What does “having it all” mean to you? "Having it all" means I am successfully able to balance and juggle all the roles I play, bringing value in each one of these roles. I am not so sure as I wear my many hats that I do so with balance, but I definitely try to bring value. Some days, I am a great mother and some days, I am a not so good mother. Some days I am a better friend and some days, I just can’t be the type of friend I want to be or that my friends need me to be. The same can be said about all my roles in life.
"Having it all" also means that I am living on purpose and operating knowing that purpose will create opportunities for its accomplishment. When I am fulfilling what I was created to be and do, everything seems easy to do. Having It All is so easy. However, when I am operating off purpose, I struggle to complete and do everything. I’m not at my best because I am not doing what I was predestined to do.
What have been the greatest challenges and rewards? I always say that the PhD is a blessing and a curse. Earning the distinction as the fourth black person in the oldest materials science and engineering department in the country is noteworthy in itself. In 2004, I was trailblazing to get the terminal degree at the age of 26. But while the PhD as a terminal degree should open doors, this is not always the case for a black woman with a PhD. There are so many stereotypes and biases about Black women that have to be dealt with on a consistent basis that it becomes necessary to make others feel comfortable with who I am, probably more than others have to with similar degrees and training. Sometimes this requires me to bring less of my authentic self to make others feel comfortable which is quite an energy drain.
Where do you get your energy from? My kids inspire me. They didn’t ask to be here. So when I feel tired, I remember that I do what I do for them to have what I had as a child and more. My Mom inspires me. She is a two-time breast cancer survivor who is living with congestive heart failure and type-2 diabetes. So when I want to complain, I look at her as a shining example of perseverance and strength. My role models, mentors, and accountability partners inspire me. They all have accomplished such great things in their own way. They serve as constant reminders to me that there is not one route to accomplishing greatness. Each of us will define our own path toward our definition of success.
Three words that describe me:
Passionate. Confident. Strong.
Portrait by Vivian Johnson