At the start of this journey, I felt that the thing lacking in my leadership was courage. Even as I had stepped out to start a business, written books, and in my career had taken chances and risks, I still felt that something was missing. I knew that I advanced in my career as a woman of color by assimilating, not always speaking up and speaking out when I wanted to, and losing myself in the work, often not paying attention to what I personally needed. I wasn't sure what I meant exactly by wanting to be a more "courageous leader," but I knew that something was missing. Lesson one: don't ask the universe for opportunities to become more courageous, unless you're prepared to actually do this work.
In the last year, I've explored myself, my marriage, my parenting, my upbringing, my faith, my friendships, my country, my politics, my community, and this world as I had never done before. I have more questions than answers. I'm disappointed by some revelations and downright appalled by other revelations. However, I'm also walking this incredible path of seeing up close where I can affect change and where I can show up more boldly and more me. Walking this path hasn't always been easy or even helpful. I've initiated conversations with other leaders that I regret, for instance. There have been moments where I had to confront things about myself--flaws, fears, weaknesses, and mistakes--that are barriers that I've carefully constructed to keep me comfortable and careful. I did that.
In a recent scenario at work, I saw how I had perpetuated a hiring process that did not reflect my values or align with the vision I have for my company. So many revelations about how that happened and why and where I had failed. Focusing on my leadership makes it impossible to let these moments pass without dissecting them and seeing these failures as bridges to bolder leadership. The tough conversations had with my leadership team afterward wouldn't have happened if not for this fellowship. Calling myself out also wouldn't have happened.
As I write this, I've just come back from almost two weeks in Kenya. My time in Kenya was life-changing and life-affirming in more ways than I can count. Of course, on the self-care front, I continue to see that self-care is not a vacation you take, or a massage here and there, or an occasional day off. My health is actually not the best at this moment and I'm seeing that self-care as a daily practice is the missing link. A book I'm reading, "Sacred Woman," has opened me up to alternative ways to see health as a black woman. I've been confronting why self-care is difficult for me and where I need to enact long-term ways to care for myself: saying no more often, lightening my load with intention, and doing more of what feeds my soul (and without feeling so damn guilty).
What I know now after being on this journey as a fellow is that self-care is also not really about health and wellness. Self-care has revealed itself to me through travel, through being in primarily brown and black spaces, through being in fellowship with black women, through writing books for black children, and through enacting policies and programs at my company that supports and advances black and brown writers, artists, designers, and editors. I would never have seen self-care as embracing, exploring, and discovering these parts of me or my business that are not happening explicitly at my desk and through the lens of serving a primarily white environment. I've been holding so many questions about blackness, especially after this trip to Africa. What would brown and black people had become if colonialism, erasure, genocide, and slavery not decimated what we'd built? Who would I have been had I not grown up in the South and learned about Queen Amina, and Queen Nanny, and Queen Nzinga as a child? Why do we continue to allow false stories about white non-heroes to be held as truth? And how do we as black and brown people reclaim our history, our stories, our continent to restore what's been destroyed? Are we ready to call ourselves out for the actions and beliefs we have now that continue to keep us oppressed? As I said, I have more questions than answers.
I feel a bit all over the place today, but still grateful as I feel a harvest of abundant awareness settling into my spirit. I'm completing the fourth story in my Lil Queens series this week. I'm as joyful about my work as ever. I feel more agency to be who I AM. Yes, I'm searching. But, I'm present and becoming ever more awake.