Unhappy people pass on their misery to others. This is not a new concept. But when these people make you miserable every single day of your life, you need to bail. Worse, if they pretend to be your friend and stab you in the back, you need to remove every fragment of their existence from yours. Don’t think you’re a horrid person. Consider yourself reasonable and sane for getting rid of them. And never, ever, question your worth.
I’ve always been outspoken and assertive. I don’t shy away from speaking my mind. But I am also an introvert. I wait, and I take my time. And so, as a woman of color, I’m already boxed as someone who doesn’t have anything to contribute just because I diligently observe first. I’ve already been brushed off even before I do anything. I have seen it happen numerous times. “Oh, she can’t write those papers because English is not her first language.” I wrote two English-language novels, and both were called smart and intelligent. “You should push back if they’re asking you to speak in front of a big crowd of experts,” one warned me. Guess what? I nailed the speaking engagement, was congratulated by my peers for a remarkable talk, and intelligently answered all the questions. Here’s another funny one. During a DEIA meeting, I asked what our goals were before we jumped on strategies and tactics, and my question was brushed aside. I never went back.
Do I look stupid because I’m quiet and I take my time? No. I am a woman of color who should know her place. That was the expectation from the moment I walked into the room. Then I spoke my mind. I saw where I could motivate change for the mission and made it happen. I supported the younger generation by advocating for their growth. I saw the bad and called people out on it. I was good at it. No, I was great! I was brilliant – and I am quoting someone here. So when someone told me, whom I thought was a friend (yeah, I am gullible like that), that I should stay in my lane because…. here it is…. because at one point, to incite change, I decided to attend a meeting of all white males so I could understand what they were talking about, I was taken aback. I didn’t even say one word in that meeting. I was this little brown girl that no one cared for in that room. I didn’t think it affected me as much until I was about to explode a few months later.
I am a woman of color, and I have something to offer. I am a woman of color, and I know my worth. I am a woman of color, and I never act as a victim. I rise, and I get challenged, and I push, and I push some more. And I run amok outside of my lane because it is the only way someone will take notice.
“Stay in your lane,” she said. I wanted to ask. “What lane is that?” Somewhere far away where I can’t win, so I don’t ruffle feathers to advocate for everyone like me, so I don’t steal the light shining on your stage? Because it’s safe for you?
I am angry. I just gave up something genuinely important to me recently because people think they can manipulate me and bully and sabotage me. I am angry because they tried. I am angry because I have evidence to prove it. I am angry because they almost succeeded.
But through it all, there are beacons of hope in the forms of people who believed in me. Those who have forewarned me. Those who know that as a woman of color, I have much more to offer if given the chance to dance outside my lane. Outside my lane. And not stay in this tiny lane where everyone was trying to box me in.
So the next time someone tells you to stay in your lane, be wary. That person does not have your best interest at heart. Do a pirouette, twirl until you are giddy, or dance the waltz inside your grand ballroom and beyond. Be free. Be loud. Be too much! And as a wise woman of color once told me, “Don’t let anyone steal your joy.”