Five Questions: Cedric Levye
Who is the most important person in your life?
Hands down it’s my mother. That was my rock and my inspiration. If you follow me on Facebook, you know, you know she passed fourth of July weekend. And, ah, yeah, that was somebody that I could go to. Um, I say my mother. She wasn’t my biological mother, she was actually my grandmother, but she raised me so. I came out here from the east coast on a one way trip by myself on a Greyhound and I met with this lady…and she said she was my mom. And I didn’t find out until about two years later that she actually wasn’t my mom. So at that time I kinda inherited it and, ah…I thought I was going back to the east coast—I thought it was a Christmas trip, but it was a one way ticket. So you think about 1987, you’re five years old, you’re getting on a Greyhound, you’re with a older white lady, you have no idea who she is…she was my confidante on the ride there cuz I was underage. But yeah, that’s how the story is and here I am in California, so definitely the most influential person in my life is definitely my mom.
What's one thing you don't know now, but feel compelled to know?
I think… If I made the right choice and made the right decision as far as—I have a child coming into the world, beginning of next year—if I made the right decision and if my mother gave me the A-OK because she didn’t know I was having a child. So I found out the day before, I was having a child, and she passed. So I never got a chance to tell her. That to me really, really makes me feel like I need answers and I hope that she can give them to me in the form of some type of spiritual realm or through other people. You know affirmations. Or you know, when I see her in the afterlife. So that’s something I gotta know before my time is expired.
What’s one thing you would change about yourself?
Man, I’m flawless. [Laughter] I just feel like you gotta kinda have that air of confidence in almost everything that you do. Even in talking to [president of Cedric’s employer], we were kinda bullshitting one day and he says, “If you’re gonna bullshit, at least do it with confidence.” I think that’s very important. But just like most people, you definitely—I try to limit myself with self-doubt. I think an air of confidence—some people say I’m arrogant, some people say I’m quiet, some people say, you know, you seem like you’re too good. And sometimes I do that really to keep that little voice in my head that says, “You can’t do something or you won’t be able to get to where you at.” I mean, and something related to work, I knew I was gonna have this job two years ago. So it wasn’t anything I couldn’t do. So I have plans for somewhere else two years from now. And I know exactly where I’m gonna be two years from now. You know, so that’s because I feel like it’s almost—I don’t know if you wanna call it divine intervention or just having goals, really, and that’s something that I really hold my hat on. But I’d say self-doubt. Whenever you got that little voice, you’re just like, “Every day is a battle.” Even when you’re in silence by yourself, fears and insecurities may kick in. Sometimes you can look in the mirror and say, “I don’t have this or I’m not here or I’m not there,” but reality is why can’t you be there? What’s the bridge that you need to build in order to connect those two areas of your life to fill that void? Ya know. Just, ya know. It’s just like anybody else, self-doubt sometimes.
How do you define being "in love"?
[Laughs] I don’t know, man! It’s undefined! I feel like… That’s the hardest thing I feel like I deal with personally because I’ve had a lot of trust issues since I was a child with people abandoning me. So that’s kind of been very difficult to connect with people on a “in love” stage. I don’t know if “in love” means romantically or intimately—which I know those are issues I do have with myself. Some people say, “Well you’re kinda either narcissistic or you’ve got borderline personality disorder.” I’ve heard people say that and I just be kinda like, “You know, I don’t know what ‘in love’ is.” I’ve been infatuated with people. I’ve been blinded by experiences. But you know, it’s always that, that premonition that comes in and says, “You know when things aren’t right.” And sometimes you gotta look at those red flags early on and say well, “You already knew what you were getting yourself into.” So I don’t know what “in love” is, but I can say if I can guess… I would say it’s unconditional, it doesn’t have any wrongs, and—when you talk about companionship as far as love, it’s that feeling, I believe, when you feel like you cannot live without that person. That’s what “in love” to me is. But have I experienced it? I don’t know. I think at this stage of my life I’m more kind of in love with myself.
What will you miss the most when you’re gone?
What I would miss the most when I’m gone is, I feel like, the ability to interact with others. As far as helping people, I think my gift on this earth has always been to put other people before myself. Even though I’m very self-centered in my personality and maybe, my, ya know, my mindset sometimes. For the most part I feel like my goal in this life is help others. I’m not gonna say always, but for the most part I’ve put others in front of myself to the point where sometimes I look back and say, people say since I was a child, “Hey man, you gotta take care of yourself before you take care of others.” But I definitely think I’ve been put on this earth to affect and impact others. Everything that I do I try to—outside of day-to-day job—I try to make sure I’m connecting with people and interacting with strangers. That’s kinda—what can I share to help you benefit in your life. What stories can you bring to someone else. That’s definitely something I’m gonna miss.
