Dating : I’m Celebrating My First 100 Dollars as a Memoir Writer on Medium

h2>Dating : I’m Celebrating My First 100 Dollars as a Memoir Writer on Medium

Eze Ihenetu
My Father in 1976

May 1999 to May 2001

In the immediate aftermath of my graduation from an obscenely expensive east coast college in May of 1999, I was left without any potential career prospects, and already being forgotten by a college apparatus that was looking to move on from me. My only choice after coming to this stark and disheartening realization was to fly back home to Denver to live with my family. Of course momma and my sisters were ecstatic to have me home with them. My Dad, who steadfastly believed that his son’s success would act as a proxy for what he’d wanted to achieve, and I were not as upbeat at my return to our single-family home.

Though unemployed, I was a recent college graduate, right? I should have been feeling deliriously exuberant and proud, as I was one of the few African American students to graduate from my alma mater’s vaunted business school. So why did the accomplishment ring so hollow? Because although I had been afforded the scholarships, loans, and grants to subsidize a significant portion of my college education, we had to go beyond our means to pay eight tuition bills. I can recall my heart beating at twice its normal speed whenever I opened the envelope with the insignia, felt my eyes bulge and my breath catch as I took in the sight of all of those freaking zeros. Mom and dad dug deep — dad had to dig deep to keep his faith in me — into their pockets for the remaining thousands of dollars that were needed to pay the remaining balance every semester. We were a lower middle-class family of five people living in a one-story house with one bathroom that we all had to share, so I’d feel so guilty for accepting the money since I hadn’t been able perform up to expectations until my junior and senior years.

Nevertheless, my dad and I had thought that if I graduated from a purported top fifty business school then one of those big east coast companies would come calling. But the only company that reached out prior to my graduation was a staffing company in New Hampshire, and I had not wanted to travel to a place that I was unfamiliar with. Distraught at the rejection, I would wonder, What the hell was the point of all of this?


I gave myself a few weeks cushion before I started scouring through the newspaper advertisements for career opportunities — yep, we still read hard copies of newspapers in 1999. The economy was supposedly booming then, an economic landscape flush with jobs, and I’d hoped that I’d be able to secure reputable employment within a few weeks-time. A couple of months later, my spirits were rooted in the doldrums after I’d been rejected dozens of times by potential employers. After absorbing so many blows from employers I was fretful of perhaps never being able to secure a job that required the completion of my college education.

And then one afternoon when no one was home, I received a phone call from an employer in late August 23, 1999, three months to the day since I’d received my college diploma, informing me that I’d finally latched onto a job in the non-profit sector, I threw my fist into the air. “Thank you!” I exclaimed to the caller. “Please know that I will work so hard for you!”

I hung up the phone, let out a primal scream that shook the hundreds of square feet of house, and said, “Yes! Yes! Yes!”

Then I remembered my father, who was twice as stressed as I was at my inability to find work in the moments leading up to my triumph. I was barely able to contain my elation as I picked up the phone receiver and pressed the combination of digits that would connect me to my father’s area of the airline.

I cut him off before he could offer a greeting. “Dad. It’s Eze. I got the job,” I squealed. “Did you hear me dad?! I got the job!”

“You got the job?!” he asked. “You really got it?!”

“Yes!” I replied.

“Oh my god. Thank god!”


The job paid $24,000 a year, a pittance salary for a college graduate of a prestigious east coast university. And if you were to adjust the value of the salary to match what it would be worth in 2019, it would still be a pittance. But despite all of that, I was working at a company where one-hundred percent of the employees were college graduates, and I valued the stability that came with receiving a check every two weeks. After six months of working as a clinical research assistant, I was taking things day by day, spending money hanging out with friends, and not really thinking about what my next move was going to be.

