Growing up, every woman in my family owned a Coach bag. But after four years working for the brand I’d seen every day in my household, I’d realized I wouldn’t let them, or any other corporate entity, own me.
I remember sharing my plan to leave my job with my great aunt, “I’m going to do something even better,” I said. She gave me a look like I had lost my mind and only the future would tell which one of us was right.
At the time, I was making $60,000 a year plus a bonus working for the mid-luxury fashion retailer. I had all of the things one would desire: health insurance, 10-days paid vacation and stock options. However, all of that came at a price. My boss at the time, was a white woman in her fifties who was a great mentor, but also bitter, overworked, and underappreciated. The company heads were all white men and I just knew that this was a game I was never going to win. I was tired of making miracles happen only for others to take credit for my work and hated debating whether to leave for the gym at 6:00 pm because I didn’t want to be the Black girl that left early. I used to cry on the way to work often because I wanted to succeed so badly.
A decade later I heard Sharea Farmer, a licensed clinical social worker, say, “White supremacy fuels the unhealthy cycle of overachievement, overworking and chasing success that is so prevalent among Black women,” and realized how true that was for me then and sometimes still is.
I recalled how my dad, an entrepreneur, used to say growing up, “Devon, you don’t want to work for anyone else.” Finally, I understood what he meant. I was out! I was ready to bet on making miracles for myself rather than feed into a system that wasn’t made for me to win.
All that hard work I put in at the office paid off in the end. Instead of allowing me to quit, my boss convinced me to stay an additional two years part-time with benefits. I began my journey as a writer insured with savings growing in the bank. Two years later when I was laid off, I left with a severance package, an executive training program and unemployment coming in. I had everything I needed to make it on my own
Twelve years have passed since my last day at Coach. During this time I’ve been a freelance travel writer, a nanny, and an English teacher. I’ve rode in private jets and snorkeled in the Great Barrier Reef. On my 35th birthday, I left New York for a solo journey around the world where I met my husband. Today we live in Budapest, Hungary with our four-year-old son who goes to private school for less than $500 a month. We live in a beautiful, green neighborhood for less than $1100.
Racism is no longer a daily issue for me. The relief of those emotional and financial burdens I had in the U.S. gave me the capacity to be my own boss at Let’s Write Your Future, a digital marketing firm that helps successful mental health professionals use social media to gain visibility and financial freedom of their own. It isn’t always easy, being a wife, mom, entrepreneur, and expat, but I know for sure I’m free and I’m not the only one.
Kesi Irvin is a former wallstreeter who quit a career in finance to travel the world. We met at a Black Girl In Budapest event (yes there are enough of us to warrant that). For Irvin, quitting was a departure from a path of success paved by her parents who both went to the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School and worked in finance. Her father was one of the first Black Managing Directors on Wall Street and Kesi was an intern at Morgan Stanley at the young age of sixteen.
“Two weeks’ vacation was not enough time to see the world,” said Irvin. What was meant to be a year off for her turned into a nomadic lifestyle financed by working as yacht chef for 2-3 months a year and traveling for the rest. These days she is proud to call herself a blogger who teaches others how to travel long-term and this year she is hosting a trip to Antarctica.” She told me, “My parents’ generation felt more pressure to navigate a world with less opportunities for Black folks. I am thankful to be fully free and live the life that I chose”
Juneteenth commemorates the emancipation of the last enslaved Black Americans. Perhaps this holiday has you redefining freedom for yourself. In May 2020, Working Mother Research Institute reported that 52% of Black women were debating leaving their companies in two years. Blaxit Tribe–Black Americans Who Want to Exit the U.S. & Move Abroad is one of the fastest-growing Facebook groups with over 22,000 members. If you think you are ready to join us, start by writing down your dreams and doubts. One by one you’ll find solutions to your doubts and all that will be left is you and your dream to free.