It was 2006, and I was completing the Master of Science degree I had been working on part-time at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois, while working full-time as an academic advisor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. My initial goal was to complete my master's degree and continue living in the Urbana-Champaign area and working as an academic advisor. I was content with my life. I had a job I loved, friends who supported and encouraged me, and a decent romantic relationship (I had just started dating my ex-husband). Life was good.
While completing my coursework, I met two people who would change my life. I met Dr. Jenny Bloom when I enrolled in a graduate elective course at the University of Illinois. Dr. Charles Eberly was one of my first professors at Eastern Illinois University. They both encouraged me to pursue a doctorate. I had no plan to complete a doctorate at this point in my life. While I loved learning, I felt I needed a break. However, after much encouragement and support from these two, I decided to apply to Ph.D. programs.
I enjoyed my master's program and wished I had had more time to devote to research and writing. So, I decided if I were going to do the Ph.D., I would have to do it full-time. So, I quit my job as an academic advisor, moved from the place I loved, and left my new boyfriend behind to pursue a doctorate in the Higher Education Administration program at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio. I figured I'd immerse myself in learning, researching, writing, and completing my doctorate. I'd return to Urbana-Champaign and pick up where I left off. Well, that didn't happen. I got married during my doctorate program, and once I graduated, I moved to Georgia for a director position.
Fast forward to 2015, and I'm working as the Assistant Dean of Students and Director of the Office of Multicultural Programs at Maryville University of St. Louis. I am in the process of a divorce and exhausted from doing social justice work in environments steeped in white supremacy. I needed a change. I needed to take care of myself. Ten years to the date after leaving my position as an academic advisor, I quit my job as the newly promoted Associate Dean of Students and Affirmative Action Officer to engage in intense self-care, start a consulting business, and write my first book.
Now, five years later, I've completed my first book (It Don't Hurt Now: My Journey of Self-Love & Self-Acceptance) and established my consulting and editing business (That's Write Consulting, Editing, & Proofreading Services). I've spent the past six years working with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater St. Louis (BGCSTL) as an educational consultant. Two months ago, I submitted my letter of resignation to BGCSTL. Two weeks ago, I gave my apartment complex notice not to renew my lease. And now I have begun parting with most of my possessions. I will be leaving Illinois at the end of June to take a writing sabbatical to complete my second book, Thick Black Lines: A Collection of Poetry and Prose. I will be dividing my time between Phoenix, Belize, Washington DC, and any other place that calls for me to come there to write and rest.
I have always been one to trust God and step out on faith. And, for the third time in my adult life, I am being obedient to the call and saying goodbye to life in my comfort zone for a life of uncertainty. People have asked me if I'm afraid. No. I'm nervous, but I'm not afraid. I'm more afraid of disappointing God. I've been disobedient enough times in my 45 years to know I don't want that smoke! I carry my mama's favorite scripture with me in my heart, Psalm 23. It is this scripture that sustains me and gives me strength whenever I am in doubt or uncertain. This scripture comforts me when God has asked me to do something I don't quite understand.
Last year I saw a Hallmark Channel movie where the leading lady shared an expression that her mother (or aunt) shared with her when she was afraid. She said her mother told her it's okay to be afraid, but the fear shouldn't immobilize her. She said, "Sometimes you have to do it afraid." I like that. I'll be moving forward with this sabbatical because sometimes you have to do it nervous!