NGU (Never Give Up): Last Year Being Broke(n)

What can I say? For most of my life, I’ve been a heavy thinker. An over-thinker even. Thinking so much that I would self-sabotage myself and end up doing more harm than good. So when the clock was set to turn to 2018 at the end of last year, I set out to think less and act more. Jumping off the cliff is what I called it. If you never jump, how can you learn how to fly? I set out to control what I could control and stop talking (or thinking) myself out of things and to be fearless. I spent New Year’s Eve in my apartment by myself writing out my goals and praying for everything I wanted to accomplish this year. No going out that night, no getting drunk, faded or any of the typical things we would do. I wanted to bring in the year manifesting what I wanted to achieve that year and take it a step further by bringing in the year acting on it. I even dropped the first song off my debut album that night. I knew that this year, things needed to change. I knew that this year was THE year. I set out to change my thinking, change my circumstances and change my fortunes. I was two months away from dropping my first album that I had spent that last two years tirelessly working on and was convinced that my entire life was going to change because of it. No more working jobs, 9 to 5’s… I could say goodbye to all of that. Struggling financially? Forget about it. Depression? Nope. This was the last year being broke(n). I was going to be able to help out my family from hardships we were going through, put my team in position where they didn’t have to work 9 to 5’s anymore and though everything wouldn’t be perfect, we’d finally be on our way to living the life we so desperately wanted. And then something strange happened.

I dropped my album, and although the reception was great and enormous, my life was still the same. I was still miserable at the same job, making the same pennies on the dollar for giving up my valuable time. Staying up until 4 or 5 in the morning working on my musical craft just to wake up at 7,8 in the morning to get ready for work and do it all over again. I was drained. Mentally, spiritually, emotionally… I just couldn’t understand. I mean, I had worked so hard for this moment and though I could see progress, it just wasn’t happening fast enough or in the way that I wanted. At that moment, so much was going through my head and my life and I was in a conflicted space. In one way, I could see the light at the end of the tunnel and I was experiencing things in life that let me know I was well on my way to becoming what I defined as successful for myself. The day my album dropped, I was in San Francisco, California celebrating the release with X. I hadn’t been to California since I was a kid and I had never been to the Bay before, yet there we were, in the mountains overlooking the Golden Gate bridge, going to Oracle arena to watch the Warriors play, eating seafood at a restaurant on the ocean. It was a surreal moment for some Houston hard hitters traveling the world. Two months later, I took a trip to Los Angeles for my birthday and there X and I were again, in the mountains overlooking the city, and receiving love in these respective cities for the album that we had just released. Taking in a basketball game between my two favorite teams, the Rockets and the Lakers, AT STAPLES CENTER! I had been dying to go to Staples Center for years man. I even managed to get my music playing in Flight Club during the trip. It was an eye-opening experience for me. I felt like I was living a preview of what my life was about to become. The energy around me in those moments were crazy and I just knew success was on the horizon for us. Until, then, another strange thing happened.

After I returned to Atlanta from California the second time, something just felt different. I felt out of place. I felt alone. I felt as though all the momentum we were building was coming to a halt. Returning back to the mundane life of clocking into a job every day after getting a taste of the life I wanted to live was disheartening and devastating. Mentally, I just couldn’t adjust back to it. I was over it. I was miserable waking up going to that job every day, not to mention the job itself was a very toxic environment for me to be in. It just wasn’t a space that was conducive to my mind or health. I was feeling less inspired when I would get off and get back home because I was so drained from that lifestyle and space. As the weeks and months passed, it just didn’t get any better. I was so stressed, partly from being so much in my head about it and partly for beating myself up because I wasn’t accomplishing the goals that I had set out for myself at the beginning of the year. Around June, I began experiencing some health issues because of this stress. I was having nerve issues in my arm and leg on the right side of my body, which made me terrified because I had never experienced anything like this and I didn’t know what the problem was. I couldn’t sleep at night because my leg and arm would literally be restless and shaking. I pride myself on great health and staying healthy so anything that’s not that scares me. I didn’t know if I was going to have a stroke or what and I know that aint nothing to play with. Those health issues combined with more financial stress forced me to cancel my second LA trip at the last minute that I was supposed to take that month during the BET Awards week. I was devastated because I knew that trip would lift my spirits and energy back up to where it needed to be, not to mention the business that I had planned out there for that week. Well, I had to cancel it all. In that same week, from a culmination of all that was happening, all that I was going through at the time and the past few months, mentally, I just completely broke down. For the first time, I seriously considered giving up on my musical dreams. I was just so drained and felt the weight of the world on my shoulders. In that moment, I cut myself off from the world. I stopped answering the phone, stopping going places outside of work and just tried to get myself mentally under control. As the weeks went on, I was able to, sort of, snap back into it to the point where I was being social again and no longer thinking of quitting. Yet, I still didn’t feel right. I knew something else needed to change. My life as I knew it could not stay the same. I just didn’t know in what way I wanted things to change. I began making plans to quit my job in the next 3 months. And then another strange thing happened.

