Choosing to Breathing

February 6th, 2014  |  by Veralyn Williams |  Published in Blog, Personal Essays

I always knew, I wanted to be doing, exactly what I wanted to do. I’ve always been stubborn or as my parents always put it, “fussy,” that way.

In elementary school I wanted to be a singer, more specifically I wanted to be Brandy. At 11 years old I remember sitting on my parents bed (the only room I got to watch TV in during the school week) and watching the “I want to be down” video, and being mesmerized by Brandy. She was a black girl, with braids like mine. And she was sitting on a swing, singing as good as I thought I could sing. She embodied everything I dreamed about. And from that moment when anyone would ask, I proclaimed that Brandy was my favorite singer.

My love for Brandy stood firm even during the release of “The Boy is Mine,” a duet between her and another favorite, Monica. However, at that time, choosing between them was as contentious-a-debate as identifying with being conservative or liberal today. But every time the song came on (which was often) you were forced to make a choice. Brandy or Monica? Till this day, I only sing along with Brandy.

The desire to be Brandy, lead me to join my school choir in 7th grade. Form a singing group in 8th grade called, DVJ (Dominique, Vera, and Josephine). And apply to all music H.S. programs. I ended up choosing the school that allowed me to go outside for lunch, Dewitt Clinton, but I joined their choir freshman year.

I say all this to show that even though what I want to do with my life career-wise has changed, I’ve ALWAYS known I’d be doing something I love. I went on to want to be a writer, then a journalist, then an activists and every step of the way I became all those things… do what I want to do. (Making money notwithstanding.)

Confession: There were those years during college I was working in finance part-time, making $12, then $14, eventually $20/hour. This was great money for a college-student, and every time I switched positions I asked for more money. (An important lesson I’m happy I learned then.)

Although my no-rent-paying bank account was very happy at the time, there were literally moments working as an Accounts Payable Associate I couldn’t breathe. I could do the work. I was good at it. But my mind rejected the thought of reconciling excel sheets and entering invoices forever. It took being offered a full-time job for me to write (what I still think is) the bravest email of my life.

I wrote my would-be-boss to tell him I’m going to take a Freelance Producer position at BronxNet Television instead. A job that only”existed” because I pitched the Executive Producer of BronxNet a few stories, and got him to agree on a rate if $350 per news package. A rate that was unheard of at that time, especially for someone that barely knew how to edit and never shot video in her life.

I didn’t get offered a full-time job offered to me again until 5 years later. And though living as a freelancer had its own challenges I’ve never regretted “choosing life” and deciding I should be “breathing” even when making money.

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