Yesterday was one of “those days.” You know how it goes: a pretty good start to the day ruined by a particularly piercing rejection letter, followed by a barrage of emails from people demanding things of you that border on unreasonable and those who are making reasonable requests at the perfectly wrong time, capped off by piercing cold rain that makes it all too clear that the heavens have conspired to make the outside mirror how you feel inside. Combine that with general atmospheric conditions that reflect ongoing institutional toxicity and the daily realities of being a Black woman in academe. Yep, it was one of those days.
Perhaps the rejection would not have pierced so deeply if I had not invested so much in it… Nah, I can’t lie to myself and claim that I can put any less of my heart and soul into my work because it’s The Work. It’s what God, my ancestors, and my community have charged and trusted me to do. Nope, I can’t and won’t take that lightly.
Perhaps the rejection would not have pierced so deeply if all other things connected to the work were happy and healthy… I can go for this argument but, as a self-proclaimed “critical realist,” I have to acknowledge that the life of a Black woman on the tenure track is always already fraught, so the idea of happiness and health in all other things is not all that realistic. Our only choice it to care for ourselves.
So where’s the comfort? I have cycled through so many emotions in the last 24 hours. As I stared at the ceiling last night listening to the cacophony of noise that the thoughts racing through my head created against the room’s silence and the quiet sound of persistent rain outside, I asked myself “What will it take to make Erika healthy in all of this?”
At that point, I began to pray.
I am unashamed to admit that prayer was not my first response. I commiserated…I rationalized…I blamed…I strategized…I questioned…but I didn’t pray. But the beauty of this story is that, at the moment that I prayed, God, in all faithfulness, responded to comfort me.
I uttered something like, “God, if I am in the place where You put me and I’m doing the work that you called me to do, then why this failure?”
You probably haven’t prayed that prayer before. It ain’t my first time.
God’s response to my heart was so clear: “I did not promise you that all things would work in your favor. I promised you that they would work together for your good.”
My belief in God’s intentionality as it relates to the workings of my life requires that I accept these moments not as “failures” or “rejections” but as individual proverbial battles in a larger war. I won’t win ’em all, but the net result is that I win!
So now things become a bit more interesting because I’m wondering how the rest of the plays will line up for this win. My eyes are open and I’m looking for the victories. In fact, I saw so many victories in these moments of prayer last night that I see how I won the battle.
- I received support from colleagues and mentors who validated my work in critical ways.
- I saw the real power of a familial network of colleagues who are willing to drop everything and weep with me even in the midst of their own career highs. At moments I wondered if they took the news harder than I did!
- I got to laugh and draw strength through messages like: “They just don’t know!” and “You too good for them anyway!” and “Eat all the cupcakes. I’m here for it!”
- I had the opportunity to draw closer to God through it all even when my first move was wrong.
So today I’ve decided to enjoy my win!
PS – Thanks for taking this time to read my first blog post! I promise to get better at this with time 🙂