Boundary Setting: Who Gets to Know Our Stories?
[Lead image of poet Reyna Biddy via Hip Hop on Deck ]
Last Monday morning at 5:15 A.M. I posted a picture on Facebook of my suitcases on my empty apartment floor. The caption was short and to the point: “That’s a wrap, Boston!” The post also stated that I was traveling to Chicago. That was all I wanted to put. I wanted to give a little heads up to people that I was leaving Boston. Many already knew. I had a 3 day going away party that I called a “farewell tour.” The Facebook status was just a general announcement for those who weren’t aware. I was pretty satisfied with it. A former supervisor commented on the post wishing me luck. I thanked her and ‘loved’ her message. After a struggle getting to the airport with heavy suitcases, I departed Boston for the last time as a resident on my 7 A.M. one-way flight. The excitement I had been waiting for on this journey finally arrived!
The plane landed a little over 2 hours later in Chicago and I was filled with excitement. I decided I wanted to move to Chicago 3 years ago and it just hadn’t worked out. Yet here I was! I made it. I was thrilled! Once my airplane mode was turned off my phone immediately blew up with messages. A few friends who knew I was leaving sent good luck messages. There were several messages asking "what was going on? Are you moving to Chicago?" "When did this happen?" I checked Facebook and received more of the same. The post about moving had gotten a larger response than I expected. People felt like this had come out of the blue. I explained to a few people that I got a new job and the whole thing happened throughout the of the month of June. Then I started feeling guilty. Should I have told more people? Should I have kept everyone in the loop about what was happening? Should I have invited people I hadn’t seen for the past 2 years to my party? I asked myself why I hadn’t made a bigger deal out of this situation.
Somewhere between the lengthy walk from the plane, a pit stop in the bathroom, and on to the baggage claim at Midway airport, the guilt began to go away. In hindsight, I realized that my move was my story to tell. Those who needed the details had them. Those who didn’t, were those who hadn’t reached out to me in a while. My closest friends knew the story. They had been holding me up for months. They held me literally and figuratively through one of the hardest years of my life. They held me through failed relationships, mistreatment, two toxic work environments, and seeing me driven out of job because of racism. Along with my struggle through the racial trauma that followed. The past year of my life was painful. There were many times when I wasn’t sure how I would get through it, but I did, because I had some amazing people around me. They knew my story and my struggles, and they supported me through all of it.
When the job opportunity popped up in Chicago, all of my closest friends encouraged me to go for it. They checked in during the process. They wished me well when I flew to Chicago on my birthday for a job interview. They helped me pack my life away before I had a job offer, and they celebrated with me when the job offer came in. These were the people who kept me afloat during some dark times. To me, these are the people who deserve to know my story and my truths. My Facebook status was put up as a courtesy. Kind of like an out of office email. Any additional information shared about my move and my life was up to me. In this age of social media and 24/7 news and announcements, you don’t owe anyone an explanation. Your story is yours to tell how you want to tell it, and only if you wish to tell it.
I have put a greater emphasis on boundaries in 2018. They are essential! I realized that by not upholding my boundaries, I was letting people take too much of me. I was running out of steam, running out of spoons, and running out of patience. I was running out of energy to take care of me. By putting better boundaries in place, and monitoring who I invested time and energy into, I found myself feeling more fulfilled and less over exerted. I encourage everyone to look at your own personal boundaries. Look at who you let into your life and how much access you give to them. Your beautiful story is yours and yours alone. No one has a right to it, unless you give them permission.