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Am I Haunted By The Ghosts Of Those Whom Could’ve Been?

When I stop and think about my career motivations (writing/journalism), I wonder are they mine alone? Truth is, they probably aren’t just because I’m passionate about writing. What happens regularly when I write is I’m always thinking of others.

My thoughts are filled with the people I’ve met in life/recently that shared stories of their own aspirations and quit in these pursuits. They’ve quit for all the reasons imaginable that marginalized people often encounter: Gatekeeping, privilege, profuse competition, lack of resources, being invisible, and etc.

I suppose you can say they are like ghost haunting me. I think of the what may have been. The incredible work these people could've done, that the world won't see because of how unfair things are constantly.

Credit: Inc.com

I’ll be blunt and say I often find myself frustrated with my career prospects and projection. Opportunities to be heard and regularly seen requires Herculean efforts. I’ve seen these efforts from friends and mutuals only to be rewarded for the smallest of returns. This year alone, I too found myself working to near points of exhaustion after my primary job just to write. Why? Just so I could share my work and show whomever I regularly produce work.

It’s at this point, I wonder why and what am I doing? Then I hear the whispers of the ghosts — They too have been here, many have stopped, and others persisted. So I decide to keep going and create myself a healthier creative schedule and implement better practices.

Because I’m being very honest here, a lot of this may read as if I’m angry. You’d be right. What emotions would you use to describe the feeling of seeing your and others’ amazing work being ignored for the “easy option”. This is something you learn to work with for years. The feeling that stays in the back of your mind when you’re at your day time job. The feeling that nags at you if you haven't published something. The feeling that won’t go away even when you’re on vacation. Again, you learn to live with it. — Just like the ghosts

Sometimes my fortitude chips away and I feel like I let the ghosts down. When does this happen? It’s when diversity reports are released or when I see the same demographic being hired like clockwork. Reports show that everyone in every industry can do better to diversify themselves (you too journalism!). It’s at these times I wonder am I right to be frustrated? I mean, I’m hyper aware marginalized people are regularly applying to these jobs. Hell, I am too but again you learn to live with the fact you get passed up.

The ghosts acknowledge what I don’t want to admit. Maybe some spaces are ultimately destined to be filled by the majority. Perhaps, the marginalized people that are there maybe unicorns. I don’t want to erase the massive amounts of hard work they do/have done to be deserving of their careers. But at the same time, I can’t help but wonder am I or my peers on the outside missing something? — we aren’t missing anything it’s all by industry design and intent.

Maybe just giving up and retreating to the easy path of my current corporate career makes more sense. Ah giving up, how many times have I thought about this? The retreat from my goals in life would be a very easy one. Most people find themselves here and the allure is powerful — the ghosts whisper the same. I then get flashbacks, like when an ex-girlfriend all but told me my career in professional writing was a waste of time.

Credit: Ragan.com

After all, having job security in a steady career field makes more sense logically — the ghosts nod in response. But would I be living if I did this? Giving up would be an admission to the status quo. “Yes, I am in agreement that you have enough Black writers out there. Yes, I agree that you totally understand diversity and inclusion”. Please, I would rather vomit violently than ever speak these words at any point in my life. Until, the statistics and optics prove otherwise.

When I think of my frustrations and the stories of those whom could’ve been, I have a new realization. My motivations are a mix of confidence, optimism, and anger. Yes anger, over the fact that the hurdles I have to get over really are mountains. Like I said before, you learn to live with it.

There’s a certain irony at play here as well. All these feelings here, I’ve written about and shared publicly at one point or another. I’ve come to the accept that my expressed disappointment in industries has probably shut the doors to the very spaces I’d like to be in. It is what it is. — The ghosts are glad I keep it real and I am too.

On the topic of opportunities, I admit that maybe I’m not taking all of them. There are a number of programs available to help marginalized people. These programs exist to help us leverage the playing field for these career fields where we are scarce. However, I do have to work a full time job to support myself. I also have to produce my own professional work. So, how would I find the time?

Credit: This Way Up

Huh, so maybe I’m being punished for not being a part of programs that can help me be seen because I literally have to work to live? Cool, it’s like how I wasn’t able to intern during college for the same reasons. On the subject of platforms, programs, and movements to help minorities, I remember a certain series of tweets. A writer was lamenting the reality that most people of color, almost always need this kind of help. If not for this aid and exposure of our work, many would not get hired. Because again the reality is these mostly white occupied spaces wouldn’t hire us. — if left to their own devices.

This then invites the uncomfortable feelings of “why I was hired?”. Being hired as the only “insert racially marginalized identity” carries an air of tokenism. I can only imagine what that experience would be like. I certainly, don’t want to be “the only Black guy here”. However being the first or few is very much a thing. These uncomfortable feelings occupy my mind too — But the ghosts tell me this is unavoidable because this is the reality.

Despite all of this, the haunting, and the revolving cycle of questioning myself I’ve gotten messages to keep going. To stay belligerent, completely honest, to hold people accountable and never placate to anyone. Because reaching a desirable career goal is all well and good. Yet, if it comes from sacrificing my views or beliefs what’s the point? No one is free of criticism if they want to do better and solve their issues.

Credit: Thrive Global

Keep in mind, nothing written/shared here is new or unique only to myself. I don't know when I'll make it or if I'll break through. But I think of them, those that could've made it. Yeah that sounds like a heavy weight on my back. But this is all a part of my motivations to work on my creative endeavors. The ghosts aren’t a detriment in anyway they keep me focus. I have to stay focused, authentic, unapologetic, stubborn and that’s right angry.

I am haunted by the ghosts of those whom could’ve been. They tell me: to hell with the status quo.

Written by

I bat for PoCs, marginalized, equality, inclusion & geekdom. I'm warming the bench until coach subs me in. https://linktr.ee/jeffreyrousseau

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