Dissatisfaction is a dangerous thing.
It can foster resentment. It can breed contempt.
Sometimes it’s hard to know why we are dissatisfied, especially if we consider ourselves part of a larger community, one that may have had fewer opportunities to experience what we now critique.
Sometimes we are dissatisfied with so many and so much that the idea of change is all-consuming and overwhelming. Sometimes we are ashamed of our dissatisfaction: we have no right to want more or to aspire.
We have everything that we need. We feel entitled and privileged. Our dissatisfaction is a burden.
When I left I was 21.
I was scared and hesitant, but dissatisfaction made me sure. I’d flown once before for a conference down in Atlanta, so at least there’d be one less first. I’d never seen the city before, had never even visited.
When I got the offer, I started making arrangements and started making plans.
The parts of me that are still growing up say that people make us unhappy because they don’t care about our needs.
They project their desires onto our lives. They project their fears and their failures.
If we’re young enough, or inexperienced enough, or not yet wise, we start to believe that we aren’t capable. We start to believe that what we want is unattainable; that we’re unreasonable and selfish. We grow dissatisfied with our choices and dissatisfied with ourselves. We grow dissatisfied with our lives.
His grandparents hailed from Japan, but he was second-generation American.
He was from the Bronx originally but migrated to Chicago after law school. Attorney by day, Starbucks Barista by night; he said he needed to meet new people constantly in order to feel whole (and school loans weren’t playin’ any games).
He hated suits and the people who wore them. He was always in sweats and sneakers, even on our first date. At first I thought he didn’t care enough to dress up for me, but I inferred from context clues that his persona and style were as much anti- “the man” and “the system” as an expression of his metropolitan identity.
We didn’t talk about race.
We didn’t talk about culture.
We didn’t talk about history, violence, or crime.
He made fun of me when I asked for “soda water” or teased him about his britches. He was a Yankees fan, a Chappelle lover, and a momma’s boy.
We had Halloween plans, but I was patiently waiting. It was too new so I didn’t know the expectations. We hadn’t communicated well and now it was down to the wire.
He wanted me to meet him at his favorite spot, and by the way, he was going as Jay-Z.
I knew without understanding that we wouldn’t see each other after tonight.
I couldn’t rationalize or articulate my anger.
His costume was absolutely perfect. He was a born and bred New Yorker, complete with all the trappings.
He was a little older than I, so he grew up on B-Boxin’ and Breakin’ 2 Electric Boogaloo. He’d been an outsider in his community and rejected stereotypical archetypes.
He wanted money, power, and respect. He wanted notoriety. He wanted Black cool.
Just for the party, or in real life? Because I was black and we’re from the same hometown? Or because that’s what he wanted?
Don’t walk away.
It’s usually the easier of the two. What’s harder and what’s true is to get down to the root of it, to the heart of it, to the ugly.
To decide if what’s needed is diplomacy or tact. To decide if you need grace, or time, or patience.
To decide if what you have and what you know can change their mind. Is it better to be hard and tough or kind and fair? Should you ask for permission? Should you ask for forgiveness?
Should you yell?
Should you whisper?
Should you twist and shout?
Should you raise your voice or your hand? Should you lift your flag in surrender or put your foot down?
What has dissatisfaction taught you? What were your successes? What were your failures?