I’m stuck. It’s the beginning of a New Year, a long awaited one at that, and I’m starting out behind – in a hole. In previous New Years, I practice new beginnings, set goals, and feel refreshed with my restated sense of purpose. Not 2021. Although there are many inspirations and distractions happening around the world right now, I cannot blame them for my inability to progress. It’s way more simple than that.
When I volunteered for my PULSE assignment, I set a target to blog every two weeks. I remember wanting to hear more and more from earlier PULSE volunteers on assignment knowing how the little and seemingly mundane tasks in the NGO community are actually a pretty big deal when you are going through the motions of routine work. I came out of the gate smoking hot with a blog post on my first day of my volunteer assignment. With standard work in place, the second blog came out at 3 weeks instead of my targeted 2. I cut myself slack as there was a pretty mind-blowing conference I attended during that time. Then, the next blog took about 5.5 weeks to publish, and I’m 9 weeks and counting on my latest installment. Although I still have time set aside to work on blogs, why am I not executing them more routinely? A few reasons…
Firstly, much like any job, there is a lot more ‘free’ time in the beginning. Once you get into your role and become increasingly more accountable, actions are owed and others depend on you to deliver. Although that is exactly what happened in my PULSE assignment, I had set aside time to work on blogging so it shouldn’t have impeded my goal. What else changed?
Inspired by my cousin’s blog and his use of citations, I felt compelled to pull more research and sources into my story. Suddenly, I was transported back in time to High School and College where documentation of the research and citations is sometimes more important than the work itself. Research takes time to find relative content, verify sources and maintain a bibliography. From this, I felt like maybe a monthly blog is more appropriate with the first half researching and developing content and the second half refining, reviewing and publishing. That is all well and good, but still, why is it taking longer?
It wasn’t until a chance conversation with my sister-in-law, a professional documentary film producer and director, that I fully understood the underlying issue. She helped me to see that I am trying to tell the story of others which is very difficult to get right. For her, she spends months researching one individual, one story before recording anything on film including scouting trips to not only assess the technicalities of film production and arranged for logistics such as permits, approvals, translators and clearances but also establish a relationship with the subjects of the documentaries and their families. She could have the most amazing story, but without the trust of the film ‘stars’ there is no story to tell.
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And now you can begin to see why I am stuck. I had a simple task of documenting a few thoughts and personal experiences in a blog every few weeks, but then found myself deep in the complexities of social justice. As an Engineer, it is very uncomfortable as math and science tend to be programmatic and soulless. Yet all I want to do is help by unearthing and solving problems causing systemic inequity. Then I look up into the mirror, and see a middle-aged suburban white lady – the face of the front line for most social justice issues yet also the face of a “Karen”. Who am I to speak on this topic? Who am I to try to make it better when I don’t even understand? ….when strangers have no reason to trust beyond what they see? Am I even the person that can and should help?
While it will probably take me a lifetime to answer some of those questions, I hope to make some headway on my assignment by facilitating the process for selecting our first Steering Committee – our true seats of leadership, power and inspiration that will carry our 10 year commitment forward. Luckily, it won’t be my face seen at the table, at least not until I earn trust in the local social justice community. For now, I will support my manager as she leads the Selection Committee and shortly open the call for our Steering Committee nominations.
Well, as it turns out, I’m not stuck after all. I’ve just been following my subconscious who rightly stopped me from charging ahead with stories that are not mine to tell. I will be yielding the remaining blogs I have to 5 colleagues of mine to tell their stories – highlighting what is and what is not part of the problem in STEM equity in Philly based on their lived experiences and inspiring the next generation of STEM professionals that look like them. I have my Black Female and Black Male volunteers to take the first two slots. I am searching for three more Philly natives that identify as Latin Female, Latin Male and a Female who identifies as anything other than Black or Latin. Prospective STEM professionals are waiting to hear from you. Trust me.