How being my true self led to my corporate demise and self-actualization
It’s not often that I get the opportunity to capture my personal feelings and business matters within the same story. But with it being Pride month, I figured I would take some time to reflect on the past year. For me, Pride month represents freedom. I’d never considered myself one to wear my heart on my sleeve, although I am an emotional person. However, in writing our Pride content, I felt compelled to talk about a very critical time in my life. Are you ready for it?
I’ve always been chameleon of sorts, with my true identity only being revealed after a bottle of wine or a few shots. This pungent world view came crashing down when I was fired. As a member of a minority group, whenever you get fired you wonder if it was because of your race or sexual orientation. The goal of this blog isn’t to slam my former employer. Honestly, I wouldn’t be writing it without them.
About a year ago I had the opportunity to serve on the golf committee of the Oak Park and River Forest Chamber of Commerce, and boy was it a good time. However, I found myself fired two days later. I went from leading some of the company’s most successful marketing initiatives, to being tossed out. The company blamed it on my actions at the golf outing, citing that my focus should’ve been on making the company look good and that I had tarnished the reputation of the organization by just driving a golf cart around and drinking and being loud. However, if you follow our social media, you’d know I was named ambassador of the year by the Chamber. So, what was the real issue? I will be fair, I did have a few beers, and discovered my love of Kingslagher that night. And, as I admitted to above, my true gay black self came out, was that too much for my former employer to handle?
When you are in a sales role, everything is about closing a deal. However, in order to be effective at this, one must build stable relationships. The key to building those relationships is conveying your personality, professionalism, dedication, and selflessness. While sitting in planning meetings I showed my normal professional Darien. If you’ve ever seen me at a networking event, you know I’m never boring when bridging relationships.The day of the event I was the volunteer coordinator; I had the responsibility to ensure every volunteer was accounted for and taken care of along with the secondary duty of making sure things were stocked at the beverage station. Now, I did this while holding a beverage, because well, that’s the nature of golf!
After checking in every sponsor and chatting with them, I had to drive around and make sure everyone had what they needed. Now, I’d never been on a golf course, so it was a bit of a struggle. I even got hit in the head by a golf ball! After realizing I wasn’t the best fit to drive a golf cart during super busy times of play, I partnered with another member of the committee to ride around. This member and I went on to become besties, we had such a good time, laughing, joking, chatting about our shared experiences as young black business professionals. In fact I don’t think I went very long without smiling. That’s what happens when you become friends with everyone within an organization after networking with them for a year or so. Not to sound brash, but I’m known for having a good time and being high energy, and that’s why I was asked to be on the committee to add a little Darien Flair to the outing.
At the end of the golf outing, after everyone was finishing up, I was talking with a few high ranking members when I got a call. As I took the call, someone stated, “That’s a man that knows how to volunteer and conduct business, I’ve seen him taking calls all day.” This interaction tells me that their observation of my behavior was professional and not in any way inappropriate or detrimental to the organization.
Next thing I know, I was fired two days later by the CEO. Officially, I was told I was fired because my behavior was “Inappropriate” and I “did not make the company look good”. It was the pairing of my BIG personality with my desire to solely fulfill my duties to the non-profit we were supporting that led to my demise. I was being unapologetically black, gay, and myself, trying to help the world.
As I think about this day, I often wonder, if I hadn’t shown my true self, would I still be employed? If I hadn’t wanted to do good and prioritize the benefit of others in our community, would I still have a job? Why is it that you can’t be loud and proud and not actualize your true self?
Why can’t courage and conviction live in the same block? Why do we find ways to dismantle our LGBT brethren the second they act different from the heteronormative views that society has thrust upon us? This isn’t only an issue in corporate America, but this is an issue that has formed within the gay community. I can’t tell you how often I see things like, no fats, no fems. This must stop.
I am not writing this so that you feel sad for me, I am writing this for everyone that has been counted out. I got fired less than a year ago. Now, I run an agency on track to be a 6-figure agency in its first year. I have clients that appreciate my awesome creativity and my unapologetic personality. I have employees that trust my leadership. I have everything I wanted at this point, and if it weren’t for being fired from a company that didn’t appreciate the authentic me, I wouldn’t have any of it.
So you do you boo boo. Move mountains, and be unequivocal in your approach to living and running your life. If being your true self means you lose it all, it was worth losing. Go further and spread joy, but know it starts with you.
Happy Pride everyone!