While watching a movie on the Hallmark Channel, I heard a line that jumped out at me: “We all have baggage from our past.” Such a true statement.
It was just this week when I was having a conversation with one of my friends that I shared how I came to love fashion and dressing for success so much. It all started when I was in the ninth grade, attending the now-closed Langley Junior High School. It sits directly beside McKinley Technical High School, also my alma mater.
My family had recently moved to D.C. during the Great Migration, one of the largest migrations ever of the African-American population. Many scholars consider it as two waves, between 1916 and 1930 and from 1940 to 1970. The Great Migration saw a total of six million African-Americans leave the South.
I arrived in D.C. in 1965, the daughter of a sharecropper, and life would never be the same. Though one of my siblings was grown and gone, there were still eight of us left. Money was scarce, especially for two parents who had lived their entire adult lives working on farms to make ends meet.
Who knew what to do? Families simply found ways to make do. Children did without health insurance and ate inexpensive, unhealthy foods, much of which caused health issues down the road.
That was my life. There definitely was no money to buy clothing for school. The children in my family wore secondhand clothing from thrift stores or hand-me-downs from other family members.
One day, I was thrust into an ugly situation that would cause my life to change forever, MY baggage from the past, my friends.
Let me share how this incident has influenced my life. I would say it was for the good! Now, I have a certain style about me — my personal appearance matters. For the past 30 years, though, my personal appearance finally took a back seat, and I focused more on my inner self. Baggage can be detrimental or, like in my case, it can bring out the best in you. Because of this incident, fashion became my favorite pastime, from reading books to teaching classes on dressing for success. I’ve studied fashion magazines, always looking for examples of the best packaging.
Our personal appearance really does matter. There was an incident during the 1970s when I worked at Children’s Hospital in Oakland, California. It happened in the Nursing Office. I was the supervisor, and our receptionist position was vacant. We were getting temporaries in from the agency. One day, a young African-American girl came to work, and her clothes were very wrinkled. It was awful. The director of the nursing office asked me to send her home. She refused to have our office represented that way.
This seems to be good baggage to me. However, there are also many of you out there who have allowed something that happened in your life to stop you in your tracks. I have a younger sister who did exactly that. I won’t tell her story, but she allowed something our father said to her one day to change her life forever.
Don’t allow what others may say harm you. We know that we are only here for a little while. The scripture tells us how we are only like a puff of smoke — here today, gone tomorrow.
As the saying goes, “do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.”
Lyndia Grant is the host of “Think on These Things,” a radio talk show on WYCB-AM, 1340, Fridays at 6 p.m. Contact her at 202-518-3192 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.