millennials often feel like they’re peeling rubber all through school – growing up so much faster than any generation before them.
As a black man eager to break into the design business, Jamel had to start from the bottom once he graduated from college. He moved back home—the Midwest—but he had to shuttle back and forth to New York on a Greyhound to do interviews. A tall man, he would crash in a dirt cheap hostel where he couldn’t spread his arms more than four feet across to the walls.
“It was the hardest time I remember, but that period is what I felt made me,” He can say, now that he’s just turned 30.
“I saw what I wanted to do, and I decided I was willing to do it.” Of course, Jamel ran out of cash. All he asked his parents for as a graduation present was the first and last month’s rent, swearing that he’d get a job within six months. Eight months later, he texted them that he’d found a job in “hospitality.” He didn’t mention that he was shining shoes in a hotel.
One day Jamel was shining the shoes of a guy dressed to the nines who talked like he knew a thing or two about design. He had an aHA! moment—this cat looked like the founder of Club Monaco who had sold his business to Ralph Lauren, Jamel’s idol. “Aren’t you Joe Mimran?” he asked his customer. That connection established, Jamel told the founder about his background. “We hit it off, and he said, ‘Why don’t you come in for an interview.’”
At 23, Jamel started at the bottom working at a Ralph Lauren store. “It was less than what I made shining shoes, but it was all about getting the work experience.”
Once he was promoted to freelance designer, he could take someone out on a date. It took the slow climb through the rest of his twenties to reach his dream- hired full time at age 30 as a “designer for Ralph Lauren.”
Jamel had always wanted to be married and have a family. But once he hit 30 and came close to that step, he had a chilling thought “You’re signing up for, kind of, forever.” He backed off.
Asked when he thought the clock might run out for deciding on somebody, Jamel was chill.
“It could be thirty-five, could be forty, could be fifty. I have high expectations.”
His friends at the lunch table laughed and starting mocking him.
“I’m like George Clooney. I get better with age.”