When I moved away from Harlem at the Age of 22, I didn’t have a blueprint for moving away except for where to. I wasn’t afraid to try new things or stand out, as a kid I liked wearing pullover sweaters and carrying a briefcase while attending elementary school. I wouldn’t call myself a nerd, more like ambitious (studious) with some style. When I started planning to move away, I wanted to go somewhere that we had family. At the age of 21, I sat down with my mom to find out where we had family around the country. I confirmed the family I knew, and she helped me get to know the family I didn’t know. I took the time to visit family members around the country over that year and settled on California.
When I stepped off the plane during my first trip to California, I immediately appreciated the relaxed pace of the people around me, especially compared to NYC. I was confident that I had found the place I would relocate to, this was at 21 years old. A year later, with planning, I drove to California with my belongings and car in tow. Within a week’s time of getting to California, I had an apartment and not long after I had a job. As the years went by and my family ties were growing on both Coasts, I was able to combine my love for driving with getting back to New York. My love for driving is responsible for some of my most memorable experiences. I started a small trucking company at the age of 25, (better insurance rates at 25yrs old), and I also drove one of the trucks - tractor-trailers, or to some 18-wheelers. A favorite memory is when I drove from California to Philadelphia to show my truck to the uncle who I was inspired by to get into trucking. When I pulled up, showed him my very own big-rig, and filled him in on how he inspired me, he called me “his hero”. A very, very proud moment for me! He has since passed, and I am grateful I was able to bring something to life that he inspired. Another moment was driving my truck to Harlem to see mom, and parking it directly in front of her apartment-building. (Accomplished by remembering the alternate-side-of-the-street parking regulations and communicating with my brother for timing). Eventually, my visits would slow down as I moved from trucking to a mix of logistics, real estate, mortgage lending, and other leadership roles.
When my wife and I were married we became a blended family and when we added to that family, we both wanted to make sure that we connected the kids to both sides of the family. In spite of our best intentions, work, school, and other responsibilities made that difficult. Initially I didn’t imagine moving back to my hometown because I was heavily involved in my family, career, and community. I visited pretty consistently, then over the years my trips home became overshadowed by the loss of family members. I lost an uncle, a brother, my dad, and grandfather. Raising and providing for a family and being away from our east coast family was a consistent topic for my wife and I. She would remind me that if I needed to travel back to Harlem that I should, and sometimes I did. When I would return to Harlem, it felt good to see everyone, but the trips felt incomplete without my wife and kids there with me.
My wife and I have always had a shared vision for our family that has evolved over the years. When we first started talking about New York, we talked about visiting so the kids would know and grow up making memories with their east coast relatives. When my California mom-in-law passed combined with the loss of my uncle, brother, and dad, we began to wonder, how many visits would it take to really create a sense of family? My wife was open to living elsewhere and I was approached with some career opportunities that were on the East Coast. In 2019 when we talked about the life we wanted, we decided to take a leap of faith to move and create that life. We arrived in Harlem about 2 weeks before New York City went into quarantine status, “closed down”. We had every intention of slowing down, but we could not have predicted that it would become the status quo of so many Americans and the world right at that time.