Love and Wisdom for the Journey
Something about Autumn always gives me the feels. It could be that the season is kicked off by my birthday, which is generally a reflective time for most. Whatever the reason, the season brings with it hopeful expectation and intentional reflection on lessons learned from the past year, while also looking ahead for ways to continue to grow in the year to come.
And what a year it was! 2023 came in swinging. There was personal illness, family losses, professional triumphs, important decisions, new opportunities and partnerships, severed ties, and more. I know I’m not alone in this. It’s been a wild ride for many of us. I feel you. Through it all, I gained some wisdom and insight that I need to share with you.
1) Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing. One of the biggest lessons for me this year was to continue to focus on the heart of my work, which is melanated folks (not unlike my own four daughters), who someday will seek the very care I aim to provide: compassionate and competent support that meets people exactly where they are. This is the work. And getting distracted by anything else dilutes it and undermines the very communities I’m seeking to uplift. Keeping the work grounded in the spirit and heart that started it all is the key.
2) Never compromise on your message. This year, I was challenged time and again to water down, filter, and temper my message so that audiences (whole states, even) who were not ready to grow in the area of inclusion could find it more palatable. Tuh! What good does it do to soften the hard truths of the Black maternal health crisis or to sugar-coat the patriarchal systems that are contributing to devastating outcomes in communities that have been historically oppressed? None. Not every opportunity is for you, and the ones that ask you to be less are worth walking away from. I can admit that the lessons I teach are A LOT. I, too, am A LOT. For those who need less, there are many options. This discomfort is worth the learning gained and the growth achieved on the other side.
3) Prioritize you. This year, for the first time in my career, I had to cancel not one, but TWO very important engagements due to illness. One of which I was only able to give a few days’ advance notice. It was devastating to walk away from those contracts and leave those organizations scrambling to find a replacement speaker. As a person whose word is their bond, I’m still just sick about it. But the truth is, I would have been no good to either organization had I attempted to show up. They deserved better. As did I. I deserved to prioritize my long-term health by sitting out a season in order to heal and rejuvenate. Sometimes the hardest decisions are the right ones.
Those were tough lessons for me, and they each came with a price. For one, it was briefly losing sight of who I am and what I’m here to do. For another, it was a public severing of ties. For the other, it was painful to cause harm to others. But that’s how life works, right? We grow and we learn and we climb, each step costing us something. What we can hope for in the end is more wisdom to help someone else navigate the same hurdles someday. As we close out 2023, I hope my learned lessons will help to guide you into 2024 with a bit more wisdom and love for the journey. <3