When I heard a former colleague was on life support, my feelings took off in three different directions: Shock, sadness, and a bit of PTSD. If you’d seen her resume, you would envision a smart, driven, impressive, and accomplished woman. To some people she was witty and personable. To me, she was a terror.
When we met, I was a grown woman with kids in college. I accepted a job with this company where I knew most of the staff professionally and personally. She’d started working there about a year before. This was my dream job with my dream boss and dream staff. I bounced in there with a full heart, bursting with creativity and knowledge. But from day one she hated me.
She didn’t bite her tongue—she didn’t hide it; I didn’t understand. I hadn’t been unkind to her or taken a position she wanted. We did not argue. But she would do things like storm into my studio, while I was working, and yell and curse at me. I was ill prepared to respond to behavior like this in the workplace. I almost resigned after the first month, but I didn’t. I couldn’t. I had two sons in college.
I thought if I tried harder, I could fix it. So, one day I asked her to meet me in the conference room so we could talk. It was just the two of us, but we were seated at almost opposite ends of the table. I spoke nicely. I pointed out our commonalities: We were both single mothers—boy moms—making our way in the industry we loved. I asked her not to see me as an enemy. I have never had to make a case for someone to be my friend. It felt childish. Like I was asking a mean girl to sit at the popular table. This was the only thing I could think to do. I couldn’t match her energy. It just wasn’t my personality. So, we talked. She relaxed. We agreed on an outing away from the office.
She and I had never discussed this, but you could just tell by looking at us that our bra sizes were way down the alphabet. We both had difficulty finding bras that fit, so we went to a specialty bra shop together. We were measured and bought bras that were supposed to be our perfect fit. Instead, they were constrictive and uncomfortable. My boobs felt forced into a vice-grip of wires, elastic, and lace. It was a sign: You can’t force a friendship—even a workplace friendship.
She was promoted after about a year, and we settled into a working rhythm. But it was like working with your bully who decided not to harass you anymore. Honestly, she was one of the smartest women I have ever met in our industry. She was unapologetically herself, 24/7—brash, bold, and got the job done. Period. That I admired. It was just baffling to me that someone who had so much going for them would take the time and energy to be nasty to me.
It wasn’t the strong-Black-woman syndrome. And it wasn’t as cliché as the lie that “Black women don’t get along in the workplace.” She had female work friends and so did I. Most were strong and just as accomplished, but strong does not have to equal disrespectful and mean. The funny thing is, we didn’t clash. She just did not like the person I am. And that’s okay. No one is going to like every person they meet.
I left the company in 2015, and she left a couple years later. In 2018 or 2019—out of the blue—she called me and offered me a job. It was another dream position. I was shocked. She told me she would call me back to discuss. I waited a few days… She didn’t call back. I called her, but she didn’t answer. She never called. I felt like Charlie Brown, hoping Lucy wouldn’t snatch the football away. That was 3 years ago.
After a few days of no brain activity, her family made the decision to take her off life support. She did not pass away immediately. Her heart continued to beat for almost two days. That’s just like her, I thought, doing the unexpected—defying the odds like she did her whole life and career. I talked to a few of our former co-workers and heard stories of the funny, intelligent person she was—only a few unpleasant anecdotes. But that’s life, right? We celebrated the good, positive aspects of who she was.
As I reflect on her passing at the young age of 49, I choose to focus on the good. I will pray for her family. I will remember a woman who was a force to be reckoned with. So, God, get ready because she will definitely have some ideas on how heaven and earth could run better. But You already know that—You made her that way.Leave a Comment