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The Former King Of The Small Things

I used to be good at doing the little things to make a woman smile, and looking back on those days, I think it was because the little things were all I had. Yes, I had a career from the moment I graduated from college. And even in college, I was busy juggling two or three different things at a time, but back then, I think what also helped me focus on these “smaller things” was a lack of focus on the bigger things.

I think from a  very early age, I understood the risks of the career I have chosen for myself. I knew I wasn’t going to be some hot shot lawyer making six figures and I knew I didn’t want to be a doctor who could afford to have a summer home. I just wanted to be a writer who was ambitious in his pursuits, and maybe one day make it to the top of a masthead or become so in demand, my talent would be handsomely compensated.

Meanwhile, my appetite for women never went away, and not just any type of women, but women who chose careers the exact opposite of mine. I admired the sharp wit and intelligence of lawyers, so I dated a few of them. I loved the way a woman who worked in medicine knew exactly what to do whenever I got sick, and knew it because she spent years of her life studying, so I dated a doctor from time to time. Oh, and business women? Don’t even get me started.

Being with these career-focused women never gave me a complex or made me question what it is I do. If I got involved with these women, I wasn’t going to let them think for one second that I lacked for anything just because I chose a career where the biggest reward was notoriety. My goal was always to show them, a good man who does these small things was priceless.

And so I became the king of the small things. Remembering the little things she said she liked when we were out window shopping, and then turning and buying them for her, so long as the price point was within my budget. I painted nights spent inside as the most romantic evenings and attempt to prove a long walk in the park was hands down the best way to spend quality time together, largely because it was free.

To some degree, these things worked (and I say some degree because if they worked to the full egree, I’d still be with at least one of them, right? Right). But I think what I have realized within the last couple of years in bachelorhood is that back when I was doing all these small things to keep a woman happy, I wasn’t really challenging myself to accomplish certain big things for myself.

I used to believe my talent would suffice. But right around the time my ex-girlfriend broke up with me, I became the online editor at VIBE, and I started to work around all these talented people who also hustled their tails off and I realized talent was only half the answer. I needed to hustle more, and so I did, as I attempted to juggle the same dating life I always had.

Turns out, that wasn’t going to fly.

Since April 2008, I don’t believe I have let one woman come before anything work related. With the exception of my boys and my family, all of my focus has been put on this career. I’m always choosing time to nurture a relationship with my readers over time to nurture a relationship with a woman.

And that is why a lot of women I have spent time with lately have accused me of not caring. As if to say, I met them, got to know them, and decided, I didn’t like them enough to continue getting to know them better. When the truth is, I met them, got to know them, and decided I like them enough to give them this oh-so-rare spare time I have. This is not to say they should just shut up and accept my time as some sort of gift, I would never think my time is more valuable than theirs. It’s just to say, I actually do care, but unfortunately, there’s work to be done too.

Ever since I read that post written by a woman I dated when I was unemployed, and how my “unemployment” status frustrated her at times, this whole “you don’t care because you don’t do the little things” line I keep hearing has been bothering me. When I did have time to do the little things, a woman was frustrated I wasn’t doing “big things”.

So now I’m back to my regularly scheduled program of being so busy, the small things are treated as such, and thus, almost forgotten. And I know this may sound a lot like the post I wrote a few days back about being too busy to be in a relationship, but hey, let this post serve as a reminder. These days, I’m so busy writing and trying to take my work to the next level that all I could think of to write for the past few days are posts about being too busy to do anything else but write about how busy I am.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, I remember very well the man I used to be. Every single ex girlfriend of mine will tell you I was all about the little things; how good of a job I did caring about the details. But that man right now is busy doing other things, so busy he’s forgotten how to do the small things and lately I have been wondering if he will ever let up. I wonder, should I just take it upon myself to slow down like I took it upon myself to speed up or should I wait for a woman who keeps up or slows me down? I don’t think a woman is a distraction, but sometimes, being her man can be.

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  • **inquiring mind**

    Really enjoyed this post #honestyisthebestpolicy…

    Earlier today I was talking to a homie and he told me that he heard 70% of first time marriages end in DIVORCE (d@mn, wasn’t it just 50% a week ago?)… anyway, I dunno what the focus on getting married is about anyway- majority of folks are ending up right where they started——>>>> alone. So why not focus on something that makes you happy… your career. I mean it’s a blessing just doing what you love in itself… a lot of people can’t say they are. The one will show up when she shows up (or she’ll show back-up haha! #mindphucking)

  • Yari

    I think this makes so much sense. I think it points to having to be in a certain happy place with yourself and the goals you have. I read somewhere that a man has to be comfortable as the provider in every sense of the world. So maybe you need to grind this out and get to where you need to be in your career before you can offer a woman the attention in a relationship she will require of you.

