The Truth About Motivation

A couple of days ago, I was having a conversation about the lack of a viable creative community in San Diego, or at least one I could find. I lamented on how I’d been lacking with my writing and other creative pursuits, and that I wanted to get back to doing “cooler” things, and creating more. This turned into a 30 minute discussion, and in the end, I hadn’t really come up with a resolution on how to make it all happen. I mean, it’s great to have the ideas, but it’s even better to have some sort of actionable plan of follow through. Fast forward to later that afternoon, when I was perusing some posts in one of my San Diego Facebook groups, and a cool event popped up. It was an AirBnB experience, and was taking place in the Barrio Logan section of the city, one I hadn’t yet spent much time in. I spent a little time checking out the location, and, ever the impulsive one, I signed us up to participate in Saturday afternoon’s experience, excited that the Universe had obviously listened to my ask.

Saturday morning rolled around, and we ventured out, not sure what to expect, but hopeful that a great experience would ensue. When you roll into Barrio Logan, the first thing you see is the famous Chicano Park, which was designated a national landmark just this year by President Obama. It’s a beautiful outdoor display of the local Chicano culture and arts, similar to the vibe you get from Miami’s Wynwood Walls. Keep on moving through the streets, and you can feel the buzz of how alive the entire neighborhood is. Locals moved through in their lowriders and classic cars, and the sounds of West Coast hip-hop and Mexican music battle it out for the top spot as the street’s soundtrack.


We finally get to our destination, and we’re greeted by The Real J, our neighborhood tour guide for the day. J is a spoken word artist/hip-hop lyricist, but most importantly, he’s a native of Barrio Logan. He gave us a history lesson on the community, and talked about the gentrification that has been trying to infiltrate the neighborhood. So far, the community has been able to block such efforts, but it’s hard when dollars speak louder than preservation. The shining light in all of this? The creative community is doing what they can to hold on to the authenticity and richness of what they have. We walked down the street, and discovered artisans of all creative crafts, including music, art, and jewelry making. I’d never felt more at home in my new home than I had at that moment, and I knew I’d found what I’d been looking for.

Vintage Car.jpeg

Photo by multiracialmisfit

I’ll stop the story for a moment, because a lesson about motivation and paying attention to what is right in front of you is warranted. How often do we whine about what we want, and never plan on how to get it? Better yet, how often do we pray about something, but somehow miss out on the very thing that we prayed about? When the want doesn’t take on the form of what we think it should, we completely miss out on the need that was provided right in front of our faces. Just think about it for a moment. You asked for a new car, and instead, you got more hours at work (and possibly complained about being overworked when it happened). You didn’t get the car, but you were provided the means to the want. In my situation, I wasn’t necessarily provided with a plan on how to reach my goal on being involved in a creative community out here, but I was given the gateway to that want. And THAT’S the crux of motivation. Motivation isn’t the actual attainment of your goal, but it’s what you do with the tools that are provided for you to reach that goal. On this day, make a list of three wants. Speak them, believe them, and then, pay attention to what’s in front of you that will help you reach them.


Sugar Water Was Our Thing

One of my favorite hip-hop songs came on the radio the other day, and man, did it make me feel like a kid again. It was Ghostface Killah’s, “All That I Got is You”, and even now, those lyrics never fail to get me choked up. It brings me back to a place that most people didn’t experience, a place most people don’t even believe I experienced. I often joke about coming from “the ‘hood”, but back then, the poverty I experienced was no joking matter. That Ghostface song (google the lyrics), and the quasi-recession we’re experiencing now, reminds me of my life during the recession of the early 1990s.


Some people, especially those in the suburbs, may not remember that recession. I can’t pretend to have all of the facts of the economic climate during that time, but I can give you the facts from the viewpoint of a kid experiencing it. IT WAS ROUGH. I remember my parents, my friends’ parents, THEIR friends’ parents, all getting laid off in record numbers. There was no work to be found; by 1993, the poverty level was at 15%, mostly concentrated in urban areas. With five kids, and a sixth one on the way, my family had a hard time. There was no such thing as new clothes and sneakers, no discretionary income (our discretionary income came from me and my older brother getting up early in the morning to beat the bums in their search for bottles to return at the grocery store so we could have penny candy money). We were lucky my parents were savvy enough to somehow turn $20 worth of groceries into a two weeks worth of meals, and that my mother wasn’t too proud to go to a food pantry to feed her children (and often times, the other kids in the neighborhood).

Food Bank

And the things we used to eat! That government tub of peanut butter that would always tear your white bread up when you tried to spread it on a sandwich, that yummy over-processed government cheese, powdered milk, fried bologna, sugar water…I could go on and on and on. I remember having rice and eggs for dinner on countless occasions. If we were lucky, we could get some nice cube steak or liver (I think of that now like, blechh!). In the summer, every public park had a free lunch program, and later on, a free breakfast program. Point is, we never went hungry.

Government Cheese

Everyone I knew got food stamps (whether you were on welfare or not), yet everyone was embarrassed to be seen using any at the bodega. I can remember walking around the corner store for twenty minutes, waiting for every person to leave the store, just so I could pay for my things. Back then, there was no EBT or whatever it’s called now. These were actual paper “coupons”, so you couldn’t even pretend they were anything else. Neighborhood drug addicts would even sell their food stamps for cash, so they could buy drugs. That was the craziest hustle ever. I’m sure you could get a 50% return in food stamps if you found the right seller.

Food Stamps

I sometimes feel like I’m so far removed from what goes on in poorer neighborhoods, because I’m not there anymore. When I tell people where I’m from, they think I’m making it up, that nothing good can come out of the inner city. Even though we all feel like we’re in something similar to a recession, to the people left in neighborhoods like the ones I grew up in, it’s been a recession for quite a while. There are young kids out there right now that are going through what I did, and I hope they can take those experiences and persevere. When I ran the idea of this post by a friend of mine, she asked if I was willing to disclose so much information about my life. At this point, I don’t see anything that I should be ashamed about, or regret. I feel like I need to remind myself of that life, so I can appreciate what I have now even more. As Charles Dickens wrote, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”, because it really was. It definitely sucked, big time, but we still managed to find joy in our lives. So now, when I hear that Ghostface song, it isn’t tears of pain…it’s an overwhelming feeling of appreciation, of knowing that I found my strength in the struggle.

Ghostface Killah

Multi-Racial Misfit

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