Now and Not Yet — "Jesus and Jollof" Response
Okay so shall we talk about the emotional breakdown I had Tuesday after listening to Yvonne Orji and Luvvie Ajayi’s podcast, Jesus and Jollof? Sure, why not.
First of all for anyone who doesn’t know, Jesus and Jollof as I mentioned is a podcast hosted by Luvvie Ajayi and Yvonne Orji where they talk about all things life and lessons learned, but with a VERY distinct Nigerian spin. And by “Nigerian spin”, I mean most of the podcast is done in thick Nigerian accents that the two of them slip in and out of with ease. I honestly had no idea Yvonne had it like that and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a *little* jealous, but it also makes me feel like I’m home every time I listen to it so I can’t be that mad. Plus, now I can practice my own accent! CHAI look at God ooooo! (I’m getting pretty good right?)
So anyway everyone needs to listen to this podcast, ESPECIALLY if you’re Nigerian, and/or are in the middle of hammering out a creative entrepreneurial career for yourself, because it’s hard and they know exactly how hard it is because they did and are doing it, and you will feel seen.
Anyway. The episode I listened to Tuesday was about “The Grime Before the Glow Up” aka the shit you gotta go through, and the shit they both did go through, to get to the dream. First of all, as Luvvie spoke I was already feeling some type of way because it felt like she was describing my life. Having a blog that she treated as a hobby for years, not realizing that she had a gift in writing, thinking “Everyone can do what I do”, looking for another job when she got laid off instead of focusing on her blog because she STILL wasn’t taking herself seriously... You know when you relate to something so intensely, so thoroughly in your bones and soul that it kind of feels like you’re going to burst? I sat in my car feeling like I could expanded from window to window, listening to her story mad like “God why won’t you lay me off? You laid Luvvie off so she could realize her dream, why you ain’t laid me off yet?” You know, shit like that.
(*Disclaimer: I understand that’s not at all how being laid off works and it can be a very complicated and layered grieving process for many so don’t come for me.)
Then Yvonne starts telling a story about how one night, when she was living in her friend’s basement apartment (rent-free cause she was broke), she came home hungry but there was no food in the house. She knew of a place in downtown with a $2.75 pizza special (2 slices and a soda), but she also needed $5 to take the train there and back. All together she would need $7.75 to be able to feed herself that night and she just. Didn’t. Have it. As she started to lament, she felt God speaking to her so she got a pen and started writing down all of these dreams and plans, like lofty shit about where she would be, what she would do, what her life would look like, all that. And she said at the end of it she cried and looked at the list and was like “God, it’s not that I *don’t* believe you… But I’m hungry now.”
Child, I lost it. Exploded into sobs, curled up on my couch, cough-crying levels of lost it. Because that shit is so real. Here you are, in your broke-ass current reality, and you can feel what you’re meant to be so clearly — you can see it, you believe it, but at the same time... I’m hungry now. I’m sick of my day job now. I’m tired of putting off buying things I need indefinitely now. Sometimes I think it’s also true that the more you believe in your dreams, the harder it feels to accept your present reality. You’re not crying because you don’t believe, you’re crying because you do. And the more real your dreams are to you, the higher the contrast is between them and your present reality, the more difficult it becomes to live in that tension.
The story ends with Yvonne going to sleep. That’s literally it. There’s no magic fairy godmother that pops up in the corner, she doesn’t happen to find an extra ten bucks in her pocket, she doesn’t discover leftovers in the back corner of the fridge, she just goes to bed hungry. And I think that’s huge because so often we hear those stories of how “And just in the nick of time, XYZ happened to fix everything!” Which I’m not saying doesn’t happen and I still believe that the Universe shows up for us when the timing is right but sometimes you just have to go to bed hungry. Sometimes the lesson is “Do what you can and keep holding on.”
Additionally, as I’ve listened to this podcast, I’ve been realizing the thing that’s beautiful and annoying about God is that he lovessssss uniqueness. He LOVES a new story, he loves individualization. So we can hear the stories of how other people did it, and there mayyyyy be similar themes to our own, but it’s never going to be ours. I can’t listen to Luvvie say, “I blogged for seven years, then I took a class, then I started writing recaps of Scandal” and go “THAT’S MY PATH THAT’S WHAT I NEED TO DO NEXT”. It’s not. She had to figure her way to where she is like I have to figure my way to where I’ll be. One of my favorite things Issa Rae has said came when she was asked by Stephen Colbert on The Late Show “What advice would you give that’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten?” And before answering, she says “Ahhh it’s so hard because it’s different for everyone.” I was like YES GIRL SPEAK TO THAT! We hear how other people made it and we like to think we can use their lives as roadmaps for our own when the truth is there is no road map. You’re the first and only to live the life you’re living, you just gotta figure it out. Like I said, very beautiful concept, veryyyy annoying in practice.
The thing is I don’t know how this resolves. I’m still in the grime of it. I’m still in the tension between now and not yet. And I think all we can do is keep putting one foot in front of the other. Keep grinding, keep going, pause to cry, then grind again. And above *everything* else, holdfast to the belief that your current reality will break. It will break.
*P.S. This wasn’t written in affiliation with Jesus and Jollof, Yvonne and Luvvie don’t know me yet, it’s literally just my thoughts after experiencing the episode okay? Okay cool.