Maya Angelou said “Everyone has a story. If you have a story to tell you need to tell it”. I have a story to tell. The reason I started this blog was to tell my story. Telling my story helps remind me of who I am. Telling my story helps me make sense of what has happened in my life. I hope that by using my voice to tell my story I can give inspiration to others.
On a recent episode of Oprah’s Master Class Billy Bob Thornton said “Don’t wait for someone else to tell your story. Tell your own story”. I do have a story to tell but I’ve kind of been waiting for someone else’s story to corroborate with mine. I realize now that it is important for me to tell my story and not wait for someone else to do it.
Six months ago I quit my job. I quit my job because I was asked to do something that I believed was illegal. I was asked to participate in “illegal hiring practices” in which qualified candidates for a management position in one of my libraries were not considered for interview. I wanted to interview them but my supervisors said “no”. Three of these candidates were known to be from a “protected class”. I was directed to interview less qualified candidates. In the end I was “ordered” to offer the job to a friend of the boss. I did not want to participate in unethical and possibly illegal employment activities so I walked away. I walked away from an extremely toxic work environment. There were many other issues but this was the one that really crossed my ethical line. After giving notice I was presented with a legal document that equated to a “gag order” and pay off. I did not sign it or accept the pay off. I walked away from a career that I loved. I walked away from a good paycheck.
I walked away with my integrity. I walked away with my voice. I still have my voice and I am so grateful for that. My voice matters and is worth more than any amount of money. I have my voice and I can use it to tell my story.
To some my story might sound like the makings of a thriller novel. I could fill a book with tales of my exposure to discrimination, racism, bullying, threats, sexual harassment, oppression, cronyism, lies, manipulation, favoritism, tyranny and corruption. I have a doozy of a story to tell. I’m still grappling with when, where, how and who to tell it to. If I don’t share my story and use it for good then I might as well have signed that “gag order.
There have been many moments when I just wanted to let it go and move on. I am happy to be out of that situation. Let it go and don’t think about it anymore. But my conscience keeps bringing me back to where I “tell my story”. Other people are involved. Other people have been mislead and abused. If I do nothing someone else could unknowingly get hurt. Those bullies in the workplace will continue to play a sick game and undermine peoples lives. There are good, honest people who count on their jobs to provide for their families. These people are being ruled by fear at the hands of a tyrant. Fear of losing their jobs keeps them from fighting or speaking up at this time. It is not right. This is not the way people should be treated in society in 2014. I can use my voice and fight the good fight. My voice gives me the power to do that. It’s not okay for the “bad guys” to win.
Author, Elizabeth Gilbert states that most great stories are based on the premise of the “hero’s journey” formulated by Joseph Campbell. To summarize:
A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.
Joseph Campbell says that there are 17 stages to the hero’s journey. These stages are divided into three phases: Separation, Initiation and Return. In the separation phase the hero is forced to leave the known/normal world and venture out into a dangerous unknown realm. The hero usually has to survive a severe challenge. The final step of separation involves the hero entering into the “belly of the whale” and agreeing to undergo a change.
The initiation phase of the journey includes the “road of trials”. The hero encounters numerous trials, tribulations and failures in this phase of the journey. This is where the hero must face the giant. Often there is a period of rest, peace and fulfillment before the hero continues on the quest. Eventually the climax of the journey happens and the tension in the story is resolved. The hero wins!
In the return phase of the journey the excitement is over and the hero returns to a “normal” albeit transformed life. The hero is able to share the wisdom of the journey with others. This transformation leads to the ultimate goal of “freedom to live”. The hero has conquered the internal and external demons and can now live the life they choose. The hero is free from fear, anxiety, stress and other distractions that keep him from living in the here and now.
Embarking on this quest does not mean that I have the ability to help anyone else. I am not a hero and I don’t claim that I can save the day. I just know that I have to try and do something. I believe that I am about to emerge from the belly of the whale in my own heroine’s journey. I need to see where the rest of journey will take me. I am battling the injustices of an organizational giant. I’m fighting unfairness and oppression in the workplace. I can’t quit now. I have to at least try to right a wrong. If it is only for my own benefit it is worth the fight. I need to continue on this quest to get to that “freedom to live” part of the story. I need to know how the story ends.
This journey will certainly end with asking “what have I learned and what I can teach others from my experience?”. There is a reason this happened to me and for me. What has happened to me will not be wasted. I have a story to tell. I’m not sure where this story will go or what the outcome will be but I will tell it with intention and purpose. I will be brave and raise my voice and tell this story. Bring it! When this story is finished and the journey complete I will write a new story for myself and live it intentionally.
Stories connect us with other people. Stories reassure us that we are not alone in this world. Stories have the power to heal. Tell me your stories and I’ll tell you mine.