It was probably my therapist who said it, but I honestly don’t remember who it was. Someone once said to me “Yeah, but Ahyana, you have such a strong sense of self.” I remember my face clearly communicating “Like what does that mean and why is that relevant?” This is why I am pretty sure my therapist said it. My favorite one at that. I’d feel comfortable making such a face with her. Those words have rolled around in my head ever since they were spoken. As I sent an email reaching out to a woman who worked at my local library, they rang even more true.
The email was bout gathering over coffee to catch up since we last saw each other. I wanted to learn more about her experience and observation of my little just under 5,500 people town on the eastern shore of Maryland. It’s hard for me to imagine doing my job well a part from relationship with the community. It’s hard for me to imagine thriving without relationships in my community. I clicked send and smiled thinking, it’s who I am. Community, connecting and connecting others is who I am. My job hasn’t made and I haven’t gotten the slightest impression that building a strong relationship with all of the town (not just those with financial abundance) will be made a priority. But it is for me. It’s an integral part of the AKing package.
My experiences as a woman, a woman of color, as a Christian, as a Christian woman of color who grew up in a real US city with any type of strength or assuredness has not traditionally been validated or supported and sometimes tested. I’d say it’s been shamed. Whether it’s been seen as intimidating and hence my single status, or rebellious and not pleasing to the Lord thus needing to be squelched or surrendered, or used to instill fear (especially in the work place) so that I didn’t self advocate, create, imagine, or try something new as I wouldn’t want to be labeled insubordinate. You can imagine why I wasn’t elated about being labeled strong or any other word that was similar, like confident, or even grounded.
It’s hard to go all in if you don’t know and accept all of you. As much as possible anyway. We change over time, with experiences, yet some core things about us are just that, core. They won’t change and those are the things to invest in knowing about yourself, knowing them well, and unapologetically. It has been in very recent years, like the last two, that I have come to own that strong sense of self I was first made aware of about three or four years ago. So when I emailed the librarian, and later finished the calendar of events for my department at saw that both reflected integral parts of who I am, the parts that I don’t need or care if I get a directive to incorporate, don’t care or need to get paid for, were woven into what I saw, I was pleased and sent of a quick prayer of thanksgiving for who I am.
One of the scariest things about going all in is the fear of losing ones self. What happens if you dive in to the new business, the graduate school program, the relationship, the decision to get chemo or have your breast removed because breast cancer has stolen the lives of your mother and sister, the move across the country, and somehow you get lost in the sauce? It’s a real fear. One that I think is actually a sign that there are some things about you that you really like, because the thought of losing them freaks you out. Yet the reality of giving ourselves fully is we bring our entire selves and have the privilege to choose which parts of us need to evolve, be let go of, change slightly or be overhauled. We get to choose how we emerge. Even the scrapes and scratches, we can wear them with pride if we choose to.
Last week was a doozy. It was not the first week of the year I anticipated for several reasons, all the way to being in the end much of Saturday trying to recuperate. Friday afternoon I had an overdue meeting to address some bothersome dynamics between my supervisor and I. As he got comfortable in his seat I told myself that I could just let it go. Then I reminded myself there was no way I could go all in on my goals to return to working for myself and avoid having a less than chummy conversation. Tough but necessary conversations are a part of life. Sometimes they are easier to navigate (or seem easier) when you know the person or consider yourself equal with the person. But if I am hoping to one day own a business and supervise a team then I will undoubtedly have conversation to address bothersome relationship dynamics. I was going all in and so I had the conversation. When things were rocky, I absolutely tapped into that strong sense of self, that strong sense of knowing wat as acceptable and what wasn’t, what would benefit our working relationship and what would not, to help me lead and focus the conversation.
If you don’t have a strong sense of self or any sense of self might I suggest you make that a priority. It will be difficult, borderline impossible, to pursue any goal, dream, calling, or purpose wholeheartedly if you don’t have any idea of what’s in your heart, moves it to action, hurts it, nourishes, and what still needs to heal. LIVE-ing well does not happen by accident. The fruition of your dreams don’t either and neither happen by tip toeing around, wading in, or part-timing them. It takes knowing and committing your whole nothing short of amazing self. Let’s get in there.