Home Featured Why Success and True Love Always Seem to Misalign

Why Success and True Love Always Seem to Misalign

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This week has been a bad message, we need a happy ending... just not from these two.

Like most people, when I left home for college, I told my high school sweetheart that we would be together forever. However, three years later we had grown so far apart our relationship seemed impossible to ever repair. It wasn’t because high school seniors don’t know what love is. It was simply because we grew apart and she didn’t like what I had become. In high school, I chased her for a few weeks and I felt accomplished when I had her. As a junior in college, I had come a long way from that awkwardly short and skinny boy who was sort of funny. I was four or five inches taller than when I left high school, and had progressed to being the president of my fraternity. She didn’t like that Jay. I was different. I was better.

Please listen to the mix that @CarvertheGreat and myself put together today. Put to this post, and it has that hits that y’all love on it. Download it here, or stream below:

It’s no surprise that if you listen to Kanye West or Drake on your speaker box you know that they can’t stop referring to old loves. (Big Bro Streetz touches on this here.)  Kanye’s first two albums were laced with references to Mr. Rainey’s daughter. By the time, Kanye West dumped Brooke Crittendon and we finally saw who Alexis Pfifer was, we all hoped that it would work out. Similarly, Drake spent the better part of two mixtapes and a rookie album referencing how much he was in love with Alisha. Correction, he is still talking about Alisha.

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And to me, it made perfect sense.

Not too long ago, I was having drinks with a classmate from high school. After a few drinks she told me that I had changed. I replied, “I didn’t change, I just had a good idea of who I wanted to and didn’t want you to steal it.” People are predictable and interesting characters. When it’s someone else, it’s change, when it’s yourself, it’s growth. The pressure of growth is very difficult for all of us. Each of us wants to keep it real and not lose sight of our past, but our future and dreams typically requires us to let some of it go. If there is anybody who tries their best to hold you accountable for your past, it’s your old loves. The past women in your life always think they know you the best and in your truest form. As you try to make it to the next level, they are the constant reminder of your current.

As you start to grow and your world changes, you both struggle to find her place in that new world.  Secretly, most of us aren’t always happy with every growth in our lives because we still want to keep a piece of the past in a sacred place. Pretty soon, you don’t invite her around as much with your new friends because you don’t want her to see the new you, or think that’s the real you.

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Now you’re stuck with these two worlds: one where she exists and one where everyone else exists. The weight of the world on a man’s shoulders is enough to make him fold and walk away from both. Sometimes that conflict inspires greatness and other times it causes our personal lives to fall completely apart. You can’t please two masters, you have to pick who you want to make a priority in your life. Unfortunately, faced with the decision of your dreams or your past, you typically pick your dreams.

Choosing your dreams is not void of serious downfalls. Not having someone who knew you before the person you are today can be dangerous. There’s no one to keep you honest at times. The general public can tell Drake every day he’s really feeling himself and his newfound fame, but it won’t mean the same as when Alisha does. In a way, Drake needs Alisha just as much as he doesn’t want her. As much as he wants to claim he made her what she is today, she’s just as much a part of who he is today. Therefore, when you decide to move past those first loves, you find yourself thinking about whether you’ll ever meet someone who can offer you the same level of honesty again. This causes paranoia to set in and you begin to trust no one, or you develop a larger than life mentality that everyone is either for you or against you.

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I’m one of those guys who hopes that next year, I’m on a higher level than I am now. That’s been my goal every year. I wonder if I’ve lost some great people along the way and maybe I have. I get worried because I know that the pressures that the people in my current life put on me today sometimes lead me to believe I may distance myself from them in the future. I get paranoid thinking that secretly they don’t want me to be successful because they feel there is no place for them in that success. The truth is, I don’t have an answer for that today, and I may never have an answer until the day I have to decide. I’m just trusting that the decision I make is the best one for me.

Update: Check out this related post. It’s a music video from Rahzel, Jr. (Son of Rahzel of The Roots) titled, Career vs. Love. You guys know I love music and Fridays. Rahzel Jr. – Career vs. Love.

– Dr. J

If you really want to know what this post is about check out Track #5 on the mix! — Tracklist: 1. George Strait Intro, 2. HYFR by Drake, 3. Shot For Me by Drake, 4. Climax Remix by Joe Budden/Usher, 5. CAMP by Childish Gambino, 6. Heartless by Kanye West, 7. Song Cry by Jay-Z, 8. Don’t Tell Me You Love Me by Big Sean, 9. Closure by Joe Budden, 10. See You In My Nightmares by Kanye West/Lil Wayne … Enjoy your Friday!

