journal entry #12 the dropout that flopped.

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when i was in elementary school and we did this thing, chapel, every friday. the whole school would gather and we’d basically have an assembly with a little God involved. one friday chris tucker showed up with cameras. he told us he was filming a movie about him becoming president. he gave us a speech about chasing our dreams and the importance of hard work. about 10 years i was sitting in the jerk chicken spot in washington dc with my father. i was explaining to him that i was no longer attending howard university. i said, God was leading me somewhere else and howard is no longer the place for me. he didn’t like it but he understood. one of my best friends just signed to the hottest rap label around and. it was one of those events that will always stay with me. i joined him on tour after i finished summer school. 

my remaining time in dc felt like the end of a chapter. i hung out with my friends as much as i could. every time i was invited to a party, i went. it was crazy because my summer school grades were up. i was talking to women i was too afraid to talk to before. i wasn’t the only one leaving. chase b was a year older than me and decided to bounce too. he was going to work with music and so was i. i didn’t say much to him about it. i just figured i’d see him around. in august i left dc and haven’t been back since.

tour life is crazy but i loved the grind. i was built for it. we were in new york for a press run and we were staying at this cool brooklyn apartment. when you’re traveling with a bunch of dudes, the sleeping situation is always murky. this time i was the odd man out. i wasn’t t trying to share a bed with another man, not because of homophobia but out of pride. i wasn’t doing the floor either. instead, i lined three wooden chairs and laid across them wearing a hoodie. small sacrifices are nothing when you’re chasing your dreams. the problem was that i was unsure of what my dreams were.

i was on the road working the merch table. every night i’d be sitting in front of the venue. there were nights that i didn’t get to see the show. you better have a function if you’re in or around the music industry. i was just a guy that sold t-shirts but that wasn’t why i dropped out of school. i wanted something bigger than that. i didn’t wanna rap but i thought of myself as an artist. all i had was a love for film and a desire to create them. the tour was ending soon and i had to figure out what was next for me. 

that winter marked the end of the tour. i visited nearly every state in the continental us. my instagram was starting to do numbers but that was it. only had memories left. i was back in chicago and the furthest away from my dreams. things were cool but i didn’t feel like i had a function. when you’re on a team, good ideas belong to everybody. all i had was ideas no way to execute. i no longer had a function. the grind was thing that helped me feel a part of the industry. i enjoyed the late studio sessions with hella blunt smoke. i liked the rearranging tracks and lyrics to obtain the best product. the problem was that i didn’t work for the label. it became clear to me that i was just one of the homies at the studio.

i decided to visit one of my homies from howard, syd, in the west loop. she was going to columbia for film editing and was about to graduate soon. columbia sounded like the move. i   wanted to learn how to execute. i applied to columbia college and received a letter of acceptance shortly after. i was back in school. around this time my friends from howard were graduating. the same people i started this journey with had finished. i left howard to get ahead but i felt so far behind. 

my first year at columbia was tight. i was staying in the west loop at the same building i once visited syd. i was learning about cinema all day and i loved it. i directed and wrote my first short film that year. networking is a necessary evil in the film and music industry. it was hard for me to network at columbia because i was going to school with white kids younger than me. we didn’t have much in common and i didn’t have much patience. it was great to have a function again.

the next year didn’t go as smoothly. i couldn’t afford my west loop apartment of the spring semester. after a cash strapped fall semester, i was done again. around finals time my dog gave me a call. he told me he wanted me to go to cali because it was album time. one door closes and another door opens. i had another chance in the music industry. the plan was to parlay whatever musical industry connections and money i could make into a way into the film industry.

i served different functions during that time. some days i was an a&r, some days i was a collaborator, and other days i was an assistant. small sacrifices for the pursuit of my dreams. i even dj’d a show in los angeles, one in new york, and one in south africa. i’ll always appreciate the opportunity because of the experience i had gained. i was in the music industry when i was out there. from long studio sessions with different artists to meetings at record labels: this time it was different. well thats what i thought. eventually i ended up back in chicago, again. 

i was so fucking disappointed. i put in a lot of sweat equity just to end up back in chicago without any money to show for it. my dreams were further away than ever. i was older and fell even more behind. those years of school don’t pay for themselves. i flopped. my mind was beginning to play tricks on me. i was filling with regret. why didn’t i just stay? i would’ve graduated and probably found a steady job. it didn’t help that chase was killing shit as a dj. i was jealous because he found his function. 

i couldn’t get a job. every interview ended with a handshake and a rejection email. dark times. the girl i was dating didn’t want to date me anymore which confirmed that i was as far behind as i thought. i wrote a feature length script during that time not because i loved to write but because i needed to. my mind would play my favorite moments from howard on loop. i replayed my time in la picking out each regret one at a time. i attach so much of my worth to my function. i wanted my function to be an extension of myself like chase. all this time spent sacrificing, i felt like i sacrificed parts of myself just to end up in the same place i started in.

one day i decided to get back in columbia. i only had a year left and my options were running low. it felt good to study film again. the students were younger and i was older but it was ok. i stayed to myself and worked my ass off. i took a class about the urban space. it was a writing class where we studied the psychology of city through media. i was still in columbia for film but this was my favorite. towards the end of the semester my professor told me something i’d never heard. he said my writing was beautiful. some of the students agreed and i hadn’t blushed that hard since high school. 

just like that, i had found my function. every week i wrote a different story for that class and each one felt personal like it wasn’t for class. i wanted to leave a piece of myself in everything i wrote. it should feel like a living thing. i’d fallen in love with film now i was in love with narrative. i write from an emotional place but my years of school taught me structure. i never read my own writing or read the feedback so i had no idea if it was good or not. it felt good to finally do something right.

i unofficially graduated in december and will be walking in may. the plan is to write and direct my own stuff this year. i’m going to keep the site poppin’ because why not? i no longer view myself as a flop simply because i didn’t fold. some days i feel like my life would be easier if i stayed at howard but i don’t think i would’ve found my function. i’m still not where i want to be or anywhere close. my dreams don’t seem as far as they used to be so i’ll keep on chasing them.

Kelvin Hicks