By Shane’a Thomas
“Forgiving is giving up the hope that the past could have been different.” –The Goddess, Oprah
When I first read this quote, I subconsciously skip over the words “giving up”. To admittedly let go of a possibility I thought I had control and power over in my minds is to act as if it never existed. This is the instant downward slope of an ego. I try so hard to tip-toe around that phrase, but I never can get past the word “hope” without falling on my face. It’s as if “the” tied my shoestrings together when I was so busy being sneaky. As a typical Taurus, I can be pretty demanding, and at times, downright rebellious, but in a not so nice temper tantrum way. I want what I want when I want it. If I want something brought to me, I get it. And after it is instantly in my hands, I’ll turn to ask why it wasn’t here five minutes ago.
Ok, so, I’m not that bad in all aspects of life (really), just my profession. A few moons from 30, and I was ready to be taken seriously as a professional, a leader, a rebel in the hardcore industry of Social Work. I have always been the type that held more than two jobs at any given time period after college. I’d have projects always in the works, get straight A’s, and did it all on very little sleep (which was made up on a lucky day off, if ever). All of those responsibilities not only kept my mind churning, but also structured my day to keep me on task and out of trouble.
After seven years in the school system as a school social worker,I received my clinical license, and was ready to move on to the natural next step–becoming a supervisor. Once you can tell other people what to do, you got it made. Work this supervisor job for a bit, then move on to director of something. Anything, who cares! After someone tells you they are the director of something, and attempts in big Director words to explain to you what they do (but who really knows cause you aren’t familiar with their field), you are still impressed!
A few weeks in my new job, I had a friend tell me that I had changed. The profanity-dripped, straight-talking fierce woman with the risky Mohawk had settled into a pair of pressed pant, a close shave, a line-up. I instantly took offense, but I know that as humans we only react in that way when the other person is right.
For months, I was proud of myself, and so was everyone else. I would joke that I was amazed that when I said things to people at my job, people listened and did them. I spoke with more confidence, suddenly concerned about the color of my nail polish, and even developed a steady, professional tone to use over the phone as opposed to my “just woke up out of bed but I’ll get back in if you’re coming too” voice. I was partially uncomfortable in that space, but continued to convince myself that it was supposed to be this way. Success is never easy, especially if you are a young, black woman. The world is going to treat you like this, but your mission is to rebel, “fight the power”. You are supposed to lose the belief that respect is never given, it’s earned, and realize that it too is a standard for people who look like me. I let go of my other projects and jobs to concentrate on one. In my mind I was constantly telling myself: I had made it, I don’t have to work hard anymore. Check my resume.
But then someone said I wasn’t good enough. And they were ready to shuffle me out.
The Friday I got fired wasn’t the most difficult day to get through. It was the next Monday morning, when the world got up for work. I had nowhere to go. I went to the local store and picked up the newspaper that day, walked in my house, dropped them at the doorstep, and crawled into bed. That was my routine for the next three days. As much as I had to keep putting the “black sister survival” face on, the Bull in me was in rage. I had no reason to look for jobs. I made it. On my way to the top. I earned respect and didn’t want to lose it, and to have it taken away was unspeakable. I refused to admit. I wore anger in order to mask the hurt, but those days where I am sitting alone in my apartment, a beautiful place with a balcony, a rooftop pool and a view where you can see two states and district intertwine, were gone.
I didn’t know how the rent was going to be paid and I feared that I’d have to repaint my walls from Enchanted Forest and Cosmic Blue to off white and move back down South.
I had to move on, and the only way was to forgive. As tedious as it was to continue to write cover letters over and over again, I began to clue into something on my resume. What was on that computer screen didn’t fit in the least with the job I was let go from. From activism, counseling families of color, and even a stint in the play Vagina Monologues and an art show, I had begun to realize that I was fitting into the wrong place with the wrong types of shoes on. My off-brand loafers were no match for my patent leather Chuck Taylors. I had something to work with, all was not lost.
As I made strides forward, that word “hope” was always my stopping point. I had to forgive. I had to forgive those who fired me because there was a decision made, whether if it was in the best interest of myself or for them, a decision was made, and I wasn’t on the giving end of it. I had to forgive the fact that my time there, was my time there. Whether I fell out of fitting, didn’t fit, or was never going to fit in, that was it. I had to take my talents somewhere else, landing in a not so great draft decision between “Life” and “A Taurus’ Fiery”.
Today, months later, I feel stable, not whole, but on my way, and the light has shone on me in a way that has showed me the penchant is swinging on my side. With the outpouring of issues, and the steady layoffs, I was lucky to get out of there when I did, before the rush of other people looking for the same jobs I needed. Even now, I drive past my old building to hustle to my next job, or do a home visit with my next client, and my throat tenses up. But I breathe, allowing myself to forgive those who know not what they did. Whether I had stayed extra hours, wore a new suit, or straightened my hair out, this was still going to be my outcome.
I forgive them because there was nothing else I could do to change what happened. I also forgive them because they gave me another chance to go after what I really wanted. A success defined and controlled by my own destiny. I just cross my fingers that karma stays on my side for a while.