Become: to come into existence; to undergo change or development; to begin to be
I read an article titled: Your Job Will Never Love You Back a few days ago and it made me smile. That’s progress. There was a time when I would have read that title and cried. I would’ve cried because I was emotionally drained. I would’ve cried because it’s a harsh reality. I would’ve cried because sometimes the truth, no matter how we slice it, hurts. I would’ve cried because I was living in a space where that raw honesty would have resonated so deeply.
A few months ago, I made the decision to transition out of my full time employment as an Assistant Dean at Scripps College and adjunct professorship at the University of La Verne, to be a healthier and more present version of myself. While that might seem vague, it is the best way that I can describe my reasoning for leaving a 6-figure salary, at an elite college, serving students I adored. Professionally, it didn’t make sense. Some would argue that I am at the peak of my career and should be pounding away at the pavement, making a name for myself– I don’t disagree with that. However, I do disagree with how.
For years I have been preaching to myself and those I love, about balance–obtaining it, keeping it, managing it, requiring it and in the midst of Covid, I found myself finding balance for what I believe to be the first time in my adult life. I was at peace with all things. I was rested. I was managing responsibilities in a way that didn’t require me to sacrifice time or energy that I didn’t have. I ate regularly and found time to be present in things for myself and for others. While I had been questioning the transition out of full time employment as a Dean for almost a year, I hadn’t quite decided when I would transition, but I knew it was necessary. In 2019 I faced some of my hardest challenges as a woman, wife, mother and human being. You may remember a blog post I published earlier this year, Does it Sing to You?Finding Your Niche When you Feel you Have Nothing, a piece that detailed the rut I had been in as we entered another year. Even so, that article alone couldn’t detail the fullness of what I was experiencing. While none of it was bigger than the God I serve, at the time, it felt monumental. At the time, it consumed me. I didn’t want to return to that space and by His grace, the downtime Covid offered, gave me the time I needed to consider the proposition of transitioning my comfortable & exhausting (I know, sounds like an oxymoron) professional life, to one that included the things I needed and wanted most. I finally had the capacity to weigh all factors and the courage to move forward with my heart’s desires. While there were many uncertainties, one thing that never faltered, was my faith.
In my life, whenever it’s of God, there’s a resolve in my spirit that I cannot explain. It can be an ending of a relationship, purchasing of a home, or any other big decision. I know when God is in it, because it comes with a peace that can’t be purchased. That is how I felt about this transition. And so, with discomfort present, I knew something better was waiting for me on the other side of it all. Sometimes, all you really need to do is dream it and believe it.
Last month I wrote to you all about the power of manifestation and this month I thought I’d share what it looked like in practice. Since transitioning out of my full-time role as an Assistant Dean, the opportunities to be the best version of myself have been ever-present. When I made the decision I had an idea of what I’d do, but no guarantees. My goal was to rest, reset, work on some passion projects and recreate/redesign my life. As a Dean I found myself struggling to manage my own wellness, but coaching students through theirs. I found myself missing dinner at home with my husband and child, while participating and speaking at dinners on campus. I found myself missing my son’s homework hour, but leading workshops on task prioritization and the likes. That gut feeling of not being good enough, haunted my mothering mind. It’s something I’ve dealt with for the last 12 years as my mothering journey is simultaneously wrapped up in my schooling and professional advancement. Perhaps I should give a little more background. . . .
When I was 18 years old, I became pregnant with my son. At 19 years old and as a freshmen in college, I gave birth to him during my first semester. Those of you familiar with academic calendars understand that November, my son’s birth month, is notorious for collegiate midterm exams (the midpoint tests that determine if you’re actually retaining information and making connections between course concepts, readings and lectures). I knew that after giving birth, I needed to return to campus in order to complete midterms and the semester. My other option was to take a Leave of Absence (a pause so to speak) and return at a later date. This would mean forfeiting my semester, not receiving any grades, losing a semester’s worth of funding and starting the following semester or year, over as a freshmen again. I refused to do that. I knew what I was up against when I entered college 5 months pregnant and I wasn’t going to back down. So, I gave birth and returned to classes 3 days later. Since then, I have been in college and working full time while mothering. While that might sound concise, it’s been everything but that. I am proud of my journey. I am grateful for where God has brought me from. That doesn’t mean I’m not tired.
That being said, in 2018 when I culminated doctoral study, I promised myself that I’d rest when I felt I needed to and that I wouldn’t work or accept a job that I didn’t love. I wouldn’t professionally entertain toxic spaces or lose the things that kept me grounded. I felt that I had earned the right to choose. The Ph.D., for me at least, was for choice, permission, and flexibility. It was to give myself permission to excel, to rest, to research, to teach, to lead, to be challenged, to b e c o m e. Sometimes we wait for a challenge when all along the greatest one we’ll ever face, the one to BECOME our greatest selves, is waiting on us.
In reading First Lady Michelle Obama’s book, Becoming, I found myself encouraged to continue on in this work and to continue moving forward with every goal and every promise I made to myself. I was also encouraged to do it differently. The societal pressure for black women to be everything, to everyone is unhealthy and I don’t want to be in that number. I want to be everything to myself. I was reminded through Mrs. Obama’s words that I am important too. That my dreams and my goals matter too. That there’s no stopping point for ambition. You achieve one goal and then you keep going, because there’s so much out there to conquer–most of all, ourselves (our fears, our triggers, our pains, our hurdles, our generational curses, toxic traits, etc.). I was also reminded that rest is a necessity, not a luxury and that caring for oneself has to be part of the equation for success and longevity.
