Have you ever lost yourself or given away the best of you?
It was 1971 and I was 10 years old when my mother carried out her promise to give me and my sister that better future. Off I went to Canada. To my new school in Toronto, I was that kid that needed to be sent to speech class to learn how to speak English properly. My Jamaican patois was just “wrong!” To some kids, my name was “nigger.” This meant it was their duty to direct me right back to Africa!
It all took the juice out of my mojo, and instead of fighting for good, I found myself fighting for survival. I needed to find an identity that would protect me in this apparently unfriendly land, a place which seemed home to some who hated ‘my skin colour.’ It may only have been a very few people who haunted me with their prejudice; yet at that time, they consumed a large part of my world.
Unlike Martin Luther King or Mahatma Gandhi, I had no idea how to stand-up to such injustice and hatred. I tried a little to boost my spirit with negativity, and I hurled back hateful words. But that only seemed to eat away at my spirit, making me ugly and devoid of anything good.
I had to think of something else, for I wanted so much to be I liked. So, out came the emergence of a new ‘mojo-less’ identity. It had a stark resemblance to Stepin Fechit, the famous Black movie character of the early 20th century. I grasped on to this identity; for it seemed the best way to avoid conflict, and be accepted in white society, was to ‘step and fetch,’ or do what I was told. I just had to fake contentment.
Lincoln Munroe, who played Stepin Fechit, received a lot of acclaim, fame and riches from embodying this character in Hollywood films, who continuously played the fool. Interestingly enough, playing the fool, was the mojo, the magic, of Lincoln Munroe. He was sharing his gifts, with the deliberate intent of becoming a big star and getting rich.
On the other hand, my main and subconscious intent was just to stay under the radar, to hide, and to please. This meant suppressing my mojo and not in any way reaching for the best in me.
I knew I was holding a lot back, but I had no idea that it made me unrecognizable
I worked hard, and got an undergraduate as well as a graduate degree. As a result, I got great professional jobs with the intent of rising high and making lots of money. Unfortunately, I was also carrying with me the subconscious, and more powerful, intent of staying under the radar. I felt I needed to submerge the rebellious forces in me that could cause others to hate me. For peace, I needed to quell the fires of my mojo, my magic, the real source of my success. I needed to be the fake I thought Canadians would like as opposed to the black, mojo-filled fighter for the evolution of my most authentic and gifted self.
I did not yet own the fact that people do not stop hating me or start liking me based of anything I do or pretend to do. I could never do or say enough good to be loved by all. I will always be hated by some, and loved by others, no matter what! Did I want to be a fake and loved only by some people or did I want to be authentic and loved only by some people. The point I, I will always be love by only some people. The only difference is choosing to be fake or choosing to be authentic.
Unfortunately I chose the fake. So, it should not have surprised me when, some 6 years ago, my boss sat down, looked at me and said “I really don’t know who you are.” Yet it did surprise me, for when you become really good at playing a part, you can believe you are that part. I knew I was holding a lot back, but I had no idea that it made me unrecognizable.
This could be why I was fired. It makes sense. It’s hard to build a team and get excited about a player you can’t push to peak performance or who you can’t figure out!
Have you ever given away or lost a part of yourself? How do you get it back? How do you retrieve the magic of you? I would love to hear your thoughts. I will continue my story next week.