Mask Off-Letting Go of Titles: The RAW Bee Series
Updated: Oct 4, 2020
“Miss Professor”. A title that I comfortably prided myself in becoming. A black woman being a tenure-track professor before the age of 25. Honestly, I was quite grateful for the opportunity. It was a prestigious learning opportunity. It was a large step to guide my career trajectory. I absolutely LOVED my students, and they taught me more than I could ever teach them – which leads to saying, they are a big reason for this testimony.
I will never forget the day in class when I was talking about the criminal justice system and how addressing systemic racial and economic institutions will help to provide justice and opportunity for many talented individuals. It’s pretty obvious that I am highly interested in Criminology, Institutionalized Racism, Equity, Justice, and Inclusion, and Mental Health and Wellness in minority communities. Note, in this position, I am not directly assigned to discuss any of these topics or work directly in these fields. I am just a professor. One day, a student raised her hand and asked, “if this is what you are so passionate about, why don’t you do it for your job?” I was stunned. Not too often am I left with any words to say. I honestly could only embarrassingly say, “you’re right, and I don’t know”. From that moment on it struck me. I am not following my passions at all. I am following a title.
During this time, I was enduring severe heart problems. This is something that, to this day, doctors have no idea what is happening. I just knew as I worked, I would get stressed, and I would collapse. I KNEW I was in a toxic place. I was 24 and did not have enough free time to have friends (especially not good friends). I lived in an area where there was overt racism, complacency, drama, and little sense of efficacy and growth. I was in such a harmful headspace that I wouldn’t go anywhere, not even to the grocery store. I wouldn’t clean my house. I was so mentally disconnected from everyone that I had no sense of grounding. I was just a robot floating in and out of geographical locations without a sense of LIVING. Yet, amongst this dead behavior, I still KNEW that there was something better than this. I was just always afraid that if I changed lives, people wouldn’t be proud of me. I also worried that no other school would hire me as a professor. But – did I want to even be a professor?
Month by month, after praying and crying about this, I knew something had to change soon. It was either going to kill me slowly or quickly. Plus, how could I promote to my students to follow what makes them most filled and healthy when I wasn’t following that at all? I even tried doing diversity work on campus, but that had its lash backs that questioned the worth of the fight. I couldn’t use alternatives anymore. I had to take the plunge.
Due to confidentiality, I will not disclose the plight of conversations exchanged between my coworkers, colleagues, and supervisor, but let’s just say that a few events affirmed that if I were to stay another year in this toxic state, I may not survive. So, I wrote my letter of resignation. As I drafted, I realized that it was more than a letter. It was writing away my accolades. My success. My falsified and borrowed happiness. "Miss Professor”—gone. My watchers (notice I didn’t say supporters because watchers watch, but supporters fill). I wasn’t ready. I didn’t want to let everyone down. I didn’t want to take the mask off. See, if you fake who you are and people don’t accept you, at least they are rejecting the fake you. But, if you show people the REAL you and they don’t accept it, that means you suck (so I thought).
So, as I was preparing to turn in my letter, I kept stalling because I REALLY did not want to take that mask off. It was truly stuck! I could not let go. I definitely could not be the real me without the titles and accolades. I convinced myself, “I mean the job isn’t that bad. It could be worse. It’s not horrible.” Have you ever had this talk with yourself, convincing yourself to stay complacent and stuck in a situation that you know is toxic? It’s a black hole, because truth is, nothing is horrible if you don’t want it to be horrible. That’s right. There could be a lot of horrible things in your life, but if you force your mind to think they aren’t horrible, then having near death heart pains daily aren’t that bad. Could be worse. So, I didn’t turn it in. I mean, I’m a strong black woman, right?
For that next week, I had the WORSE heart pains of them all. I knew what God was saying. I heard Him say, “I cannot open the next door for you if you don’t close this one.” I felt the healing around the corner. The happiness. The freedom. The breath. So, finally— I did it.