Comment(60)

  1. This post made me think and I realize that the path to becoming who I am today might have hurt a lot of people and sometimes you wish you could take it back but then you realize its that strife in your past that made you who you are today. I resign myself to the fact that friends and exes will come and go and sometimes you drift away. Took me a long time to realize that I have to focus on my growth and hope those who surround me will be supportive. Otherwise life goes on. Me against the World!
    My recent post And God said unto Nigeria, “Let there be Light!”

  2. your opinion ia the one that can really harm you. and we’re so afraid of a little pain we’re blocking our own blessings. lets be authentic with ourselves even as we change &i let the chips fall where ever

  3. This holds true with my most recent ex. She had her insecurities before but after a degree, new job, and losing some lbs suddenly she felt like she would be my next upgrade. The smallest disagreement would become a big fight about how i think im so great, she no longer trusted any female i encountered, and simply started to feel everything about herself wasnt good enough. I tried to be patient and reassure but eventually i had to move on. By my own expectations, i’m not even halfway where i want to be and she can barely handle the slightly progressed Tristan. The irony in it all was she was fighting so hard to prevent something from happening she ended up causing it. *sighs and bumps playlist like i havent killed most of the songs on my ipod already*

    1. Man… this right here…

      "The irony in it all was she was fighting so hard to prevent something from happening she ended up causing it."

      That could be a sermon, matter fact, revival. #Amen

  4. OH. EM. GEE. LOOK at that bracelet! I LOVE it! *drool*

    Anyway, great post Doc. It's the truth. I guess it's about what you choose to focus on. I've been somewhat successful in love but nothing else.

      1. I've been focusing so much on this relationship that I haven't even been able to step out and try much. My hubs has had some career success but I think he would be much further if I hadn't held him back.

        1. No no. I've always been supportive and encouraging but sometimes I feel like my meer presence has held him back. Instead of pursuing the dream he wanted, he pursued what he thought was safe and would help him be a good provider. He's successful in what he chose though and he reports being fulfilled. In only five years he rose from a grade five to a grade twelve at his job. If I weren't here, I wonder how much further he would be is all.

        2. Either way he became a better man with you at his side. And you never know, you may have been an inspiration to his cause. Many moons many many moons ago i had a wifee and daughter to come home to. As a man it was the greatest feeling I ever had. I worked hard as hell just for them. It was bigger than any career dream/goal. It was more of personal accomplishment. Maybe you're/were that for him and you just don't know it.

          Now its time for you to hit up ya dreams, no slacking!

        3. When I read this comment, I was reminded of a quote by (the MUCH overhyped, but another story) Lennon,
          “When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.”

          Sure he may have been more successful, but would he have been HAPPIER? You make him happy. If not, he would not be there. Stop undervaluing yourself, and what you bring to the table, it hurts my heart when I see you type that stuff. **e-hug**

        4. Aww *e-hugs* thanks hon. I must be making it sound so grim. I do feel like I've added value to his life. When I first met him he didn't think he'd live passed thirty but apparently, I helped him change his attitude about that. I think about these things sometimes that's all. What can I say, I don't have cable. *shrugs* Btw, that's one of my favorite quotes and when I think about success, I think about life as a whole, not just career.

    1. "I've been somewhat successful in love but nothing else."
      Sigh. THAT!

      I've heard some type of saying like love and ambition cannot coexist because they require the same depleting amount of energy and focus.. so one must suffer in order for the other to grow. I do not want to believe that… but it seems to regularly be proven true. kind of like how you literally cannot text and drive. you might be good at switching back and forth quick enough but when you are doing one, you are NOT really doing the other.

      I agree with this…
      "The truth is, I don’t have an answer for that today, and I may never have an answer until the day I have to decide. I’m just trusting that the decision I make is the best one for me."

      but what if that "day" has passed? what if the misalignment is not an unlucky circumstance but an unfortunate outcome of the decision to be ambitious above all else (i.e. choose success)?

      part of me believes love never fails and if i were to have been blessed to come upon it then i wouldnt have lost it.. at least not forever. but another part of me feels like i have to do my part and it is possible to miss out on blessings. if you wan to be preoccupied with something else, God can find someone else to do what needs to be done. i dunno…

      good post.

