When you’re young people will tell you that you can be anything you want to be as long as you work hard and commit. Then, once you’ve reached fifteen or sixteen, they tell you that you can be anything — within reason — as long as you work hard and commit. Eventually you graduate and realize you can be anything as long as it’s the thing you choose to pursue after high school and there is an opening in that field. Maybe you go to college, or maybe you choose to enter the workforce. Regardless of your choice you continue to hold tight to the belief you can be anything even though there is a growing number of signs that might not be true.
For some, this is too much uncertainty to bare, which is why many never reach achieve the goals they set for themselves when the world still seemed to be a place of endless possibilities. Once you’ve left the comforts of school and home behind you’re presented with an ever-growing list of expenses and challenges that often feel far more urgent than whatever desires for self expression you may feel within. You may try and be your true self, but before you can do that you have to figure out who that person is, and anyone who has gotten that far in life will tell you who you are is an ever-evolving organism who desires many different things out of life. To try and be just one thing goes against human nature, but doing so is far easier than the alternative.
Being just one thing has never been easy for Donald Glover. You may know him as Childish Gambino, or that guy from Community, or that guy from the FX show Atlanta, or as a standup comedian who have never gotten the recognition he deserves for his unique perspective. Glover’s entire career has been a balancing act of jobs and tasks related to whatever passion he felt in the moment. From TV writer to on screen personality, underground rapper to top 40 star, or actor to show creator, Glover has managed to do a little bit of everything that has interested him with seemingly no problem transition between roles. His continued efforts to further express himself set him apart in the world of entertainment and he shows no signs of settling down anytime soon.
And it’s not just his jobs that change. Glover makes a focused effort to diversify all his roles and continuously attempts new ideas. Those needing proof to this need look no further than his new Childish Gambino album, ‘Awaken, My Love.’ Released last Friday, the record marks a big departure from the indie hip-hop that was once Gambino’s signature. The album is largely rap free, choosing instead to deliver a reimagining of 70s funk sounds that rattle through your headphones with all the grandiose ideas that made that era in music something special. There is no idea too obscure for the record, and because of that Gambino is able to knock listeners out of their comfort zone early without providing much, if any, relief throughout the album. As soon as it begins you recognize that this material is something unique, but you only realize how significant the changes are as you make your way through the record. No two songs sounds the same, yet they exist side by side in near perfect harmony.
I’m not saying ‘Awaken, My Love’ is the best album of the year (though I’m sure many will say it is). What I am saying is that Donald Glover is an inspiration because he chooses to take the road less traveled when no one would blame him for continuing down the path he’s already started. Glover recognizes the fact that the world will expect you to do the same thing over and over until you reach the grave and he refuses to play into that idea. Instead, he uses his established brand to introduce new thoughts and creative expressions to an audience that easily numbers in the millions who might not otherwise experience such material if he chose to not bring it to them. Glover accepts the challenge of finding himself while still in the spotlight and allows us to see his journey in almost real time.