By Jasmine Fluker Ansah: July Spotlight
There are 10 minutes until my presentation. I check my watch and gulp down my water. My hands are slightly shaky and if I didn’t know better, I would think my throat was closing.
It’s not though – I’ve been in this place before. It feels familiar. This is an anxiousness I’ve known before. I’ve spoken in front of tons of groups, some much more receiving than others. Still, regardless of the reception, each time I share a piece of myself, I’m nervous and doubt my ability. Logically, I know that everything is okay and that I’m meant to be here imparting this knowledge. I repeat to myself a mantra: it’s okay to be myself and I am an expert. These two things can exist together.
Professionally, I find myself in places I’m not meant to be. As a diversity, equity, and inclusion practitioner, I know exactly who should be here based on the system we live in and it’s not me – statistically and because of the numerous barriers put on my life. I am humbly reminded often that I am a girl from Alabama and that I was educationally redlined into a technical program in high school. I was told to join that program so that “I wouldn’t be stuck working in the service industry for the rest of my life.” This story is unfortunate, but it is not a singular occurrence for me. It has been an unfortunate theme in my life. The pandemic has revealed the paralleled sustaining pandemic in this country: racism. Internalized, interpersonal, institutional, and systemic racism permeates every facet of life in this country. Because of this, the world puts an expectation on what they imagine I can do. And I am there to defy it.
Most people pick the field they work in because it was something they always wanted to do, they had time exploring it, participated in a cool internship, or had an experience that led them to believe that it was where they needed to be. I chose education to be my vessel to make systematic change out of frustration. That frustration stemmed from living the inequities present in our current education system and because I was told many times that it was something I couldn’t do. Choosing to do something out of frustration shows you how much I have oriented my life to service.
I wanted to fix a problem; it was something I’ve lived with my entire life. When making decisions, I have a protocol. I simply ground myself in two questions:
- Is this authentic to me?
- How does this provide healing for me or other people?
I believe it is important to have some guiding questions when thinking of new opportunities that lead you back to yourself. Having this step to check if the opportunity yields to who I am as a person has kept me grounded in my career and service work.
I think of each person as expansive. The only limitations we have are the ones the world puts on us and the ones we put on ourselves. I am always going to limit the ones I put on myself. I think about my guiding questions leading me and this year specifically, I felt it was time to allow myself permission. Permission to do the work I came to do.
Earlier this year I started The Pivotal Paradigm Project to create inclusive spaces for others, specifically BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color). We deserve to silence the voices in our head that loudly tells us that we are imposters and that we don’t belong. The very least I could do was to reduce the external factors that create safe workspaces. It’s my way of providing yet again a piece of myself that aspiration creates healing for myself and others.
If you are guiding yourself with clarity and authenticity even when you find roadblocks or failure, you feel sustained in knowing your mission. In a time like this when many people are navigating layoffs and uncertainty it’s important to keep yourself grounded and give yourself permission to take risks.