      1. This is an awesome comment. You've said so much here. For me, love is all encompassing and self-sacrificial. My relentless devotion lead me to a place that I'm not completely satisified with because, while I've got an amazing man, I don't feel like a complete person and I feel, in that, I've failed him. Even if I didn't achieve any career success, I think giving myself some time to grow would've served us both well.

      1. Girl I've been off and on school for the last ten years. I'm in an off period (again) right now. But when I start back up, there are only a few classes left.

      2. Teflon, I just want to remind you that you need to be at the happy hour next Friday. Yeah, plan accordingly for us… mk?

    2. I may be in the minority but, I think that love is more important. I had a wake up call recently when a mentor died very suddenly and unexpectedly only one person he knew from his job came after 20+ years there. It may be a case of things are greener on the other side but love cannot be planed but education and monetary success can. The issue is that phrase don't chase girls chase money and the girls but what happens when you can't trust any of them?

      1. I feel the same way. That's how I wound up this way. I think love is about self-sacrifice and devotion but you have to be mature enough to be ready for that in the first place.

        1. I feel you and after reading the thread, I wasn't really considering the personal development. It may be cliche but its hard loving somebody when you don't know who the hell you are. With my first love, whenever he would call I would drop everything and now that I have my own identity I'm having more equitable relationships . I think the magical unicorn would be to find someone who is equally committed to personal improvement because you're either progressing or regressing (i don't believe in being stagnant) and I do think men excel at getting out if this need is not met.

          To throw another angle in it I believe that when people feel their SO has impeded their success it can manifest in in other ways: drug abuse, domestic abuse, cheating etc.

  5. good post. like you i've grown a lot since high school and even more since graduating college and yet i've grown even more since finishing grad school and moving to a new city. there have been a lot of people (including exes and lovers) who have fell by the wayside. a lot of times we just simply outgrew each other or maybe i outgrew them but either way i've never been the type to look back longing for the days of yesterday (did you just quote TLC? <–name that movie).

    my first love is married and has two children. i don't communicate with her at all. not because we ended on bad terms or we don't like each other. i choose to remain respectful to the situation she is in and not contact her.
    My recent post Take Me Back to 1953

    1. I agree with your comment Tunde. I know I have grown a lot since high school, college, and even more since finishing graduate school and as well as moving to the DMV. My outlook on life is different and my growth has led me to a different path then some people would like. At the end of the day I believe that you should focus on you and your goals because that certain person that you may be putting it on hold for or your potential to grow may not be there in the end.

    2. madscientist I respect u being so respectful and I cosign on your comment.
      Very mature and responsible way of thinking…..*smile*

  6. This right here is the entire story of my (love)life.
    I am the QUEEN of meeting men in transition, just at the cusp of a major life shift. Great dudes, but usually after being supportive of their growth, they leave me in the tunnel once they see the light at the end.
    I have a LOT of random dedications/songs/tattoos out there…..( ,._.,)

  7. The toughest part for me is to still hold on or keep in contact with these Ex's. its like whats the real reason I keep in contact with them??? Yea Im brand new and I know it, and they know it, and they slightly hate me for it. Does it somehow stroke my ego tho??? Like [email protected] now?!?….IDK And do I feed off of that negative energy and turn into a better me??? Maybe

  8. Hell of a post there sir. It’s a fine line that men walk when dealing with these emotions, and as we transition to different levels of life, it only gets more pronounced. Some men just choose to ignore the changes, while still others embrace them. The man who learns to be at peace with knowing that the chance at a fulfilling love may be in direct opposition to his progressing positively is in a much better reality that the man who refuses to accept this.

  9. Definitely a good post Bro! I can so relate to this post…Being successful and reaching your goals takes alot of dedication and hardwork, but nothing in life worth having comes easy…Just wish my last ex understood this, but unfortunately she didn't…..Now the grind of having those letters behind my name is over, I contend with endless text messages about why i did this or that, when in all actuality i was only looking for my mate to be by my side while i grinded in graduate school and focused on my career….

  10. Can’t relate. I leave stuff, people, cities, ways of life behind like its my job. I am a westerner born, bred and in spirit. On to the new frontier. Tradition? What’s that but something to. crumble like old buildings. Once all the juice is gone from the scene, I got my ticket to the next.. Because I know i carry the real me with me. It’s not tied to people or places. It’s who I am in total isolation. I know her. So you can come with or fall back. Your choice.

