Have you ever been in a situation where you thought you had everything you ever wanted, but you weren’t happy? Have you ever created something from nothing into a successful brand and then had to let it go? Have you ever been all the way to the top only to crash all the way back down? Well, I have.
Sometimes when I think about how my life used to be, it seems like it never happened. I look in the mirror and see myself but then it doesn’t really feel like me.
It’s been almost 4 years since I would consider myself a professional blogger. That title in my rolodex retired when I closed down Concrete Loop. But as they say, “once a blogger, always a blogger.” I always seem to come back to this in some way.
Writing is therapeutic to me and I still see it as an outlet. I have matured because I don’t need all the co-signs anymore and don’t need all the fake love. I just want to be someone who can look in the mirror and appreciate the reflection that stares back.
“It was all a dream..” – The Notorious B.I.G.
It was the Summer of 2010 when I was plotting my takeover of the black blogging world. At that time I had already been blogging professionally for well over 5 years and I was close to realizing my dream of being a media powerhouse.
I had recently moved to NYC from a small town in North Carolina and from the outside looking in, I had it all. An office on 5th Ave a couple blocks from the Empire State Building. An apartment in Manhattan that was just a hop skip and jump away from there. Celebrity “friends” on speed dial to get exclusive content. Free trips to cover swanky events and keynote at important seminars. Even a best-selling book that inspired many of the blogs you may read today…. But we always romanticize things when we look back, don’t we?
It was now 2014 and I had built my brand for almost 9 years. Throughout that time, I learned that to get to a certain level in the entertainment realm, you have to either give up a piece of yourself or create a whole new person. So I started to wear a mask when I left my apartment to attend events but that mask was slowly starting to crack. In fact, I’ve always been a homebody and never really liked crowds and there I was making a living out of being in one.
One of my staff members (who was rather new to the industry), would always get so excited about meeting a celebrity at a gig she covered. I secretly would think, “If she knew how they really were in person she wouldn’t be that excited.” That made me feel bad because I was once that person who was elated that Kanye West called me or Beyonce invited me to her listening party. But when you realize that it’s all a game, that shine fades away.
No one knew it but during those last years of running Concrete Loop, I was very depressed. I was even contemplating suicide. In a sense, I had become paranoid and trusted no one. I even started to pull away from the business that I had grown from nothing.
If you were a reader during this time, you probably noticed I would go on hiatus randomly or stop updating the site for days on end. My staff would have to pick up the slack. I was clearly walking around with functional depression and hiding my true thoughts through this new mask I created. It was clear that I’d become burned out.
By this time, the glossiness of this new thing called blogging had faded and the business side started to become stressful. I put my all into that business because it was all I had. I sacrificed a lot during those years because I was after the bigger picture. When I went to the office, I worked. When I went home, I worked. It never stopped.
Additionally, I never took a real vacation because every time I traveled it was work related. I never took myself too seriously because it all started as a hobby. I never even finished college because I dropped out thinking I was set for life. As a result, I created what some may call a monster and it was literally killing me.
Sign on the dotted line… you’ll be fine.
I remember right before it all came to an end, I was renegotiating my contract with Spin Media. They were in crisis mode because of bad investments and anyone who had the unfortunate pleasure of doing business with them were literally struggling to stay afloat.
During those last months they owed me thousands of dollars in advertising revenue and I was paying my staff out of my pocket. A few months before that I had already planned on possibly selling the site, but my perfect exit strategy changed when those same negotiations broke down. They held my content hostage because it was hosted on their servers. I had most of the backups but by the time the damage was already done.
I remember my lawyer telling me right before I signed the first deal with them, that any partnership in business is like a marriage and let me tell you the divorce was far from pleasant.
They kept sending different people to have me sign altered agreements for less money and when I wouldn’t listen to the white executives they sent – they started to send black executives. I entertained the negotiations because I wanted the brand to continue but one night before I was to sign a new agreement for the site – I realized that what I had prayed for was right in front of my face. Freedom.
