I learned one of my biggest lessons at 35 : I don’t have to please everyone. I wish I had learned that when I was 21. I really do. Let me clarify – I understood as a teenager that I couldn’t please everyone. What I didn’t understand until 35 is that I didn’t need to care.
“Oh…you don’t like my dress. I don’t care!”
“You really don’t like that I said no to dating that guy? I don’t care!”
“Is it really so bad if I didn’t want to go to that party with all those people who think they are better than me. I am not interested in proving anything to anyone! I don’t care about that party!”
Learning that I had the right to say, “it doesn’t matter” was a huge lift off my shoulders. It was so freeing to be honest with myself. I no longer had to start pretending to care about things I never cared about or worried about hurting people. I don’t want to hurt people – intentionally. Yet, if I say something to you and I’m just trying to give constructive advice out of love for you and you take that the wrong way that isn’t my problem. It isn’t being mean.
I kept my mouth shut on plenty of things over the years. I was so afraid to say anything because I was afraid of what people would think of me. I can come across unusual to people sometimes. I will explain:
- As a black person – people have ideas automatically about who they “think” you are. When someone meets me they expect me to sound uneducated – when I don’t present myself that way I confuse them. I have never been to jail. It would terrify me to do anything illegal. I have never done any drugs. I have never even smoked a cigarette. For the record – I think smoking is disgusting.
- As a black woman – people expect me as a black woman in my 30s to have several illegitimate children. They expect that I must have not had a father in the home and was raised by a single mother on welfare. None of this is true in my case. I am 36 with no children. I was raised by my mother and father who are married and have been married almost 40 years. My family was never on welfare.* [Disclaimer – This is not saying anything negative to anyone who did grow up like this…it just isn’t my story. I can only speak on my own life].
- As a black person from the South – people expect me to have a very Southern drawl and probably have barely made it out of high school. I don’t have the stereotypical Southern accent. I am not sure where my accent come from but I have been told by most people I sound Midwestern. I was actually born and raised in Louisville, KY. I was even told by 2 people at 2 different times I sounded like I was from Southern California. That was odd. One of the women told this to me as I was visiting Los Angeles. She thought I was from there. I thought it was cool – but definitely not accurate.
Instead this is who I am:
- I grew up on the Peanuts comic strip and was obsessed with Charles Schulz. I am still in love with the Peanuts characters.
- I read newspapers everyday starting in high school. I grew up in a household where reading was fundamental. I was the kid who loved my encyclopedias. Yes, I got all of my information from encyclopedias before people used the World Wide Web.
- While some people thought black people only listened to R&B and Rap…I was listening to Duran Duran, Tears for Fears, The Police, Cyndi Lauper, Bruce Hornsby, Bonnie Rait, Miles Davis, Stan Getz, Peter Gabriel, U2, Radiohead, Third Eye Blind, Alanis Morissette, Tori Amos, Alana Davis, Dave Matthews Band, Coldplay, etc. [Yes, I listened to R&B and some rap too but didn’t limit myself to just that].
- College degree – studied journalism for almost four years but did not continue toward that degree. My bachelor’s degree was in English-Creative writing.
- As a child I would go to the store and instead of more toys I asked my mom for books. When we had the Book Fair at school every year – that would be the best week of my life!
- I may not know the latest slang, but I at least know who our president is and I know about political issues and what is going on in the world.
Therefore, my viewpoints on things is very different than what people expect considering how I look to society. I realize that now and own it at 36 years-old. I didn’t feel comfortable about it for many years. I was afraid people may think I thought I was better than them. I am no better than anyone. Not at all. I have many many flaws…seriously…where do I begin with that list?!
I am no longer afraid of my background. I am not ashamed of things like I used to be. Living in my truth is way more important to me than worrying about what people think of me. That’s my goal in life now – to tell everyone I know to “live in your truth!”. If you don’t you will be depressed and unhappy. Life is too short for that. Speak up! Please verbalize your thoughts and feelings in a tactful but concise way when you speak to people.
You are more than your fear. Keep telling yourself – you are more than your fear. Speak up – speak out on any issue that you feel needs to be addressed. Speak up! Speak out!