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The Lupe Fiasco Song That Taught Me the Wrong Way to Live With Illnesses

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Dear Lupe Fiasco,

I hope this letter finds you well.

The year was 2008.

“Man, I really miss my Pops
Hope that God watches over him and he’s on top
That there is no more disease and that he’s alright
That he’s one of the generals inside the army of the light”

— “Fighters” by Lupe Fiasco

A solitary tear trickled down my cheek. You spoke to me.

The year was 2011.

“Only time I settle is when I’m wrestling with settling”

— “Lightwork” by Lupe Fiasco

You spoke to me once again.

My entire life I have struggled with the internal battle between “Perfectionist tendencies vs. What YOLO taught me” (“A Verse A Day Keeps The Blues Away” by Young Mugz). If there was one thing that having a stroke at a young age taught me, it was that I was physically “deficient.” My physical “deficiencies” implied an inherent sense of inferiority. Being a young boy and being unable to participate in the physical displays that boyhood is centered around made life miserable. I needed an edge. I needed some way of compensating for my physical deficiencies. Intelligence wasn’t enough. Academic excellence wasn’t enough. Kindness as my mother suggested was nowhere near cool enough. “Never settling” — now that was enough.

The year was 2015.

“You don’t have much in the way of athleticism or talent, but you have perseverance. That is going to take you farther than the rest of these kids who don’t have half the uphill battle you face to just participate.”

Coach Bailey’s words resonated with me as I reminded myself that I could do this, I could power through, I got this! “Yaaaghh!!” Letting out a bloodcurling scream due to the waves of pain wracking my body, I willed myself out of bed and into the shower. My body may have been different now, I may be dealing with newfound chronic illnesses, but there are ways around that, right? As long as I kept pushing through I would eventually succeed right? Never settling and always persevering would eventually help, right? You taught me that, right?

Two hours later, I was panting, chest heaving and mind reeling from an excruciating two-hour long seizure. Thoughts of suicide engulfed my mind. All I wanted to do was be free. Be free from the pain. Be free from the limitations. Be free.

I had a seizure because I got out of bed and took a shower. I got out bed and took a shower despite everything in my body telling me not to, because I never settled. Realizing just how sad my life had become that getting out of bed and taking a shower constituted “never settling,” I thought to myself, Is this worth it?

The year is 2016.

“Sparring is training
Jacob {Mugabi} wrestled with God {Pain}, in the desert until he broke him
And he blessed him and he rescued his heart”

— “Israel (Sparring)” by Chance The Rapper & Noname

Thanks to newfound chronic illnesses, I have now learned that you are wrong. To live my life by never settling is an incredibly unhealthy behavior. To believe that I have to overcompensate due to my disabilities is an incredibly unhealthy mindset. To think my mother was foolish for suggesting kindness as a value to aspire to was a mistake. My pain broke me and it still does on several occasions but it also freed me. My newfound limitations on my body define how much I can do and overdoing things is an option that leads to way too much regret to be a frequent occurrence. So I no longer “wrestle with settling,” I settle and I am at peace.


“Fighters” by Lupe Fiasco

“Lightwork” by Lupe Fiasco

“A Verse a Day Keeps the Blues Away” by Young Mugz

“Israel (Sparring)” by Chance The Rapper and Noname

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741.

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Photo by acityinthemidwest via Flickr

Originally published: April 3, 2017
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