It's almost Halloween so my thoughts naturally gravitated to scary monsters who lurk and cause us to tremble and fear what lies ahead. During my career, in my office, I always kept two documents where I could easily see them throughout the week. One was a copy of a document dated 1855 which announced the days of the week (Tuesdays and Wednesdays) and location of the next slave auction. It listed the number of slaves that were to be sold (178) and the time of the sale (12 noon). The document tells potential buyers what terms they must meet to effectuate a sale. The document serves as evidence that the slaves were considered no more than mere chattel. Scary times.
The other document that I kept displayed was a copy of the popular Dr. Seuss poem “Oh the Places You’ll Go!” The poem contains the following lines: “You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And you are the one who’ll decide where to go… And when you’re alone there’s a very good chance, you’ll meet things that scare you right out of your pants… And when things start to happen, don’t worry, don’t stew. Just go right along, you’ll start happening too!” I kept that document to remind me that I had to learn to navigate in waters that were unfamiliar to me. Scary times.
I kept the slave sale document to remind me of my roots, my people. They were a testament to where I came from and all the injustices that my ancestors endured to lay the foundation for me. Sometimes I would sit at my desk and ponder the names of the slaves for sale and think about them being touched and manhandled to put their more positive attributes on display to garner the highest bid. To be ripped from one place, separated from what was brutal, but yet familiar, to be sold and moved to a location whose conditions were yet unknown. Would the new place be worse, the work harder, the new slave master a monster?
The Dr. Seuss poem is simple and was created for children; however, I used the words as a guide to help me navigate scary places in the workplace. I was on my own; the choice was up to me which direction to take, which opportunities to seize. I absolutely knew that the workplace was a scary place and that you sometimes would encounter monsters there too.
No matter what I encountered, what fears or insecurities rose up from within, I was determined to stay free, to utilize that freedom to make good choices, to remain faithful and honor the sacrifices of those who went before me by helping to move forward in whatever capacity or position I occupied. I was not always successful and at times regretted some of my moves; however, that was my goal. Those documents reminded me of that goal each day.