  • @broSouL

    jozen…that last sentence is, in the words of snoop, church tabernacle.

    thank you, as always, for the raw honesty.

  • http://www.wellbehaveddontmakehistory.blogspot.com Miss Malorie

    I love this post. From one writer to another, I admire your hustle, and I know I need to step it up to the next level. When I will get time to do that (with the work I’ve currently chosen for myself), I’m not sure, but I will do it.

  • http://www.thechicagosupperclub.com Alana

    “You will never lose women chasing money,but you can always lose money chasing women.”

  • http://sinnamonnights.blogspot.com/ Sinnamon

    Jozen. I understand being busy and kudos to you for being so dedicated to your work. I know you will go far with that work ethic and talent. But are you really so busy that you can’t spare 2 hours on a friday or saturday night to share a meal with a date. Or a quick phonecall to remind your lady you are thinking of her?

    That last statement by Alana. true and false. It’s a popular statement and I always agreed with it until now. I think you can lose women chasing money. Of course there will always BE women, especially when you have lots of money. But its likely you could lose A woman, that special woman who was good for you. She might walk away because you care so much more about your work than you do her. There should be a balance.

    I’m not condoning chasing women. Don’t go after them so much so that your work suffers. But include them. Trust, a lot of women are about their business too, and if you include each other, making time where you can spare it, it’ll be a harmonious relationship!

  • BoomShots

    LMBAO!!

    I am laughing because you have so succintly encapsulated the frustration of every man who had ever tried to satisfy the woman in his life, only to be told at the end of the day a list of all the things he does not do enough of or well enough. But after “honey I love you…”

    All women are not satisfied by the same things and its still a question as to whether any one can be satifised at all, no matter what you, me or any man will ever do. To attempt to establish a template to satisfy them all is a task of Herculean proportion, impossible. Being the best man you can be in a relationship is an evolution, no one arrives in the beginning knowing what works but by learning and growing with your partner you develop the things that works with that person. There will be tried an true things that has mass appeal, like say professional success but that will only work to get women and not necessarily to keep them.

    Its about both you and the woman in your life maintaining a happy medium and coming to an agreement about which things are priorities in your relationships. Not difficult to conceptualize but how so difficult to execute as people feelings ebb and flow and maintaining our focus and commitment over months, years or decades is tasking even for the best of us.

    One of the changes in mindset I encourage most people to undertake is to stop looking at most relationships endings as failures. Its only a failure if you haven’t learned anything about being a better person and knowing what you truly need in a future partner. Afterall it is harder to maintain the relationships we have than starting new ones. That is what i have found.

    Early success in doing the little things is not a predictor of long term success which is doing the things that count the most for that other individual in teh relationship. Jozen, like many of us you learn to cruise on your early success not doing enough to build on it. After a while it catches up with us.

  • madeleine

    As a young photographer I completely and full heartedly relate to this post. It is, I believe, much harder to work in a freelancing field, as a creative and hold down a stable relationship. The energy required to keep your creative career going is pretty intense – its like there’s no sleeping at the wheel. Not to say that accountants don’t work hard, but there is a clear divide between many traditional professions and home/personal time where as when you are a artist in New York City the most expensive city in the world no less – any personal time is spent working on your craft/ your projects/ a deadline etc. And while the hard work pays off – its never quite enough for you to stop or slow down.

    I think the solution is to have clear timeline related goals. What is enough? At what point is it OK to slow down? In a year? After the first book? And if that fails… perhaps moving to another city, because the thing I’ve come to realize is only in New York to people think 70 hour work weeks are normal.

  • Jackie

    I don’t think a woman is a distraction, but sometimes, being her man can be….So profound!

  • Jackie

    @**inquiring mind**

    Are you male or female?

  • **inquiring mind**

    @Jackie
    Why? Are you trying to date me or fight me? Cuz I ain’t no punk B!tch! lol… *a la Sheneneh* I’m a laaaady!

  • http://www.wellbehaveddontmakehistory.blogspot.com Miss Malorie

    @madeleine

    I hear you… freelancing ain’t easy, and I’m not even hardcore freelancing yet! lol. I was freelancing relationship articles, and life ended up getting in the way, and so I stopped. Some of that was a man, and some of that was work. It’s a serious grind. I love photography as well as writing 🙂

  • BoomShots

    @**inquiring mind**
    Now you damn sure know ain’t no job/career/hustle going to be snuggling up with you at night.
    So stop fronting!!