I was fired from my job the very next month in a complete random event that I did not see coming and couldn’t prepare for. Talk about being conflicted of emotions like happiness and relief combined with fear and that WTF moment where I had to figure out what I was going to do now. I was fired a whole two months before I had planned to quit. Bills were still due and piling up and I had no idea how I was going to make it through. I spent the next two weeks back in my hometown of Houston getting my head right and trying to figure out where I would go from here. Over the next two months, I went through a lot more emotional hardships as the pressure continued to rise as each bill came in and the days came closer to me losing my crib. I was an emotional roller coaster. I fought hard and tried to figure something out but, ultimately, I ended up losing my apartment. I cried. I mean like really cried. I was broken. I appeared strong to those around me but on the inside, I was crushed. My music career was on hold because I didn’t have the money to fund my dreams and take care of the things I planned for it in that season. I didn’t even have the funds to pay my bills. I applied for job after job after job, even though I didn’t want to work, just so I could get my career back on track. Ironic right? But the phone was silent. No one was calling me back. The few jobs that did call me in for an interview, eventually never called me back with a job offer.

To this day, I’m still searching. I’m still trying daily to get my career back on track but through it all, there have been two bright spots to this period and they are this. One, I have been able to mentally catch a rest and reset for my mind that it so desperately needed. I had to realize that I had never truly had a break. I graduated college the year before and immediately started working. Prior to that, we’ve spent all our years since about the age of 5 or 6 every year in school. Never took a semester off of college. Worked jobs and internships in the summers so I never took a second to gather myself. Constantly, daily working on my music career. I didn’t even realize it. I was running on fumes at that point. Although I would have preferred it to not have been forced upon myself the way it was, I am so thankful and refreshed because of the rest. I am able to see certain things and situations much clearer now these days. I reclaimed my energy and gathered my second wind. I got the chance to really sit and map out the next phases of my life without anything else interfering in that that I didn’t give permission to. I even got my time back that I so desperately craved. Now it was all about what was I going to do with it? I was determined to make this life work and make it work for me and not the other way around. Even if I was to go back working, my mentality behind it would be different and I wouldn’t allow it to work me to death. Use it as a means to an end, in your own way, to accomplish the things you strive for. Create your own route, don’t look side to side or compare yourself to others and take control of your life. Tunnel your VSN. I guess you can say that because of all that I have been through, I’m stronger and wiser because of it.

The second bright spot is the direct material my life has provided me for my next album that I am currently working on. I have been so inspired to pour all my life experiences this year into the music that it is shaping up into an even more personal body of work than Defrost was. I’m writing this album in real time as I’m living it out, which is just how I predicted this album process would go. I mapped out the theme of the album at the beginning of the year and as I look back on the months that went by after, it’s amazing how I almost predicted all of this happening, just not nearly in the way I expected it to unfold. I knew I needed change in my life. People had to go, jobs needed to be changed, mindsets had to be shifted, time had to be spent differently and so on and so forth. Yet, at the beginning of the year when I prayed for change, I thought it would be in the form of my dreams becoming my reality. Instead, it has been a constant learning lesson and shake up for me to persevere and push through. I realized that my life had to, first, change and mold me into those dreams internally so I can then take that and mold it into my dreams becoming my reality externally.

