Why I can't quit!

Serene Bridgett Hollingsworth
Serene Bridgett Hollingsworth
The truth is ever since I can remember I wanted to publish a magazine. That’s right. When my friends were dreaming of boys (not that I didn’t have those dreams), I was cutting images and content from magazines like Essence, W, Elle, Vogue and Bazaar. Peculiar? Nevertheless, true. I glued these images to my bedroom walls for all to see. My cousins and friends thought I was crazy. Maybe there was some truth to that; however, back then at 10 years of age the Father had instilled within my purpose. It would take a moment for others to see my vision; however, somewhere inside I’d always held a copy of BWM in my mind and in my hands.

As a young girl, I’d spend my last dime at trendy newspaper stands and shops buying Italian and French magazines, which weren’t available at local grocer or drug stores. These publications cost me a pretty penny too. I’d easily leave those shops forty dollars lighter. That was rather tall money for a young girl.

I must admit I continue to scour the shelves searching for that precious gem of a publication, and I am always in awe when I find my jewel. I smell her pages and ink, feel the weight, stare in amazement at the photography, and browse the masthead. I even pretend to understand the foreign languages. Therefore, it has always been my love affair with magazines. At a tender age, the publishing bug bit me. I just yearned to produce something that looked like those pages, but I wanted it to represent me, and people who looked like me. Today by God’s grace, five years of sacrifice, doubt, sweat, tears, divorce and other major losses--yes, I am a publisher. Publisher and Editorial Director of Bahiyah Woman Magazine, the magazine for today’s spiritually conscious professional Black man and woman. Who would have ever thought? Who would have known? Vision turned reality.

Bridgett, the young girl who went off to Ohio State University in 1983, slinky, awkward, and following in her father’s journalistic footsteps was clueless. I was switching majors like shoes; I flunked out, dropped out, then got kicked out, re-entered, did Atlanta for a spell, and finally settled in Chicago where the passion began to burn within me. I could smell it. I remember telling one of my previous co-workers (an internship), a dynamic young attorney, Mark Kelsey at The Ohio Attorney General’s Office, I would one day own and publish a magazine. I spoke life to my vision in 1985.

For many years, I thought my passion was simply a spirit for entrepreneurism. I thought any business would do, so I opened a woman’s clothing boutique, Bridgett’s original hah, and didn’t do too bad. I later sold it to my ex-husband after listening to a lawyer who could care less about my livelihood. I sold candles, fragrances of all kinds and dabbled again in women’s retail, all while trying to “find” myself—my call and my passion. Yes, and I worked. Boy, did I work! I did the corporate thing. Quite honestly, I couldn’t tell you how many jobs I’ve had.

However, they never worked out for me. Many began to define me: The Hustler. Oh my?! But honestly, the companies either went belly up or they decided I simply wasn’t their cup of tea. Huh, go figure?

Like many of us seeking to “find” our place in the universe, I had to get real about this Black woman. It was time to uncover the greatness within. That meant coming to terms with my own emotional vulnerabilities. I had to own them in order to express them more wisely. What a process of self-discovery, but worth every second! The shadow of myself was my biggest threat and obstacle. Let me tell you, there is power in letting go of those veils. Through Christ, the gift that has been realized within me is strength. There is Power. There is a reward. There is greatness beyond my wildest imagination. Tapping into this Greatness is what we are here to do. There is a place carved out in the universe just for us to do our thing.

Often, I must admit I have to pinch myself. Most days I can’t believe it is real. I am publishing a magazine. I am living my dream. Yes, I am living my dream. I am helping others realize their dreams. You read our pages. You’re reading this page. BWM has a phenomenal writing team. We have a kick-butt editing department, photographers, and a graphic design team second to none. BWM is read around the globe from Alabama to Uganda and still I have to pinch myself. Is this real? Yes!

I must be honest and say there are days when the wind of doubt sets in. I wonder if I’ve accomplished much at all. I think about what it takes to keep this vision alive. The sacrifices I have to make on the daily that the average Jane doesn’t have to make. I think about the Nicor payment arrangements I made today. The payment I just made to ComEd—will the bank pay it? I think about the material possessions I could have, if I just, chose to do the corporate thing. Yes, the corporate thing that never worked for me. I think about my little white house in need of repair, my small and quiet cramped office, proposals for would-be-clients, which actually pay the bills around here, my 1997 Nissan Quest, the lack of subscribers, the trickling of advertising dollars, more bills that need to be paid, and hey what’s for dinner? Can a sister get a date?

I wonder about our move to print and new markets and did I mention I am fabulously 40-something? I am no spring chicken. Then I take a deep breath and wonder why I didn’t quit five years ago before I was fully vested and committed to this thing. Why didn’t I quit one year ago, when they wanted my house back? I wonder why I just can’t quit. What makes me forge ahead against all odds when on days like yesterday does it all seems for naught?