My dad, who was age fifty-six at the time, was more restive and ambitious. It’s why he was able to immigrate from Nigeria in 1975, start a family one year later, obtain a master’s degree in finance in 1986, and aid in the creation of a cooperative organization in the 1990’s. But even with all of his drive and talent, he hadn’t been able to climb the ladder toward the professional and monetary success he craved. He worked as a floor coordinator with Continental Airlines, earning a salary that was about half that of my mother’s. A proud and brilliant Nigerian man, my father could never get over the fact that he’d been relegated to an underemployed member of society. He wholeheartedly believed that he knew why: “They wouldn’t hire me because I’m an immigrant,” he’d say indignantly. “Once they heard my accent and read my last name, it was over for me.”

You know what? I believed him. At the time that my father had arrived in Colorado, it was known as the hate state. The fucking airport had been burdened with the appellation (Stapleton) of a former Ku Klux Klan member, and members of LGBTQ community were firmly ensconced in second class status along with people of color. Twenty-four years after my father had first arrived in Colorado, the doors were being painstakingly pried open by time and progress, though still less ajar for people who looked like me. Dad was acutely aware of time, how quickly it was passing him by. He still held onto his long simmering dreams though, and he was exerting pressure on me to help him.

I was only twenty-three years old in February of 2000, and I was sure that I wanted to explore alternative career paths, although still unsure of what it was that I really wanted to do. One thing I knew for sure was that I didn’t want to be tied down to my father, trading stocks on the internet. One huge reason for my hesitance to join my father in this venture was that I didn’t really believe in it. I was under the impression that if you wanted to be your own boss then you had to secure a loan to use for the purchase of office space. A business should operate out of a building that wasn’t your house, I thought. Selling stocks on your home computer didn’t strike me as being a legitimate business venture.

For a while he kept pitching the idea about the stock venture and I kept parrying it away. Oftentimes, I would come up with an excuse to leave the room when I felt he was ready to make another attempt at the sale. I became pretty good at detecting and deflecting. When a couple of days went by without him asking the question, I assumed that he’d given up.

One night I was sitting at the dinner table with both my parents. Dad was sitting to the left of me. As I chomped down on a piece of fried chicken, I caught sight of my father staring directly at me. His eyes were sharp as needle points. The alarm inside me was triggered until it became resounding pitch. Are you kidding me dad? How many fucking times do I have to say no?

“Eze,” said my father.

I dropped my piece of chicken on the plate, and turned to meet his eyes. “Yeah, dad. What is it?”

“Eze. My Eze. You are my son, right? Right?”

I heaved a sigh and said, “Yeah, dad. I am your son.”

“And being that we are father and son, it is a good thing for us to help each other?”

“You’re right about that.”

“Then why is it that every time I’ve asked about you helping me with the stock trading business you act as if it means nothing.”

I feel back into my chair, as I was reeling from the shock. It was the way he’d said it, as if I didn’t care about what he wanted. I kept quiet for a few precious seconds, allowing myself to recuperate. I could feel my dad’s sharp eyes burrowing holes into my skin the whole time. When I had recovered enough, I said, “Dad. It’s not that I don’t want to help you. I’m just not ready to do this right now. Why can’t we just wait a couple more years when I have a little more experience?”

Can I at least live my fucking life first?

“Well I don’t feel like waiting anymore,” he said. I tired of working for assholes, Eze. My new manager is twenty years younger and has less education and experience than I have. And they hired him over me. They didn’t even consider me for a promotion. Fourteen years and they are still paying me pennies. I want to do something for myself now.”

I swiped right back at him. “Of course I want help you. One day. You’re my family. But there are some things that I may want to do first. Can you give some time?”

Dad scoffed. “What is it that you want to do? I don’t see you planning for your future. You tell me that you want to do things, but all you do is watch movies and eat at restaurants during the weekends. He paused. “You’re learning how to box now! What possible reason do you have for learning about boxing?”

I am twenty-three years year old. Let me do some living.

I don’t know,” I said. I just thought it would be fun to learn how to fight a little. It’s not like I’m going to be a professional boxer or anything.”


