“…Allow myself to grieve, allow myself to cry, allow myself to call myself ‘stupid,’ and curse a little bit if I have to, but then after that, now I need to forgive. ‘I love myself.’ I found it is easier to forgive others, even my enemies who betrayed me, than to forgive myself.” -Jessica Wen.
Fiction. Based on True Discussions over Female Entrepreneurship
Written by Mingjie Zhai
This journal entry is inspired by true events. Some of the characters, names, businesses, incidents, and certain locations and events have been fictionalized for dramatic purposes. Any similarity to the name, character or history of any person is entirely coincidental and unintentional.
“A cat has nine lives you know that?”
Because all that looking down on people, thinking you’re better than, even when you have justification of qualities that are indeed better than others, then when you flaunt it in their faces, it creates a lot of enemies, because it breeds a lot of jealousy. We don’t need more people making other people feel shittier than they already feel. And when you make many enemies, you find yourself in precarious situations.
“You know i use the lowercase when i refer to myself? People freak out because when they discover all my titles, all my labels, they think i’m not giving myself credit. But do you know why i do that?” Robin says.
“Why?” Angelie asked.
“i do it because it reminds me that it’s not about me,” she says.
“You have seen many things and read through many hearts,” Angelie observes. They are at Starbucks together. A decompression session. They have just finished a meeting at Anima Watson Charter High School for the Anti-Bully campaign they were supporting. It was a conglomeration of two non profits, a tech company and a passionate teacher who listened to her students when incidences of bullying were becoming endemic to the culture of the community. Robin’s tech company, Fuel and Fire, Inc., was designed to address analytics head on for cases like these. Robin’s eyes were both heavy and light. A Latina with the kind of toughness, bred and shaped through the many stories of discrimination, poverty, abuse, sexual assault, violence, and neglect. Over the years, when the open flesh wounds started to seal, now solidified into a scar in the shape of two half moons that now outlines her left and right cheeks, those shattered pieces of her heart, now refracted by light, transformed into Fuel and Fire,Inc., hacktivism, social work, community outreach, and coalition development.
The week prior, Robin came to see Angelie’s Spoken Word event. After the show, when people started gathering, networking, and having a good time, Robin was watching her like a detective, observing Angelie interact with people, or rather, avoid interacting with people. She was awkward–it was the way she carried herself–or rather, carried the weight. Angelie was the one who had put all her money and all her energy gathering people together, yet she was the one hustling and bustling around, carrying the heavy boxes of journals to sell them, perhaps so she could avoid engaging with people while the crowds were mingling. It reminded Robin of herself back when. She saw elements of her older self–anti-social and wanting to flee. But after the many years of having to keynote speak at conferences and getting loud and vocal in reputable communities, she grew comfortable in the awkward moments of person to person meetings. It came down to self-worth.
“I have interviewed over 6,000 families and the victims in the families while I was a social worker,” she says. “You don’t walk through life without having the skills to see through hearts.”
Angelie has met her mentor. “This has carried you through your business endeavors hasn’t it?” Angelie asks Robin.
“Oh yeah,” she replies.
She produced commercials for Apple, drove a Porsche, and wore a different LV purse every week.
Her bff, the one who invited her to the million dollars club, made a name for herself by providing high end travel packages to filthy rich Chinese people.
When she researched her on Linkedin, she found a video of a group of rich people having a fashion show inside a private jet, sipping on fancy champagne, cut to another clip of the LV store closed off for a “private party” with an A-list Chinese musician doing a private performance while they ate fancy hors d’oeuvres. This was the woman who sold her a possibility. C’mon Angelie. Join the empowered women’s group, but first, you gotta be cool.