  • **inquiring mind**

    @BoomShots
    LOL Boomy… don’t even start. It’s not a front tho. I figure it this way. If a man (or woman for that matter) has their heart set on something that is what they are going to go after. For some of us it’s our careers (and I say some of us because I’m focused on my career too). Some women need to accept that every man we want won’t neccessarily want us at that time. And, sometimes it ain’t even about another chick. Sometimes we’re competing with intangibles. Personally, I want to be a dude’s number 1 when HE’S READY… I don’t want no half-@ss relationship. I’d rather snuggle up with my pillow than feel rejected because dis dude got priorities that don’t spell INQUIRING MIND. And honestly, I’m comfortable in my own existence that if a dude I’m into is busy with his career (or whatever) and not me that I don’t sweat it… I ain’t really got to- I know I’m a catch.

  • joy

    real talk jozen!
    thank you for helping me understand the man’s perspective, this is some helpful stuff for a girlfriend.
    keep it up!

  • Nicole

    I just have a question. How can a woman slow a man down? Isn’t it more of you met someone that you (for whatever reason) are into more than you have been before and you make the choice to slow down and pursue a relationship with her. And if that is in fact the case wouldn’t that just mean that you have not met the woman who you actually want to take the time to slow down for. So its not that you don’t have the time but that you just don’t want to?

  • **inquiring mind**

    @BoomShots

    Ok wait, let me not lie. I get it. I’ve been in a place where I wanted his attention and didn’t receive it. It hurt my feelings. But that was when he wasn’t communicating and saying “he’s busy” or “tied up”… So I question Jozen’s communication. Every time a dude has said what was up they gave me the opportunity to take emotional resposiblity for myself so I could either sulk or move on with my own isht. And every time… I moved on and didn’t feel any hard feelings because I understand wanting success for myself… why would I deny him that? When they don’t communicate I’m uncertain and then I’m pushing myself on them because now not only do I want your attention, but I want to know why I’m not getting it and what became so much more important… get it?

  • BoomShots

    @**inquiring mind**
    Sounds good but while there is a template for success in our careers, no such template exist in relationships.
    It is easy t throw yourself into work because most careers have metrics for success, giving most of us some expectation of a guarantee. I understand that more than you know. But no one talks about work on their death bed. I know most of us so young, death is just a passing thought at best but the truth is if only 30 percent of first marriages don’t end in divorce, it doesn’t mean the people in the 70 percent that do are necessarily unhappy.

    A cautious life is an unlived life. Trite but true, it is the journey not the destination.
    Plus how are you going to be his # 1 when he is not yours?

  • Cali

    I think Jozen should keep his current pace for as long as he feels comfortable. When & if the right woman comes along, he’ll have to make adjustments (if he’s smart!). Or when the grind gets to be too consuming & he finds there’s an emptiness that work doesn’t fill, he’ll change course. It’s all a work in progress – there’s no way to tell which direction one should truly take, so you just have to follow your heart & trust you’re doing the right thing @ the right time.

  • **inquiring mind**

    @BoomShots
    Uh PAR.DON.ME… but how did I become the topic of discussion (just kidding, loving the attention- just kidding again, but it’s whatever)…

    Anyway, Boom you seem to be a very “black and white” kind of guy as most men are… I however like to get into the gray (like a lot of women)… and here lies why we disagree:

    1. Sounds good but while there is a template for success in our careers, no such template exist in relationships.

    Actually, it is pretty simple… always be honest. Look at all the relationships you have had over the years that are successes, with friends and fam. What is the common denominator throughout them all? I’ll take a stab at it… the fact that they accept you for you and you accept them for them(wholely and truthfully). That means when they’re wrong you can accept it as apart of them and still love them beyond their faults because you love them WHOLELY! People forget that part of it in relationship… they forget to love the isht they don’t like about a person too and that takes selflessness (is that a word?- wutever)

    2. It is easy t throw yourself into work because most careers have metrics for success, giving most of us some expectation of a guarantee.

    Not so true… look at the job market today. #caseandpoint

    3. I understand that more than you know. But no one talks about work on their death bed.

    Can you be so sure? I’ve seen first hand a person regret choosing a relationship/marriage/family over their PERSONAL happiness and talk about what they “could have done” or “could have been” everyday of their life had the pursued it… so what difference does a moment on a death bed make?

    4. I know most of us so young, death is just a passing thought at best but the truth is if only 30 percent of first marriages don’t end in divorce, it doesn’t mean the people in the 70 percent that do are necessarily unhappy.

