She was my best friend. She was my party dance partner. I was in undergrad when we first started hanging out. We didn’t have much money but it didn’t matter because all we needed to have face hurting from non-stop laughing good time was each other’s company. She was tall, loud and dressed like she was born hanging out in New York’s Greenwich Village. On her flawlessly deep brown skin was always crazy patterns and textures with chunky platform shoes. She always made it look good. She had a life of the party type of personality. We could barely take five steps on the street without her seeing someone she knew.
She was always relentless, ruthless even, in asking for exactly what she wanted from people. She was very comfortable doing this. I, on the other hand, always wanted everyone around me to be happy. Growing up I was the sibling that never wanted to be in trouble. I didn’t want anyone to be upset with me. This sentiment followed me into adulthood. Unless, someone did something blatantly wrong to me, I avoided conflict. I’d go along to get along even if it felt wrong to me in my core. This worked out perfectly for someone with a demeanor like hers. There were so many times that I didn’t feel like going places or doing things but would because she was so adamant.
This same school year, one of my best friends got car jacked while attending Morehouse College and my Grand Dad (who was one of my biggest cheerleaders) died of cancer. This, on top of other life issues, led me to start going to therapy for the first time. Hm, firsts within a first, again. Anyway, somehow, one of the first things I ended up working on was speaking up for myself.
One Friday night that was like any other Friday night that my friend and I hung out, we were eating in the dining hall. She was at my school so much that everyone knew her. I think the cafeteria staff thought she was a student. With her big personality, I don’t really think the cafeteria staff really cared. She had made fast friends with many of them too. “Hey, let’s go get our twirl on at the spot!” She wanted to go to a club that we went to from time to time. I did not. It should have been so easy to say that I do not want to go. Yet, my heart started beating. Inside, I was feeling so uncomfortable. I wanted to disappear. It would have been easier for me to disappear than to just say that I did not want to go.
“Nah, I think I just want to stay in tonight.”
“Aww, come on. It’s the end of the week. A b&^%$ is ready to get her twirl on honey!”
“No, I’m not really feeling it tonight, ” is what I say. In my mind I just keep wishing that either I would vanish or she would stop. Neither happens. My stomach starts to hurt.
“You know you want to go.”
“I do not want to go. Please stop asking me. It’s annoying.”
I had to say no a few more times before she got the point that I really was not going to give in this time. She may have been in shock. This was the first time I did not just go along to get along. It was immensely uncomfortable for me. The thought of saying no being difficult is a laughable one to me now. It took a while for it to be easy. However, now I have harnessed the power of no.
I also have harnessed the power of speaking my mind. However, I recently found myself in situations where in trying to not hurt feelings, I still did. Instead of being straight forward, I’d be snarky and sarcastic thinking that it was less harsh for sensitive souls. Like so many times in life, I was wrong. This taught me a good lesson like being wrong has so many times before. Snarky and sarcastic will also be interpreted as mean, no wait, passive aggressive was the exact terminology. So, I mind as well say what the heck I mean straight up, no chaser. If I’m going to be interpreted negatively, it may as well be in a way that does not cause my throat to hurt from feeling silenced. It is often our best friends as well as our worst enemies that teach us the most valuable lessons.
I love freeing life lessons!