When I look back, what I asked for at the beginning of the year is still happening. It just didn’t and hasn’t happened in the way that I expected or anticipated. The route is longer, harder, and more painful but in the end, I will be stronger and better prepared to handle all that the next level of life will throw at me. I’m still fighting every day to get back on track and get through this rough period in life but I’m positive and thankful. I always thank God for the good and the bad. The lessons and the blessings. I’m encouraged because I feel as though the hardest parts are already over. Now it’s about staying focused and diligent on seeing and trusting this process to the end. New people have come into my life, old people have exited. I don’t talk to or see a lot of friends and family anymore, some because we actually fell apart, some just because that’s how life goes sometimes. There are peaks and valleys in life. Reasons for different seasons. Yet, through it all, I’m more focused than ever. I am hard at work on my album and other endeavors and once the troublesome reins are off, I will be able to get back to accomplishing the goals I set out for myself. I am staying ready so I never have to get ready. But had I continued down the route I was going, I would have done more damage to myself than even this period of life has brought upon me. Life is hard man. Life is even harder when you are working to be extremely successful and not settle for average. It takes a lot of work, blood, sweat and tears. The road is long and often lonely but, in the end, it is so worth it. The key is having different practices and habits to get through those tough times. Meditate. Prayer. Writing down goals. Writing out your thoughts just to get them out your head. Working on your craft. Trusting God and the universe. Organizing your life the way you want it to be, not what someone else wants for you. Surrounding yourself with positive energy and people. The power of the tongue and the mind. Watch what you say and what you think. They have much more of an impact on the circumstances of your life than you think they do. Learn to trust. Whether that’s learning to trust yourself or others. No matter what though, you can’t go through life by yourself or without yourself, so you have to find that balance. And loving yourself. Love yourself more than you love anybody else or more than anybody could love you except for God. These are all some keys to live by and practice daily on your journey to success. Practice these habits at all times, even when things are going right in your life. Be strong and enjoy the process. I know, it’s easier said than done, especially when things are rough, but these are the moments we’ll look back on that most defined our success in the years to come. It wasn’t the moments when everything was great and everyone was praising you. It was the moments of hardship that could either make or break you and we had to push through to get to the next level.

One of my goals when making music is to inspire people. The overwhelming response from my Defrost album on how much it genuinely helps people get through their days or certain moments in life is exactly what I make the music for. That’s what I live for more than the money and accolades. I mean, I listen to Defrost myself in these moments and it amazes me how much it even gets me through as if it’s not even me I’m listening to. Those songs and words resonate even more so now than before after everything I’ve been through this year since I released this album. The day I was fired, I listened to Defrost top to bottom and just broke down in tears because of how relevant it still was in my life and how those words I wrote were even more prevalent and fitting. But in that same moment, even though I didn’t know how, I knew everything was going to be okay. I knew I was going through this for a reason and was going to come out of this for the better.

Thank you to everyone who has supported me and been by my side. Thank you to all the people who haven’t or left my side because you have all made me stronger and wiser. Thank you to the people who are reading this who even got to this last paragraph because it shows you care about me and most importantly, yourself. I wanted to share my story to get someone else through because I know I’m not the only one going through rough times. This is me still acting on my goals I had at the beginning of the year even in my dark days. This is me not being selfish with my gifts and keeping them to myself. This is me being fearless like I said I wanted to be. This is what it looks and feels like to have jumped off the cliff. It’s scary as hell, no lie, but I wanted to inspire someone to keep going and to know that no matter what, we are still in control and that this is attainable for anyone. It’s just a mindset and willingness to push through any and everything. We may not be able to control everything but we can control our attitude, work ethic, energy and how we press on through trials and tribulations. I was trying to figure out how I wanted to express myself and I realized that I’m blessed to have multiple avenues that I can do it through. It doesn’t have to be just one so I will continue to do this, even as I continue to fight to get through this period in my life. Create through the pain and trouble is what I like to describe it as.  I’ll be writing more, dropping visual content, new music, new music  visuals, and new introspection into my journey and my life in hopes that I can change the world or at the very least, spark the mind who will.  The motivation is just to keep creating things that will outlive my physical self. Be timeless. Create things that will be here long after I’m gone. Remember, the ones who win are just the ones who NEVER GIVE UP. Keep fighting, keep pushing, keep creating and I’ll talk to you soon. Stay up!

 

Dee Ace

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