I have always been an achiever. I was always the person who got the best grades in school, was favored for group projects because I was the “work-horse” and took charge to execute things perfectly. I took pride in knowing that I was a person people could depend on because I never let anyone down.
This mentality took me through high school, earning multiple scholarships to attend schools away from my native town of Reno, NV. However I elected to stay in the “biggest little city.” As a first generation college student I was intimidated enough filling out the college applications. Best to stick close to home so I could have good support system nearby. Plus it was way more practical financially. I had planned to major in political science and eventually go to law school. Possibly even get into politics myself.
Then I got pregnant, then married (in that order), had twins, had another baby, and then a divorce. By the time I was 25, I was uneducated, and a single mom to three boys. Certainly not where this achiever saw herself on graduation day.
I am grateful that is not where my story ends. No matter what the set-back, there is always an opportunity to become the person you wanted to be (or someone you never knew existed). I reinvigorated a love for learning and went back to school. I ended up in a job where I was supporting clinical research in a local hospital which revealed a need for better infrastructure to support such endeavors. I moved to a position at my alma mater where I could contribute at a higher level to that cause, and settled into a niche role which has grown into a monster of a career. I am presently in graduate school getting my MBA, a degree I never even knew existed.
Why does this matter? Through my journey I have encountered what I perceive as a pervasive class system within administration at the various institutions in which I am involved. All people aren’t heard, considered, or understood in a meaningful way. And are seemingly discriminated against because of job title or level of education. This unintentionally creates a culture where promising individuals are relegated to unfulfilling tasks. As a consequence they hop from job to job, seeking purpose, value, and a leader who actually listens. I have experienced this myself; pleading to be heard, compassionately listening to others, and advocating for their voices at higher levels.
I have tried to play politics, say the right things, be professional, and jump through all the hoops. What I have found is that it is not only boring, but doesn’t accomplish anything. What good is it to check all the blocks, if there is no outcome? I have begun to break the rules, say what I mean, and mean what I say. Honestly, I was just doing this for myself because I was able to get more accomplished, and felt better about doing it, but it turns out, others find this inspirational. So I am putting myself out there to hopefully provide even the smallest nugget of advice for people who are struggling in this space. I am in a place where I feel compelled to forge a path for their ideas. I have worked my way into a sphere of influence where I can make a difference. I need to capitalize on this for people who know and trust me as well as my junior self. I am continuing to grow too, deploying my methods in my personal relationships, and becoming a better leader there too. My ultimate achievement is realizing I just need to show up as myself, 100%.