Looking back and propelling forward: Commitment to self and others

I’m not sure if anyone else has ever reached the point of second guesses. What if we don’t work out? What if I chose the wrong career path? What if this outfit doesn’t look as good as I envisioned it? Well, here I am down to the wire of my doctoral degree and I am having second guesses. I’ve invested a lot of time and money into my education and now I wonder what it was all worth. Yes, my intellectual curiosities have been nourished, but hey, there’s also a thing called self-education. And no, I did not choose an M.D. or a PhD in astrophysics, something that would lead to a lot of money. Instead, I chose the doctorate of education. Why? Well, because of my commitment to social justice and desire to mobilize for marginalized communities. At the same time, academics have their ways of being hypocritical and simply reinforcing the problems our research is supposed to address. Nonetheless, this commitment has led me to job choices that were in service to others or prioritized the work experience over my own well being or financial stability. This is where many of us people who are traditionally oppressed when it comes to class and have a social justice orientation end up sacrificing ourselves. However, a friend of mine who is my senior, once told me that “you can’t help others if you aren’t wearing your own oxygen mask first.” It has taken me seven years to realize this. While looking back can bring us insight, it doesn’t necessarily propel us forward. While I lacked in material wealth, I had experiences that satisfied my spiritual and intellectual hunger. All I can do is move on from here. To other folks finding themselves having second guesses I suggest looking back to learn from what truly were poor choices, but being propelled by the lessons learned and experiences gained in order to move forward with fervor. Pray, reflect, meditate, do what you need in order to find your right balance between a commitment to others and self. Remember, balance does not mean equal. Balance is about equity. As I approach my 30s I’m tipping towards self without guilt. Often in our culture, women of color in particular, are told that prioritizing one’s self is selfish. This sort of rhetoric reinforces the super woman syndrome. I’m no longer buying it. I’ve got nothing to prove. My commitment to my family and various communities is from the heart and soul. I shouldn’t have to defend it because you can sense it. Focusing on my own intentions rather than the judgment of others allows me to take care of myself without feelings of guilt.

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