  11. I don't really think love and success can't go together. Some of the most successful people we know and love (celebrities) are happily married. My parents are my role models, very successful and happy, and, you guessed it, MARRIED. I guess, from that example, I never believed that to be successful you had to be selfish and leave anything behind as if it was a distraction. I always thought I could go further with someone by my side, as a TEAM and SUPPORT SYSTEM. So far, that's always been my family and friends, but now I have a dude in the mix and he seems to be filling the role quite nicely as someone on my team (and I'm on HIS). You can feed EACH OTHER'S ambition and go places TOGETHER. No need to feel like someone is passing you by when you can just get inspired and get YOUR OWN stuff together too. This attitude, however, can't help if you think growth can happen together and the other person thinks growth can only happen if they cut all ties. You have to BOTH have the team spirit. That's just how I feel, and why I never bothered with men who acted like, "Well, I gotta get my ish together and THEN I can settle down." Life, happening around you, is not a DISTRACTION. It is your LIFE.

    1. Cosign KitKatCuty…….unfortunately some folks cannot do both….they have to do one or the other. A relationship would hurt their career and/or their career would hurt a relationship. It takes immense skill, a lot of hard work, sacrifice, and compromise to be able to maintain that balance of love and a career. It's not easy, but it is absolutely doable, for those who are up for the challenge of doing it.

    2. I hear you, but I have never said I need to get my ish together and then settle down. I'm always more like, I don't see you in the future, so I am moving on. And I don't run away from being single. To me, there's nothing wrong with being single for a while. If I meet the right woman, then i'll definitely wife her up.

      Moreover, the term "settling down" cause me to break out in hives. I hate when women use it around me.

      1. lol at Doc J……thats only until you yearn for and desire more consistency in your life and want to "settle down."
        Settle down is just another way of saying your going to be with one person, and if your happy with that then it's not a bad thing, you just have to get to that place.
        Like they say, "if you love what you do, then it doesn't feel like work."

    3. Congrats that you are one of the few folks [that i know] who grew up in a two parent home with parents that were committed to each other. But for most of us family is not blueprinted. So many women have to figure out what it takes to keep a home and build a marriage when they have no real examples of that. Celebrities on TV are not real examples. You really feel just because Jay-z and Beyonce are married that we need to check ourselves? I am more interested in your parent's relationship then any celebrity's glamorized life.

  12. I am comfortable with change. I have no problem cutting ties if I learn that someone in my circle is shady or if they are inhibiting my growth.

    However, I suppose I value success in love over having a successful career because life's tragedies have taught me that life is short, and having a family is something that I desire more, whereas I think most people (especially men) think they're going to live forever (not literally). Focusing on things that are fleeting like money, fame or notoriety have always seemed like a waste of time.

    However, I do think you can be successful at love and in your career at the same time if you have a partner that is willing to give you the time and space you need to make it happen.
    My recent post The Depression Diet

    1. I agree bellatrice1. I value success in love over a career also. I am into my career now because I am not yet married and because my survival depends on it. If I was married I would be in some ways like Krystl, however I would still have my own identity, life, work, goals, hobbies, etc etc etc.
      I would have to have a husband who did not stunt my growth, and allowed me the freedom to be me.

  13. This was a fawkingly awesome post. Probably my favorite from you Dr. J.
    It's hard to comment on this…. I could probably write a post about the other side… like what happens when you marry that person you loved in your teens BEFORE you go away to school and grow… especially if they don't grow in similar ways right next to you?
    The assumption is, because you're already married, there's no choice to make. (I would also have said this, believed this.) But in reality, there is always a choice. And it's not always YOU who gets to make the choice, either.
    I am still a very strong proponent of choosing love and partnership early- before career choices are solidified. I think our generation waits entirely too long. I think growing _together_ is highly underated. The challenge, both in your scenario and mine, is making sure folks grow together so that one person isn't feeling like their only connection is the one y'all had before you amassed your newfound characteristics. Well, that, and the fact that not everyone is as committed to growth as we might be. If we could make it past that bumpy part where the old us turns into the new us? It could be beautiful.

    1. Chunk I feel you. I think the key to having that is having a partner that is secure in who they are and has their own life and dreams and goals. You have to also be secure and accepting of each other throughout your growth processes, and you cannot stunt each others growth. Unfortunately though, this is what seems to happen in many relationships and they just don't withstand the test of time.

