The Ivory Tower: a reclusive destination ideal for self discovery, a place of refuge to take cover from the woes of the world, or an island of privilege occupied to escape the disparaging realities of society. Historically, the term has a negative connotation that usually references either the wealthy’s lack of concern for the real world or the “pretentious” world of academia; all things that have been associated with elitism and supremacy. Although I understand the common ideology, my metaphorical existence in this tower will be far more interesting!
Here’s the story!
A few days ago, on my day off from tour, the opportunity of a lifetime presented itself – after some planning, of course; I had coffee with a living legend, Paul Edmund-Davies! Paul served as the principal flutist of the London Symphony Orchestra for 20 years and has been the featured flutist on many film scores! To my surprise, he was very interested in hearing my views on tertiary music education, the music industry, the orchestral world and what I’m doing with my career as a flutist. Firstly, meeting him in Tokyo was fabulous and our conversation was enlightening beyond belief; Secondly, hearing his positive affirmations and blessings over my life was surrealistic; and Thirdly, listening to his journey through all of the things I have questions about uplifted my spirit in a magical way. In conclusion, Paul is a unicorn 🦄!
Naturally, for such an auspicious occasion, the most important question to answer is: What will I wear!? For me, a lover of fashion and style, the garments I wear reflect who I am inside and it is imperative for me to represent myself accordingly! Plus, who doesn’t like to play dress up! So for this wondrous meeting, I wanted to wear Ivory – The material of elephant tusks and piano keys, a symbol of peaceful yet undeniable strength and purity, and an outward reflection of my conscious and subconscious minds being completely aligned, humbled and prepared to receive every ounce of knowledge Paul had to offer.
I took a cab over to the Tokyo Dome hotel to meet Paul. I arrived at the hotel, walked inside and my jaw dropped! Not only was the decor of this hotel stunning but it was all Ivory and gold – the same colors I chose to wear; this was a major sign! When things like this occur, they are not happenstance, they are divine and synchronistic moments in our lives to remind us that we are on the right track!
On our tread to a nearby coffee shop, we passed through the coolest entertainment and amusement park I’d ever seen! There were so many neat attractions, to include: a roller coaster (Thunder Mountain), water ride (Wonder Drop), sky flower lift, restaurants, ice cream parlors and WAY too much retail (my weakness 😩 lol). After this slight detour through paradise, we finally make it to the coffee spot, exchange our stories, take a photo and go on about our days!
THIS is where the journey takes flight!
After having a supreme afternoon with Paul, I’m left wandering around this amazing amusement park, dressed in Ivory. I decide to take all of the rides for a spin. Mind you, I hadn’t been on any sort of mechanical ride, with the exclusion of a ferris wheel, in about 7-8 years. With that being said, I began with the smallest of them all, the water ride! I can’t pretend like I wasn’t frightened, initially, because I was! My terror was curbed after seeing so many children, teens, and even parents face this ride with no inhibition; Needless to say, I enjoyed the ride!
Next was the roller coaster which immediately began with a steep incline and, what seemed to be, a never-ending drop! As I’m sitting in my secured seat, I began to think to myself: “William, wtf is wrong with you? Why are you doing this to yourself!?” And in that moment I realized that I’d been raised to steer clear of anything that made me uncomfortable 😣. Embarrassing as that is to say… it’s the truth.
self lesson #1: ok Will. We have to reverse this. If something makes you uncomfortable or stimulates a new sensation, don’t completely brush this feeling or experience off. Decide WHY you are uncomfortable and then make a decision. Otherwise, you’ll continue to unconsciously run from things for the rest of your life.
So now, the roller coaster is taking the incline. We reach the top and as we ease over the peak, I grip the handle in front of me with every muscle in my body. Finally, after being terribly uncomfortable for about 3 of the drop’s 8 second duration, I release my muscles and throw my hands up!
self lesson # 2: so if you’re gonna ride the roller coaster, William… RIDE IT; LET GO; BE FREE! And while you’re at it, live your life this way too; it’ll be way more fun and much easier!
The basic principles I learned from riding this rollercoaster were very simplistic but absolutely life changing.
