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Jay-Z Wouldn’t Let You Run From the Hard Stuff

We can’t avoid the pain. So lean in

“Time don’t go back, it go forward

Can’t run from the pain, go towards it” — Jay-Z, “Lost Ones”

And another one! We back like Pat Sajak for another edition of my weekly Medium column, “What Would Hov Do?”, where I unpack some of your most important questions and daily struggles with the help of Jay-Z lyrics.

With Election Day less than a week away, our anonymous reader — who we’re calling “I’m Done With 2020” — writes:

“I want to know how Hov would handle anxiety, especially amidst the pandemic, election — just the entirety of 2020?”

Listen, 2020 has been a DUMPSTER FIRE. Like, that lil’ GIF with that dog sitting at his lil’ office desk while his surroundings are engulfed in flames?

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That’s 2020. Cheeto Head is in office, unarmed Black folx are still very much the victims of police brutality, we’re still wearing masks (some of us anyway), and Tic died at the end of Lovecraft Country (my bad: SPOILER ALERT). We’ve all pretty much had it up to here with anxiety, stress, and the issues that have plagued us in what has felt like the longest year ever.

But, if Hov tells us anything on “Lost Ones,” that very underrated song featured on the very underrated album that was Kingdom Come, it’s that we can’t turn back the hands of time. We can’t change fate — the past is the past. Fight, flight, or freeze are our three evolutionary reactions when trouble approaches. Jay tells us to stop avoiding the pain. The Buddhist tradition has a word for it: Dukha, which translates to “suffering,” or other more nuanced descriptors: Depression, anxiety, sadness, grief. Basically, all of 2020.

Jay-Z tells us that avoidance leads to more suffering, or more Dukha. Running from our problems will not make the pain disappear. Instead of running from them, we should embrace them.

I know, wild concept. The notion is we’ll have a better understanding of the pain if we stay with it, sit with it, acknowledge it, and learn from it. The anxiety and fear may feel new but nothing is new about this — not in our time or anyone else’s. The pain feels fresh because it’s present, it is here, and it was a pain that was not here yesterday or the day before. After the election and pandemic, after another unarmed Black person loses their life due to a negligent and dangerous police state, there will still be another pain, a newer pain. Yeah, I want to cry, too.

But, the good part is that in the midst of all that we’re facing, we get to hold space for more than one truth. Even Maze and Frankie Beverly* knew there are both joy and pain. For every loss of life, there’s a baby born. For every grey cloud, there’s a brighter sun waiting in the not too far distant future. It’s the balance.

And no, this isn’t some blinder on idealism. It’s the karmic balance of the universe. Despite it all, we persist. Each of us is trying to troubleshoot our pain. Listen to Hov, though: The pain is here. The only way out is in. Real talk.

*As long as Frankie Beverly has been singing with Maze, can he just be a part of the actual group?? We all know they’re together

For the newbies out there, feel free to get familiar with some of my previous Medium work here. And here. Oh, and here, too.

he/him. i tell stories for black people. work: @taylorstrategy @nike @twitter @gatesfoundation @ted @hbo @ethelsclub @medium @newsweek @twloha #BXFOREVER

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