Uptown Bourgeois is an arts, news, and culture blog created by New York-based freelance writer Jefferey Spivey. UB explores universal themes through a black, queer lens. 

Great Success or Abject Misery? That Is the Question

Great Success or Abject Misery? That Is the Question

Photo by SahedPhotography.com

Kahala is a Hawaiian word with several different meanings.  According to one very angry traveler who’d stayed at The Kahala Hotel & Resort in Honolulu, it translates to “very overrated”.  Urban Dictionary, the Internet’s best etymology source, defines kahala as a “very dirty rich neighborhood in Hawaii full of butt jiggling crack smoka’s”.  Merriam-Webster, a pretty credible source, defines it as an amberfish from Hawaiian waters.  Some etymology sites say the name indicates a person is versatile, idealistic and intuitive.  Other sites say it was once used as a traditional, general term for women

Whichever meaning of kahala is correct, my client wasn’t thrilled with the definition I chose.  Instead of asking for edits like a grown-up, she pounded her chest and said, “Me not happy, me angry”.  Okay, not really, but the conversation wasn’t very advanced.  In fact, it was infuriating and convinced me to abort the mission.

I was momentarily rattled but I shook it off.  One bad client out of 20 isn’t such a bad average.  It was time to get back to work.

Except, there wasn’t any more work. 

It was only Wednesday and I didn’t have a single assignment for the rest of the week.  For most people, a three-day workweek is the stuff of professional dreams.  But when you work for yourself, it’s a nightmare.  Two days off during the week means two days without income.  It means two weeks from now I’ll feel the pinch in my wallet.  Two weeks from now, I’d be dining on Instant Ramen and Spam.  This wasn’t a time to celebrate or relax.  So, I did what I do best: I panicked.

"Two days off during the week means two days without income.  It means two weeks from now I’ll feel the pinch in my wallet.  Two weeks from now, I’d be dining on Instant Ramen and Spam."

I applied for contract jobs that I didn’t want.  Write a 1,000-word product review of an oil diffuser? Sure!  Pen an e-book about ketogenic diets for well below market rate? Why not! I’ve got nothing better to do.  I was grasping for straws like I’d been out of work for two years when, in actuality, things had been quiet for roughly two minutes.

It wasn’t the end of the world, but you wouldn’t know it from my response.

My reaction wasn’t fair to me, to those around me or to my career.  2017 has been a pretty kick-ass year so far.  Just two months in, I’ve been interviewed about my first book, appeared in a global marketing campaign for Fiverr and before this Wednesday, I’d had a steady stream of work.  With all this great stuff happening, why was I losing it over one bad client experience or two quiet days?

I tried reflecting on what I’d learned from the interaction and shared my insights on LinkedIn, where two of my 1,000 connections took away some value.  I read a series of positivity quotes I found on Pinterest.  But all this silver lining stuff seemed like real bullshit.  I needed to regroup and move past this.  To do that, I had to get to the core of what was bothering me.

"All this silver lining stuff seemed like real bullshit.  I needed to regroup and move past this.  To do that, I had to get to the core of what was bothering me."

When I really thought about it, it was fear that was making my week miserable.  To be an entrepreneur is to be in a constant state of flux.  You can never trust your success because the minute you relax, that’s when things go haywire.  When my workload slowed down last week, I reverted back to the person I was last year.  Last February, I was still reluctant to call myself a writer.  I was claiming unemployment insurance, applying for retail jobs I didn’t want and failing miserably at booking my first writing client.  When I found myself with some free time on my hands, I was instantly transported back to that period.

What happens if I don’t book another job?  What if this anonymous client had me blacklisted because of kahala?  What if my 2017 winning streak was all just a hoax?

It took me almost five days to climb out of the fog.  And when I did, I realized how ridiculous I was being.  It’s okay to have a moment of weakness but it’s more important to recover.  Yell at the computer screen, get it out of your system and move on.  I needed to spend more time bouncing back than wading in self-pity.  I can’t say that this won’t ever happen again, but I understand why it shouldn’t.

On the site Seven Reflections, people who are named kahala or possess kahala “either enjoy great success or suffer abject misery”.  To me, it doesn’t seem so much like a fate as much as it is a choice.  Last week, I chose to suffer abject misery.  This week, I’m choosing great success.  Whatever the hell kahala means, it has no bearing on what happens next.

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