Something interesting happened within the confines of a majority black travel forum that I’m a member of. One of the members shared how her boss’ countenance changed when he overheard where she would be going on vacation. She regretted that he had heard the exchange almost immediately. As a result, she posed this question to the group: “Do you tell your employer or coworkers where you are going or just that you are talking said day off?”
I was a little surprised by the avalanche of responses that not only said “No” but were adamant about it. The commentary ranged from:
“It’s none of their business”
“My boss is jealous that I can do what he can’t do at his salary to “I don’t hide my travels but I don’t go out of my way to share”
“My boss knows how much I make so he’s going to try to figure out how I can afford a vacation outside the country”
“I rarely tell them”
“When I was in corporate America, I wouldn’t tell anyone”
“Not anymore, people think I’m made of money when they hear about it and like to make snide remarks”
Naturally, one would wonder why there is such a strong stance against discussing something that people do everyday. Then I began to remember some of the ‘sage’ advice of my elders back in the day. I was admonished “Don’t put your business in the street” or Keep your business to yourself”. It was never explained why you had to do it, you just had to. This conventional wisdom countered my own personal philosophy on relationships – with co-workers or friendships. Not that I believed in going around sharing my tax returns or the most intimate details of my life….. I didn’t but I thought withholding the fact that I was going on vacation (and where) was strange.
As I began to work in various office environments, it was clear that a lot of my co-workers got that same memo. Folks were very tight lipped and thin-skinned about every aspect of their lives, words not related to the job were rarely spoken. It usually led to very staid and boring work situations too. My overall philosophy after experiencing that barrel of laughs, was to be friendly and not make assumptions or blanket statements about people until they have given me a concrete reason to. In other words, I would give the people that I spent the most time with—even more than my family—the benefit of the doubt.
I don’t know what inspired what could only be termed as fear into their hearts. But some of the explanations from the group members revealed what I think is a deeper psychology. I think some felt: “If they know how much I am enjoying my life, they will somehow find a way to take it from me.” Of course, that’s just my opinion, but one commenter did state:
“I care because my bosses are haters. The kind that would find more work for me to do as a kind of punishment. And I wouldn’t even put it past them to decide that since I have all this money laying around to travel, that I don’t need x amount as a bonus at the end of the year.”
Far be it for me to dispute or deny that her boss would do just that. I just think it’s sad that she works in that kind of environment. Personally, I have had some crappy jobs in the past, but I believe at a certain point you have to realize your worth. I have died a thousand deaths working in that type of company…well…several companies and it was only after I had the good sense to leave that I felt life was good again. But what if there is some truth in what they are expressing?
I decided to write this column in an effort to bring to light what is rarely discussed but happens nonetheless. While it is true that whites may travel more than blacks, it mostly has to do with the fact that on average, their earning potential exceeds blacks. As a person of color who travels frequently, I have found myself to be one of the handful of blacks in a given city. When I visited Easter Island, people wanted to take pictures of me to send back home as proof that they had seen and spoken to a black person. In some areas, we are an anomaly which is why I encourage blacks in particular, to get out there and see the world. We will become less of a novelty if we were seen around the globe in the flesh, not just on a tv screen.
However, when a black person does travel extensively, there is a suspicion that something is not right. Some people wonder: “How can she afford to go to all of these exotic places when I am living paycheck to paycheck?” What’s not being verbalized is that deep down they think it’s unfair for a person of color, long known to be the underdog, to be doing better than they are. I doubt if that person would ever admit to it….or even if they are consciously aware that this is how they truly feel. So, yes, I would say that they are not necessarily paranoid when it comes to their not wanting to share their ‘business’ because what they fear is grounded in truth.
However, I still disagreed with their position. My response was:
“I see traveling as a blessing so I am never afraid to tell anyone about my adventures. I am quite aware that people are going to hate or talk about you whether you are good, bad or indifferent. That’s fine….while they are wasting their breath talking, I’m thousands of miles away….not caring.”
I refuse to let anyone or anything steal my joy. I will not live down to anyone’s expectations so that they can feel comfortable in their preconceived notions of what I am supposed to be, what I am supposed to have and what I am supposed to do. I am my own person and if my jet setting offends you….stay mad. I feel free enough to shout it from the rooftops that I have been blessed to do the thing that I have desired to do for decades. It would be such a dishonor to the realization of that dream to actively hide it from people who didn’t like or couldn’t accept it. That person’s problem is his or hers to deal with….I will never make it mine. Therefore, I think when you do everything in your power to obfuscate your blessings….to hide or conceal it….you are giving those people control over your life. This is something that I will never do.
Of course, this covers a multitude of situations where someone wants you to make yourself small so that they can overshadow you. I will spend my last breath staying true to myself because if anyone has my best interests at heart, they would expect nothing less. It should make you all the more determined to go after whatever dream in life that sits undisturbed on a shelf dying of loneliness. Never let anyone make you think that you have to hide in the shadows or make excuses for living a life fulfilled. You owe it to yourself to live a life unfettered of someone else’s issues. That is why I disagree with my compatriots. I would not let fear of reprisals, jealousies (real or imagined) extinguish my absolute joy about anything that I was doing. To do so, gives them too much power; their opinions shouldn’t matter that much and if it does perhaps it is time for you to question your life and your choices.
What say you? Do you think that they are justified in keeping it private? Are they over-reacting; am I? Have you gone through something similar that you’d like to share?