Photo: Anthony Supreme

How long can I survive with this mentality?

Beyond more than just track four on J.Cole’s fourth album, 4 Your Eyez Only. The four walls that can close in on your dreams and suffocate your reality before you can escape are forever a test of faith. Your drive can feel endless yet short and without purpose. You pedal to no end and search for a warm beginning. Tomorrow? Getting through these words is hard enough and then I have to worry about tomorrow? Well, it’s either that or drown in my sorrows.

Take my negative thoughts and flush it — with all the pain and suffering — pondering on if I can make it through the day without a stimulating substance. Am I really as low as I think? Stop it. I was only as low as I thought. Redirection of my thoughts need(ed) to take center stage.

Listening to Cole’s “Ville Mentality” my perception of the song shifted constantly. One of my favorite parts of music (general creativity), you can take what the artist gives you and craft your own conclusion and apply it your own life. Your own conclusions can deliver euphoric sensations.

What does ville mentality mean to me?

I see a self-defeating mentality that acts as a cancer to the thoughts of those in struggle. The struggle and despair go beyond the reaches of Fayetteville, North Carolina — we’re all at risk. From the 32-year-old copy writer who suffers from depersonalization/derealization to the 18-year-old drug dealer that no longer wants to deal — with life — at all anymore, period. As you smile, someone frowns in the same breath. As you breathe, someone stops breathing all together. Worlds within one world, it can feel inescapable — the four walls show zero empathy to what we feel. How long can these mindsets, setbacks and mentalities last in our survival? “Things fall down, but don’t stop now,” Cole sings throughout the chorus of “Ville Mentality.”

I almost let four walls cave in on my life. For what is a life deferred?

The air was cold, my heart remained bitter but I failed in knowing how to be better, until that day. I continued my journey of working from the inside out instead of vice versa; it all starts with you, internally. Thoughts became more important to me than my actual location. Perception matters and how I perceived myself to be, would model itself to others.

How do you escape such a plague of a mindset?

I’m a strong believer in dictating life through my premeditated thoughts. Although there are things that I can’t control, my mind is mine and I shall protect it; thoughts over circumstances. During my research of thoughts over circumstances over the spring months of 2017, I spoke with award-winning author, thought leader, spiritual mentor Dennis Merritt Jones. Jones is the author of my favorite book, The Art of Uncertainty: How to Live in the Mystery of Life and Love it.

“Changing one’s life is entirely possible and has everything to do with one’s thoughts, BUT, EVEN MORE SO, THE UNDERLYING BELIEFS THAT SPONSOR those thoughts,” Mr. Jones told me via email. “So, it’s not just changing your thoughts from negative to positive, it’s also being willing to identify and challenge the beliefs that are behind the thoughts. Mindfulness is the best tool to do this. Being so present with one’s thoughts that one can track down the belief that sustains that thought is the key. If one’s challenges and changes their core beliefs, it will automatically show up in their thoughts which then shape their destiny.”

Light shining through dark times

Mindful when your mind is full does not present an easy lane. The lane may not be clear but better days are near as you relinquish the darkness from your skies.

I watched the Ville mentality set in on one of my closest friends. Drugs and alcohol were used and abused. Looking back at his journey, it’s as if I met him twice. I watched him as he totaled his car and almost lost his life. I watched once more as he went to rehab for a little over a year. I eventually stopped watching and began helping his episode become what both himself and His God would want. I called him last week on the phone. In tears, he shared with me everything he wanted to let go, everything he had already relinquished and what he wanted to put together for a solid future. He refused to let the four walls close in on him. He sent me a picture that really stuck — one of optimism, faith, strength and ambition.

You may start off as a pawn, but don’t pawn your dreams and potential. Do not ponder over what isn’t, that’s a pond to not swim in, rather focus on what could be and go against the resistance. Know your worth, king.

The ville mentality captured all of my freedom this past week (Sept. 11–17). Packing up my sanity, dignity and almost every ounce of optimism I had.

Nigga play me, never
Give up my chain, never
Give up my pride, never
Show em’ my pain, never
Dirt on my name, never (4x)

Conveying the same emotion as Cole during that bridge before the chorus of the track, I looked in the mirror and repeated those very same words. At that moment, my ego grew in size, for the only person I needed to confront was myself and not another soul.

“My own worst enemy so fuck it, either way I can’t lose,” as Cole once said. The key is to not completely lose yourself. What one may considers running away, another may considers escaping — such a cruel way of thinking.