Rapper Cardi B
 By Erma BreAnn

Stripping is to Cardi B, what my nine to five is to me. 
Take a moment to reflect on that statement. - Moment over. - Now can we stop talking about Cardi B being a stripper as if stripping is such a taboo? We strip in our own lives. I’m stripping, we just call it a different name. My job title is Office Specialist. I don’t even know what it means most of the time. I guess I specialize in office work. Instead of dancing around a pole, I “dance” around an office. I wear what they want me to because a dress code is a dress code, naked sounds the same as business casual to my ears. You probably aren’t getting dollar bills thrown at you while you work but it’s dangling over your head, it’s called a paycheck.

Let’s stop making the point Cardi B is a former stripper as if that is the sole reason she got to where she is right now. That stripping is how she topped the charts as the first Black Female Rapper to hit Number 1 on the Hot 100 without a feature since Lauryn Hill. I hope no one actually believes that is how it happened. It sure would make us feel better to believe Cardi B cheated her way into success somehow, whilst we’re still dreaming. Now that we’ve gotten over the shame of stripping, we can talk about why Cardi B’s story is inspiring?

Cardi B did something we are waiting for someone else to do: invest in oneself. That is right. That’s what she did. She used her money to invest in her first mix tape and the second, within six months. She studied the craft, networked and made moves. She didn't wait for someone to sign her or tell her that she was special. When you see value in yourself, by believing in yourself, you will make things happen for yourself.

When living paycheck to paycheck, it sounds easier for a stipper because we imagine they make more money and have more free time. So we call Cardi B a former stipper as though we can’t do what she’s done. It gives us an excuse, an out, to continue this cycle. But it’s not all about money because if you don’t learn to manage your money properly you will still find yourself stuck and living paycheck to paycheck with six figures.

If anything, we should admire how Cardi B didn’t get stuck.

I see it everyday how we complain and gripe about getting out of bed to go to the jobs we hate. I would wake up sick every morning because I didn’t want to go to work. It’s a mentality we can’t shake. Then we advise others to be stuck with us, and we get salty when someone frees themselves. I followed the cycle for years, and I never made real moves to achieving my dreams and goals. Too busy making other people’s fantasies come true.

So when I here “I don’t dance now, I make money moves, said I gotta dance I make money move,” I get excited to go to work or stay up late writing my little heart out, because I know I have a vision. I am here for Cardi B like the Beyhive is here for Beyonce. ‘Bodak Yellow’ is an anthem for all of us artist and dreamers who are still “stripping” at our nine to five jobs.

How do you deal with your 9-5?

Erma BreAnn is a queer writer and poet based in Chicago. She is the creator of the blog Basic, Bad, & Bitchie at ermabreann.com, focusing on her journey through life. Follow her on Instagram: instagram.com/ermabreann

 By Sharee Silerio

Two years ago, I was sitting at my desk, trying to wrap my head around all of the work I had to complete, with very little time or support from my colleagues. I felt trapped, undervalued and overwhelmed. For several months, I had been trying to perform with the same enthusiasm and detail as I did when I started the job, but with the workload of two regional representatives, it was too much. On a Friday, my supervisor sent an email about my inability to catch up on my tasks, and I had had enough.

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The toxic environment, refusal to offer assistance and disregard of common sense broke my last straw. I didn’t have another job lined up, but I needed to get away from there as quickly as possible. I took a leap of faith, and the following Monday, I put my notice in. Since then, I have been freelancing as a writer, editor and media professional. Although it’s often a stressful hustle to pay bills and maintain my finances as a business owner, I’d choose working for myself any day. In a matter of days, I was free from the job that stifled my creativity; took all of my energy; left me with nothing to give to myself, family or friends; and made me feel like I was dying inside, to total freedom. I’ve faced so many challenges on this self-employed journey, and I have learned so many valuable lessons. Here are a few nuggets of truth and wisdom that life taught me after I quit my 9-to-5.

1. Freedom can be debilitating.
This is the most peculiar dynamic I’ve ever experienced. Now I know that it might not make sense that freedom can hold you back or keep you from doing something, but it can, if you don't realize its purpose. In other words, having the freedom to do what you want, when you want and how you want means that there are so many choices. Sometimes there are too many decisions to make, and you don't have time to process or figure out what to do. This is especially true if you need to make sure you “adult”, aka pay your bills while being your own boss.

 2. What I can, can’t, will or won’t accomplish is up to me.
Quitting my full-time job opened a world of opportunity for me. I could literally go in a thousand directions, and my ability to choose and be successful at anything that I tried was up to me. If I didn’t believe that I could do it, then I was the one holding myself back. Everything begins and ends with the mind when it comes to turning visions into reality, or nothing into something.

3. Intuition is everything. 
It’s so easy to get caught up in what you need to do versus what you are called to do. It’s so easy to get sidetracked, and end up doing things for money versus passion. The same goes for what other people see you doing as opposed to what you feel your gut is telling you to do. It’s important to tune in to what it is you really need and desire, and take a hard look at what will truly make you happy.

4. When things don’t work out, choose a different route.
Sometimes I feel like I need to do more to make up the income I lost when I left my 9-to-5. However, everything I have tried – applying for jobs on my own, with creative talent agencies, etc. has not worked out. These doors have been closed to me repeatedly, so I believe that this is a sign that I need to stop trying and focus on finding and doing more of the work I love. The money will come.

 5. Being well is essential. 
Working for yourself immediately rips the mask off of you and your life. Life becomes a mirror. When everything is on you; when you've broken out of the box; you realize that the life you live is a reflection of your spiritual, mental, physical, financial and emotional health. Choosing the freelance life revealed unresolved pain, issues and insecurities. I couldn’t hide behind my cubicle, position, or working 40 plus hours a week. It’s also difficult to ignore yourself, your emotions and how life is affecting you, when everything you desire is linked to your overall well-being. You must be healthy – emotionally, spiritually, physically and mentally to make your new life work for you.

 Did you leave your corporate job? How did it impact your life? Are you thinking about leaving your 9-to-5?

 Sharee Silerio is a St. Louis-based freelance writer, Film and TV writer-producer, and blogger. When she isn’t creating content for The Root or The St. Louis American, she enjoys watching drama/sci-fi/comedy movies and TV shows, writing faith and self-love posts for SincerelySharee.com, relaxing with a cup of chai tea, crafting chic DIY event décor, and traveling. Review her freelance portfolio at ShareeSilerio.com then connect with her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.