When people meet me and find out a little about me, they typically say “I would’ve never thought you were a…”. I’ve gotten used to people having preconceived notions about me because of my appearance. However, I want to share a recent experience where someone wasn’t the nicest to me because she thought I lacked the right “pedigree”.
Last week, I went on vacation and crashed a Sports and Entertainment lawyers’ conference in Cabo, Mexico. My friend, who is a lawyer, invited me because she thought it would be a good opportunity for me to network. In addition to designing clothes, I occasionally do some personal styling. Her thought process was lawyers have clients. Client need stylists. I’m a designer and stylist. etc. You get the picture. While I appreciate my friend’s efforts, I honestly was less focused on networking. Instead I really needed a break from the daily hustle of entrepreneurship life. It can be exhausting and emotional draining! However, I did attend some of the conference events with her because I know she also wanted me there is so she didn’t have to be there alone with people she didn’t know.
IN GENERAL, when I’ve attended professional conferences, people have two types of agendas. (I know there are exceptions, hence the acknowledgement of the generalization) The first type is the person trying to gain a new opportunity, be it professional, like a new job or professional learning hours, and/or personal, like a new man/future husband. The second type are people in a positions of power. These individuals are typically ABLE to give jobs and/or connections. Here’s the thing though. Oftentimes, they attend these conferences as an opportunity to get away from their day to day lives and wives, and…well I’ll leave the rest to your imagination. JFor once, it felt great to be someone with no agenda. I enjoyed trapesing around the resort in my bikini and cover up all day, while the rest of the conference goers were in sessions. However, my friend that invited me gained an “unwanted companion” during one of her sessions that latched onto her like a newborn to its mothers boob!
I had lunch with them and this woman talked about all her credentials for a good 20 minutes before coming up for air. She went on about her years in the legal field, all the businesses she owned and the many boards she was on. I listened to her talk about herself endlessly while I chowed down on my guac and salsa eager to get back to the pool. I learned long ago, when interacting with people that like to hear themselves talk, you just have to let them talk. At one point during her monologue, I asked her what brought her to the conference. She said “Oh I’m always looking for new opportunities.” Then she started talking about her shitty job and how they didn’t appreciate her. That’s when I realized, she’s a “TYPE 1” i.e. looking for an opportunity. As great as she initially tried to make her life seem, she was actually quite miserable. After completing her rant, she looked at me and asked me when the most condescending tone ever, “Wait…I’m sorry. What exactly do you do again?”
At first I brushed her off and said “Oh nothing. I’m actually jobless and homeless.” My friend tried to interject and come to my aid, but the young lady started talking over her. She said “Well how are you able to be here?” I chuckled and as I saw my friend start to defend me, I stopped her and let this girl have it!
No, I didn’t curse. No I didn’t raise my voice. No I didn’t go full blown “Angry Black Women” on her ass like I wanted to. Lol Instead, I calmly shared my story. I said I’m a humble chick from Philly that is just out here trying to live her best life. I expressed while I have advanced degrees in Technology, Business AND Fashion design, I saved my money and took a gap year from over a decade of corporate experience to focus on my passions and more importantly, self-care. I explained that I took this year as an opportunity to dispel the notion that people of color, notably black women, don’t deserve to take some time off from schools or 9-5s to pursue their dreams, start businesses and build generational wealth. I continued by saying I’m sure she must be under tremendous pressure to get a “Seat at the table” during the conference full of heavy hitters that won’t remember her name two seconds after she says it. Ok that was petty of me, but I had to get at least one jab in there. I went on to say I’m much more comfortable with spending the rest of my days ensuring my friends, family, and the people in community are successful despite the odds stacked against them. I then completed my statements with “Any more questions?” and proceeded to sip my mojito.
Here’s the thing. This isn’t the first time something like this has happened to me. People like to create narratives about you in their head. We all do it…including me! I know when people see me, the last thing they think is “well-educated tech geek black girl”. However, every once and while you have to let people know. You have to narrate your story….even if it just a gentle reminder for yourself that you ain’t no slouch! Your story matters and you never know how your life may inspire someone else. Yup! I’m here walking by faith and not by sight most days. I’m still learning. I’m still growing. I’m still making mistakes daily. However, one thing I’m not is ashamed of my decision to quit my daytime job, even if its not popular or admirable to other people. Like the good hymn “Blessed Assurance” say, “This is my story, this is my song, Praising my Savior all the day long!!”
On that note, I’m out! **drops mic** HAHAHA Just kidding. Until next time…