First, let me say this: I’m so proud of my friend and co-author Mitzi Miller, who quit her gig as the editor-in-chief of EBONY magazine last week to chase her dreams in Hollywood. She is, in a word, fearless—and I’m here for it.
That’s who she is, though. We’ve been friends for almost 15 years—met in the offices of Honey magazine, where I was a features editor and she was a nutty, loud, wise-cracking intern who penned, “Road Trippin’,” her first-person adventure column I was charged with editing. Mitzi kept the office lit—was always ready with a joke, a story idea and a boundless energy that anybody paying attention had to know would burst into something magical.
The mother in me was always protective of her; she let me know fairly early on in our friendship that she wasn’t supposed to be alive—that not long before she’d talked her way into that internship at Honey that she’d had a liver transplant and had to be careful with her health. This, of course, translated into me hopping all up in the middle of Mitzi’s thrill seeking: I remember vividly putting my foot down when, for her column, she pitched going sky-diving, and another time when she pitched boxing with Floyd Mayweather. I wanted her to stick to writing about rocking that stupid Carrie Bradshaw tutu in the streets of Harlem and standing outside courthouses with eye-patches and picket signs imploring “the system” to “Free Slick Rick.” (Yes. She really did this.) This was safe. I needed her to be safe.
But Mitzi’s fearlessness could not be tamed. She may have skipped going toe-to-toe with Mayweather, but while working full-time at Honey, she fearlessly pitched a book idea that turned into our first co-author effort with Angela Burt-Murray, who was then the managing editor at Honey. Mitzi, Angela and I went on to write, “The Vow,” which debuted in January as the original Lifetime TV movie, With This Ring, and Mitzi and I co-authored a teen series, “Hotlanta,” too—all of which she did while working full-time at Honey and Jane, freelancing and doing TV appearances and living a life fulfilled.
Of course, Mitzi would describe “fearless” as “choosing happy,” a glass-is-half-full/do-what-makes-your-heart-full philosophy she’s shared over the years as she transitioned from writer to editor within the Johnson Publications, Inc., family, first as editor of the legendary weekly magazine, Jet, and later at the helm of EBONY. But really, I think the two—fearlessness and the pursuit of happiness—are deeply intertwined.
See, choosing happiness is never, ever as easy as it sounds. Doing so requires you to give the flat-hand to naysayers who can’t see what you see for yourself. Doing so requires you to let go of the sure thing and brace yourself for discomfort as you build your new from scratch. Doing so requires you get off your ass and hustle hard, even on days when your entire being fiends for the easier days when checks were steady and work was certain.
In other words, you have to fearlessly let go of comfort and know that choosing happy is less an immediate achievement, much more a journey toward a goal.
Years ago—a decade come April—I chose happy when I quit my job as an editor at Parenting magazine and my family and I left all we knew in New York to move to a little town 45 minutes outside of Atlanta. I had one mission: to raise my daughters as I saw fit, sans the pressure of a demanding gig, living on someone else’s clock and feeling like a financial slave to a way of life that was becoming increasingly impossible to afford. Leaving a major metropolitan area where the hub of my profession is based—New York City is the capital of the publishing and news world—for the middle of nowhere was no joke, and I had plenty of naysayers asking how I, a writer, planned on earning a living when I was removing myself from the game. Some days I wondered right along with them. But wanting—really wanting—something different is a helluva motivator. Fear wasn’t an option. Happiness—for me, for my family—was my sole focus. And it paid off in spades.
It is this that I want my daughters to know as they grow and watch and learn and set themselves on their own path toward happy. The most important lesson? Choosing happy requires hard work and commitment, first and foremost, and an understanding that happiness is a very fluid thing. It also requires one to stand steadfast in their own truth, no matter what others think about it.
This is, perhaps, what I’m most proud of when I consider Mitzi’s decision to pack up her stuff and hightail it to Hollywood. She followed her gut, made a deliberate decision and chose happy, without a care in the world what anyone had to say about it. “It’s almost disrespectful to not take opportunities to challenge myself and make the most of this life, and to just be willing to move on when it’s time,” she told The Root. “Most of us know when it’s time for something to give, but we ignore that voice, chasing safety.”
Congrats for hearing the voice, Mitzi, and honoring it. I’m proud of you, friend.
Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.