OUTSPOKEN: The Many Faces and Phases of a Sistah by Nike Campbell-Fatoki
My eyes followed the hands scribbling rapidly across the performance evaluation form on the table. The silence was broken intermittently by the ticking clock on the wall. She raised her head finally, and my heart skipped a beat. Her big brown eyes did not reveal what she had written down as we stared across at each other. I tried not to blink. “So, I think you are doing an OK job. You know, things can always be improved upon. No one can be one hundred percent.” I leaned forward in my chair, trying hard to hold my tongue. “Just an ‘OK’ job Ms. Simpson?” I asked. Her perfectly shaped eyebrows stood up. “Yes. You are doing well. Is there anything else I should know about?” Her voice was steady, her unblinking eyes. I sat back in my chair, deflated. I had been told how very removed Ms. Smith was from ‘sistahs’ in the company. In fact, I had been warned not to expect any warmth from her. It was still very shocking experiencing it firsthand. Sistahs were supposed to stick together no matter what, especially in an environment where there were not too many of us. I gave a strained smile. “Not at all, Ms. Simpson,” I finally said, gathering my files. She spread her lips slightly. “Good, well, get back to work, you know you still have that deadline to meet.” I got up quickly and fled her office.
I almost didn’t hear my name being called as I passed by my co-worker who waved maniacally to me across the cubicles. I turned into her cubicle and flopped down on the chair opposite her. “Where were you flying to?” She asked, chuckling, until she saw my face. I could feel the heat radiating all the way to my neck. “Was it that bad?” She whispered. “She was unbelievable! Not even a word of appreciation for the work I’ve done to date.” I whispered. The cubicle walls were thin. “I warned you though. She’s not a sistah!”She whispered back, her finger touching the back of her left hand. I rolled my eyes and sat back in the chair. My phone vibrated in my pocket. I took it out and looked at the number. “Excuse me for a moment Trish. I have to take this call,” I said, already getting up and walking away. “Hi gal!” I shouted into the phone as I walked out quickly into the hallway. I listened to the excited response on the other end. “How is Bangladesh treating you? Yeah? Oh wow, I have to come visit. I miss you dear!!” I said back, finally getting a word in. After about fifteen minutes of catching up, I had to hang up and go back to my cubicle.
“Why are you smiling like a Cheshire cat?” Maria’s head appeared over the cubicle wall. I smiled looking up at her. We had grown close since I started working here. She was so much fun to work with. Even with the craziness of the day we would find a joke to crack and ease the tension. She had been so helpful on my last project especially with her being able to speak Spanish and me recruiting experts on an El Salvador project. “Oh, that was my friend from Bangladesh. She moved back home last year and we were just catching up.” I said ‘That’s nice, how long have you known her?” I paused for a minute. “Wow, I’ll say six years now. How time has flown. It seems like I’ve known her forever though!” I said, looking across at her. ‘Umm hmm,” she said softly. I stared back at her, as she continued, “…must be a sistah too, right?” She asked, eyes all-knowing. I smiled sheepishly, pushing back my chair. “Yes indeed Maria, and so are you.” I said, feeling blessed and ashamed at the same time.
A sistah I realized transcended the color of the skin. It is much deeper than that. She cuts across race, ethnicity, geographical boundaries, religion or financial status.A sistah is as close as a blood sister, sometimes even closer. She is bound to you at the heart. You can tell her your innermost secrets. She is your mirror. She does not balk at telling you the truth. You hope she always will. It took me a while to realize this, especially when the sistah who ‘qualified’ to be a sistah as a result of the color of the skin sees you either as competition or as someone to be distanced from so as not be appear to favor you.
A sistah is someone who holds you to high standards and doesn’t lower them because of the color of the skin. A sistah is a role model, a mentor, a confidant. Like everything in life, there are phases of sistahood. Some relationships are meant to last a lifetime, while some exist for a while to achieve a particular purpose. Don’t hold on to relationships that have already died. As long as you have played your part, deal with it and move on. God brings people into our lives for a reason and purpose. Once that purpose is achieved, then the relationship will naturally phase out. Please accept this. A relationship cannot be forced. It must flow. Opening yourself up to new experiences will bring some unexpected surprises. New experiences = New sistahs. Sign up for that skydiving class, or take that ski trip. Just do something outside of your comfort zone and see what happens. Enjoy every phase of life and enjoy every sistah you meet along the way. In turn, be a sistah that transcends the color of the skin.
Writer: Nike Campbell-Fatoki is based in U.S. She is Budget and Finance Manager and author of Thread of Gold Beads.
For more information go to www.nikecfatoki.com
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