Luvvie Ajayi and Yvonne Orji’s new podcast, Jesus and Jollof, is the single greatest discovery of my summer. Not only are they hilarious but they’re also people who’ve been on my radar for a while now. In this week’s installment, they talked “the grime before the glow.” and maaaann, listen. When I say it was a word for my SOUL!
When following your dreams, you’re going to come off as completely insane to a lot of people – including your parents. I know my mother has been side-eyeing me hard about my life decisions lately.
From moving to NYC without a clue as to where she would lay her head that night – in Yvonne’s case – to being fired and not being able to find work – in Luvvie’s case – the grime before the glow will really have you feeling hopeless and wanting to throw in the towel.
I’ve had a job – on and off – since I was 16. I’m currently 22 and fresh out of undergrad. While I never had a lot of money per se, it’s been something that I could find when I really needed or wanted it.
When I tell you I applied to every cashier/help desk/retail associate/crew member position on Indeed in the Washington D.C. area and came up with NOTHING, I’ll admit I was shook. I had never been so broke in my life.
I don’t subscribe to one particular religion now but I was raised a Christian. (Personally I think all religions are just different pathways to the same destination, but I digress.) When I’m back home, I still attend regular church services because the church is more than a place of worship. It’s literally the cornerstone of my hometown community and I grew up knowing many of the folks still there. The biggest draw, still, is our campus ministry that’s catered toward college age folks. They have meetings on Tuesday’s at a Starbuck’s that’s close to my mom’s house and I showed up this past Tuesday to commune with old friends and maybe glean something meaningful from the conversation.
The topic of discussion was temptation.
In a nutshell, we talked about how temptation works and how it functioned in our respective lives and surmised that the devil tempts us with the things that we most desire. Our desires and what is best for us are not always one in the same. If you’re on a diet and you desire a slice of cake, the devil will find a way to put a piece of cake in front of your face to derail you from what you ought to be focused on.
Cake is a light example, but for me, the desire was money.
Here I am applying to all these jobs out of my thirst for a regular check and I never once thought, Maybe a job is simply not what I’m supposed to be doing right now. We reached the conclusion that God has a way of breaking you down to build you up. In those toughest moments, you’ll find the true test of your fortitude and faith. How do you sharpen a sword? By holding it against a grinding stone. How are diamonds created? Pressure.
The takeaway, for me, or rather the reaffirmation was that though things are not as we would want them to be, things are always as they should be.
Bringing it back together…
With rent due, bills to pay, and Sallie Mae breathing down her neck, Yvonne reflected on how she didn’t even have the $7.75 to ride the subway to and from to get a dollar slice of pizza. Two months after her insurance ended, Luvvie found out she had FOUR extra wisdom teeth that needed to come out and had to put the $4,000 operation on a credit card with no means of paying that bill in sight.
In truth, I didn’t need much money at all, it was just something I was used to having and I was just jonesing for expendable income. I didn’t have any bills – I wasn’t paying rent, I had no credit cards, my loans are still in deferment because grad school – but I blew through my savings within my first month in D.C. on Ubers, drinks, weed, and eating out – rookie mistake, I know. Don’t remind me. For the month of July, I ate Ramen noodles and drank water almost everyday. I managed to land a couple freelance gigs here and there and could afford to buy hot pockets and TV dinners – a step up from Ramen – and put a little bit on my Metrocard from time to time, but for the most part I was walking everywhere I went. I ended up losing 15 pounds over the course of the summer, putting me at a weight I hadn’t seen since high school.
But I was still alive. I walked diligently to the library or to a coffee shop in Columbia Heights everyday – a mile and half there and back – sending out cold pitches, applying for internships and fellowships, receiving more rejection letters, and writing blog posts. If the job hunt wasn’t going like I wanted it to, then perhaps, my intuition told me, I need to focus my energy elsewhere – on my writing. So that’s what I did. And really it didn’t make sense to apply for jobs in D.C. after June since I’d be leaving at the end of July anyway.
While I cannot tell you right now if my intuition to abandon my job hunt and focus on writing was right (I’m still unemployed), Yvonne and Luvvie’s story gives me hope. This week’s episode was all about the grime and next week will be the journey to the glow. But if you are familiar with either of these women, you know that something eventually had to give because Yvonne’s out here opening up for Chris Rock and playing Molly on the Peabody award-winning show, Insecure and Luvvie is a New York Times Best Seller.
I’ve heard similar stories from people like Issa Rae, Lena Waithe, Justin Simien, Kid Fury to name a few… the list goes on. Everybody who is where I want to be, in one capacity or another, was once where I am now.
So maybe just maybe, my breakthrough is coming. This struggle summer could not have been for naught.