Today is July 22 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often do you rely on others for your happiness? Author Mandy Hale wrote “Happiness is an inside job. Don’t assign anyone else that much power over your life.”
People who navigate the chaos like actor Taraji P. Henson understand they are responsible for their own happiness. Another extension of this question is ‘why would you ever rely on others for your happiness?’ What is it in you that rejects the notion you provide your own happiness? Translating your dreams into reality is your responsibility and, therefore, so too is your happiness.
Henson graduated from Oxon Hill High School in Oxon Hill, Maryland, in 1988. She then attended North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University where she studied electrical engineering before transferring to Howard University to study drama. To pay for college, she worked mornings as a secretary at The Pentagon and evenings as a singing-dancing waitress on a dinner-cruise ship, the Spirit of Washington. With her one-year old son in hand, she walked across the stage to receive her diploma at Howard University.
After college she set out for Hollywood and wondered if she had made a mistake dragging her then 1-year-old far away from her family, her hometown, everything she knew and loved. In an interview Henson said “I remember when I said I was going to move out here [L.A.] and my son was like a year old at the time and I had no money. Fresh out of college with dreams and stars in my eyes. Some people thought I was crazy. My mom was like ‘You’re going to starve!’ But they are all proud because I had a dream. In my opinion, if you’re not dreaming, you’re not living.”
At 26, she found an agent and landed a number of TV roles, including ER and Felicity; then things turned around even more. In 2001, she co-starred in director John Singleton’s Baby Boy, a drama addressing the absentee father epidemic, and in 2005, made a head-turning splash in Terrence Howard’s urban drama Hustle & Flow, which garnered her a Best Actress nomination from the Image Awards. She also sang the film’s Oscar-winning song, “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp,” performing it at the 2006 Academy Awards – just two weeks after her father lost a battle with cancer.
In 2016, Henson starred in the film Hidden Figures, a major box-office success nominated for numerous awards, including three Oscars (Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actress for Octavia Spencer) and two Golden Globes (Best Supporting Actress for Spencer and Best Original Score). It won the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture.
In a speech given at the 2018 Women in Film awards ceremony, Henson said:
“I finally get to L.A. graduate, have a kid in college and I have to pursue my dream because if I don't what am I teaching my son? So, I moved to California with seven hundred dollars in my pocket and my toddler. And I had to fight the good fight because people are telling me ‘you can't do this.’ They say ‘Are you crazy? You're moving to California with your son? You'll never make it.’ I was twenty-six when I decided to come here.
There's the age thing. Oh, you're too old. If you listen to people and if you allow people to project their fears onto you, you won't live. What if I believed those people who told me that when I became pregnant in college that I wouldn't finish? I walked across that stage with my son on my hip and I collected my diploma.
I didn't hear the naysayers when they were like you're too old to go to California. If you don't hit by 25 you're not gonna make it. I will be forty-six this year, I am just touching the surface. I am just getting started. And that's my message to kids today, they think so little because of Instagram. You know everybody wants instant fame. it didn't take me, it didn't happen. this me getting here, this is 20 years of hard work of proving that my voice mattered.
Did I always get paid what I should have? No. But that was not my struggle. The struggle's bigger than that. Get the big picture and stick to it. I have a voice. Everything in life that is coming to you is going to come through you. It starts inside of you. Whether it is love from another, that love must start within you. If you do not know how to take care of yourself or care for yourself first, how are you going to teach someone else to? You need to fight for your goals with such tenacity. You are the temple and you have control. If you are in a bad situation it's up to you to get out of it. You can't give another human the responsibility of your happiness.”
Henson understood the value of relying on herself for happiness. How often do you?