I was just editing a post about smoking weed at 40, as I was smoking weed at 40, and it led me into a dark place (one of many) that I went through in life. Because as it happens, smoking weed at 40 can cause one to reflect:
I had worked for a company where the population of employees were nearly 90% white, and as I write that number, I’m hesitant to keep it because I’m not entirely sure what the exact percentages were, I just know that when I had to go to work every day and walked down those aisles of open cubicles, and watched white face after white face, I felt alone.
Especially in marketing, where rarely did I see anyone of color, which wasn’t a surprise since the product that we were marketing was geared toward young, white males. I was lonely nonetheless. The only other peoples of color were in finance, IT, and business development.
Outside the company walls, my friends had called me the token hire, the affirmative action hire, and who knows, as I reflect now, maybe I was? All I know was that I was never really challenged; I was just doing my thing the way I wanted to do things, because what the fuck were they gonna do, fire me? Fire the only person of color on the team?
My driving force was 1. money and 2. I wanted to know if I can do it — to be rich — from the depths of a colonized mind, from Manila to Long Beach to corporate America.
I was always worried about my salary, though: Is it enough? Who below my rank or on my level was making more than me? Am I being low balled to the ground level because of the color of my skin, because everyone else was white, and typically, they don’t give money to the brown man.
Anxieties, paranoia, engulfed my every day, to be alone, to stand out, to stand up, to fight back, to refute all things model minority, that was my daily.
But through it all, I fucking did it, a brown man from the ‘hood got corporate enough to get a sip of managerial power in the corporate world, in the face of white antagonism, in the face of white corporate America. I shook things up, so I thought.
The immigrant in me worked. Besides other than having to deal with entitlement, ignorance, and bigotry, what kind of other challenges did I have to face? That I shouldn’t call in too many times? Meet my KPIs? Be a great teammate?
My immigrant energy wasn’t the only one pushing me; my ‘hood energy was as strong. The ‘hood has never leave my being, no matter how far I got up and out, I could be in Mars with Elon Musk, and I’d still be on the come up mission.
The ‘hood energy never let me enjoy the situation as it was, despite the money, the little power, it was like, yo, this is just the stepping stone to bigger things, this is just a moment in life to prepare you for even bigger moments.
But the money was too easy.
I had lived in near poverty, seen destruction and violence at its most gruesome, witnessed the struggle and the hate, as an immigrant child watching his immigrant parents be immigrant parents, to work hard no matter what, no matter how far the drive, how grueling the experience, work hard.
And as I reflect now, smoking weed at 40, I’d like to thank my mom for always telling me that money doesn’t matter and never mattered. I heard but didn’t listen to her then — but the seed was planted and it just took a matter of time for it to grow.
I eventually left the company and moved on to another even whiter company, and there, I was close to executive level before I left. I finally realized that executives at corporations are just the top ditch diggers, the very top, the ones who can dig the ditch efficiently with smiles on their faces.
If you can do that, and I did do that, then go right for it.
What I also realized was that if I didn’t do something drastic, I would die a fucking executive digital marketing creative social something manager of whatever whatever the fuck.
And when I played that out, right there, at that moment, I wanted out. I’d rather die as someone who knew what he wanted to do, pursued it, chased it, willing to do anything to maintain the chase, be it a cashier, bartender, server, primary caretaker of two children, literal ditch digger, or whatever it may be, that I would rather die being that than that.
In the end, I’d rather smoke weed at 40 when I’m living the life I want to live. And I no longer feel lonely.