My Ode to Self-Care 48: “Rich is Gangsta”

“Last night, I had a dream about you. You were older. You were driving home from work, in a very nice car, to your very nice house. The sun was setting and you were able to look back at everything you’d been through and say to yourself “I made it.’”

Timile Brown told me this on a late-July day in 2011. In our time together, she shared many eerily prophetic dreams which have come to fruition. Within our first month together, she told me as a little girl, she dreamed she was a young adult on her deathbed; her husband was by her side in tears, and her mother was on the outside, looking in; it didn’t quite happen like this but it kind of did.

There was another dream where Timile was a baby who grew larger and walked towards her mother as she grew to the size of a building and her mom continued to run away. Two years later, she learned her mother hid a secret from her, all her life, one which played a major role life in mine and all major parties involved played out. She once joked to my mother and I, with our daughter in hand, “She’s probably going to tell me the truth on my deathbed.”

I didn’t say it out loud, however my initial response to Timile’s dream about me was “Well where are you in this?” There was no need to verbalize my thought because we both knew the answer. This was the moment it was confirmed in my spirit, Timile Brown was going to die; and this was her way of preparation.

“Something about you feels different; something seems clear. Before, I the energy I used to feel from you felt like static. You were there but felt lost and like something was off. I don’t get that anymore. I’m happy for you.” Courtney Milner, November 17, 2020.

My sister and I share a special bond; we’re twins. In one shot, my mother and father had a boy and girl: my only experience with a sibling born two minutes before me. I don’t delve or write too much about my sister for a reason which just came clear to me: it is the relationship I am most protective of; one no matter how much I waxed poetic about, at best, somewhere between 1.9 and 3% would understand or comprehend. It says a lot in which I feel the world has more of a grasp on my experiences as a single, black, widowed father with a very unbelievably unique story is more relatable than being a twin.

Courtney was right. While I still have some dark days, especially last week, I finally seem to be at peace, and it can be heard in my voice.

I have spent most of my adult life feeling lost. No one, ever, would have pegged Chad Travis Milner to be “Mr. Dad;” a stay-at-home one, either. The smart money on me would have been Chad Milner, P. Solo, the rapper/producer blew up and became an entertainment impresario.

Instead, I met a girl and gave it up, just as I began to break through and was on track to become an A&R at a major record company. Fearful of a similar outcome with my parents, I saw how life would have turned out if I did and chose the girl. My first job out of college was running the photo lab at a Walgreens in Atlanta. In October 2008, I accepted an offer at a Mortgage Loan firm and quit my job; the company went bankrupt the day before I started.

As a product of the 2008 Recession, I hustled to get by. I took temporary jobs selling insolation for homes at expos and cold calls, wiped down motorcycles for auctions, assisted my cousin who had multiple sclerosis shuttle her and her 95-year-old husband around. I sold cars in the Summer of 2009 and was fired when Cash-for-Clunkers dried up business in the fall. In hopes an MBA would turn things around, I took the GMAT exam three times, studied, and my best friend Kofi paid the $250 for the third try; blew it. Job interviews? Ones I smoked turned into thin air. I prepared to become both a high school gym and science teacher in Georgia and failed both assessments by two points.

I moved to Long Island in 2010, had my daughter in 2011, moved to Buffalo a month later, and took a job facilitating short sales on homes and families affected by the mortgage crisis of 2008. Months later, in Virginia, I was hired as an accountant; but never started as my environment became hostile.

I had just left the city courthouse to receive a copy of my birth certificate and change my driver’s license from Georgia to New York when I received the DM on Twitter Timile Brown died. I was doing all of this to become a security guard in hopes I could move my girl and Cydney back to New York, until I could find a job with insurance good enough to take on Timile’s preexisting conditions and we could finally get married.

I considered moving to Washington DC to get a government job. I had a couple of interviews lined up; but it didn’t feel right because deep down, I knew I belonged in New York; I’ve always known I was supposed to make my way in the greatest city in the world, my hometown.

