I’ve never smoked a day in my life. Ironically, I’ve never felt the urge to either. Maybe having two close friends who felt the same way about it made the pressure from peers minimal to almost non-existent. Or the fact that, in my Christian household it was forbidden, along with many other things that could totally strip a teenager’s adolescence of any promiscuous fun. But in this moment, holding the Cuban cigar in my hand, I felt proud, important and quite frankly like a bad mutha shut cho’ mouth! Not because I planned to puff, puff, pass or blow smoke rings to the latest song on the radio for my insta-story. The cigar represented and symbolized my seat at the table in a male dominated environment. An environment that, for some like myself, could appear very intimidating, causing my own insecurities to kick into overdrive.

What if I’m not good enough? What if they laugh at me? Why did they really invite me? Sometimes, we can be our worst critics, creating this narrative of ourselves to others before actually courageously finding out the truth for ourselves. A lot of times I pray for growth, elevation and that God enlarges my territory. However, I find it’s quite funny that when he does, I sometimes question his decision. Is it time? Am I ready? What if I fail? I can only imagine, him looking down on me like, “girl where is your faith in me? If I didn’t think you were ready, I wouldn’t have allowed it to happen. And, whatever you lack, I can fill in those gaps for you!”

“Do you play golf? We have a tournament coming up in a few weeks,” he asked. “Who me? I have never played in my life,” I responded. “Oh yea, well you should still come. Bring your department. Trust me, it will be fun.” I thought for a moment, and immediately responded “okay”, banking on my fellow co-workers at my company to attend the event with me. “This should be a nice team outing,” I thought to myself.

“Girl I don’t do golf tournaments. It’s too hot!”

“Ummm do I have to go? There are actually a few things I need to finish that day before the weekend hits.”

“If you would’ve given me a bit more notice, I could’ve probably attended. I love golfing!”

After exhausting my resources, I was on the verge of not attending at all. But I’ve noticed lately, that I am definitely growing and evolving on the inside. Something, or someone, is fighting to come out and it’s not letting up either. It’s forcing me to speak up more in meetings, to say no to additional projects that are thrown at me, and has tremendously lowered my tolerance of the BS. Not saying that I was completely a door mat, but I surely let my shy, timidness be taken for granted by others. But this “new” me that is becoming more dominant doesn’t play that! She is courageous and jumps on any and every opportunity to challenge herself regardless of the potential outcome. So you already know what I (she) chose to do.

“Golfing it is,” I said to myself. The person who invited me was also kind enough to let me play on his team now that I was riding solo. How lucky am I? The rookie gets to play on a team of “experts” compared to her own skillset. “Heck do I even know how to hold a golf club,” I thought to myself as I pulled up to park at the beautifully landscaped country club, “Here goes nothing.”

As I approached my team of four, the first and obvious thing I noticed was that I was the only woman on the team. Thank God I wore neutral clothing. I wouldn’t want to appear as though I came for the attention. But surely, this couldn’t be. None of the women I greeted walking towards the registration desk were on my team. Rats!

While shaking everyone’s hand firmly on my team, I smiled and tried to catch their name and respective companies. Not to my surprise, they all seemed to be well into their professional career (mid to senior level), but honestly their presumed age range could’ve given that away also. All very handsome older men, whose children I was probably only 5-7 years their senior. And yes, you can imagine that I stood out like a sore thumb.

“Whose daughter is that playing with the president of the organization? Why did they invite her when she clearly doesn’t know how to play? She should try taking a few lessons before agreeing to play in a golf tournament.”

The thoughts began to swarm in my mind of what everyone around me was possibly thinking or saying. And after attempting to hit everything except the ball, including my partner, I began to get frustrated feeling very insecure and out of place.

Luckily, my team was very supportive and often found humor in how we all were playing that day considering the 100 degree heat and complimentary Jack Daniels that made for an interesting drive in our golf carts. Often time, during our quest to finish the nine holes, they asked me if I was enjoying myself, reminding me that that is all that mattered to them. I soon found comfort and reassurance that they were being honest, especially as they began to make rookie mistakes as well. **In my Jamie Foxx voice, “Blame it on the alcohol, baby!”

Four hours later, and numerous belly laughs, I thought to myself how much I enjoyed this outing. I got an amazing tan in the somewhat disrespectful heat, made some great connects (which to my surprise had a lot in common with me), and identified a new hobby worth picking up a class or two. I try to celebrate small wins like this because it reminds me not to be afraid of stepping outside of my comfort zone.

Often times, we miss out on opportunities because of our own insecurities, especially in situations where we might feel like an outcast. For me, it’s feeling like there isn’t a place for me in certain environments. I am 100% certain a lot of these notions come from where society tells me I should be as a woman, an African American young woman at that. Society may say that there isn’t a seat at the table for someone like me in a male dominate environment, but that’s not true at all.
It is so important that we do not allow these ideals or learned beliefs to dictate where or how we maneuver in this world. We should all begin to look at each other equally (yes, there is still work to be done), understanding that each of us were placed on this earth with importance and purpose. We ALL bring something to the table! And when we see others that are discriminated against, we should courageously pull up a seat for them, because turning a blind eye to reality only adds fuel to the fire.

As I packed up my belongings to prepare for the journey to my hot car a young man from the tournament gave me a cigar. “Do you smoke cigars?” He asked. I smiled and replied, “nope, but I’ll take one for the road.”

**Grabs a chair and makes room for MYSELF at the table.