This topic is a very new yet touchy subject for me. I grew up with the mindset that if you played by the rules, checked all the boxes, got the answers right, then you won the game of life. Examples would be plastered on every billboard in my hometown. It was either, you go to college, trade school or the military. Simple as that.
You do well in high school, to get into college. You do well in college, to land a good job. MTV’s Laguna Beach and The Hills made it look so sweet and simple. However, I quickly realized once I got into “the real world” that those girls in sunny California were definitely rich, well-connected, unaware and above all else, white.
Like déjà vu, 10 years later, I found myself sitting in the office of a wealthy white woman in southern California who personified that same TV image and she was my boss. It was like tuning into the latest episode of The Real Housewives of Manhattan Beach, no not Beverly Hills… or Orange County, but Manhattan Beach. Just a skip and hop away from Inglewood, Gardena, and Compton, yet she seemed to be so unaware of the short 10-minute drive.
Nevertheless, I sat for a few more stories of her daughter’s road to stardom before she finally asked me why I wanted the job. I gave her what the books told me to say, then waited for my offer. Confident that I was well worth the expected and even listed offer I saw on their careers page, I anticipated the callback. I was excited. If I had landed this job, it would be the most I had ever earned in my writing career.
The next day the call came, but the presumed salary was a bit off. $5,000 off to be exact. Yet, as a black woman, I was already mentally prepared for this part. So, I took it. I was told my entire life by my mother, friends, and society that as a black woman that I had to work twice as hard as any other race or gender to get what I wanted. It was subconsciously ingrained in me and is still lingering in me until this day. A lot of us were told if you want something, no one is going to just give it to you.
Where did we get this conditioning from? Why did I have to work harder than Becky and Katie? Why in the hell did they seem to always get cut “a break” over and over again because of their white skin, wealth and status? These questions would often arise in my psyche, and I would entertain the thought, but would eventually ignore it and get back to work. After a while, I started to ignore a lot more things. You see, I was a hard worker and everyone knew that. Not only was I a hard worker, but I was passionate and good at what I did.
As people transitioned in and out of positions, I became the “go to girl” for lost documents that suddenly drifted away, phone calls that never got answered, and “small” projects that got abandoned by the last. As I saw the head of our operations team storm out of the building with her computer and bags packed, I knew it wouldn’t be long before that would be me. As a white woman, if she couldn’t do it, then how the hell was I going to last?
This particular corporation was different though. There were absolutely no outside windows on the entire work floor, generous complimentary pizza on Fridays and free tacos on Cinco de Mayo, a completely remote executive team, and whispers if you went two too many times to the restroom. It was just that type of place.
As the youngest manager and 1 of 2 black women that worked in the corporate headquarters, I found myself drowning in my thoughts, work, and eventually tears.
I reached out to my boss for a solution several times, but I was given a gift card or a small raise here and there and was told, “We’re working on it.” Now, I’m like any other person. I love money but when is it not enough?
I found myself overweight, losing hair, broken out into acne, highly irritated, delirious, un-relatable and seriously confused in my role for the company. I had hit a wall. I had hit my breaking point.
I sat in the dark at home one night and contemplated what my life would end up like if I had continued down this path. I couldn’t help but come back full circle to the one person I modeled myself after, my mother.
Although her intentions were very much so pure, I knew that it all started with her. From the way she dressed for work, how she relaxed her hair every two weeks, kept a designer purse, yo-yo dieted, worked extra hours every night, right down to how she complained about her boss. I inherited it all from her. And in turn, she inherited it from her mother.
Plagued with fibroids, breast cancer, colon cancer, congestive heart failure, diabetes, depression and obesity, I had saw firsthand what stress and confinement could do to a black woman in my family. I had to look into the mirror first to know that I had become the outcome of a repetitive cycle.
Once I realized that, I had to end it. The next day, I resigned and never looked back.
I didn’t do it for myself. I didn’t do it for my mother. I did it for my future children and the cycle that had to finally be broken.