I still remember the day I almost gave up on becoming a speaker and writer. I had been fired from the first job where “diversity” was an official part of my job description. I had submitted a book proposal and was told no one would want to read it. I was sitting on my bed under the covers, when I turned to my husband and whispered, “Was this all just the pipe dream of a child? Is it time for me to grow up and give up?” My husband is gentle but very rational, and I completely expected him to say, “yeah, its time, Babe,” with all the love he could muster. Except he didn’t. Though all the current evidence was not encouraging, he believed that what was stirring in me had a place in the world. Instead of finding a new job, my husband said, “Write.” So I did. I started a blog. I got on the socials. I found my voice. I met more mentors than I could imagine. I developed friendships that have lasted years. I did write a book… and a few people even read it! It is wild to me that I can actually pay my bills by telling yall what I think about the state of America. It almost didn’t happen. I almost walked away.
It’s easy for me to recount the steps it took to get here, not because it was easy, but because each of those steps are attached to a person: my husband who whispered, “keep going”, a friend who encouraged me to start a weekly blog, Christena Cleveland and Rachel Held Evans who used their large platforms to share my work. The literary agent who believed my book idea would sell. The women I met for coffee, who encouraged me not to shrink. My mentor who let me travel with her and showed me the ropes (and what this work costs). The women who have supported me, loved me, cared for me, helped me, prayed for me, stayed with me, discerned with me, created opportunities for me, invited me over, believed in me.
And while all of this is true, and I am so grateful for the life I live, may I confess to you that it can nonetheless be pretty lonely?
Pre-pandemic, I was flying alone. I would get on stage to talk (which is a lot of fun!) but I would return to my hotel room alone. I would eat dinner alone. I would wonder what my boys are doing back home. I would get on a plane and fly back home alone. And I was doing it over and over again. There was a stage in my life when that was THE DREAM. I'm grateful to have lived this dream- doing antiracism work for a living. And I am grateful for all the people, all the women who helped make it possible.
For a long time, I thought anti-racism would be my singular legacy. BUT life, as it always seems to do, threw a curve ball. When I first started writing, I wasn't sure I wanted to have a child. And after my husband and I decided to try- it still took awhile (contrary to all the church folks who assured me I'd get pregnant instantly- cough cough). Now my baby is four years old and traveling constantly isn't as much fun when all I want is to kiss his perfect cheeks. But also, Im tired yall. When I think about all the racial events that have unfolded from Trayvon Martin to George Floyd… I get tired just thinking about the intensity, let alone trying to recount it all. And in case that wasn't enough to have me rethinking some things, learning within the past year that I have a chronic illness has forced me to examine this career much more closely. Recounting my anger over the racism in America is not doing my health/my body any favors.
So I'm asking some big questions: what if antiracism work isn’t my biggest legacy? Or at least isn’t my only legacy? What if I can create a new dream for the life Im living now? What do I want to build and who do I want to build with?
I have to do something that is life-giving for me and joyful for me, something that is joyful for my family and for the people around me.
I have to transition to joy.
Joy celebrates the beauty of our full humanity which means we deserve to delight in love and life. We deserve joy, happiness, a soft place to land. And I needed to build a soft place for myself.
There are a lot of things I still love about the ways I've engaged anti-racism work. I love telling affirming and empowering stories to Black women. I love helping WOC see how special they are, and encouraging them to demand that they be treated with the care they deserve. I enjoy making fun of white supremacy. I enjoy making people laugh. When writing, I really enjoy storytelling. I like writing descriptions and adding details and trying to transport you using only words. Can I take everything I love about anti-racism work, and use that as a seed to plant something new?
Well, I called my girlfriends to find out, and Im taking the leap of my life. But before we talk about that, we have to talk about evolution. Because trying to evolve is terrifying! I already had one impossible dream come true. Dare I try again?
Yes. The answer is yes.
I have to allow myself space to evolve. Space for my dream to breathe and change. In our lives, its easy to focus on the letdown, on the bad news, and on the derailment, on the changes, on why this doesn’t work anymore. (I remember everything about being fired!) But what if the differences between past and present are what leads us to the right destinations, with the right people?
Once upon a time, as a small child, I thought I was going to be a singer like Whitney Houston and teach art on the side like my grandmother. Turns out you should probably be able to sing and know how to use use a paintbrush before pursuing this dual career path. We grow and we learn. And then things change. So we have to as well.
I have been wearing glasses since I was a kid. As you might imagine, my prescription has changed a number of times since I was 10. And while it’s possible for me to live in denial when my prescription changes, I do so at my own peril. (When what starts as squinting at the tv becomes a struggle to read street signs, I know I have a problem). Like me and my glasses, we must be willing to change our lenses when our prescription has changed. We need a clear lens to set our sites on something crisp, something new, something that has potential to serve us better now.
Just as before, I know my lenses are clearer when I bring my people with me. I do not evolve alone. I do not build alone. The truth is I wouldn’t want to even if I could. The journey matters so much more when I realize I dont have to do this alone.
As I start a new journey, will you come along?
What area do you need to allow evolution in?
Who helps you realize the ways you’re evolving?
Is your ability to evolve keeping you stagnant?
Where do you need more joy?
There is so much talent within black women and Quinta Brunson, writer, producer, comedian, and actress, is overflowing with talent. We have seen her in memes, on the YouTube, on A Black Lady Sketch Show and she is finally getting the backing of major networks for her creative ideas. In Abbott Elementary, Quinta brilliantly exudes pure joy while still managing to tackle real life issues in this laugh out loud sitcom. I've already watched plenty of episodes more than once. Let me tell you- we are here for all of her evolutions!