready for us to support him. Despite my long day, I still wanted to go and watch my friend. I figured it would be a good practice in self-care to take some time for myself and spend it with my friends.
On my way to Brooklyn, I called one of my best friends, Kofi, to converse about my grandmother’s homegoing and begin to process how I felt about it. Less than an hour after dinner with my family, I was on the road; I felt in order to recalibrate and be fully present in a completely different setting, I needed to let a little out and let my friend take care of me.
It was a good show. The people involved turned a rooftop in Bushwick into a comedy club with the beauty of Manhattan’s skyline as its backdrop. As I looked off at the city, with good friends around me, I came to a few realizations.
Each comedian had three-to-five minutes to get on the mic and do a set. I could tell each person who worked out material needed it. It was their outlet. I was one person, who had quite a long day and found my way to this event for my own personal reasons. Mine was one of several stories of people, who had a day with over 60,000 thoughts and experiences. To get on stage, no matter how great or fucked up of a day one may have had, and attempt to make a room of people who came there for you to make them laugh, is incredibly hard and lots of pressure. I found it commendable each person who attempted-good and bad sets-gave their all in what many consider one of the hardest things to do.
Every person on the rooftop had a dream. Some saw themselves as the next big thing and this night was part of their origin story. Another may have tried and tried for years, and the night was their personal swan song. For someone else, stand-up was something they wanted to try out, but had one story to tell, and would never want to do it again. One person was a student of comedy, but it is their hobby; they have this thing they have been passionate about all of their lives and are more than happy to keep it as so. Somehow or another, everything everyone there gave their perspective, somehow based on their life experiences and creativity.
I could have had one of the best days of everyone in attendance, for all I knew. This is a well I opt to draw from to find compassion for others and myself. As crazy as we all things our individual lives are, everyone who has ever lived, has a crazy life. We do our best to make the best our limited time: there are regrets, highs and lows, people we’ve said goodbye to, harmed and done harm to others, been selfish, and almost anything else under the sun we could all think of because we’ve all done these same things.
On the day, my grandmother returned to the dust, I was reminded how certain this fate is for us all. My grandmother lived a long, full, wonderful life, and she was given all her flowers while she was alive to appreciate them. Her story was one of 8 million in a large, condensed city.
I sat on the rooftop in a neighborhood I spent a significant amount of time in. My great grandmother-the mother of my grandmother who just passed-used to live a few blocks away. My mother taught in neighboring Brownsville for over 30 years; her last school was less than 10 minutes away. I remembered Melvin, the school van driver, who shuttled several elementary schoolers which included my sister and me, from Queens to a school my whole family once attended nearby. The place itself had evolved because so many people had taken their own stories- dreams, visions for themselves, regrets, and much more-with them and in concert, created life in a moment as we all knew it; an older white woman who lived in Bushwick for decades and saw the change, cracked jokes about it.
Around the time I was a pre-k student off Quincy street, there was another person who wanted to make the best of their experiences and circumstances off Broadway. You can hear it in his verse on “Seen It All,” which was so autobiographical, it has been said JAY-Z teared up as he recorded it.