After I graduated from college, confidence exuded from ever pore of my body, and I believed that there was absolutely nothing I could not conquer. I thrived on competition and sought new challenges. Then at 30, I moved away from my small suburban pond into an urban ocean where for the first time I encountered more competition from people as qualified as myself. Although I was a little rattled, I simply readjusted and kept pushing with a continued since of invincibility. Then I got married and had my son at 35. My confidence wasn’t shaken this time, it collapsed. Being responsible for the well-being of another person completely dependent upon you in a city without any family is terrifying. Being a first time mother without a bank of parenting experiences to draw from for encouragement left me stumped and without direction. I constantly doubted all of my decisions. Writing a 30 page paper didn’t really help me when it came to sleep and potty training, or childhood asthma attacks. The responsibilities of teaching full time were added problems that left me periodically crying in a corner during my planning period. Although I maintained a convincing exterior in my power suites, heels and exemplary work reviews, underneath I had lost my luster and above all my confidence. I felt that at any moment everything would come tumbling down.
My confidence somewhat rebounded within the last two years; however, I continued to lament at the fact that the self-assured women I was in my 20’s and early 30’s had disappeared forever. For a time, I unsuccessfully and superficially searched for her until I read Welteroth’s More than Enough. I was slightly reluctantly at first because I am almost a decade older than Welteroth and I thought that her advice or experiences would be out of reach for a proud member of Generation X.
I could not have been more wrong. I could relate to so many of her life lessons.She had aspirations of attending Stanford but settled for a state school to be close to her “First Love” who held little to no ambition and eventually flunked out. She was a chronic over achiever who worked hard to reach the level of success and notoriety she always wanted but along the way had to learn how to carve out her own space in places where she was the only African American woman in the room. When working alongside big names in the fashion and journalism industry, she had to learn to hold her head up and constantly remind herself that she was just as deserving of an opportunity to make a name for herself as her prep school, Ivy league, vacationing in the Hamptons counterparts. I was also inspired by her continued hustle and honesty in detailing events in her life that did not always go as planned.
There was one sentence that resonated with me the most. “Walk like you have the strength of your ancestors and community at your back.” It helped remind me of the blood that runs through my veins. Their struggle and sacrifice is my birthright to my spot in “the room.” Their DNA makes up every muscle fiber in my body and gives me strength to not just preserver but tear down mountains.
I realized that the person I was when I graduated college and before I became a mother never disappeared. She simply stopped dreaming. All of her dreams where centered on her son and her son only. I stopped believing in her. I believed in everything else except her. I believed in the abilities of others but not my own. I believed that others deserved more but not myself. I believed others deserved a seat at the table while I had to stand.
Welteroth’s courage to pursue new experiences and challenges reignited that spark I haven’t felt in years and had me looking in the mirror to remind myself to stand straight, keep my chin up, and walk like I have a right to a space in the room.