Thus, I did what I set out to do from the beginning, be true to myself and become a healthier woman, wife, mother, sister, friend, person. This for me meant being present. It meant caring for myself and prioritizing my own wants. I was tired of juggling everything professionally and failing personally. I was tired of leaving conferences, driving to tournaments, barely eating or tending to myself. I was tired of bringing my laptop to bed, working all hours of the day/night/weekend and missing my husband’s jokes, meals, affection. I was tired of not pleasing myself or the people who meant the most to me. I was over-involved in things that meant less and uninvolved in the things that meant most and it translated into my personal relationships in a way that I didn’t appreciate. A shift was required. I wish I could tell you the shift was perfect, it wasn’t. I wish I could tell you the shift was painless, it wasn’t. I had colleagues question the why? I had superiors misunderstand the intention. I had those I knew and those I didn’t know tell me it was a mistake. I had people that I respect interpret my evaluation and request for balance, as whining.
But I also had a husband who continued to show up, pray and provide for me. A family, who may not sometimes understand what it is I’m doing, but always find ways and words to support and encourage me. Friends who trusted and believed in me, spoke life and gave feedback. And most importantly, a foundation of faith that in the midst of everything, all the time, provides me with quiet and the peace I need, to spiritually sustain and maintain. I was uplifted, reassured and I pushed harder than I ever have before, to become.
Becoming isn’t an easy thing to do. It isn’t a seamless process. It requires one to shift. The very meaning of becoming insinuates that a transition, an elevation and growth are required. I don’t think caterpillars wrap themselves into cocoons because they want to. They don’t know what kind of butterfly they’re going to become, but they know that in order to become, they must wrap themselves. I think as a people our becoming is similar to theirs. We must speak and wrap ourselves in the things that will help get us to where we want to be. Maybe you aspire to become a woman of God, you must wrap yourself in the Word, in humility, in honesty, in love. Perhaps you want to become a successful business owner, you must wrap yourself in integrity, sound business practices, transparency. I also trust that part of the wrapping process requires that you be ready and prepared on the inside. Catepillars don’t just wrap themselves up to become butterflies. They first take care of the inside. They stop eating–preparing their internal FIRST, for the outward shift. We must likewise prepare internally–rectifying our hearts and our thoughts and our intentions and pressing toward what is good.
I knew to become a better and healthier version of myself, I had to be wrapped in self-discovery, prayer, prioritization, stronger and more honest communication with self, and the removal of everything contrary to what I wanted to build and be. Part of my transition included a physical relocation from California, which had become home to my family for the past 5 years and relocating to Georgia where my husband’s military career started and continues. This transition had been one we’d discussed making in another few years, but then, it happened. The personal and professional (and hypothetical) stars aligned and in doing so, we shifted to another state. Along with this transition came the transition for me to be home more than I ever have been in my life. I used this new found freedom to build capacity, to rest, to explore, to enjoy being present and to be.
As is typical of me, I eventually grew bored without any structure so I found a way to incorporate the things that professionally inspire me, into my personal mission. I accepted adjunct teaching positions that would allow me to continue to engage with students and also worked to give something to myself and those I never want to step away from serving.
I had been talking about creating a virtual college access, wellness, academic support and career advancement platform for some time. I played with the thought of what it would be and who it would serve. I ran it by the people I trust most and then I let it sit. We do that sometimes don’t we? Sit on our gifts. . . push other people’s agendas and abandon our own. The road to becoming requires that I tap into everything that I have and everything that I am. This journey has birthed some of the most beautiful memories I’ve ever created. It gave me the courage to launch Elite College Knowledge Academic Counseling, Coaching and Consulting Co and it also gave me the gift of becoming a mommy, for the second time- – a gift that has truly kept on giving as I have found myself, again, growing, elevating and discovering some of the most beautiful parts of myself by preparing to care for another human being. Just as I did with my first child.
There’s something especially encouraging about a life growing on the inside of you. I haven’t had another experience in life that has provided me with a new pair of eyes, great expectation and a mind that the possibilities are endless. That is what the carrying of this blessing has been for me. . . a continuation of my becoming. The journey to become is one that lasts as long as we live. It is one that is largely driven by our power to manifest, trust ourselves and tap into our strengths. I think Marianne Williamson said it best, “our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightening about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
I didn’t need an institution to walk in my purpose. God gave that to me. Who am I not to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? My playing small does not serve the world. Marianne reminds me that I must continue to be responsible for the gifts that God gave me, with or without institutional backing and structures or happenings, like Covid. That is why my desire to become the best version of myself isn’t wrapped up in anybody else’s idea of who I am. It is not my responsibility to live up to anyone’s expectations of who I am or what I should do. As much of a challenge as it is to become, it is likewise freeing. In order to remove the shackles placed on us by other people, places and things, we must first acknowledge that we are shackled. Audre Lorde said, the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. We must therefore seek a separate tool set. One that is equipped to tear down and rebuild for our benefit. We must want to become more than we want anything else in this life. We must manifest and trust it like we trust our bodies to breathe. . . only then, can we become the greatest versions of ourselves. . . only then can we move mountains with faith. . . only then can we achieve the purpose that was assigned to us. For to become, is to begin to be. . . .