There has been a lot going on lately. In the news, on the job, in the home. (Although the first has made me actually weep, the last two have been very good). I think about some parts of my journey (1, 2, & 3), and I have this deep pull of responsibility.
But to what? Is it to my faith? Is it to science? Is it to communicate science? Is it to help as many black people as I can? Is it to help anyone I can? Is it to be a good father? Is it to be a good husband? A good mentor? Just another keyboard warrior? Can I start with just being an adult?
I recently heard the phrase “I am my ancestors’ wildest dreams come true” and wondered if I actually was just that, a dream come true for them. Looking back, so many people helped me fight the battle to get where I am and I sometimes worry I am not paying it back or forward enough. What lurks behind the smile is imposter syndrome 2.0 where I can’t even pretend to be something if I don’t know what that is.
This is a lot of pressure to put on one’s self. But if I could just get that science grant, I could help so many people. If I could just convince them that they should eat their vegetables, the could grow healthy and strong. If I could just convince them that vaccines are good, then so many lives could be spared. If I could just convince them that there aren’t always fine people on many sides, then maybe I could live without some of the fear.
If I talked to an ancestor, how would the conversation go? What questions do you think I would get?
“You made it through college?” “Yes Sir!” “They call you doctor?” “Yes Ma’am!” “They call you professor?” “Yes Sir!” “You got white people working for you?” “Yes Ma’am, and a Nigerian, Mexican, and Indian." “Hmm, well, is there still racism?” “Not as much as when you were alive, but unfortunately yes. Your battles and scars were not in vain.” “Well, I’m proud of you, and you should be proud of yourself.”
And just like that, you imagine the warmth of the past. It surrounds you and comforts you like a spiral ham sandwich on white bread a few days after Christmas dinner or a peach cobbler, with the good crust, and ice cream on top that soothes the soul. Even if not heard, I needed to at least imagine that last line. Some of you did too.
But some of your ancestors reading this would not be so pleased with you. And for that I say thank you for fighting with us.
I sometimes feel so overwhelmed with what I feel I should be, that I forget to enjoy who I am. I should be proud of where I am. I should be proud of what I have become. I should take the time to enjoy me, and those around me. That doesn’t mean we aren’t fighting, hustling, researching, praying, parenting, mentoring machines that we can be, it just means that we should breathe sometimes.
It is time for our “shoulds” to become our “will dos”, and I for one, am starting now.