Lastly, I took a flight on the sky flower. A ride where one stands inside of a 4 ft. rectangular box and is whimsically lifted into the air by a pulley system. The sky flower’s set-up is similar to that of a hot air balloon. So on this ride, I remember relating my physical experience to a metaphysical reality: the initial lift reminded me of beginning work on a new project; the remainder of the ascend was reminiscent of tireless work and unrecognized progress; finally reaching the top and gazing over the city 🌃 represented the short moment of glory; then there was the exhilarating and celebratory release of completion that sparked the descend; as gravity pulled me closer to the point of origin, I was reminded of the reflection and improvement period that occurs after completion; and reaching the ground symbolized the short period of time one has to rest before the process begins once again!
After getting settled at my hotel after this eventful day, I took time for some serious self-evaluation.
Here are my findings.
The Ivory Tower: A Reclusive Destination Ideal for Self Discovery, A Place of Refuge to Take Cover from the Woes of the World, or an Island of Privilege Occupied to Escape the Disparaging Realities of Society.
I take comfort in being alone. As an only child, I was by myself for long periods of time and as an adult, I am thankful for this experience; I rely on no person to complete me – I am whole on my own! However, at times, I could not relate to my peers on all levels because I was most frequently around two adults, my parents. In certain situations, I’d revert to being alone and I’d lock myself inside of my very own ivory tower. I’d hide like a turtle in its shell. This made me somewhat introverted and standoff-ish. Growing older and out of the habit of hiding, I can now visit my Ivory Tower leisurely! It is so important for all of us to take comfort in being with ourselves. NEVER APOLOGIZE FOR GIVING YOURSELF SPACE TO BREATHE! Spending quality time with you is crucial; figuring out who you are is more important than anything!
Every now and then I’d find myself consumed with the world’s issues, my friend’s issues, and everything in between! Yes, it is wonderful to be an emotional support system for the people you love, especially in time of need, but when you notice that their outlook on life becomes your own, you need to separate yourself… immediately! It’s definitely not easy but your health is so much more important than anyone else’s. If you don’t take care of you, you won’t be able to take care of others. This is the perfect time to step inside of your tower for a moment of comfort. This isn’t hiding; this is removing yourself from potentially or obviously toxic situations! Again, don’t feel bad for doing what’s good for you!
As an African-American male in America, I, too, honed an attitude of entitlement. The phenomenon is quite different, when compared to any other case of entitlement, due to the African-American diaspora and my unique upbringing. I’ll start with some background info. I was raised in a two parent home, attended pre-school (Deror Montessori), a k-8 test in academy (Alonzo W. Bates Academy School for The Gifted and Talented) and Detroit’s top high school (Lewis Cass Technical H.S.). I lived in the suburbs of Detroit, a blessing and a curse; I was away from everyone that I went to school with but there were hardly any kids living on my block. My dad worked at a Chrysler factory, and mom still works for a major financial institution; they made pretty good money. Unknowingly, from a young age, I’d formed a false sense of reality because I was sheltered from the world and I assumed that my reality was THEE standard. I was teased in school because of my thick glasses and bucked teeth so my parents allowed me to get contacts and braces in the 7th grade. Again, a blessing and a curse; contacts and braces allowed me to participate in extracurricular activities with greater ease but I also began conforming to beauty standards at a very young age – if you don’t like something about yourself… change it! Yes, this is true in moderation, but I wasn’t as mature back then. As a kid/teen I was well-mannered, had some talent, great work ethic, some morals, I was attractive and had some brains, so life wasn’t ever too hard for me. I knew how to get what I wanted and I began to expect things when I wanted them. Although this is a great mindset to function in when you’ve got a grasp on life and who you are, I had no clue who I really was and life was just beginning for me, so everything was a bit false. I also suffered from colorism. My skin was a golden brown color that I really liked, and I never wanted to get too dark because people made fun of those with very dark skin. I was treated differently because my skin wasn’t as dark and I also remember saying I only liked thin girls that were light-skinned with long hair; wow, was I confused. Society had me hating myself and spreading that hate to everyone around me. But no matter what happened, I was always able to hide away in my little home in the suburbs and forget about all of this. My island of privilege was formed because of my adaptation to the principles of white supremacy. My world revolved around materialism. I was under the impression that my purpose was to gain approval from white people. Subconsciously, I wanted to be white.
So, my yearning desire to wear Ivory a few days ago stemmed from a much deeper place than just looking cool. I needed to reevaluate my existence and purpose. I needed to cleanse. The events of this day were quite revolutionary and the time I spent thinking about my life has paid off immensely! I encourage you to purposefully explore your Ivory Tower, straighten all of the paintings and polish all of the tables; a clean home is a happy home!