We all know humans are creatures of habit creating learned routines to bring a sense of stability to ease the potential chaos of life. This can be as simple as brushing your teeth before bed or doing your grocery shopping and laundry on a certain day of the week. From early on in our lives we are brought into this world of structure learning things like Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner, how to tell time, the “proper” way to speak to certain people such as parents or teachers and why we need to know and do all of these things to navigate life. Then the big one hits most of us… school!
Once you hit kindergarten here in the U.S it’s a wrap! From about the ages 4-17 most of our lives revolve around this Monday- Friday 8am- 3pm schedule (and beyond we will show how shortly). Lets say you wake up 6:30am, eat brush your teeth and take a shower and arrive to school by 7:50am to stand in a line until the bell rings at 8am. You then attend some sort of after school or child care program from 3pm- 5pm and are picked up from that and home eating dinner around 6:30. Lets say you finish eating at 7pm this mean more than 1/2 you day is accounted for. Lets call this a 12 hour weekday routine and factor in 8 hours of sleep making this 20 hours occupied and 4 hours of free time. As young child you are subject to the circumstances you are born into for many this situation may mean poverty where having physical and emotional needs met are an issue paired with attending schools that are inadequate in providing youth a foundation and skills that allow them to thrive.
None of us can choose the hand we where dealt but if you make it past a certain point of maturity we become accountable for our own lives and must take our schedule into our own hands. This awareness comes at different points in time for all of us. For myself this occurred after the death of my friend Matthew “Optimus Rhyme” Hall, he was about to turn 19 before he was murdered in Harlem, I had dropped out of school and was 2 years older than him and amazed by the amount of things he accomplished in his short time on this planet. His death made the front page of several newspapers and hundreds of people came out to his funeral. This directly lit a fire under my ass to use time wisely! (You can read more about him here https://www.revcom.us/a/1216/matthewhall.htm.)
After mourning the death of Matthew I decided to attend a trade school for audio engineering and continue the work he started. With a few friends we began hosting monthly open mics in Brooklyn to keep his spirit alive and held meetings to continue activist work in the community. This all gave me a structure but for the 1st time in my life it was of my own choosing! I began to write and record my own music setting up shows with a DJ. To accomplish this I had to plan out my lyrics, make or get a beat, record, mix and have a version ready to perform and rehearse with the DJ. For events I had to book the venue, press up flyers and create merchandise. This was a lot more than I expected and required funding and collaboration. Through the showcases I eventually received an opportunity to work as a teaching artist and learn from other artist that had more experience than I did. As the music industry changed my focus shifted to Arts Education. My new mentors would be the youth I was hired to teach.
Freelancing with various non-profits, schools and arts education organizations for over 10 years allowed me to see what their infrastructures had in common and what they did different while being distant enough to not get trapped into their routines. I began working during after school hours at different sites across New York City between the hours of 3-6pm with commutes ranging from 40min- 2 hours each way. This taught me how to schedule my time before during and after class and on the trains. I would make sure I had lesson plans ready even if I had to deviate from them, charge my phone in class to make sure I had enough battery to run hi powered music apps and write lyrics and always have a book for reading. Short term planing led me to think about long term goals, I created a template for invoicing and soon began to become more in demand for the artistic services I provided. Money started to flow in and as a starving artist not knowing how taxes worked for independent contractors I had spent all my money surviving in one of the most expensive cities in the country and the IRS wanted income tax money. My cousin had just finished doing her CPA (certified public accountant) degree so I reached out to her and she informed me how I could set up a company and write off expenses through the business, thanks to her knowledge of government and business structure I formed “Creative Expressions” as a legal corporation in 2012 and was able to become debt free in 1 year!
Now I see focus and discipline as more important that ever, I notice how actions and thoughts with intension and purpose allow us to manifest anything. I started writing down my daily activities on a white board and began eating, exercising and sleeping on a more routined schedule. This led me sleeping earlier and waking up earlier moving away from escapism and bad habits. I make sure to remain fluid and not beat myself up when fall off schedule because life will happen and we are all subject to the full spectrum of human emotions but when I do it very easy for me to get back on track since I know where I’m heading. I no longer feel lost, a slave to time or my mind like I did as a youth, I don’t strive for perfection but consistency I use with structure as guide to achieve goals I have set for myself to serve humanity and allow me to become a better person. As the serenity prayer states “…grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
Love and Respect,
Founder of Creative Expressions