One day during an intern meeting at my counseling site I was taking notes on career counseling as I listened to our then associate director, Dr. Lisa Adams say something very akin to “Until you know who you are, you cannot answer another question.” The phrase, as she said it, was seemingly innocuous to everyone else, but it struck me as brilliant then and still elicits pause and deep reflection in me. It was like I heard the key to the secret of life in her words. For years, I would turn the phrase over in my mouth as one would a full-bodied merlot, searching for top notes; never quite understanding exactly why it was so profound, only knowing with absolute certainty that it was.
Yesterday, I gained the ability to articulate why, if you are willing to join me in my reflections, I’ll happily share with you as I teach myself.
I believe this much firmly, when you have unshakeable knowing of who you are, decisions are easy to make. When you start to doubt or wonder or allow other people places and things to inform that decision, decisions become more difficult. Our ego is a fan of applause, hungry and dependent on external roles, relationships, or material things to define you. But your Soul doesn’t need it. She knows who she is and what she wants and isn’t interested in arguing about it, in fact you’ll find She will never argue. Find that voice inside yourself and follow her to the end of the earth if you have to, because if your soul lead you there then there must have been something you needed to see, even if it was just for the view.
It is the reason why Mufasa and Rafiki demanded Simba remember who he was. It was the reason Moana’s grandmother gave her a mantra to remember her name, her people, her purpose. The key to unlocking the door that holds our greatest treasure is us. We are the answers.
I made a decision this year to be more selfish. My best friend, Brenda, also gave me another way to look at that word: Self-ish; which I think honors the action and becoming-ness. I made a decision to lean more fully into what it means to be Jessica Jamese Williams, PhD, M.Ed. I made a decision to speak more loudly about mental health advocacy especially within the walls of the ivory tower as it pertains to those marginalized populations within the world of academia.
I want to help elevate divergent voices and disruptive thinkers using digital platforms and virtual spaces. I want to push communication and dialogue across social media and change the way we interact with one another. I want to use whatever platforms I have to find new voices, new stories, and connect, to grow empathy, and increase borderless compassion. I want to and I will.
With every piece of worry I let go, and with every ounce faith I put in my Self, the more “what I did” was an easy decision to make. I was always going to find my way back to California. I was always going to find my way back to education and higher ed specifically. I was always going to find my way back to a classroom, back to being an administrator, back to conducting research, back to leading trips abroad, back to pushing thought boundaries and personal ones too. All of these pieces that feel like they’re beginning to “fall into place” were always here, waiting for me to open my eyes and realize them.
It was exactly as The Alchemist said it would be. I knew that I needed everything I had gone through up until right now to arrive at this understanding. I knew that I had to be driven to staring depression down nose-to-nose before I could say “You met your fucking match”. I knew I had to be armed with experiences of being discriminated against for my mental health. I knew I had to experience amazing support, and horrendous support so I could now be of better service. I was in the best possible position to step into my opportunity not despite myself, but BECAUSE of who I was, flaws and all. When I could understand and truly believe that God was always conspiring for my greatest good and that if I could just find a way to lean not unto my own understanding, but instead trust and have faith while fully acknowledging my present moment and the other possible moments of others around me without judgement? Oh Baby…I would be, I was now going to be: Unstoppable. Undeniable and completely in my zone.
I was ready to write my teaching philosophy, my statement of diversity, gather my letters of recommendation, clear up my debts to release my transcripts and head back to the arena. I was ready because I had the honor of wearing my diagnoses as part of the fabric that makes me who I am with pride so that no one could ever call me outside of my name or my character but instead it would be my armor; the knots in my wood. Smiling with knowing that the battle is not mine and in the end, everything was going to be just fine. And if it wasn’t fine, it wasn’t the end. My Jennie Miller tells me that.
If you had to say what you wanted professionally, what would you say? Well…I guess I would say I want to be an administrator with a faculty appointment in a department. I want to run a Center that elevates the voices of the diverse and the divergent using digital and virtual technologies. That is mighty articulate for someone who has “never thought about it” wouldn’t you say? Learning who I was had taught me what I wanted. It was easy to say once I was free from the weight of expectation, of cynicism, of doubt, of judgment, and mostly of fear. Well I wasn’t afraid anymore. I wasn’t afraid of saying my name and I was ready for the return.