Common was recently interviewed for O Magazine. In the interview, like in his memoir One Day It’ll All Make Sense, Common spoke about how he learned how to speak up for himself. In relationships, in work or about his own abilities, Common took a backseat and let other people make decisions for him, even if they didn’t feel right in the moment. He provided this example of a time when he’d let his girlfriend decide for him:
For example, I like to go to church on New Year’s Eve—to spend that time with God. My ex would always want me to go somewhere with her instead, and when I did, I’d regret it. Now I’ll just say to a woman I’m dating, “I’m going to church—and I’ll meet you right after.”
(Just in case you were wondering that ex he’s talking about is Erykah Badu– but that’s neither here nor there.) Immediately, after I read it, I thought, Yo that exact same thing [almost] happened to me. A couple of years ago, I was in what can best be described as a long distance relationship. I was in school in Missouri. He worked in Illinois. And his parents, whom he was visiting for the holidays, lived in Wisconsin. Needless to say, the time we got to spend with one another was few and far between. But somehow, our schedules aligned and we made arrangements to see each other on New Year’s Eve. He was going to be in Indianapolis. I was going to be in Indianapolis, it would work. Except, the precious hours we’d spend together would have to be cut short because I was planning on going to church. Like Common, being in church on New Year’s Eve is important to me. I can’t think of a better way to start the New Year than thanking God for bringing you through the past year and asking Him to bless the upcoming one. There’s a power in that, which I don’t take lightly. So, as much as I wanted to see my friend as soon as he got into town, he’d have to wait a couple of hours. I did invite him to church. He declined. Cool, no problem.
It wasn’t until I discussed my plans with others that I started to rethink them. The day before my friend was supposed to come into town, my family and I were over my aunt’s house eating, lounging chatting it up. The maternal side of my family is Jamaican. I say that to illustrate the type of interactions we have. The conversation is open and brutally honest. American niceties and political correctness are thrown out the window. People will ask you probing questions, offend you out of love and just generally get in your business. Nothing is taboo…nothing. So, I wasn’t surprised when my aunt asked, with a smirk and batted eyelashes, what my friend and I were doing for New Year’s Eve. I told her, we were meeting up after I got out of church. My aunt got quiet and I could see her thinking about what she was going to say next. When she finally did speak, she asked me: “Well, don’t you think you can miss church since he’s coming all this way to see you?”
And for a minute, I thought about it. Was it wrong to make him wait an additional two hours, after he’d just driven 3 to spend time with me? Was I being inconsiderate? But no sooner, than the thought crossed my mind, I heard God’s voice. “This boy will disappoint you. He’ll let you down. I’ll always be there for you.” Well there you have it. Before my aunt had even finished speaking, I had my answer. I told her, “Yeah, I’m still going to go to church.” She shrugged and said ok, still not quite convinced I was making the right decision. But I knew God’s voice was right. I couldn’t put my faith in this or any man. My friend didn’t bring me through the past year, God did. And if I had a crystal ball, I would have seen two years later, he wouldn’t hold the same position in my affections. But God would. How stupid would I have looked choosing someone who could and would leave me over someone who’s never forgotten nor forsaken me?
I went to church and met up with him later, guilt free.
A couple of days after New Year’s, my aunt called me and apologized for suggesting that I skip church to hang out with my friend. She told me, after thinking about it, she realized she was wrong and I’d made the right decision. I knew she’d come around. And though I was happy she agreed with the decision, I didn’t need her approval. I already had directions from myself and a higher power.
But as Common and my other experiences have illustrated, it’s not hard to bend and compromise our core beliefs in life and love. A lot of us spend so much time trying to please others, we forget to honor ourselves and more importantly the higher powers we believe in. That’s dangerous. It’s an age-old lesson, but one that bears repeating: When you know something is right, don’t allow anyone, not a love interest, a trusted family member, not even yourself, to talk you out of your decision.