Months before that I had prayed to God to put me on the right path he had for my life. I felt I had detoured to this fantasy island of fake love and accolades. I was becoming a shell of myself just to continue to make money and to be honest I didn’t have anything to fall back on.
God definitely answers your prayers but not in the way you would expect.
So I came to the difficult decision to close down the blog and walk away from a guaranteed check. When I broke the news to my staff, many of them cried but everyone understood. I just didn’t have the heart to do it anymore.
Not going to lie, it was very painful the day I announced CL was closing. I even cried myself to sleep. I had become attached to the community I had built and it felt like I lost my child just shy of its 9th birthday.
After the news broke, I started to receive emails from multiple people who wanted to buy the company or who were fishing for information. But for some reason I didn’t have the heart to sell it. I didn’t want something I created with my blood, sweat and tears to get into the hands of the wrong person. I also didn’t want Concrete Loop to turn into a washed up version of itself. We had accomplished a lot with that site, so ending it was an emotional move definitely not a business one.
As you all know, you’re not supposed to have emotions when it comes to business related matters. I guess you can say that’s another reason I wasn’t cut out for that world.
Some people will never understand why I never sold the site or why I decided to place it on indefinite hiatus. But that’s not my place to make them. I accomplished many of the dreams I had for Concrete Loop and the ones I didn’t reach, I at least blazed a trail for someone else to get there.
“..To whom much is given, much is required.” Luke 12:48
After the closing, the rest of those months were really a blur. I packed up that same office on 5th Ave and rented a U-Haul to take everything to my oversized and overpriced apartment. My lease would be up in a few months and then my decision of staying in NYC or moving back down south was on the table. My savings were dwindling fast because of all the personal and business expenses I had.
When you are used to making a lot of money and then that stops, it starts to get real. I was so out of touch from reality that I didn’t realize how bad it really was. To be honest, I barely remember much of 2014 and 2015.
I was so depressed that I slept all day and all night. I would pop Advil PM’s just to continue to sleep. One week I remember just eating a piece of bread for nourishment. I couldn’t even take care of my dog, he was staying with my parents.
I was embarrassed that I had gone so far only to feel like a disappointment to my family. I also felt like I let down all the people who had looked up to me. In my mind, I failed at life. I even thought that maybe I should have sold my soul because then at least I would have money in the bank..
Friends who I thought were my friends disappeared. All those free trips were now gone. Those same celebrities on speed dial never answered anymore. The partnerships I garnered after almost a decade turned sour. The rest of the money I saved was quickly spent for lawyers to tie up loose ends. Those were very dark times.
At just 29 years old, I actually felt like my life was over. I thought I had served my purpose, so what was the point? I looked at a full container of pills and contemplated taking them all and just going to sleep. No one would miss me because no one cared about me without Concrete Loop or so I thought.
“And what do you benefit if you gain the world but lose your own soul?” – Mark 8:36
Even with the depression, I realized that I made this choice and it was the right one. God never said it would be easy moving on and he definitely never said everything would fall into place like I wanted it to. I also realized that I can always make more money but all I have is one soul.
Now on my 33rd birthday, I can mentally say that I’m in a better place. I don’t make as much money as I used to but I do have a job. By the grace of God, I was able to keep my house and close down my business without having any debt left. I’m even thinking about going back to finish college next year.
Even now when I think about all I have done it feels like another lifetime ago. I am blessed to have my family and real friends in my life that helped me get through this difficult transition. I am now living at a slower pace and learning to appreciate what I do have.
God wanted me to share my story because someone out there needed to hear it and know that all that glitters is not gold. And that life doesn’t end when you fail… it actually begins.
A close friend of mine told me that “courage is the only thing you should have in life because with courage you can do anything.” It took a lot of courage to walk down my new path but I always believe that everything happens as it should.
Concrete Loop will always be apart of my story but it was just a stepping stone to the true life that God has planned for me.
Now on to more writing because I feel like I have been quiet for too long.