Guest Writers Week: The Drastic ‘N’ Word

By: Erica Harris

I walked into the office of my new work location scared as hell. I bought the New Kid On The Block mentality to my job and instead of wondering what time my lunch break would be since I skipped out on breakfast and my stomach was telling me how angry she was through her growls, I was so consumed in the thoughts of how well I would click with my new counterparts. How good my first day would be was based on how easy it would be to just blend in and interact with the co-workers I’d have to see throughout the week. At 26 years old, as a mother, as the oh-so-faithful tweeter of “No Phucks Shall Be Handed Out or Given To Folks Who Don’t Pay My Bills,” I was actually worried about this. I read through the forced smiles and heard how fraudulent the “good morning’s” were and knew that I’d be in for a treat on this October Monday morning.

The Social Butterfly. That’s who I am. And I can’t help it. I’m one of those people who’s friends with you, your momma, your auntie and maybe that girl from down the hall that you can’t stand. By nature, I am an extremely sociable person, but the older I get, the more I find the need to erase the word ‘extremely’ completely. Slowly, I’ve been hitting Backspace on the e, the l, the b and so on and so forth and at the rate I’m going, by age 30, the sociable part of that term just may be forced into exile as well. See, over the course of ten years, I’ve gone from being the girl who tried so hard to blend with the populars, losing myself – and a ton of money that went toward things I really didn’t want or need – to developing into a woman who came to the realization that some people will only be down with you, chill with you, f*** with you, for as long as you shuck and jive for them on their own terms and on their accord (Insert great Twitter quote here: “Folks ‘give’ not of their hearts, but because they want to feel good about THEMSELVES and demand people aid in that feeling”).

And I ain’t even with all that…

Ever work someplace and you have that one person, who holds the same position as you, has no seniority over you, but wants to be the boss of you? Yeah, that happened. It went from giving me a mini-orientation, briefing me on the ins and outs of the place to acting as a full-time supervisor. I was advised to do something, outside of her realm and mine, and without hesitation, replied, no. I couldn’t help it, but I had to burst the bubble floating above her head and snap her back into reality. Before I knew it, I heard more whispering than I did conversations being held at regular volume level. People started to hold their heads down when I passed yet gave me the constant side eye when they thought I wasn’t looking. It went from “do you need anything” and “how’s it going?” to:

“She thinks she better then.”
“The new girl has a stank ass attitude.”
“Who put this bitch on a pedestal?”

And I kept on working, trying to keep my most prized and dangerous possession – my tongue – from saying what was on my mind, out loud. I wanted to tell them, “Miss, it’s ‘than’, not then and it’s not stank, it’s ‘stink’ and last I checked, you put me on the pedestal I didn’t even know I was on. Oop.

It’s a regular occurrence, I should be used to by now; I start losing friends and the circumference of my circle begins to dwindle in size when I’m impelled to say ‘no’. If I don’t verbally tell you no, my actions sure do – and I’m assuming this is known as “the curve”. People start acting a certain way the moment they hear that drastic N word, gathering their feelings in a bunch. They self-consciously begin to act more off of emotion than logic. I don’t do well with folks who go basing behavior solely off of feelings and I guess it’s because I’m big on consistency in everything. I would much rather be alone than deal with your off and on. I saw it best on Twitter the other day, “The system of segregation I apply to my life is based on behavior, not race” (@cthagod). You can keep it.

My sanity space is sacred to me. I’m all for positive vibes in my atmosphere and anything that goes against that is not welcomed in my realm. Distancing and removing myself from people who are proudly down with Team Negativity doesn’t hurt me, in the least. It hurts the ones who are adamant on spreading that energy into the Universe, because see, Lauryn Hill said it best,
“Karma, karma, karma, comes back to you hard.”
I couldn’t believe that hours before, I was actually worried about blending in – again – with these foolish, frivolous adults. Everything changed because of a simple no. No’s are powerful. No’s are needed. For my co-worker, that no was her wake-up call. Ma’am. You are not a friggin’ supervisor. For me, that no was my eye-opener. I heard a voice tell me, “Did you really need to fit in? No, you didn’t.” The no’s we hear are necessary for our personal development, yet people take the no’s as a breakdown towards our spirit. How can we work on turning our no’s into yes’s? What priceless lessons can we grasp from a no?

At 16, I thought I figured that fitting-in thing out after the death glares and looks of denial I got sitting at the table that wasn’t meant for me and after getting rejected by the boy that I liked who didn’t share the same feelings. At 26, I clearly forgot that my day – my life – shouldn’t be based off of how the next person views or feels about me. I’m there to do a job that doesn’t say anywhere in fine print, stroking a co-worker’s ego is mandatory to succeed. I’m alive and well to fulfill a purpose that was destined for me that no one has to approve of. If you’re down with me, cool. And guess what? If you’re not, that’s cool too… I got to keep living for me.

Erica Harris is a NYC native, proud mother of two boys and is fake married to her partner of 9 years. She is a former student of SUNY Plattsburgh, majoring in English and is currently fulfilling her dream of publishing a novel on domestic violence. Her work has been featured on For Harriet, she can be found on her personal blog and on Twitter at @KaeNdKamsMom.