Updated: Dec 3, 2019
A recent conversation with a colleague—one of those strong women you can’t help but admire and who leaves you feeling inspired and recharged after each time spent together—left me to reflect further on reclaiming our narratives. From just a short text message from hours after we spoke, she led me to consider another way of reclaiming our story—the one that has always burned fervently inside our heart and within our soul. I’m referencing our deepest desires, our greatest efforts and the journey in between.
During our discussion, the times when we did not have it all together came up. While it was not the detailed story of each obstacle that came our way, it was a glimpse of the fact that the person we are today endured some hardships but persevered to achieve what others count as success today. We hit common ground on having had someone who presented as a mentor along the way—whether it was for a brief period or one who stayed the course to see us cross the finish line of our goals.
For me, it was always having had dedicated teachers in my life who always believed in me more than I did in myself. It was/is a woman who has been my college guidance counselor, later my professor, and now my mentor and colleague. To date I recall that time in her office when I told her about my summer break and having reconnected with a peer (now my husband of almost 10 years) who lives in New York and about the start of our relationship. How her first response was of a smile that I should consider looking at graduate schools in New York City, more specifically Columbia University. I don’t think I could ever forget my response as it has been the script that I claimed after going to school in the states for 6 years by then. The one that says that I was not good enough because I am an immigrant. The one that told me to just get by and to do just enough but never too much. The same script that made me feel my efforts were at times in vain because others had a head start or were in a better position than I was/am. Without even considering my own merits I responded with a chuckle, “isn’t that an ivy league school. I’ll never get in.” I paused. Her expression almost unreadable but calm nonetheless. I added, “I mean, I’m in a community college. My grades are good, but I’m just a girl from Haiti.” Something in the nadir of my being couldn’t digest these words, yet I played the tape as I was trained to. You would think she spent the next hour trying to help me un-write this script and to undo these psychological shackles. But instead, she replied, “you don’t have to apply, but look at the darn website and see your options.” I have options. I never considered this before. The choice was mine to make. What a feeling! With one statement, she empowered me to explore, to dream, to DARE!.
If you’ve seen my resume you already know how this part of the story followed. I graduated from Columbia University School of Social Work (with a 3.9 GPA—because if you’re going to do something, might as well give it your best).
I reclaimed my narrative, the one I was born to fulfill—one of faith, one of perseverance, one of praise to God’s unfailing grace, one of strength, courage and promise. And as my colleague stated in her text, “I’m the author of my story’ [and] it’s not over.”
I continue to rewrite the scripts the people of the world attempt to have me execute and reclaim my narrative in as many areas of my life as I can. And I invite you to do the same. Share your hurts and downs, and don’t stop there. Add in your joys and ups. Tell your story because someone is waiting to listen and reclaim their narrative just as you!