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Being Black Woman while in Higher Education

Before I dive into this post with my thoughts, I just want to say that I have most certainly missed this. I've missed putting the pen to the paper (or my fingers to the keyboard) and crafting my inner thoughts into something reader-friendly. During my mini writing hiatus, I learned that writer's block is a real thing! I had so many ideas I wanted to write about and share, but I could not make it happen for the life of me. Appreciating quality over quantity, I honored my writer's block and took the time to work through it. Instead of forcing myself to do something (like write), I decided to channel my energy in a different way. I planned and executed one successful event during Black History Month and launched my new event to celebrate Women's History Month. A real prime example of how energy is not created or destroyed, but rather transferred. Now, I am back and better!

So about this writer's block... mine did not come from my inability or lack of desire to write. It was rooted in being and feeling overwhelmed with a sprinkle of anxiousness. As an educator and entrepreneur, I am forever busy and I don’t mind that at all. I wholeheartedly accept the life I chose. Specifically, being an educator in the middle of a global health pandemic wasn't easy, but it wasn't too hard either. As an event curator, I had the virtual community engagement thing in the bag when it came to connecting my students to each other through experiences. Once I learned how to master Zoom and became a pro at Outlook, I was ready for what was to come!

What I wasn't ready for was the heaviness of being a Black woman in higher education during another peak in global racial pandemic. My work life completely changed after the death of George Floyd. I can't quite put into words how, but I felt it. I still feel it. Everything happened so fast that I didn't have time to catch my breath. My world became filled with jargon around what it meant to be anti-racist and helping others identify what it meant to treat Black people with respect and dignity. Every time I came up for air it was already time to go back down underwater as I tried to make sure I was in all places to represent my students and also myself as a Black woman in higher education. Workdays became longer and weekends became not long enough. In my attempt to break free from my reality, there were many nights when I just laid in my bed, staring at my white ceiling with the Real Housewives of [insert city here] in the background. I knew I was mentally and physically exhausted, but also knew I could not rest just yet.

Eventually, I knew it would catch up to me, but I tried to ignore all the signs and push through. Mid-January and the entire month of February are my busiest times as an educator. After honoring the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (and other civil rights leaders), I geared up to celebrate Black culture and people during Black History Month. Although it was virtual, it was certainly one for the books! My colleague and I brought a month's worth of quality experiences to our virtual space with grace, creativity, and everything in between. The community loved it! More importantly, my students were given an opportunity to embrace joy and happiness with each other. That's what my goal was - to give them a break and provide a space for them to feel and experience something good and special.

While I was experiencing the same joy and happiness, mine was tainted because I never really acknowledged the pain and hurt America caused me since May. I never owned the sadness after they murdered another innocent brother and hearing his daughter say "my daddy changed the world" on CNN. I never owned the anger from hearing Breonna Taylor's family would receive $12 million as a result of "a wrongful death". Even more recently, I never acknowledged how disappointed I was to see (white) rioters take over the Capitol and walk out away with zero scratches and minimal arrests. Life, with all gas and no breaks, was happening in America to people who looked like me, yet I was distant from it. It felt like I was a spectator to a movie scene with emotional blindfolds on - just watching, but not truly feeling anything.

Towards the end of Black History Month, it finally hit me and all at once. A window in my mental space opened and allowed for my being as a Black woman to enter to the forefront of my thoughts and energy. The educator in me was tired, but without question, the Black woman in me was even more exhausted. This time, I couldn’t ignore it and thankfully I didn't. Instead, I took the time I needed as a Black woman to just exist. I didn't use PTO or sick time (although I have plenty). Instead, I just paused for a moment and focused on myself. I was gentle with myself in the way I deserved to be treated. It was different but it also felt good...well actually great! Once my workday ended, I put my computer on mute and stepped away. I was extremely selective to whom and what I gave my energy to. I talked to those who I wanted to when I wanted to, without feeling pressured to respond. I limited my social media usage because that I can be a downward rabbit hole sometimes. I even tapped into my meditation and mindfulness (shoutout to Dr. Chelsea Jackson Roberts on the Peloton App). Eventually, after a solid week of new habits centered in self care, I felt like I could breathe again. I wouldn't trade that feeling for anything in the world because I welcomed back life and emotion to exist within me.

I learned some valuable gems during my writing hiatus. I will share this one with you in a direct way: take a break when you need it - sometimes, bosses need rest too.

XOXO,

AnaLexicis


P.S. - This blog post is dedicated to Breonna Taylor and her family who remains resilient.

Continue to Say Her Name

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