The VC ignored Angelie on the ride. She was more interested in the chef with the New York Times best selling book than hearing the possibility of preventing suicide and helping women and girls from a former teacher who had taught in the inner city for five years and education for over a decade. No, the other girl was on the Fat Turned Slim show. The other chef was syndicated with real editors. This newb had no idea what she was talking about and just kept pitching her, making the female VC feel uncomfortable. They were talking about creating an app to send food delivery at a push of a button–first world problems. She was irritated that Angelie wouldn’t give up. And Angelie was irritated that she had wasted her time here. She could feel Angelie’s aggravation and Angelie was aggravated. She spent the money she didn’t have to fly over to NY for this trip to mingle with a bunch of fancy women who claim to empower women in rhetoric, but when push comes the shove, have been a product of Nouveau Riche who serves the Nouveau Riche. They were about marketing jewelry, marketing up name brands, and pushing demand for products. Angelie hated small talk and so ended up stuffing her face the entire time just to avoid the women she had nothing in common with.
Some of them seemed dismissive, but perhaps it was because they were so used to people sucking up to them for money. It felt like pledge week in college, where the pledges had to be nice and bend over backwards for the sorority sisters who have gone through the hazing–there was a hierarchy that had to be followed. Angelie hated this shit. But it was part of the game.
It was the dismissiveness that aggravated her, and it was her insistence that aggravated the VC. Perhaps it was because of Angelie’s eagerness to skip the surface talk and get to the heart of what she was here to do–pitch to fund a nonprofit/for profit social hybrid where the nonprofit would provide educational workshops and the for profit would go towards a publication designed to inspire broken hearts. Perhaps she’s just viewing this all fucked up. Regardless, she hated every second of it. Playing the political game. Yet it had to be played.
The other woman produced a video of another woman who sold Jewelry, fancy diamonds, gold, and eclectic items and that was the highlight of the documentary. #Boom. Family business. Never giving up. Business as usual. They were in a fancy private theatre inside the home of a multimillion dollar mansion at the Hamptons of a billionaire’s home.
It made Angelie sick to her stomach.
She didn’t want to be here, but she was here.
“Did you know that Hana Shifar was just here?” someone had just commented. Clinton’s right hand.
“Yeah, and also the woman who started NY Fashion Week,” another had said.
“Hana who?” Angelie asked.
“Yeah, sleeping around could get you funded,” the VC admitted.
“Yeah, the casting couch is real,” the celebrity publicist said.
“Yeah, it’s not about what you know but who you know,” the producer said.
It made Angelie sick to her stomach.
Angelie kept eating. She wouldn’t stop eating. Every moment in this space she felt like she couldn’t breath. She didn’t feel like she belonged in this twisted world. Shouldn’t people be funded for their ideas and what it can actually do for others?
Let the corruption pass through.
Here in this multimillion mansion home–most of the women were…filtered.
The man with the spotted hands prepared a Salmon bagel with cream cheese for Angelie. The owner of a multimillion dollar media conglomerate who made his billions on Wall street stocks had made the salmon bagel that he called, “The Perfect Bagel.” He learned the game, played it, and made his ends. She ate his salmon. It tasted plain. After she ate it, she felt no different than before. It was just a bagel from a man with spotted hands.
Playing the Game
“I have Johnny who gives me cues when I start losing the interest of the power folks. He gives me signals. Two taps with his index finger means I’m going on a tangent, when the thumbs meet, it means I’m poking too hard, and when the eyes close for more than ten seconds, it means, ‘let him take over,’” she said.
“He’s the white guy with the suit and tie,” she said, “They listen to him. Whatever I start, he finishes.”
She’s the designer. She’s the hacker. She’s the one who knows too much and if push comes the shove, she’ll call bullshit. People don’t like to be called out on their own bullshit. Most people can’t handle it. They will dismiss her as crazy. That’s why every crazy genius woman out to make a social difference perhaps just needs a nice white guy with a pink tie.
Angelie does not have a nice white guy but she is in love with a nice black guy with a baby blue tie. At least she fantasizes about what it would be like to be at his right hand and he at her left. She knew exactly the guy who could be her partner in social improvement of society.
Sitting next to his father having a casual discussion over how much she loved his son.
“You are so rude,” he said politely.
That was her guy with the suit and tie.
