The journey for me so far has been intriguing, incredible, humbling, and challenging. There are moments I'm in sheer awe of this opportunity. And, honestly, there are moments where I feel myself grappling with an overwhelming sense of wanting to do everything. But one lesson I've learned is to make peace with not being able to do everything all at once. The most rewarding aspect of my journey so far is that I've been able to meet exceptional leaders this past year who are different and making remarkable strides in their work. These leaders have shown me more about management, sacrifice, creativity, risk-taking, and growth than any class I've taken or any book I've ever read. I've learned that leadership is so much more than a word we aspire to and that we strive toward. My learning journey has lead me to the profound understanding that I'm on a journey to me, and on a path to understanding what it means to shape passion into impact. It's been spiritual for me. And I've learned the power of focus. I've said yes to things I should have declined. I've also experienced incredible moments of clarity. The most exciting leg of this journey has been the experiences this fellowship opened up for me. I've gone to the Yale Publishing Course, completed a six-month leadership academy through the Center for Courage and Renewal, and I've started my book, Queendom Come. As a new mother, I've seen me evolve into a woman I never expected to become. I'm proud and hopeful in ways I never dreamed I could be. This last year I also see life through a lens I never expected to. I want to bring more healing, compassion, and empathy to this world through the written word, not only because it needs it, but because my daughter deserves a world that is kind and full enough to receive and love her. In fact, I wrote a letter to her on leadership as part of an exercise in one of the retreats I just completed. It put into perspective so much of where my mind, heart, and soul is in this journey and it helped me understand the gift I've been granted. I'm sharing it here:
A Letter to Genesis on Leadership
It’s 2017 and you’re almost an entire year old. 2017 is and will always be a year that I will forever hold near and dear in my heart. It was the year of you. It was the year of us. It was the year I found your mother. It was the year I also re-learned who I am.
I have to begin this story of this journey to me and all the lessons I learned in a very particular place. Imagine me, if you can, as a nine-year-old little girl playing outside with a group of girls at recess. It was a beautiful sunny day and I was wearing a brand-new pale yellow sweatsuit with gray trim. Your grandmother was so proud to dress me in it on this day. I was overjoyed when I went to school wearing my new outfit and the day seemed so perfect because I was invited to play with a group of kids who were older and who seemed to think I was worth playing with. All was well until we started to race one another up a hill. I confidently dashed up the hill and back down again certain I had won. A few moments passed and I looked around and noticed my newfound group of friends gathered in a tight circle whispering among themselves. The oldest among them, lead the pack for a confrontation I would never forget. Osa, declared, “Look at what you did!” she accused, pointing to the pant leg of one of the other girls. And there it was, a gross offense staring back at me. I’d apparently swiped one girl’s leg running up the hill, causing a grass stain the size of a dime. I had done a terrible thing. Or so I thought. I declared I was sorry. I felt tears well up in my eyes. I couldn’t understand how to make amends and I desperately wanted these girls to first forgive me and then second to like me. But the sorry wasn’t good enough. So in a moment that would carry shame in my soul for almost three decades, your mother got on her hands and knees and rubbed grass stains in her brand new pale yellow sweatsuit. That seemed to do the trick. Osa was happy and I was left alone. I stuffed the sweatsuit in the bottom of the clothes hamper where I was sure your grandmother wouldn’t find it for a few days and when she did, the sadness in her eyes told me she knew there was more to the story of why those grass stains were there. She never asked more questions about it and for years, I never told a soul what I had done to my sweat suit or what I had done to myself.
In 2017, you are a baby. And both a fierce and gentle rebuke of what I learned that day on the playground about who I am. You see, I had for so many years associated Osa with who a leader is, one so powerful, respected, and strong, a person could be brought to their knees to destroy something precious just to be held in their good favor. I didn’t want to be Osa, so for years, I told myself I wasn’t a leader. This year, juggling and struggling and pumping and failing and enjoying you and learning me, I’ve learned to see ten-year-old Osa and nine-year-old me as I see you, filled with potential and promise and capable of overcoming whatever ugly mistake you make on the playground. Life is after all one gigantic dirty playground where we either learn to honor the mishaps that trip us up or lose ourselves in unforgiveness, resentment, fear, insecurity, and shame. I now have so much compassion for that little girl who rubbed her elbows and knees in the dirt.
Genesis, I cannot mention the life-changing year of 2017 without mentioning that it seemed our country somehow lost its mind and found its soul at the same time. I felt this radiate throughout all the areas of my life. As your father’s business expanded and thrived, and as your aunt Amy and I found ourselves living our dreams professionally, the world seemed out of sorts and often scary. I found myself asking tough questions, losing friends I felt sure you’d be able to depend on in my absence, drifting away from church, rediscovering Jesus, feeling suffocated by whiteness, all while arriving at peace in the oddest of places and always right when we both needed it. Arriving here has been spiritual and freeing. When you find yourself asking if you are a leader, I hope you see that you are. That you’ve always been. Writers, new friends, old scriptures and silent moments nursing you at night have brought me to a place of knowingness.