Writing became my release, something I did with no experience as a labor of love for all of those who supported me, all over the country. People read it because I wrote it in more countries than I’d ever travel to in my lifetime. I’ll even talk my shit a little bit and say I am sure 99.9% of writers and celebrities you follow can say out of 195 countries in the world, their work has been seen in over 170.

I began to see success as a writer. It didn’t pay very well; but I was happy. With lit tips on both ends of the candle, I wrote and worked a regular job, every day. I hated it; but I met some pretty cool people along the way and the money was decent. I burned out and the money came first. I already told y’all I got fired from John Varvatos because I was blamed for their overspending. Four years in a row, I was let go from Con Edison during holiday season, twice within days of my birthday and twice shortly after. In 2018, I said “Fuck it, I’m betting on myself because somehow, all of these other ways are not working out for me.”

My student loans ballooned from $93,000 to north of $200,000 due to interest and non-payment. That shit is in collections and I don’t give a fuck. Whenever they have called, I told them “Look, if my choice is to pay y’all or feed my family, guess who I’m choosing?”

The transmission in my Jeep blew out on my 33rd birthday and it needed a new heating core; combined they the cost is close to $4000. For the past two years, I have driven my mother’s leased SUV and my dad’s 1998 Toyota Camry. I’ll have it back on the road well before Christmas.

With the support of my loved ones, I bet on myself. There have been days of fear because everyone wants the best for me. But deep down, my family and friends know I’m an investment which will pay dividends; hell it already has; but the big payoff is on deck.

In the past eight years, both of my grandmothers died, the two widowed people in my life who truly understood how I felt. My ace, Donnell Tyler passed away in 2015 from a heart attack at 31 years old. I watched the woman I planned to marry wither away after giving birth to our daughter. I’ve seen both of my parents survive their bouts with cancer. I’ve seen my twin sister go viral and appear on The Ellen Show. I’ve watched my friends go from interns and entry-level positions to execs, transition from being young and single “in these streets” to happily married and raising families. The first day I came into the barbershop to cut my locs off, I came in with a camera to document the experience; he now owns his own barbershop and I’m shooting a series with him.

I wish a muthafucka would call me broke or question the decisions I’ve made. Anyone who would dare ever fix those words to come out of their mouths haven’t been through what I have. While I have written a lot, so far, these paragraphs don’t do the whole story justice. Most people don’t make it back from my experiences, highly functioning like I have, and virtually unscathed. I have spent the past eight years investing in friends, family, and all my niggas I love; this is true wealth.

My nephew is 6’3”. I taught him how to throw a baseball and coached him; he hasn’t played a day of high school baseball yet and is already being scouted as a college prospect. I forced him to dribble a basketball with his left hand; his jump shot is wet because when he was four, I made him shoot a regulation-sized ball into a Fisher Price hoop from anywhere on the patio in our backyard. He’s a brilliant mind who makes anything happen when he puts his mind to it.

My daughter is excellent. You’d be hard-pressed to find too many nine-soon to be ten-year old children as articulate and bright as she. I’ve never talked to her like a child and used words like facetious when she was three. She’s played up in soccer since she started kicking a ball around at 18 months and I saw something in her advanced coordination. Both Cydney and my nephew sit back, observe, and look up to me. I’m home every day to see them through whatever is their world for the day.

I have written it is my responsibility to make my dreams come true because it will show my kids anything is possible. My daughter and nephew get to see it in real-time.

Stay-at-home dad, freelance consultant, writer, hustler, product of two recessions; whatever you want to call me…Man, fuck all that, I’ve always been on track, even when I felt lost. Everything is finally coming together. I am an impresario and this whole essay is full of receipts proving I’ve paid my dues.

On my hardest days, I hold onto Timile’s dream and lean on it. She has been right so far, so I have no choice but to believe and see it all the way through. When the evening prophesied to me occurs, “Rich is Gangsta” is what I hear blaring from the speakers of my very nice car.

I’m not editing this one or even rereading it…Y’all getting this one raw, straight from the heart.

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