    True, it just means they’re happier a part. So why get married in the first place and which happy couple do YOU know of was happy BEFOR and after? I want NAMES BOOM! lol

    5. A cautious life is an unlived life. Trite but true, it is the journey not the destination.

    Agreed, but knowing where to take the risk makes a good gambler, not just makes you a fool.

    6. Plus how are you going to be his # 1 when he is not yours?

    If he’s as smart as I am… we will wait til we are both be each others number 1.

  • **inquiring mind**

    @**inquiring mind**
    yeah that last one ugh!

    Point is, he’s gonna be smart enough to let me have my dream first so later he can have me. #fin

  • K.I.M.

    I’ve had many conversations around this. A friend of mine observed, “black men (more so than other races of men) treat love/marriage as a strategic thing. I’ve got to accomplish XYZ before I can think of a relationship. Once I get xyz, then I’ll start looking for a wife. Hence you’ve got all these self-absorbed 30 something who have forgotten how to date. So basically they put materiality over relationships. Meanwhile, my sister in an entry-level position observed how many of her non-black peers at work are engaged and/or arleady married by age 26 and they barely have any material stuff and/or are working through graduate education (however, will soon get more ‘stuff’ faster b/c double incomes > one income).

    Most recent sermon I heard was on the concept of time. What are you doing with your time and are you leaving a legacy? Chances are…if you are just focused on acquiring material things and even status at work your legacy won’t last. Focusing soley on career – let’s say your life is abbreviated. Your assets are liquidated and go to the government (instead of being passed onto your family). No child would say, “I wanted to be just like my father,” no woman would say, “I loved the most special man on earth.” Nope…you die, your parents (if still around) say you were a good, busy son. You’re employer says you worked hard (but has already found a replacement for you). You’re boys flash back on college days.

    Ehhh – Ionno. Seeing things from a morbid perspective (i.e. living as if your days were numbered Psalsm 90:12) puts a different twist on how you treat the present moment and what you value in life. Start acting now how you want to be remebered.

  • ER

    lmao, damn dude ur turning me into a chick, reading this joint everyday

  • http://counterfake.net KitKatCuty84

    My father’s favorite expression is “play your own game”. He says it so much I got it engraved on a keychain for him. Seriously. Anyway, it sounds like you need to play your own game, Jozen. If work is what’s driving you right now, hold onto that. Remember that whenever you’re wondering how to make a relationship work right now. I don’t think one can. And that should be OK with you for now.

    When you continue at this pace for a while, maybe you’ll get the hang of it and figure out a way to make love work simultaneously. Or maybe you’ll discover you want to slow down to have a relationship. There’s no need to feel like you HAVE to slow down now, because doing so for something you don’t really want (a relationship) will only make you resent whatever relationship ensues.

    But let me be clear that I don’t condone what’s hot right now. I don’t agree that you have to chase love OR money. I don’t think you have to wait to pursue love until you’ve amassed $80mil, become a shipping magnate, been elected governor or bought your first home. I think we’ve turned our personal/professional goals into excuses for why we can’t settle down and make a home/family/life with another person. Maybe we’re scared. I don’t know, but it is what it is.

  • http://counterfake.net KitKatCuty84

    @K.I.M.
    You and I were thinking/typing the same thing. You just submitted first. So glad I’m not the only one who feels this way. 🙂

  • BoomShots

    @K.I.M.
    While I see how that perspective is arrived at and I am probably example one of waiting to get my ducks in a row before contemplating matrimony, i have to tell you that as a man its very important to me that I am able to support my family, if I have one. The truth is in our very boom and bust economy, the brothas seem bust more than everybody else and it don’t seem to matter howw qualified you are or how hard you have worked.

    Unemployment right now they say nationally is about 9,5 pct. for brothas is probably twice that. Most of us grew up seeing that and knowing too many men who walked away from their fams because they could no longer provide for them. The James Evans frustration!!

    I would never encourage anyone to sacrifice their relationships for career but I know far too well the pressures there. Its tough in both areas of life and men nowadays have to prepare to deal with the stresses involved. It ain’t any easier for the sisters either, the downside is that those of us who are able to somehow make it become too protective of what we have achieved to want to share with those we don’t thing have strived as much.

    See **inquiring mind** #6 to attest.

  • L. Dejean

    good post…and i truly believe that if you find someone who is understanding and patient, this wouldn’t be a huge issue but maybe that is hard to find these days? *shrug*

  • Tee

    It’s amazing how different this sounds coming from someone other than the guy you’re dating. From him it sounded like a bunch of excuses. From another source, it makes perfect (although annoying) sense.

    Lesson learned years later. Noted.

  • C’mon Man.

