If you ask them, my friends will tell you, in no uncertain terms, that I appreciate the finer things in life. I do not deny it. Not even for a minute. Life is meant to be lived and enjoyed to the fullest. This mocha girl (as I will sometimes refer to myself), sincerely believes that the world is mine. It is up to me to define or redefine what is possible.
This may mean letting go of baggage and other things weighing you down. Please believe me when I say that no one can truly feed your soul, except for you. Do not look for anyone else to do it.
For me, there is another harsh side to this reality. I genuinely believe that if you do not feed your soul and care for yourself, then there is no way you can flourish in life or help others in a meaningful way. As many of my mocha folks already know, every-day life can be exhausting. We fight battles that are invisible to or intentionally ignored by others. I often feel as if I am carrying the world on my shoulders. I suspect many of you do too.
As a child, my Mama taught me not to rely on others to obtain the things I wanted in life. She encouraged me to dream and to aim higher. As a young girl, she also fed my independent spirit and strong mindedness. She was right when she said that she would not be around, forever, to fight my battles, and that I needed to stop being shy and learn to stand on my own.
With my mother’s support, I transformed from a shy little girl into a woman who is fierce and believes she is unstoppable. If an advisor, teacher, friend or neighbor told me that I was not good enough to go to certain schools, take certain classes or achieve goals that I had set for myself, that only fueled my flame. I challenged the limitations others often bestowed upon me. In return, I became even more determined and defiant to achieve my goals. Simply to prove the naysayers wrong. To this day, if you are not in my corner then step aside. I have got this. I do not need your help. I already have enough obstacles in my way.
When I got into and decided to go to Columbia College in New York, my dad questioned why I had to go to the most expensive school in New York. When I was graduating from Columbia, I told my dad that I was going to law school. That was always the plan. I guess he never bothered to ask about it before or never really thought I would pursue it. I clearly remember my dad being frustrated and asking “what’s wrong with you? Why can’t you get married or become a secretary like everyone else?”
At the time, I did not understand where my dad was coming from. Truthfully, I was resentful for years. As I mature and grow older, I realize that his thinking was as limited as his possibilities were at the time. My Mama and dad grew up in a time where there were little or no opportunities. Many black and brown people born in the 1930s or 1940s (or earlier) were destined to fail.
My mother learned to overcome obstacles through education. She said that when she was in graduate school, she was pregnant with me. She told me that she could feel me kick inside her belly during lectures. My dad, a very smart and intelligent man, took the path that was accessible to him. He dropped out of school, at an early age, to support his family. That meant picking cotton, in the heat, in those days.
As a young adult (and unlike my parents), I thought that the world was mine and anything, within reason, was possible. To this day, I thank my Mama for that. I always told her that the song “Wind Beneath My Wings” by Bette Midler symbolized our relationship in my young adult years.
Once I graduated from law school, I got a job at my first “white shoe” law firm. It was never my intent to be a corporate lawyer. I went to Howard Law School because I wanted to save the world and fight social injustice, particularly for women and people of color. However, I did not get the jobs that I interviewed for. Nope, not even a summer internship.
Most of the jobs filled by civil rights and social justice organizations were given to students from Ivy League law schools. Despite the fact that Howard Law School has an illustrious history of fighting for social justice, as well as a list of esteemed alumni who are legendary for their commitment to fighting social and economic injustices, recruiters seemed disinterested in hiring civil rights or social justice lawyers from Howard. They were focused on getting the best talent, which in their minds came from Ivy League schools (where students were offered loan forgiveness after working for such organizations after a few years).
I spent countless days and nights working as a corporate, real estate attorney in New York and, eventually, in Abu Dhabi. Many say lawyers are risk adverse. For me, it is definitely more complicated. There are many facets of my personality. Perhaps, it is the Gemini in me. When I work, I go hard. I am all in and everything else in my life takes a back seat to my career. I am literally afraid to fail for fear of how any such failure will impact or define other black and brown people that follow in my footsteps. However, I am also a black woman who did not grow up in a world full of fancy private schools, wall street bankers, private equity fund clients and other corporate professionals. I was not groomed for this and it was all unfamiliar and a bit overwhelming to me.
For me, there was always an inner struggle. Something never felt quite right.
After having practiced for nearly 20 years and growing weary of being passed over for promotions and raises, I finally decided enough was enough. I needed to refuel. It was definitely time for a break. It is hard seeing others constantly surpass you professionally. I also grew weary of being everyone’s punching bag. As a
black woman, I have had to deal with being treated unfairly and subject to demeaning behavior all my life. I was done. I am certain some of you can relate.
After being cursed out and insulted by a powerful (but somewhat miserable) white man at my job, I quit my “cushy” job as lawyer for a foreign government and decided to travel the world for a few months. Since I do not have anyone else to rely on for financial assistance, quitting my job meant that I had to learn how to scale back on the finer things in life that I had become accustomed to and to seek luxury at affordable prices.
As mentioned, I was raised to work hard and to treat myself well. Yes, that’s my Mama again. I am not necessarily one for fancy shoes or clothes. But I do indulge from time to time, especially when my appearance was criticized by a partner at one of my former corporate law firms. He thought he was being helpful by sending in his black secretary to tell me that “I did not look like partnership material”. Sigh. Another story for another day.
Over the past 10 years or so, my real passion has become traveling the world and embarking on new adventures. That is how I indulge myself. To date, I have been to Greece, Egypt, Thailand, Hong Kong, Singapore, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, South Africa, Mozambique, London, France, Spain and Italy to name a few. Eventually, I will tell you about my experiences in several of those places. Rest Assured.
But, for now, let’s dedicate our time focusing on my new home —Colombia. Let the adventures begin.