ONCE IS NEVER ENOUGH

Getting a taste of empowerment means requiring it in all aspects of life.

As a writer it maybe easier for me to reach for the keyboard after a life-altering pivot, but my instinct to do so is also a healing one. Some questioned my candidness about what I had been through as described in last issue’s “Can You Say Deal Breaker?” while others applauded my transparency as an inspiring example of courage. Putting thought to keystroke may be natural, but being so vulnerable with strangers was not. “Being transparent wins the game,” said licensed professional counselor Jaketra bryant. “Bringing stuff to light is more healing.”

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Bryant is working on her doctorate in the field, so I picked her brain as I processed everything. Counted among the deal breakers for my ex was me confronting his controlling behavior. People like that expect those in the position of lesser power to swallow injustice the same way a boss forces acquiescence on a decision subordinates don’t like but accept for fear of losing their jobs. I’ve had experience here too. While a breaking news reporter at Gannett’s flagship newspaper, I quit. When the city editor had wooed me to come work for them, the company made all manner of promises due to me in a year via contract. The year came, and instead of rewarding my contributions, they made changes to news coverage that would diminish my role in the newsroom. Their pivot was the opposite of their promise. The thought of quitting was scary. This newspaper was supposed to be a springboard to the bigger leagues. This change signaled the end of any career ambitions. My mentors counseled me against accepting the redefined position. That decision meant I had to not just quit but walk out. I bought myself some time to consider the options before me and called in sick for a week.

When I returned, I worked my shift as I packed up my desk, leaving my letter of resignation on the editors’ desks on the way out. Whenever you first taste empowerment, it gets etched in your brain. You remember it. You stand taller. You’re more confident. You remember all those feelings. “I believe it really promotes a sense of fairness and equality,” Bryant said. “That reward increases the likelihood that they will do it again.” She’s right. My reward was my first taste of real professional freedom when I decided to travel, live and work in Europe, a move that ushered great growth into my life. Good experiences stick as closely as the bad ones, just with better effects. Once the behavior results in that reward, the person is likely to repeat it. The next time it happened with life-altering consequences was when I quit a different job, this time in the U.S. Virgin Islands, after my female boss suggested I work nights at a Dominican whorehouse after a follow-up about a promised raised not yet delivered.

This time my reward was becoming the campaign manager for the re-election of the then-senate president of the USVI legislature. According to the counselor, having stood up for myself repeatedly with positive results meant I was keenly aware of the power struggle being waged in my personal life, and it was only a matter of time before I confronted the issue. In the clacking of the keyboard, I found solace. Bryant said tapping into an artistic side is extremely healing. Vulnerability in telling the story opened up the healing process, she believes. One of the lessons here is that speaking up reinforces your core values. Once you know what it feels like to be empowered, there’s no settling for less. There is no better direction than to blaze a path forward in an unknown wood. “You have to be intentional about everything you want to achieve,” Bryant said. Turns out, the act of putting a plan into action is a critical part of healing, too. Follow the writer at @universeailenka on Twitter and Instagram. Follow Jaketra Byrant at @jaketrab on Twitter and @risk_tker on Instagram.

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