BY: LANISHA PORTER
"You take yourself too seriously” is something that people haven’t shied away from alerting me to over the years. After hearing that enough it became my goal to strategically balance both working hard and enjoying my youth. However, I never allowed the often-heard-comment to deter me from giving my dreams a serious chance, followed up with tremendous work ethic. I believe that experiences mold a person, and there are certain experiences that have had a cutting edge in shaping the form I would take. I rarely ever cared to rebut my peers when they judged me for being “different” or “too uptight” because I knew they didn’t have the same experiences shaping them like I had shaping me.
...I was aware that I was the heir to women who lived with bent spines, tired hands, and busy feet but never had much to show for it so I figured I would be the difference. I figured I would be the pinnacle breaking the generational curse.
My great grandmother—Anna Mae Reed Foster born in 1901, passing in 1991—spent a lot of time serving as a Domestic Servant to Whites during a time where Blacks were not held in high esteem. I remembered that in making decisions on how to lead my own life. My grandmother, who birthed 13 children, never had the opportunity to attend college where she could secure a life of comforts and pleasures. I remembered that in making decisions on how to lead my own life. During the first day of classes when the activity was to share the sentiment of your last name, my response was always limited to “I’m not really sure.” For all I knew, my family saga was a narrative of pains, struggles, and tales of getting-by. There was no inheritance to be told about, or family business to zealously spill about in front of classmates. I remembered that in making decisions on how to lead my own life. Taking in these experiences, I landscaped how I wanted my life to be lived. I began to do just that, and the disconcerting remarks of “You do too much” “You’re so extra” and of course “Why do you take yourself sooo serious?” followed. Before my skin toughened, those comments or question were almost slight encouragements to do less, fit in more, and focus less. But see, I was aware that I was the heir to women who lived with bent spines, tired hands, and busy feet but never had much to show for it so I figured I would be the difference. I figured I would be the pinnacle breaking the generational curse. People called me taking myself too serious, but I called it honoring the women before and after me. People conferred about me and said I do the most, and I couldn’t help but secretly laugh at them while wondering if they knew what I knew (obviously they didn't). Inside I inquired if they understood that society had us scheduled to succumb to a fate that can only be avoided by taking yourself seriously. I never understood how one could afford not to take themselves serious when it’s a reality that property value drops if a neighborhoods Black demographic exceeds more than 10%. I never understood how Blacks laughed at other Blacks on the rise when it’s a reality that on average Whites have a family net worth of $81,000, while Blacks only have that of $8,000. Understanding redlining, and seeing spaces in society be exclusively dominated by those who were not of Color made me shorten my time in the sandbox very early. Of all these things I learned, I vowed to never forget and to live my life to defy them.
The simple art of believing in myself, even when others didn't understand it, was the perfect exit strategy.
This is where the dutiful task of telling your own story—and never leaving it in the hands of another to be told—becomes important. People looking in at my life through the small windows offered could say I'm stuck up; I'm uptight; I'm lame...a bore; whatever. The truth is I've always understood the small margin I've had to make something of myself given my social origins, and I never wanted to jeopardize that. Not even for fun. I've always been planning my exit strategy. I knew that the way I lived my life would make a difference in the story my great-granddaughter could tell about her name one day in front of her class. I believed that how I lived my life would influence the esteem my child felt they could have when staring at their reflection in the mirror. I have always prayed that God would make of my life all that my mothers were and all that they never had the chance to become. As I sit here looking at my cap, gown, hood, and tassel modeling on the hanger in front of me next to my cords distinguishing my multiple honors earned, I can honestly say taking myself seriously was so worth it. The simple art of believing in myself--even when others didn't understand it--was the perfect exit strategy. It was worth the social penalties others inflicted on me. It was worth the guys who didn’t care to date me. It was worth all the sacrifices made. Tomorrow, I become the first Collegiate woman descending from my line of mothers. I trust that my daughters will not make me the last.
Welcome to my views from this horizon!