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African American man drinking at backyard barbecue

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I lived my best life during the summer of 2016. My friends and I traveled up and down the East and West coasts, then topped things off with a little international fun. Most of us were one or two promotions into our careers. In our minds, we were killing the game, but in reality, as relatively new college grads, we were just two paychecks away from scrub status.

But I needed to not give AF that year. Work was stressful and isolating because I was the only Black dude in my office. I was newly single after the end of a long-term relationship, and I was trying to figure out my new life. I guess you could call it a quarter-life crisis. Earlier that summer, I decided that the new me was tired of being “the responsible one,” and I needed to try something different. So I became “that dude:” The one who’s wildin’ out and blowing money fast. My boys loved it. Bottle service? I got that. VIP in the club? Cool. Table? I’m on it. We had so much fun that the crew decided to close the summer out in the most eventful way possible: Caribana in Toronto, coupled with OVO Fest.

If you’ve never been, let me tell you what you’ve been missing: Women in dope costumes, multiple whines being caught, themed boat parties, Drake, Future, and Rihanna. You starting to get the vibe? Good. It was bananas. Up until that summer, my crew relied strictly on charm because we didn’t have money to lean on. Now, we were finally experiencing the upgrade throwing a little cash—or credit—creates. I was hooked. But by day five, it felt like Hooded Kermit was looking at me every morning in the mirror like, “F-it! Spend the bread now and eat Ramen noodles later.”

By day five, it felt like Hooded Kermit was looking at me every morning in the mirror like, ‘F-it! Spend the bread now and eat Ramen noodles later.’

On the last day of the trip, I checked my account and gave myself a stern talking to: “No more! Stop spending, negro.” But I had forgotten about the rooftop day party we were supposed to attend. “Y’all trying to get a table to close out the trip?” someone asked. Sometimes, the energy in the room is enough to bring you out of character— I quickly said yes, and I had a blast. That afternoon, as we were walking out of the club, I got a call from my bank. It wanted to verify whether all of the week’s charges were actually from me. Yessir.

That evening, after waking up with night sweats thanks to the copious amounts of alcohol I’d consumed, I started thinking about every single f*cking transaction. I had to muster up the energy to check my account one last time as we hit the road for the drive back home. Over the next nine hours, I tallied and re-tallied my charges. I felt like a jackass. I’d lost my financial cushion and had no idea when I would be above water again.

The fun was over. I walked into my apartment, and the silence brought me back to reality: I was broke. And on the real, a little scared. I had nothing in my account, and that wasn’t a good place to be as a grown a*s man. I felt nauseated.

You may say, “It’s not that hard, bruh. Just don’t spend what you don’t have.” And that makes sense. But there was something about that summer and my longing for validation. I wanted random girls to know we could stunt. I wanted the group to remain as activated as possible, so I bought a couple rounds of shots at the day party. All of this for what? A few one-night stands, killer hangovers, and a temporary ego surge? I didn’t know what I was doing. I’m not trying to turn my irresponsibility into a Fix My Life episode, but sh*t got real. I was clearly living beyond my means, and I had to get it together.

When summer 2017 came around, I had gotten better at finding a balance. I got honest with myself, and my bros. And guess what? The memories were still lit. I did Caribana again, but this time, it was one round of table service for the whole trip (sacrifices, right?). I spent my money smarter, and when I got home, I was able to function and smile as I reflected on the antics of the week.

Playtime is better when you can actually pay for it. I didn’t lose anything by not buying tables and shots for women I didn’t know.  That killer charm that I used back in my undergrad days still worked like, well, a charm. I can’t wait until Memorial Day.

Brandon Samuel is a freelancer for CASSIUS.