Cedric and I continued talking for a few minutes after the interview which is a pretty normal part of the process. I generally don’t include those conversations as part of the published interview, but this one felt a little different, so I’m including it here. Note that Cedric and I were co-workers for the same company in Los Angeles at the time.
Cedric: So what are some of your—what’d you say—what are the most significant or important things in your life?
Steve: Oh man. Your last comment is me too. I love helping people. To a point where it’s, like, creepy for some people. [Laughter] Like I’ll be like, “No, I’ll walk you directly to your car.”
C: [Laughs] Right, right right!
S: Just so I know they got there safely. And they’re like, “Nah, that’s weird.” Or just friendliness that’s like unabashed. But people think it’s strange. And I’d rather be strange and helpful than “normal” and a dick.
C: Right, right!
S: It just doesn’t make sense to me.
C: I feel like it’s always good to be transparent, I mean, even like moments for myself it’s very difficult for me not to talk to strangers. When I first came in here, I can honestly say, you were the first person I think I met.
S: Right on, yeah.
C: Besides in the interview. And you could kinda tell you were a good spirit and a good vibe. And I said, “Ya know what, he’s a nice person. He’s a loving person.”
S: Thanks, man.
C: I don’t know if you believe in spirituality.
S: I do.
C: But I feel like God speaks through you. By your actions and your energy. So you can kinda tell.
S: I think I gave you my list of all the shit you should do in L.A.
C: Right! You did, you did! And that was awesome!
S: Like, I have that. That’s in my phone because I meet people and they don’t know anything about L.A. or haven’t been here in a long time or whatever. And I’m like, “Dude, here’s my list. This is the stuff that I love.”
C: Right, right, right.
S: “So if you like it, Google it, check it out. If you like it great, if not, that’s cool.”
C: I mean, I hate to say it, but every time I see, hear, or drive through Mar Vista, I think about you because, ya know, my family’s from out here, but we never mentioned Mar Vista or Palms.
C: It was Culver City, Venice, the West Side, Santa Monica.
C: Ya know, “Just don’t go down that street.” That’s all we knew!
C: That was about it, so… It’s just that commonality, so I’ll be like, “Damn, you know not everybody is as bad or as different as you think they are. Like you say, it’s almost—we’re all pretty much the same. And to me, it’s awkward and heavy for me when I’m not getting to know people. Even [co-worker] behind you. She’s super quiet, but I’m always gonna say her name when I leave out. She’s always there. “Hey, [co-worker], have a nice evening!” You know, she turns around and smiles. Some other people may walk right past her and think she’s not even there, but it’s those significant moments when you can have an impact on somebody’s life just by saying, “Have a good night” or “Good morning.”
C: I’ve been in situations where it just has been me! You know what I mean? And it just like, well…where do I go outside of work? And I always had this terrible prejudice that people come to work really for the relativity factor to connect to other humans and it’s just always about connecting the dots with your mind frame and your job, but more so connecting the dots to build a culture that I think is bigger than we’ve ever imagined.
S: Some people’s only social interactions are at work. Some people are very quiet. And so they go home and they do nothing. And they’re home by themselves and they don’t talk to anybody, but here [in the office environment] we have those opportunities. That’s why I like to try to reach out. It’s funny like how new people come to the office and they’re all supposed to meet on the 18th floor in front of the elevators. And every morning I’m the guy who happens to—I’m like, “Hello!” And there’s like two people like, “We don’t know what to do.” And I’m like, “I gotcha.”
S: And I walk them to their cube and talk to them and tell 'em it’s cool.
C: [Laughs] So you’re like the welcome committee!
S: By accident! [Laughs] It happens so much. [Two recent co-workers] started on the same day and I was like, “I have never met either of you. You are probably coming to work here.” “Yes, we don’t know anything.” “Come with me!” And then I’ll walk them downstairs if I have to, I’ll walk them to their cubes, or to their manager and be like, “Here ya go!”
C: [Laughs] Right!
S: And then every time they see me, “Hey! You were the first person I met!” And I love that! I love it! It’s great!
C: That’s how it’s supposed to be! Ya know, good vibes.