  14. GREAT post! I love recognizing growth in myself, especially when I didn't consciously set out to make the change. Knowing that that I'm mature, successful, pragmatic, etc. just forces me to realize that I'm embracing adulthood.
    My exes have all been older than me, but acted very immature. When I finally tired of them and their Peter Pan ways, I decided that my next guy would have all his sh*t together. When I finally found a guy like that, I was so intimidated. It was completely foreign territory to me. I'm not used to having a relationship with anyone who actually challenges me. It's refreshing and scary at the same time. I'm looking forward to the experience…

  15. "I get worried because I know that the pressures that the people in my current life put on me today sometimes lead me to believe I may distance myself from them in the future. I get paranoid thinking that secretly they don’t want me to be successful because they feel there is no place for them in that success."

    This sums up my life for the last year! I got married young, so I chose love (or what I expected to grow into love) at an earlier age than is usually recommended. I spent my 20s being a husband and provider. Somewhere in that I forgot what it was that truly made me happy, independent of her. Once I got divorced, I spent 4 yrs doing exactly what I wanted to do career-wise. Now that I've gotten to a place of contentment professionally, my personal life is taking its own form that complements what I've already accomplished. I think success and true love often mis-align because can be tough to juggle, especially if your true love doesn't understand the rigors of maintaining your success. Plus the funny thing about success that I've come to see is that you never truly make it. For every level you think you reach, at the top, you see that next level that'll consume you until you reach it, and so on. Success is cyclical whereas love is linear.
    My recent post Lingerie Football League Takes On Mexico

    1. "Success is cyclical whereas love is linear."

      Profound!

      "Plus the funny thing about success that I've come to see is that you never truly make it. For every level you think you reach, at the top, you see that next level that'll consume you until you reach it, and so on."

      Profound x2

      My recent post The Depression Diet

  16. Why does this have to be one or the other? Love OR Career? I think it's possible to do both.. if you love someone enough, there is some compromise that takes place. And i believe EVERYTHING in life is about balance and moderation–this goes for our love and career lives. There's nothing wrong with ambition–but Steve Jobs (God bless him), did't take an ipod to the grave *shrug*

    I used to worry about kids and career. It's either achieve my career goals OR settle for a job that's good enough so i can settle down and do the family thing. I realized i was limiting myself by saying it's a "this or that"..i'd pass on jobs, i said no to my BF who proposed to me..madness! lol Now, i believe i can have the career I want, the great guy and cute babies. It'll take work but many have done it so why can't i?

  17. J, I love the transparency in this post. Raw. Real. Honest.

    My first real HS relationship was the same. He ended up getting jealous because I was making things happen. Before I even graduated HS and began my freshman year of college, I made the Pistons' Dance Team and was hired into my first paid internship. He was stuck in Detroit with a 9-5 at a trucking company. I think it's even harder for a guy to see his girl making those kinds of moves, especially when you're stagnant. Needless to say, we grew apart.

    But that's life. We can't take everybody with us. We have to make room in our lives if we want to grow.

  18. I believe Visualizing is an important part of our journeys to success. It is what helps u to determine who you can keep and who has to fall back. The thing about love and success is: not every one you love or loved can or could see your big picture with you. Unfortunately, if they can’t see it, they can’t help u achieve it and in the end they won’t be in it. The concept of success is in itself highly subjective. In my opinion u should not let go of people who see who you want to and can be, and who can ‘feed your ambition’. Yes, I’m the kinda girl that likes to eat my cake and have it

  19. “This causes paranoia to set in and you begin to trust no one, or you develop a larger than life mentality that everyone is either for you or against you.”

    There is no other stance to take than the above as a black woman in pursuit of her dreams. When your small town boyfriend no longer aligns with your big city ambition. It really does become a fight of your against the nay-sayers who come as people you used to know and trust.

    As my life gets bigger, my sights get wider and i grow more confident in my strides to the proverbial “top”, yes the road there may be lonely, but id rather walk alone than have people who cant appreciate my transition as they chose to stay the same.

    “See, I like the person that you are, But I’m in love with the person that you have potential to be” by Wale. Really ???. I have my reservations about this one!

  20. As long as you can honestly say you didn't forget about the people you care about when you look back on your rise to whatever you are now, you grew as a human being. The opposite of this is sacrificing your integrity to gain something which is a change for the worse. I think that most high-school sweethearts don't make it because they just don't know who they are yet, they haven't grown. And when you become more mature and find your passion you realize their passions or goals are completely different from yours. You don't necessarily need to have the same passions in life as your significant other but it's important to at least start working toward the same directions. Most people try to bring you down to their level because misery always loves company, so if you know you're just trying to make yourself better sometimes it's best to pull away from certain people and situations.

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