Figuring it out

Brian Peterson
5 min readJan 23, 2022
Camille and Ian do not have it figured out.

This week’s* piece is going to be a little scattered. I already know. But work with me.

Last night my wife and I were watching Amazon’s Harlem, a pleasant surprise that we’ve viewed over the past couple of weeks. While we’ve aged out of (and more importantly, happily married far away from) the young Black adult dating scene, we’ve appreciated the show’s layers around identity, gender, sexuality, self-awareness, microagressions, and structural racism, and the many add-ins such as the politics of academia, relationships with parents as adults, and the full color dismissal of Black women’s health and wellness concerns.

In episode 8, which was in our viewing queue last night, Ian unexpectedly needed to renew his passport (the details on that are still sketchy to me, as is the much sketchier robbery scene in episode 9, but as Camille said, “You could have Googled this,” so if I ever get around to international travel again, I will most certainly do that).

While watching the show, a fellow “Ben Simmons Back to the Sixers” movement member texted me this:

(For the record, I would take this trade. No offense, Ben.)

You ever have one of those dreams where you’re kind of awake as you’re having it, and you are somewhat conscious of some of the decisions you are making in the dream, even though you are fully aware that this is a dream and none of it makes any sense (but it all still feels so real)?

Yeah, I had one of those last night.

In it, I was like Ian from Harlem, in line to renew some kind of paperwork. I think it was my driver’s license, but I don’t fully remember. All I know is that Ben Simmons was also in line. Nobody was talking to him. He was just standing there, like a regular person, but I could tell he was also hoping that no one recognized him. But before I knew it, I was walking his way to strike up a convo.

“How are you feeling?” I asked him. “I know this mess is crazy.”

He had this look of relief over his face as he reached out to dap me up.

“Nobody’s asked about me, and how I’m doing,” he said.

We talked for a bit, then one us got called to the window to renew our paperwork, and then things get fuzzy in my memory, but I’m pretty sure that one of my friends was also in this line and started talking to Ben about the business optics of him coming back to the Sixers, and why it’s a great thing.

Later on, I’m about to leave, but now, instead of the driver’s license place, it’s more like a locker room. I see Ben Simmons is still hanging around, all by himself, sort of like he doesn’t have anything else to do, but still reserved, like he doesn’t want to be seen. I decide to give him his space and walk away. But then I think to myself, “no, go talk to him and let him know about the whole Medium piece you wrote, and get him to really understand how this situation can be resolved.” This is the part of the dream where I could feel my consciousness pushing me to do the thing that I was trying to get myself out of.

I took that picture yesterday.

A version of this quote also showed up in one of the Harlem episodes we watched last night.

I walked back toward the locker room, and I saw that right behind where Ben had been sitting by himself was this big closet door, and it was slowly shutting. I could sense that Ben knew I was going to coach myself up to come back and talk to him some more, and he didn’t want to deal with any deeper processing (even though he needed to), but the only way for him to get out of it was to hide. I thought again about just going on with my life and leaving, but I went into the locker room and said what I had to say to the closed closet door, letting him process whatever he needed to in his own way while he listened to what I had to share.

I remember feeling very surprised that I went back and talked to him. For one, I’m not the celebrity meet-and-greet kind of person, so even my initial interaction with him was not my norm. Moreover, when I can sense that people need their space, you don’t have to tell me twice. Maybe that’s because I’m often the person that needs his own space and sorely wished that people could read the room and exit. But in this case, I knew there was an opportunity to talk about wellness, and this was the piece that he wanted but maybe didn’t know how to fully receive. I felt the need to push myself out of my own comfort zone to make this happen.

This is the moral of the story, and what I want to leave you with today. As much as I would love to see Ben Simmons back in a Sixers uniform and averaging near a triple-double on our championship contending home team, this isn’t about him at all. It’s about me figuring out how I can put myself in better positions to do the work that I am called to do. I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit over the past couple of months. I don’t have all of the answers just yet. But I’m doing more of the things that I’ve been afraid to do, starting with gaining clarity on my aims rather than being okay with whatever happens. Let’s pick up there next week.**

Until then, lean into the fear, and keep going.

* This is my public accountability statement to be here every week. Or maybe more if I have any random musings in between.

** This is me doubling down, and giving myself some initial direction, which is extremely helpful.



Brian Peterson

I am a husband, father, writer, educator, and generator of ideas. Working on my follow through. Latest book, Higher Learning, out now at