Summer is over… yes, I know, it officially ended in September. September 22nd to be exact. For students, specifically adult students, the Fall semester also began in September. However, what makes October significant is the dreaded midterms, well it is dreaded for me. Followed by what I call, the midterm haze (I’ll tell you about that another time )…but let me go back just a little…
Summer 2020 was unlike any I have experienced in my entire life. I am sure many of you are tired of hearing about the effects of COVID-19. However, it has to be documented that it was my first summer experiencing a pandemic and the effects of such. Subsequently, it was also the first summer in several years that I did not travel to Jamaica, for the annual girls and women conference and workshop that Princesses and Ladies Inc. has hosted for the last five years. That in itself was difficult for me. First, having to come to terms with not seeing the girls in Jamaica. Second, not being able to travel home to the country where I was born. Furthermore, with the added restriction of being in public spaces. Ultimately that meant, travel far and near was almost nonexistent.
As a result, my backyard became a place of solace for me.
I took time to smell the flowers.
I walked and jumped around barefooted in the grass.
I even laid in the grass, something I had not done in years.
Those moments were significantly helpful for me.
As a PhD student, the summer semester was particularly difficult. Not only did I have the regular semester’s curriculum to meet. I also had to complete three parts of a comprehensive exam better known as COMPS. The experience of COMPS is something I do not want to ever experience again. I kept hearing Adam Sandler, as the character, Robert Boucher, Jr. in the Water Boy saying, “Mama said COMPS is the devil!”… it truly was unlike anything I had ever experienced. As a Christian, it did more times than not, felt like the devil was deliberately tormenting me. Other PhD students may relate to this, those thoughts consisted of: why am I doing this? I can’t do this! I am in fact an imposter! All took turns swirling loudly in my mind.
I had to dig deep in my faith and reaffirmed myself of who I really was and my true capabilities. I know why I am pursuing a PhD, it is apart of fulfilling my purpose. I can do it! I am in fact not an imposter!
A friend of mine, Angela Baldwin, gifted me a few items from her and her husband’s business, Flashy Teez T-Shirts, Black And Educated (B.A.E.) line that reminded me that, yes, I am BLACK AND EDUCATED! It is not easy to put into words how her kindness to gift me these items, along with the image and words on them positively affected me.
This validation was even more important to me because of all of the injustices that black people have dealt with for generations and continues to deal with. However, in recent times, these various levels of injustices are being done more frequently and grossly more overtly, all while being recorded and documented live, which for me is extremely scary and daunting. I will tell you, this added tremendously to my stress level and affected me academically, mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually.
Academically for the first time, I felt utterly and completely lost. More than I did any other semester. I fell behind in my required coursework. My mind was not able to focus. My brain was retaining nothing! I had no motivation to produce any work. However, at some point something transformational happened to me, for the very first time, I reached out to the professor for the classes that semester and literally asked very raw and transparently for grace. I was not okay and I needed to be honest with everyone, including the professor. Understand, this is something that before I would not even consider doing. I just would not do it! If by chance I had to submit an assignment late, I knew the penalty and accepted it… and that was that! However, this time, I knew I would have substantial grading issue, if every assignment I submitted had points deducted. The penalty for late submission. Therefore, I had to admit that I needed help, that help was asking the professor to be understanding and over rule his protocol for late submissions. Thankfully, he was tremendously receptive and understanding. He granted me the grace I needed. It took me up until week six of the semester to get caught up. At that point I was even able to submit the remaining assignments prior to the due dates. Yes!
Mentally, it was a challenge for me to unpack all that was happening. Emotionally I was hurt, offended, angry, sadden …. there were and continues to be a range of emotions that I have to keep from erupting by unpacking them as they surface, while digging deeply to find those hiding before they get out of hand. Physically, I began to experience, several pains in my body, including a stiff neck and migraine headaches, something I suffered with years ago but was healed from. This was disappointing to me. I realized that everything that was and continues to happen, had and has continue to affect my physical body, to the point where the excruciating migraine headaches resurfaced, becoming an almost daily experience in my life. Spiritually, my faith was not wavered, thankfully. However, my trust in some of those I worshipped with and respected did.
Nevertheless, I have hope and I believe that my God is greater than everything that I currently see. Everything that I currently feel….with that hope, I continue to move forward with as much empathy that I can have for those who refuse to be human… and certainly for myself and for everyone else like me and our white allies.
I began a show called The InspireROOM. The show is done Live on Facebook. Where the aim is to inspire people to Reflect, to have an Open-heart and an Open-mind and then to Move into action. On one of the shows, a true ally, Courtney Combs of CoSquared Consulting and I discussed White Privilege and Action. Another ally, Chris Kubic and I talked about Miscommunications and Misconception When Discussing Race. He then in-turn interviewed me on his Youtube channel, where we discussed my intersectionality and how it has impacted my view and focus. Needless to say, my summer was one on a purpose. A purpose that continues.
I am thankful to say, I made it through summer 2020! I must admit, I made it through a little scarred, nah…., to be honest, I am far more than just a little scarred….. I think back to this past Spring, on the video I posted in response to George Floyd being murdered… the raw emotions I felt…
…and then three days later, my resolve… it was then that I made the decision about The InspireROOM. At first, I did not have a name for the Facebook Lives but I knew what the purpose was and that it would continue long after most people would have moved on to the next thing…
…I am scarred…. BUT even more importantly, I am more determined than ever to fulfill my purpose in life! One that has expanded to include elevating the voices of black people, all other people of color and our allies.
I am also happy to report, I along with my cohort, cohort 12, which consists of 10 women strong, four of which are black women (I am proud of all the women in the cohort, black or not. However, for me highlighting us black women is important because of what it took for us to get to this point), in the Organizational Leadership PhD program at Eastern University, made it through COMPS. The results should be coming out soon.. another significance for October, which I hope will be a highlight, at least I pray it will be for my October.
Midterms are a few weeks away. I have been deliberate about not becoming as overwhelmed as I was this summer. I have made several adjustments which include:
- Taking a break when needed without feeling guilty.
- Realizing that submitting an assignment late is worth my mental health. Therefore, if and when needed, taking that extra day and darn it, submit late! It is truly not the end of my academic journey and certainly not the world!
- Unpacking as often as I need to everything that I am aware of that I am feeling.
- Digging deeply to uncover those thoughts and feelings that are not as obvious and deal with them before they erupt.
- Continue to use The InspireROOM with the continued hope of making a difference.
- Continue to be transparent with my struggles and successes.
- Relax and not be as intimidated by the dreaded midterms.
- Connect more with trusted cohort members during challenging times instead of withdrawing.
- Invest MORE in my physical health.
- Pray and study the word even more.