Early in my writing career, I was a staff editor at a small magazine. One day, my boss stopped me in the hallway and asked how I felt about my position. Was that a trick question, I thought? I did not say how much I really wanted a byline for my portfolio. I did not say how I thought I was passed over for writing assignments and given only proofreading chores to clean up the slop of other favored staff editors, who did occasionally get to write for a byline. I kept those things to myself because I already knew the truth would not be welcome in these quarters.

I was a demographic statistic that ticked a box on a form, a box marked ‘grateful' to have a job anywhere in an industry among so-called colleagues, who ignored my potential contributions in favor of low-standard status quo. But none of that really mattered to me anymore. I had a secret moonlit counterpunch up my sleeve, ready to knockout any doubt about who I was, who I am and who I will become.

So, I said, “Nothing is really wrong.”

“I didn't think so,” my boss replied, strutting away confidently.

Watching her strut down the hallway shrouded in homemade snobbery, it all hit me like a ton of soiled bed linen and musty pillows! She had to prevent my star from shining. To her, I represented the competition to her next promotion by her own male boss. Oh, yes! My little boss lady was scared to death of my taking over her position, a position I thought beneath any female dog, knowing all about what she had done to land herself in that broken-down bunk, in the first place, and to keep wallowing there. Seeing her disappear down the hallway, revealed to me at that moment I had nothing to fear from her at all. In fact, I had nothing to fear from anyone! No one can hold me back, except me, as long as I use my vertical, rather than horizontal, strategies to fulfill my intellectual and professional aspirations.

Below is a portion of the gadgets in my toolbox, filled with self-constructed, unscientifically-tested doohickeys, donkey-rigged doodads, widgets, thingamajigs and my mammy-made wardrobe suggestions, which all work for me and could, perhaps with your personal modifications, help you toward your independent standard of best practices in life.

Learn everything the system offers
Embrace all knowledge
Understand and use new concepts
Seek advantages in technology
Seize opportunities to be innovative
Stay ahead of the pack
Abandon trends before they become untrendy
Do not be afraid to compete
Avoid the passé
Study the past to conquer the future
Good looks do count, but do not use them
Dress cheap from the “Children's Place”
Wear comfortable shoes, boots are preferable
Eat to live, do not live to eat
Greed is not attractive
Value humanity
Appreciate the planet
Do your best
And other stuff…

Take it from me, whomever we allow to define who we are controls whoever we become. I decided the day of my little boss lady's question that I would take ownership of me; throw away the key; break the mold; and any other worn-out cliché that can be applied to my situation. Let no one crack my head open ever again and pour in their poison about who I am and what I can do.

This life belongs to me! I, alone, own it!

The night following my little boss lady's question, I went home and wrote a song to fit the occasion, not limited to the position I held in that organization, but including the total person I knew could become. It was my decision to spend my time and money on education, training, traveling, learning and creating what would benefit me and, quite possibly, humankind. When I had finished the song, I felt free for the first time and it didn't matter that my little boss lady dismissed me as her inferior because I knew the truth that she was yet to learn.

Staring down at my letter of resignation on her desk the next day, she was shocked as she asked, “Who will hire a black writer in this town? There are no black magazines here!”

I said, “That's not a problem you have to ponder.”

She watched as I laid the key to my cubicle on her desk atop my letter of resignation, and left her office, quietly closing the door behind me. I knew which way I was headed and never looked down again.

Writing my song, ” Nothing Really Wrong,” helped me to change the direction of my life. I think my song may help you change the direction of your life if, in fact, your life needs changing.

A version of this essay was first published in 2021 World Pulse: An independent, women-led, global social network for social change.

Sunny Nash is a journalist and author of “Bigmama Didn't Shop at Woolworth's” about life with her part Comanche grandmother during the Civil Rights Movement. The book is selected by the Association of American University Press as a book for understanding U.S. Race Relations, and recommended by the Miami-Dade Public Library System for Native Collections.

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