What challenges have you faced?
I have one crazy sibling who I feel is ‘Americanized’ in not necessarily the ‘best’ way. Other than that, with my family our differences did not matter. For my family, I am not the first to ‘inter’ marry. Others beat me to that. His family, they had a bit of ‘adjusting’ to do. Once he put his foot down about their new reality that I was not going anywhere, they (his mom) came around. Most of our core challenges surrounded our business. We hit a very rough patch in the business about 10 years ago, due in part to the recession. We have had to rebuild. We had to work with our accountant, who was a family member and to work multiple jobs to survive and get back on a more secure footing. We’re on our way once again.
How do you deal with difficult times?
We stick together and work hard. We did what it took to survive. You have to show up for what you want. We also talk to each other a lot.
What kind of boundaries do you use to protect your relationship?
I don’t let unpleasant people take up too much space in my life. People are constantly letting others know their character, and we have to be aware of that. It is so important to be wary of others and to have enlightened self-interest. Vet people carefully and weigh everything in and around your life. Take every single person coming into your life on a case by case basis and see how in the time you spend with them, they benefit or take away from your life.
Let go of obligations to others and those you think you owe something to. You need to put your needs first. Don’t let other people’s guilt or personal issues become YOUR reality and that really MUST include family and friends. They are important, but we have to master the art of, “No.”
Speaking of family, how have they reacted?
I touched on this a bit earlier. My one sibling who is problematic, I simply ignore. As any other human being; I would love for everyone to accept and approve of my life’s decisions but that is not possible. I will not voluntarily hand over my life’s decisions to someone else. After all family or not, she is NOT living my life for me. I see her at the occasional family function and as long as she is respectful – which she has been-, I have no problem with her. I have several siblings, I am the eldest of my mom’s children. I think it’s my personal DNA but my nature is not to give people who don’t approve of something I’m doing too much space in my head.
I created boundaries between business and family as well. Many years ago, my younger sister was getting married, and she wanted us to take the pictures. We told her how much we charged and wrote up a contract. She paid and we took beautiful pictures. We decided to gift her a photo album.
Some people will want to try to take advantage of your goodwill and expect you to bend over backwards for them. Sharing the story around my sister, people are shocked. They expected us to take pictures for my sister’s wedding for free and give her whatever she wanted. Well, there’re tons of unseen cost to us and it is a business. Those costs would have been passed on to any other customer, I did not see her as any different on a business matter.
I let go of those obligations and I’ve never done self-imposed segregation. I turned 62 in March. I’ve never felt and I am very sure will never feel like I owe the collective something by sacrificing myself.
Life is not about perfection, but an opportunity. Put yourself with people who can see the value in you, your humanity, your work and help you along with whatever life goals or endeavors you may have for yourself.
I have cousins who are biracial, as there is a lot more diversity and interracial relationships in Trinidad. For the most part, people are just people: you just have to take people as individuals. We don’t have the same social structures as the United States. There were unspoken rules, not the signs and segregation in the US. I think living in both places has helped me to understand that people’s worldviews can be based on more than personal experiences. So often it is based on what others think. That can create huge problems for any person, especially a black woman trying to navigate life.
Thank you so much for reading this article. We’ll continue this series in another segment. If you are interested in participating in this series or know someone who might be willing to collaborate, please share a message below or connect with Christelyn Karazin.