Growing up multiracial I have become accustomed to feeling like “the help”. I’m not sure if it was society or my own personal feelings of insecurity and inadequacy that was enhanced by harsh reality – but whatever it was, I grew up feeling like a little bit like a “less than”.
Over the years I would work my way up from housekeeper and janitor to a lucrative position at a company that appreciated diversity. Finally, I was adequate, a whole, instead of a fraction of what I should be. I sat in a small cubicle on a gray aisle surrounded by warm people in a cold building. I was hardly happy, but at least I was somebody.
Then in 2009 I got laid off and suddenly I felt like I was being deported. Not just from my quasi-cozy existence, but from my life that I had earned through hours of classroom training, toilet scrubbing, bus driving and ditch-digging. Like cattle being led to the slaughter, myself and other co-workers were pushed into small rooms where we were systematically severed and discarded like unwanted babies or leftovers from Chili’s.
At first it was a brutal shock to my senses. Although most of my life I had not felt fully complete, at least for a time I had felt like I was part of something and that one day it would add up to so much more – but what I didn’t realize it that it wasn’t completing me, it was actually minimalizing my existence and slowly subtracting everything that made me, ME.
It took several months for me to realize that being laid off from work was the best thing that ever happened to me. It made me realize that I was living a life that didn’t suit me so I could feel like someone that I wasn’t. As I pulled away from a world that had become home, I realized that I must have felt a similar sensation as that of someone that had been imprisoned for years and while suddenly given freedom they were afraid to step out back into society.
The unfamiliar is scary at first, it’s risky, there is no security blanket, but without that blanket you come to realize that those things that once made you feel so secure were nothing more than a cheap straw house that could be easily blown over by a big bad wolf.
And now as I look back at my life with a fat salary and co-workers who had become my family, I realized that I much prefer spending time with my actual family. I like the freedom that comes from doing exactly what I love to do and while I may not be able to eat at expensive restaurants, eating bologna with good friends can be just as nice.
Having a job, having money, and having things are sometimes nothing more than petty status symbols that we try to accumulate to make us feel like we are somebody. At least for me they were. I like to compare my salary to my friends, drop a dollar figure here and there to impress someone, but what I was really trying to do was feel good about myself.
Now I sometimes don’t have enough money to pay my car payment on time and I no longer own a house, but my life is infinitely more abundant that it was when I had more money and a full-time job. I’m rich with friends and I get to do things that I love to do with people that I care about and caring less about things and what people think of me has made me realize that being somebody doesn’t matter that much at all.
What is more, I know that I’m complete in Christ… and knowing that I’m somebody to him is really all that matters.