Jay-Z Doesn’t Want You To Lose Hope
It’s not about optimism — it’s about seeing an opportunity in spite of the madness that surrounds us.
Trigger Warning: This week’s column deals with suicide and suicidal ideations.
“A loss ain’t a loss, it’s a lesson
Appreciate the pain, it’s a blessin’” — Jay-Z, “Smile”
What a week, huh?!
I’m back with another edition of what I’m hoping is slowly becoming your favorite weekly fix, “What Would Hov Do?,” my Medium column where I sift through some of your daily struggles with the help of S Dot Carter. With the election essentially still up in the air, many of us are dealing with a mixed bag of emotions. And some of us may be struggling more than others.
This week, our anonymous reader is having a hard time dealing with everything happening around them. “I Love My Cat” writes:
“The only thing for years that ultimately stops me from committing suicide is the thought of my cat wondering where I am — is this enough purpose to be here? My life has been full of trauma, chiseled down with sharp tools, to that one thing — a cat who (seemingly) needs me. I think there’s a metaphor here. And no, I ain’t kidding. The sadness, the despair is real. I need another reason, preferably reasons, and I’ve looked everywhere, within and without. What would Jay-Z say about knowing when it’s time to give up?”
I’ve struggled with suicidal ideations from as early as elementary school. I’ve written at length about those struggles on LEVEL, a Medium publication for Black and Brown men. The world can feel like a lot, and sometimes that weight can feel like too much to bear. In those instances, hope, faith, and “staying the course” can sound like empty platitudes, pretty-sounding phrases that don’t address how we’re feeling and the despair that comes along with it. We genuinely feel hopeless in those moments, like there is nothing or no one to live for.
In Sharon Salzberg’s book, Real Change: Mindfulness to Heal Ourselves and the World, a Buddhist practitioner suggests we stop looking at our past trauma as a blessing and view it as a given. We should eliminate the real feelings of pain and turmoil within our past to reframe it in a way that feels more favorable for our minds. In the same breath, on “Smile,” off his latest album, 4:44, Jay-Z says that we can hold space for what we could consider failures, the things that have caused us grief and heartache, and view them from a less harsh lens.
We tend to offer grace to everyone but ourselves, forgiveness to everyone but ourselves, and love to everyone but ourselves.
We have to examine the truth of our struggles. And that means that we accept the hardships and potential for real change within them. Trauma can distort reality, and we can ignore the small victories: Working limbs, lungs that breathe air, the cat that loves us when we don’t love ourselves, the sunshine we get to see, and the tea we get to taste.
While I was in therapy, a gratitude journal saved my life. It allowed me the ability to list what I was truly grateful for. And that meant E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G: The time I helped someone with directions, solving a math problem, remembering to pick up the laundry, and finally cleaning my apartment. It reminded me that there was a lot more good in my world than the weight of the dark and hardship that had taken over my daily life. Hov’s instruction is not about optimism or positive thinking — it’s about seeing an opportunity despite the madness surrounding us.
We need you. Your cat needs you, too. Keep fighting; keep trying. We’ll be better for it. Just ask Jay-Z.
If you or someone you love are in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, available 24 hours in English and Spanish, at 1–800–273–8255.