I was making breakfast last Sunday morning. I had butter melting in the pan, a bowl of cracked eggs ready to throw in and half a leftover fruit bowl from Arrillaga dining. It was mostly pineapple and cantaloupe, but there was a single half-strawberry on top, red and rebellious against a backdrop of yellow and pale green.
Don’t ask me how, but Biggie Smalls’ “Juicy” started playing in my head (RIP). “It was all a dream,” he says, “born sinner, opposite of a winner.” But it’s all good now, he’s “up close and personal with Robin Leach, sips on Private Stock, rides a limousine with a chauffeur.”
I thought about how much this song has driven me. I don’t know what it’s like to be “a black male misunderstood,” or “hustle on the corner to feed my daughter,” but I do remember eating sardines for dinner, singing in restaurants for spare change and wondering why Christmas missed us because my parents couldn’t gather 10 Euros between the two of them. And I keep thinking I have to wait until I’m rolling in riches to celebrate my rags, until I’m “doing interviews by the pool, sipping champagne when I’m thirsty, putting minks on my mama’s back” before I can say, “It’s all good baby.”
But I just watched “The Pursuit Of Happyness.” I thought of the scene where homeless salesman Chris Gardner walks out of Dean Witter Reynolds with nothing but five dollars in his pocket and a job. He walks through busy streets in tears, runs to pick his son up from daycare and hugs him tightly. I remembered being freshly fired, sitting in an airplane I’d used the last of my miles on to fly home from an interview that didn’t feel so hot and opening an email that said I would be a fantastic match for Stanford.
Something clicked for me. I saw the half of a strawberry and thought about how rare they were to me as a kid, how I’m eating eggs every morning when they used to be an occasional treat and how the clothes in my closet fit me well, even though half of them are from Goodwill. I appreciated that, even during quarantine, my best friends were just down the hall or a Zoom call away, and who cares if we’re drinking Truly’s instead of Dom Perignons? And no, I haven’t pulled my parents out of paycheck-to-paycheck poverty, but I’ve been able to help them every time they’ve asked.
It was the moment I realized I have nothing to prove to anyone, not even my young self; the future I’ve always wanted is already here, and it has been for a long time, but I just never noticed it. It’s when I realized that if I stop to look around, I’ll find I own something that most people will never feel like they have: everything I need.