    Jozen. Please stop negleting this blog. I KNOW you gotta pay the bills…but um, can we get a little love here? I’ve been so bored these past couple of days 🙁 – Avid reader.

  • Kady

    “I wonder, should I just take it upon myself to slow down like I took it upon myself to speed up or should I wait for a woman who keeps up or slows me down? I don’t think a woman is a distraction, but sometimes, being her man can be.”

    This last sentence speaks everything I feel, I was just chatting with a friend/co-worker about this burning ambition we both have, and saying what if all this extra ambition could just disappear, so I could accept being just an average chick. She told me “thats not who we are”, not to say we think we are better than others, but we both have intense drive when it comes to our career. The other thing we discussed was how people looking in often tell us they thing we have it all, but to us, we are still just trying to make it.

    I truly don’t believe ambition can be turned off, I know I wouldn’t be satisfied with myself if I didn’t push myself everyday. The person who you will be with, will be someone who understands your life and your struggles, if someone is only trying to slow you down, there probably not the one for you.

  • Leah

    I love the post, as usual… but the comments are more entertaining than today’s post. You guys are a trip! LOL!!! Inquiring Mind and Boom, I feel like I know you two! LOL!

  • http://www.falliblesage.com Fallible Sage

    @K.I.M.
    I agree K.I.M. I’m a proponent of building together. But I’m also a single Dad, and have been for much of my adult life at this point. Maybe it allows me to more easily see this thing from another vantage. But we’re all men, and socialized to be THE providers, and that’s some scary shat.

    I imagine for young unattached and professional brothers who often are the first in their families to “make it out” and are now having to “make it”, the prospect of having an additional consideration beyond themselves can be terrifying. Not only is it what do I eat, how do I pay my bills, how do I navigate life’s uncertainties… I gotta think about “ours?” I can imagine you’d want to feel as prepared as you could possibly. Especially without sometimes having the parent parachute (turning to family if things fall apart, to have additional support and resources… some young brothers themselves often being who mom and family turns to for help) & social pressure that many of K.I.M’s sisters young non-black collegues often have.

    The thing about that is preparedness is illusive, and you can find yourself spinning your wheels waiting for a “perfect time” that may never come… and possibly miss out on something special, something reinforcing in the right woman that could help you get to the next level… together.

    I’ve been taking care of someone else since the age of 19, I’ve always had to contend with the disconcerting idea of things being less than ideal for not only myself, but for my daughter. So I’m comfortable in having been there for some time making it happen in spite of, and for me the idea of a partner is less scary and more utility. But I think I can see where many guys are coming from who genuinely want to be able to be good mates and fathers, and believe they have to build the nest by themselves first.

    This line “With the exception of my boys and my family” to me said it all… the demands from those are different. Those demands you feel ready to meet right now, while the demands of a woman is more than you’re willing or able to meet… and that’s cool too. Take your time brother, just don’t miss out on something wonderful chasing something good, because the wonderful things don’t necessarily have to deny you the good things in life, in fact they might be the key.

  • **inquiring mind**

    @Fallible Sage
    *applause*

  • Leah

    @Fallible Sage Wow. That was awesome. And hats off to you for being there to water your seed.

  • kS

    good for you. master both worlds.
    i had to comment cuz these posts are too good not to – i love the way you bring it together at the end.

  • cinnamon

    @Tee

    I totally agree about the “work” thing seeming like an excuse. My recent ex owned his own business and what he put in dictated what he got out. He also had employees so he said that he had to put in 300% to make sure everyone could eat. As we went on, the time he used to have for me dwindled because business was growning. I was supportive of that although, I felt like he wasn’t making enough of an effort to spend time with me. I thought his feelings changed because as I mentioned, he was so great in the beginning. I come from the school of thought that “you make time for what you want to make time for.” When I told him that he said he used to agree with that until he became a business owner and said that there are several things – spending more time with me included, that he wish he could carve out more time for but couldn’t due to the demands of his business. I just felt that he wasn’t trying hard enough because he’d done all the great dates and the like previously and now, I felt our relationship was about really spending time together to see if we could see ourselves together forever. Finally, it came down to him not thinking it was fair to call me at the last minute, possibly have to break plans with me due to something coming up or “not give me his all because he was drained from work” and have me come over late or visit me briefly when I have a career and other things. Perhaps when he figures out that life isn’t just about work I’ll be around but I’m certainly not going to wait by the phone, although I truly love him, for him to do so.

  • citygirl22

    WOW these responses were so engaging, I forgot what the original post was about and had to scroll back up. Kudos to all of you… I have nothing to add!!!