when i think of the word hustler, i struggle to conjure up positive images. growing up, being a hustler meant you did what you had to do – legal or otherwise – to make ends meet but it was never considered legit work. often, it was cloaked in the aura of danger. a hustler could easily bring harm to themselves or those they loved. so few of my connections to the word hustler are positive. i was recently challenged to reimagine the word. what else could it mean? what positives could be contained in its etymology that has eluded my cultural lens?
back when i was in college, i loved me some jay. that was when he was just jigga, before he crowned himself jehovah and commanded our praise. but that’s another story. side note, in college my nickname was tigger. i was a ball of energy (nothing has changed) and was always bouncing around somewhere. jigga man stayed in regular rotation because i could easily change out his name for mine. “tigga what, tigga who?” or “tigga, what’s my mutha$%*#ing name.” yeah, i was lit. but senior year, he dropped that joint “i just wanna love you” and that is where my mind wonders now as i think about my connection to the word hustler.
“i’m a hustler baby. i just want you to know. it ain’t where i been. it’s where i’m about to go.”
so much of where we are in life is a collection of things outside of our control. we can’t pick our families, our nationalities, our ethnicities, our abilities, or our genders. truth is all of these things have profound effects on our quality of life. but they aren’t the end of the story. given the right connections, opportunities, or access, we are able to do amazing things that are not reflections of where we come from, rather what is in us and what we’re capable of doing absent those perceived limitations. in other words, it ain’t where i been, it’s where i’m about to go.
as i continue to plan for my future and make decisions that take me out of my comfort zone, and in many ways into my calling, i have to fight against my own vision of what hustling looks like. i’ll be the first to say i’m not a sales person and i don’t have that grind in me to be out there like that. but that’s not true. it’s far from it. i grind hard for the things i’m passionate about. whether it’s my volunteer work, my mentoring, my support of my friends and family, or even the level of intensity i bring to my job. i am a hustler through and through. what i need to do is become passionate about me so my grind propels me and the things nearest to my heart forward.
what does it look like for me to take my art of storytelling to the next level in a way that honors who i was created to be, gives me freedom to tell the stories i want to tell, and empowers me to create platforms for others to do the same? i don’t have the answer to that question just yet. i’ve only begun to ideate the possibilities. what i do know is i’m a hustler baby. i just want you to know. it ain’t where i been. it’s where i’m about to go.