The journey is never easy but it is always worth it.
It took me years to believe those words. If I had found them sooner it could have saved me doubt, fear, and tears. But that’s life! We can all use a map sometimes – this is mine:
Show up in every room as yourself.
I started my #LifeAtATT in late 2015 in Louisiana as a Retail Sales Consultant. I did a stint at a rental car agency where a friend suggested AT&T to me. I quickly made the move. He understood my personality, my ability, and my potential. If I’m honest, I was simply looking at the compensation. I never imagined a career in sales. I wanted to do something more creative. However, little by little and day by day, I found myself becoming fonder of the role.
I would come to work with a façade but the customers and my co-workers saw the real me. There was a freedom in how I moved, talked, and interacted with others. It was the people around me who made me feel more comfortable. They started to become less like friends and more like family. It was here where everything shifted. While awaiting a new batch of customers, I revealed a piece of myself that I never thought I would. I revealed my sexuality to those who I was fortunate enough to call friends. Their blank stares told me everything – they knew and didn’t care. It was almost comical how they said, “we were waiting for you.” Ultimately, they said what I needed to hear, “we still love you and it doesn’t matter.” Who knew that a place that I didn’t even imagine myself in could become my refuge?
With each progression I made in my career, I became more comfortable with this person. I eventually moved to Nashville to start my management career as an Assistant Store Manager and, eventually, Retail Sales Manager. Those 2 ½ years in Nashville challenged me because I didn’t have any family in the city. I was plagued by lots of loneliness and silence. It is something about the silence and the moments alone that I started to unpack my true self. I was stepping into my authentic self and I began to see the positive impact on my life and my career.
Never dim your light for anyone because there are people in the shadows who need your glow.
I grew up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and was raised by my grandmother. She was strict, fair and consistently moving. I attended eight different elementary schools. Little did I know, this was my first lesson in understanding the power of my personality and relying on myself.
Growing up, I didn’t have everything that I wanted and, in hindsight, I can see that sometimes I didn’t have what I needed. But faith was the theme of our home and each situation worked out just the way it needed to. I tried my hardest to not be a burden to my grandmother and my family. I maintained great grades, I didn’t ask to go to many outings (mainly because I knew that every dollar counted) and I stayed out of trouble. I guess you can say that I was the “perfect child” in a sense. There was one truth that I didn’t understand yet but knew I couldn’t say: “I am gay.” For many people, this would be just another revelation as they grew up. But for someone raised in a devout Christian home, this could be catastrophic. I spent my middle and high school years on a quest for self. I was trying to find out who I truly was and who could I possibly be. But I couldn’t admit the obvious truth of my sexuality. So, I buried it deep within the crevices of my soul.
There was an awakening when I attended college in Atlanta. I understood what it meant to be different. I had a better understanding of what it meant to be a black man in this world but I was fighting so hard to not understand what it meant to be a black, gay man in this world. Everyone around me could see it but I wouldn’t let myself believe it. Year after year, fear became my blanket and silence became my voice. I had made my decision that this side of me was not me. It didn’t matter. Being a black man had its own perils. I couldn’t take on anymore. This became my new truth.
More years passed and by the time I was thriving in my career, I needed to find my way to be my real self with my family. I started going to a therapist for help (shoutout to AT&T’s mental health services on this). One of the most important questions my therapist asked me was “what do you want to get out of these sessions and the work that you will do?” Without hesitation and with tears, I said “peace.” I was ready to do the work and within the next year, I came out to my family. Some responses weren’t favorable, but some were worth the continued fight.
You are fine just as you are.
Currently, I am a Sales Program Execution Lead. I reminisce on my #LifeAtATT and realize that it has been everything that I needed. People who truly see you, value you and believe in you make all the difference. I’ve always tried to lead with a “people first” mentality. It makes perfect sense that it has been the people (the leaders, the co-workers, the customers, the family, the friends) who’ve helped bring out the best version of me – the one that has sometimes waited in the shadows, afraid to step into my power, and the one that has slowly and steadily found the right path for me. I am not where I want to be yet but I am no longer where I used to be.
I am thankful for those along the way who have imparted their wisdom and continue to stand by my side. I am thankful to the company that placed these individuals in my path. This is #LifeAtATT and this is Zaryland…authentically! And when in doubt, you can always ask yourself…”What would Beyonce do?”
Paths to success are as unique as you are…Check out the opportunities waiting for you here.