On an early Saturday morning in August, I arrived in midtown to take on a personal development course. It had already been a VERY long and a VERY hot first summer in New York for me. I was grinding hard to make my writing hustle come together, I was nearing the end of my long-distance relationship, and I was just exhausted from getting adjusted to becoming a new Brooklynite. My spirit was SO ready to take on some much-needed development work that weekend.
One of the first people I saw upon walking through the doors was a beautiful, mixed-raced woman with a slamming haircut and a face that was gorgeously adorned with just enough make-up to bring out her natural beauty. I knew immediately that she was one of the founders of Miss Jessie’s products because I had been following her inspiring rise in the natural hair care industry for the last decade and I had just seen a mock-up of her forthcoming book in my editor’s office a few weeks earlier. It was 8:45 am so I definitely didn’t want to blow up her spot so early in the morning. I said “Hello,” and I politely complimented her haircut. She returned my greeting with a friendly smile and introduced herself to me as Titi.
As we got further into our light morning chitchat, I discovered that we would be taking the same course together. I was excited to learn more about who she was and to see how this course would change our lives. Titi and I were the first two people to step up to the mic to share what we were up to that weekend. I was in awe of her courage and proud that she didn’t let her celebrity stop her from letting down her guard and getting real with what she was facing.
During our first lunch break, I let her know that I indeed knew who she was because I was a BIG fan of Miss Jessie’s products and I thanked her for all of her work to help early-adopting naturalistas like me have great products to help us celebrate our hair. She seemed a little uncomfortable with me acknowledging her, but she graciously thanked me for the compliment. We bonded even further over dinner that night, and we both wished each other safe travel and a good night’s rest as we prepared for Day Two on Sunday.
We greeted each other on Sunday morning with a hug and got ready to take on another day of soul-stretching work. During Sunday’s lunch break, I received an email from a now former friend ending our friendship, and I bawled my eyes out right in the middle of a very busy New York intersection. I tried to compose myself as much as I could before the break ended, but anyone within a 10-mile radius of me at that moment could see that clearly I had been crying.
I walked back into the center towards the end of the break, and Titi saw me in a hallway as I was heading back into our classroom. She lovingly asked, “Leah, are you alright?” I honestly told her, “No, but I will be.” I told her that I even though I was really sad in the moment that my friendship had ended so abruptly, I was glad to get the news in the middle of this course so that I could deal with it powerfully. Titi gave me a hug before I headed back into the room and she told me that even though I was in the middle of dealing with a difficult breakdown, I was inspiring HER to take on some difficult conversations of her own that she had been avoiding.
We triumphantly ended our course a few hours later, and Titi came up to ME and asked could we exchange contact information. I was surprised and honored. Here was this successful entrepreneur asking me to be in partnership with her to hold her accountable for what she declared in this course. I gave her another hug and promised her that I would keep in touch.
Literally less than 24 hours later, she excitedly texted me that she took on a conversation that she had been avoiding for quite some time. I texted her back and told her that I was proud of her. She asked how could she support me, and I told her that I simply wanted to include her in my new circle of friends and mentors in New York. We saw each other one final time at the course’s completion the following Thursday and we promised that we would do brunch in the city soon. When I woke up in early December to discover that Titi passed, I was heartbroken. I regret that I didn’t text her as soon as I thought about her amazing spirit.
Forty-eight hours is indeed a short blip of time to get to know someone, especially in the middle of a tough personal development course. But when the right people show up in your life, as my favorite Chicago MC Common said, “It doesn’t take a whole day to recognize sunshine.” Thank you, Titi, for lighting up my life with your beautiful spirit, your entrepreneurial confidence, and your courage to take on your life with power and passion. Your life was not in vain.