(#51 in a series of people who changed the course of my life)
Sometimes a co-worker becomes the kind of friend who changes your life. I doubt Wil Hall remembers his specific counsel to me but his understanding of the world and insight into who I was did just that.
Wil was a former co-worker, part art director and philosopher. Wil spent many “water cooler” moments with me, elaborating on injustice in the world, race in America, politics, and any number of topics far beyond the scope of what we each did to earn a living.
My sexual orientation mattered zero to Wil. He was more interested in what I would do with my life to make it better–and whether I would have the courage to go do it. Besides being a brilliant artist and teacher, I remember him as philosopher because countless times after he left my office, the world as I knew it had changed; I had grown a little more. Not infrequently, Wil challenged me to think beyond the world as I thought I knew it–beyond the experience of a white man, beyond gay, beyond my experience with faith up to that point.
One of the conversations he repeated with me over the course of a couple years was:
Whitley–find your bliss, man.
Wil knew my heart was no longer willing to be constrained by the corporate life that had sustained me most of my adulthood. He believed, long before I did, that I was destined for something different than what I was currently doing to earn a living–something that could help change the world. We debated, yes, but in Wil I found a comrade who was unsatisfied with the status quo and desirous of a revolution that would truly set us all free.
His words sunk in and, almost a year ago, I would take an important step toward finding my bliss, leaving the safety and financial security of a great job to see what I could do out in the world. Since then, my bliss has become moving closer and closer to my authentic self. Bliss has been learning to understand others’ experiences and advocating for–and with–them. And my bliss is about to become the pursuit of knowledge on a whole different level–something I had never expected or hoped to gain.
I am truly grateful that Wil did not relent in taking me to task for doing something important with a different set of talents he saw in me. That he brought forth ideas into my reality that are now not just a part of what I believe but make up who I am. And will become.
Thank you, my brother. And keep lookin’ up.
52. the bravest people i know