Mom placed a placating hand on my father’s left shoulder, and then leaned forward. It was her turn to speak. “You shouldn’t be offended by what your dad is telling you. He just wants you to succeed. I know that you think you have a lot of time to make all of these decisions, but what you don’t know is that time moves fast,” she said.

“How about I get my master’s degree?” I said. “Yeah! I’ll get my master’s degree. Learn more about starting a business and then we can talk some more about daddy’s plan.”

“A master’s degree?” my father said derisively. “You? That’s not going to happen.”

Now I leaned forward, furious. Nothing made me hurt more than when he openly expressed his doubts to me. “Yes, it can,” I said through gritted teeth. “And it will… in time. What? You don’t think I can do it?” It would be a critical mistake if he did. Because I would be motivated to prove to prove him wrong.

“It’s just that you haven’t seemed to express any interest.”

“Well, I am interested. Just give me the time I need to do it.”


I performed in my first theatrical production a few months after that dinner conversation. I was Jessie in The Kentucky Cycle, the son of a slave master. I was good enough to gain mention from theater critics in a few of the local newspapers. I caught the acting bug after that, secured an agent, and went on to act in more local plays and television commercials. Dad didn’t fight me when I told him that I was planning on leaving Denver for New York to become an actor. For the both of us thought that I could be onto something with this acting venture. A week before it was time for me to leave Denver for New York, I asked him if I could still fly standby with Continental.

Dad looked like he just been smacked in the face. “What?” he said. “You’re leaving next week?!” A single tear slid down the side of his left cheek.

“Yeah daddy,” I said. “Remember? It’s almost time for me to go.”

August 2001 to May 2017

I secured an acting job in New York City after two audition tryouts; it was a starring role with a traveling actors’ troupe (National Theater) based in Connecticut — the owner was the sister of a powerful politician at the time. Then came the attacks on September 11th, 2001, which led me to fret over a possible cancellation of the tour. But Eileen (the theater director) decided that the show must continue, and I was so relieved. The attacks had twisted the spirit of the city into something that I didn’t like and I needed some extended time away.

I was on the road during the last three months in 2001, taking in the sights and sounds of United States of America. When I was not acting before thousands of young kids and traveling in a white van and trailer, I was familiarizing myself with the night life of some of America’s greatest cities. Columbus. Miami. San Francisco. Memphis. Atlanta. New Orleans. My nightly forays into American decadence while on the road led to several random amorous encounters with a diverse assemblage of young women and experimentation with marijuana and cigarettes. It was the most fun that I’ve ever had in my entire life. I hid knowledge of my extracurricular activities from my dad, who insisted that I call him every single Sunday.

When I arrived at my new home in Williamsburg, New York in the middle of December for a break in touring, I was told by a stranger that I could not enter my residence because my roommate had been murdered by drug dealers. I endured a brief three-week stint of homelessness in the city while I waited for the next theater tour to whisk me away.

After arriving back in New York in May 2002, I moved into a place on 150th street in Harlem, found a job at a pharmaceutical company in New Jersey, and performed theater at night. I fell in love with a woman during the summer of 2003. I lost my job and my sanity after she broke up with me over the phone, and ended up as a patient in a psychiatric ward for two weeks in January, 2004. Dad flew out to New York to see that I arrived home in Denver for good. He would be laid off from his airline job that same year.

I struggled to hold onto assorted jobs from for nearly three years before landing a position with the local mental health center in the summer of 2006. My official title was that of Peer Assistant, and my job as a higher functioning member of the mentally ill community was to assist less functioning individuals as they went about completing their activities of daily living. I accumulated extra thousands of miles driving my fellow sensitives to grocery stores, doctor’s appointments, and Department of Motor Vehicle appointments. I grew tired of being a peer assistant after fifteen months, and applied for the graduate teaching program at the local state college. I was offered acceptance in the summer of 2007, escaped being plugged with bullets from three policemen near the end of the summer, and enrolled at the college in the winter of 2008.

