“My anger has meant pain to me but it has also meant survival, and before I give it up I’m going to be sure that there is something at least as powerful to report on the road to clarity.” -Audre Lorde
Three months ago I quit my job. In many ways, I not only quit, but left behind a long-standing decision to be safe and comfortable. As a daughter, I was raised to seek safety and comfort by working to obtain a good job. School, extracurricular activities, and my early work life were designed to position myself for ‘something better’. The implication was always that I would find something better than my parents and their parents before them. They have begun to work on the next generation, already encouraging their grandchildren to imagine their future profession.
This belief that “we can be anything we want to be” was a true gift. As a young black woman, I have had more experiences of adversity than I care to describe. Anger has been my default when I have been faced with ridiculous experiences or disappointing encounters with the larger world. Even the safety of a good job does not eliminate the ignorant comments of others or the inherent inequities in the world. My natural hair will always be too black. I will more often than not be “the only” or “one of a few” in the room. And I will often be ‘overreacting’ or imagining these inequities.
My greatest regret about maintaining a safe job, was being embarrassed by my anger, an emotion that has often energized me when life has been challenging. The cost of safety and comfort, was the exact opposite feeling to the empowered young woman my parents encouraged. It’s an ironic experience to have been so supported to then find myself with my back against the wall, wondering how I’ve managed to be so docile. As I return to the advocacy world, I have re-awakened to the joys of having a voice again. I am seldom concerned about expressing my opinion or speaking out of turn. I have shed the need for a “party-line” or vetting a plan with seven other people to ensure I have ‘buy-in’.
I have rediscovered the angry, black, lesbian, mother and invited her to offer me clarity as I head in a new and rather ‘unsafe’ direction. I am out of my comfort zone and afraid to fail, but at least I’ve found myself again.