“I guess this is the perfect timing,” Angelie says.
Robin stared into her. “You still say it like you are asking for permission,” she says.
“Who is stopping you from doing what you need to do?” she asks, intense.
Angelie pauses and thinks for a minute.
“No one,” she finally replies.
“So why are you still holding yourself back?”
“I don’t know.”
“Why do you still refer to yourself like you’re some second class citizen?” she asks.
“I don’t know.”
“What is your next step?” she asks.
“I guess to let go.”
“Guess is still saying to yourself and to the universe that you’ll try,” she said, “Do you remember what Yoda famously said?”
“May the force be with you?”
“There is no trying. Either you do or you don’t,” she says.
At this Angelie smiles.
She found a mentor in Robin.
The Third “I”
Robin stares into Angelie’s eyes and is met with the same intensity. Angelie wants to look away because she knows that Robin is penetrating through her the same way Angelie knows how to penetrate into the artists she interviews for her project. Without missing a beat, Robin tells her she is worthy. Robin tells her that her heart is in the right place. Robin tells her that Angelie is creative, brilliant, intelligent, and beautiful. All of those things through her eyes. Angelie does not recall the details of their conversation after the straight jacket analogy, but she did receive the message telepathically, from one light worker to another.
Robin’s eyes says it all.
You are sufficient.
Tears well up and releases through the tear ducts of both her eyes, sourced straight from her heart.
She is seen.
“I’ve been working hard,” Angelie says.
“You haven’t been working at all,” Robin retorts.
Angelie thinks about this for a moment. Robin’s right. Angelie has been filming, pitching, talking to people, producing the things she wants to produce, create the things she wants to create, design the things she wants to design. Angelie’s been playing.
“Imma call you out on your shit woman,” she said, “You follow?”
Angelie is caught. Robin sees her. Angelie smiles, coy. Damn, she’s good.
Angelie is also projecting all her responsibilities on others when she could just do it herself. Shit gets done way quicker when she’s in charge and just does it. Then she feels guilty when she actually gets it done and leaves people behind in the wake of her speed. Her brain just thinks differently.
Mess to Message
“I got to get organized,” Angelie says to Robin. They were both sitting side by side waiting for Ms. Valdez to debrief the girls at Anima Watson High. They have just finished a very successful Anti-Bully Carnival.
“Let me tell you something,” Robin says to her. “There are 7 spectrums of intelligence. You have the one that connects the dots, rapid fire. The brain speeds through information and collapses them. Your brain is designed to be that way and so you aren’t neat, you don’t organize. Why make yourself wrong when you have a special brain?” Angelie knew that Robin was most likely speaking from experience, but she can also look at it like a super power–big picture–collapsing ideas together, sharp tongue, quick wit, and an ability to inspire hope in people, to penetrate through people’s hearts.
Tom Wooten had trained her–bipolar advantage…people who are bipolar can just collapse things, neurons synapse and you think fast and forward. That’s why Angelie couldn’t stand working in the school that required all teachers to teach exactly the same curriculum for the same thing on the same day like some communist machine. It stifles progress, it stifles creativity, it stifles the kid’s ability to think for themselves.
Editing is Like Poetry. It will be revealed as you flow.
“You don’t know what the theme is or the title, until you edit. The beauty of the story unfolds when you are composing and it will be revealed to you when you write,” Angelie tells the girls at Anima Watson High School. The girls look to her in recognition. They can identify the flow of editing like the flow of poetry. Poetry they have all written in the depths of their pain. That’s why Angelie loves to edit all the videos. It’s her flow.
She remembers Marlene, the 12 year old creative writer, who told Angelie ten years ago that she wanted to be like Angelie, an English teacher, when she grew up. Two years later, Angelie attended her funeral. Instead, she listened to her mother, who led her astray into the life of a prostitute, and she died. What could Angelie have told Marlene that would have made a difference for her?
Don’t be a prostitute.
Be an innovator. Be a dreamer.
It is life and death, baby girl.
Life and death.