I secured a teaching position at a high needs school elementary school near the neighborhood in which I was raised in the summer of 2009. During my one year of teaching at this elementary school, I discovered that teaching children is probably the hardest job in the world outside of being firefighter or president of the United States. I came to adore Barack Obama, the first black president. I was offered a renewal of my teaching contract at the school, but decided that I would move onto another school, where I would only be responsible for teaching one subject (math) instead of four.

I was fired from my job as a math teacher three weeks after I started, and I was forced to sign a non-disclosure agreement as the ax fell hard on my neck. The terms of the agreement were that I was required to keep quiet about the firing in exchange for two months-worth of salary, a list of schools to which to apply, and some empty praise about my work ethic. “You the hardest worker that I’ve known,” said the CEO after he’d just told me that I wasn’t good enough to teach the kids at his charter school. I will forever harbor an intense ill will against charter schools.

I gave up on teaching children after some intense soul searching, but I refused to give up on myself. I re-enrolled into graduate school — this time at my father’s alma mater — in the winter of 2011. I graduated cum laude with a degree in health and human services during the winter of 2012. Still, it wasn’t until six months after graduation that I was able to secure gainful employment, and at a salary that was only seven thousand dollars more than what I was earning in 1999. And then Dad got sick with a virulent form of cancer (multiple myelomma) and kidney disease.

Dad was valiant in his fight against the comorbidities that would eventually force him into hospice care exactly only year after his cancer diagnosis. As my father languished in bed during his last days, my sisters and I fought with extended family members over where he’d eventually be laid to rest. We ended up losing the battle over possession of my dad’s body, but we were allowed a funeral in Denver. Dad’s body would be accompanied by family members to its final resting place in Amaigbo, Nigeria in late December 2013.

The beginning of a new calendar year 2014, and the meaning surrounding it, brought about a distinct need for me to reflect on the past decade of my life. When I was able to carve out enough time to sit for an extended time apart from my mother — mom and I live together in the last dwelling that my father would buy with my mother — and just ruminate over things, my fingers would close into fists. I started writing in the spring when my anger threatened to overwhelm me. At first, writing was an attempt at autotherapy. I touched the keyboard and my emotions flowed from their core onto the page. When Donald Trump, a man whom I consider as a threat to a black and mentally ill people like me, became the republican’s choice for president in 2016, I started publishing my memoirs on public websites for hundreds of thousands of strangers to see. I published a story with an online magazine (for free) in the summer of 2017 and was promoted to the position of lead at my day job that same year.

November 2018 to Present

I was skeptical of the Medium website when the idea was proposed to me by a member of my family. Of course I knew that it was possible to earn money writing on the internet, but I didn’t think that there would be such a quick turnaround for publishing memoirs on line. And then one week after I published my first piece on, I discover that this first story had received a bunch of digital applause from fellow writers and accumulated three dollars. Three dollars doesn’t sound like much in the grand scheme of life, but it is money that I’ve earned for a piece of writing that I’ve put out into the world, a dream come true. A few weeks after I’ve been certified as a professional writer, my first three dollars earned is automatically transferred into my bank account. Oh fuck, I thought. I think that I can do this…on the side. Shit just got real.

I will receive the largest digital check of my nascent writing career in early July, 2019. Again, thirty-three dollars is not a monumental amount. Nevertheless, it is money that I’ve earned through my own ingenuity and creativeness. If my father was alive, I think that he’d be proud of me; and I would have invested my time into helping my father achieve his dreams too.

I’m only able to publish about one memoir a month on I’m an over thinker, a somewhat slow writer, and my stories are usually very long. I’m also a sensitive (someone who struggles with mental illness). So often, when I am writing a memoir piece, I have to back away from the computer for a breather. It’s worth it though, struggling through the process of writing a piece about my difficult life, because I’m able to move people, give other people like me a voice, and change the minds of those who might have been less tolerant before reading something that I’ve wrote. I’m my own boss when it comes to my hobby, I write at my own pace, and able to make a supplemental income doing it too. So I am going to keep on writing and look forward to celebrating my first two-hundred dollars.

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