I will never forget that my supervisor called me nearly in tears because he did not want me to leave, but he knew that I needed to. I quickly told my students, coworkers and a couple of friends and family. Again, I will not share the outcome because the focus is not on their response, but that I did it. But, what I can say, I never said “I’m sorry”. I felt this peace—something I honestly had not experienced in quite a long time. A calmness knowing that I was the most in tune with God, myself, and my destiny. A tuneness—I felt free.
Now, let me give you context. I had NOTHING lined up. No job offers, no side hustles (a little of Mary Kay, but I was terrible), no intensive savings accounts— nothing. So, this was a true testament of faith. It was God and I—that’s it. Later that day, my spirit was led to create an 8-week preparation list (had no idea what I was preparing for) but it including increasing my physical and mental wellness, working on my brand, and packing. Yes, packing without knowing where I was going.
A week later, I received a call stating that I have been selected to interview for this job in Texas as Director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs at a university. About a month later, with nothing but faith and rawness, I was selected for the position and finish packing up to move to Texas! Just because of faith. Just because I jumped. Just because I decided to choose my own sense of success over everything that I have been taught and forced into. The greatest accomplishment from this is I allowed space to keep other opinions out of this and keep this move to myself. Some people are finding out for the first time by reading this. For once, I wanted to hear God’s voice and my voice, not everyone else. It taught me to trust in God’s plan and direction, even when it was terrifying.
Come on, you thought I was okay quitting my nice and comfortable job and not being known as the successful professor anymore?
My flesh FOUGHT this one daily. I say this to remind you, positive change will not feel comfortable. Positive change will not feel comfortable! GROWTH HURTS! But— it is so worth the pain because it makes you stronger, wiser, and loving beyond your imagination.
So, choose to jump. Be in tune with who you are and what you need. Know that taking that mask off WILL REVEAL the negative things the critics say. I know this firsthand (I still have people whose hobby is to point out my flaws but that’s why I pray for them), that it’s ugly, stinky, and sweaty under the mask because you were blocking it from its light. Soon after, your skin will glow brighter than it has ever looked, even with the most elaborate mask. It truly begins with going back to your roots.
Today, I really enjoy my job. I enjoy being near cities that I aspire to move to eventually. I clean all of the time. I go to the grocery stores and take my time shopping. I allow time for healthy living activities. I more mentally stable, present, and aware. I smile so much now. I love me. It is scary to see the woman I have become, yet greater to see the woman God always prepared me to be. I spend as much time as possible promoting to others that choosing the best version of you is WORTH IT. It takes time; it takes bravery; it takes a ton of patience and love; but, it is SO worth it.
-God fills your life with spiritual teachers—people who will align you to where you are supposed to be when you are off track. Don’t ignore them. They will continue to come. For me, those were always my students.
-Follow your passions, not a title. Titles are temporary and subjective. Passions are destined and ordained. If you have to choose between losing your money and accolades or losing you—there are a lot of titles, but only one you.
-Wellness is holistic. Listen to your body, spirit, mind, and soul to make your decisions—not just the one that makes you most complacent and comfortable.
-Discern the difference between “watchers” and “supporters”. Watchers will truly suck you into a false understanding of your desires. Supporters will affirm and empower your desires, even in the low seasons.
-NO JOB (and I mean, no job) is worth your sanity and peace. No matter how “successful” and no matter how many figures. You are not “privileged” to have that job; they are privileged to have you!
-If you aren’t following the Will of God, don’t worry—He will make sure that you realize that you cannot possibly live without His Will. Do not torture your life until then. Stop yourself before He stops you—that stop is a lot rougher.
-Make decisions for your peace—not for others’ peace. If you don’t like letting people down, imagine how you feel if you let yourself down.
-Sometimes the BEST decisions are made in the absence of the opinions of others. The purity of hearing just God’s voice in your chambers can be the most liberating and peaceful moment of your life.
-Positive change will NOT feel comfortable! If it makes you sick to your stomach, if your flesh is battling your spirit, then you are RIGHT where you need to be. JUMP.
-No need to apologize to ANYONE (not even family) for your peace. There’s never a reason to be sorry for following your destined trajectory.
Drop of Honey: You deserve to do what YOU love and what you are destined to do. You mean so much more than the titles, believe me. Go ahead. Take off the mask of others and wear your natural glow. It looks and feels good.