The Show Must Go On…
Updated: Dec 10, 2019
On April 11th, 2019, I was at work at MSNBC, face bobbed behind two large computer screens, mouse cursor moving a mile a minute.
At 4:24PM that day, I received an email from Princeton in Africa (PiAf) – “Congratulations! [The organization] thought you were a strong candidate and would be a great fit for their team. We would therefore like to offer you a 2019-20 Princeton in Africa fellowship with [the organization].”
A few moments after receiving the email, I received a phone call from the PiAf team congratulating me, giving me a rundown of the next steps, and telling me when my deadline was to accept or decline. It felt like there was a lot occurring simultaneously, bearing in mind that I was in a newsroom the whole time preparing for the 9 o’clock broadcast.
Everyone who has studied abroad, worked abroad or made some type of similar major move can concur that it’s one thing to envisage life in a new country/in a new role, but it all becomes much more daunting upon receipt of a congratulatory email. (Special shout out to all of my people who are working abroad & pursuing higher education abroad)
I was overjoyed when I received the message, but also found myself dreading everything I’d be leaving behind, most notably my position as the Chair of the Apollo Theater Young Producers Club – that’s family, your honor.
I thought about my parents, my brothers, my best friends. I thought about how sad Devon and Marquise would be that we couldn’t have impromptu dinners after Apollo meetings. I thought about missing Steph’s graduation in December. I thought about the birthdays, the weddings, allat.
I had to remind myself that this wasn’t just my first job, but that my transition into the “real world” would begin in the country my parents migrated from 25 years ago (exactly 25 years ago last month).
I had to remind myself that as much as I wanted to be there for the young producers, my friends and my family, my comfortability in these spaces, respectively, hindered me from accepting the PiAf opportunity as quickly as I would’ve liked to.
Just to be clear: I’m not saying I would’ve let go of this AMAZING opportunity because of the Apollo Theater, family. I love them to pieces, but no.
I was just incredibly comfortable and thought of the 3 job opportunities I had post-undergrad: 2 in New York and 1 that would require me to take my talents to the American South.
Two days after receiving the email, I worked as a production assistant on the Apollo Theater’s Africa Now Jesus and Jollof Live event. It almost felt orchestrated (pun intended, we love orchestra seats), that the day after I learn that I could be moving to Africa, I was working at a festival called “Africa Now” insert laugh emoji here
While working the event in a packed theatre full of diasporans who were there to celebrate everything that brings us together, food and religion (but also drives us very far apart, another convo for another day), and share some laughs, I thought about the impact the hosts of the show, Yvonne Orji and Luvvie Ajayi, had on their beloved Nigeria all the way from the Apollo Theater mainstage in Harlem, NY.
Although thousands of miles away from the motherland, their Igbo/Yoruba parlance followed by their ode to Jesus and the West African delicacy, jollof, I understood the importance of maintaining such connections no matter where one’s career/goals takes them. The fact that they got to mix work, a hobby, AND maintain cultural relevance?
Even though my case is different, (recap: I was born & raised in the states & hadn’t ever been to Ghana) I felt a blunt disconnect between myself and the continent, and considered the future opportunities that could arise from such a move.
Minutes turned to hours, hours turned into days, and I didn’t have much time to play the “pros-cons” game.
While thinking through the decision, I remembered an encounter that I had a few years ago at one of my national news internships.
I was working on an assignment about an hour before the show was to air. I was terrified that my assignment wouldn’t make it to broadcast. A few moments into my hurried attempt to complete said assignment, a production associate walked into the room.
He asked me if I was OK, to which I said:
“No. I fear that my assignment won’t make it.”
He laughed. He told me that whether or not my assignment was completed by the time of the broadcast, the show must go on (especially since I received it super late). Whether we like it or not. When people turn their TV screens on, there has to be something on. We can’t not (whew I hate redundancies but I’ll let myself slide here, [IYKYK]) have anything on TV.
That’s when I thought to myself: You ever flipped the TV channel to like 23 or something and just see a pitch-dark screen? If you have FiOS, this doesn’t apply, y’all have 2,000 channels and only watch 4 of them, please, I am talking to my Optimum subscribers.
Can you imagine? Changing the channel to a major news network and nothing being on the screen? Just because one measly intern wasn’t able to submit an assignment?
Actually, scrap that. Even if I were an executive producer on the show, it wouldn't matter. Not only could I be replaced as quickly as I was brought on board, but a substitution would be made for air with no issue. Oftentimes, we worry about missing out or our presence not being felt in certain spaces. Trust, life goes on, just pray that the skill set you acquired in point A will see you through to point B and onward in your career.
Family, learn to live and let go. Such establishments existed just fine without you, and they will continue to exist whether your presence occupies it or not. Commitment and unwavering loyalty are two admirable qualities to have. Just keep in mind that anything that restricts you from exiting your comfort zone HAS GOT TO GO.
It’s when you leave your comfort zone that you discover
1. Areas for growth
2. New things and people
3. Performance/execution at your peak
Sis, your significant other is waiting for you outside of that comfort zone!
So, the show must go on.
The show will go on.
Whether it’s at the Apollo...
Or it’s a nightly news show...
Ads need airtime, people need their evening news, employees need to get paid. My best friend’s graduation is going to be poppin’ and I’ll support her regardless of where I happen to be.
So, that Sunday evening, I spoke to my parents.
Spoke to my brothers.
And on Monday morning, I drafted an acceptance email.