Dear Teenage Princess,
Where do I even begin to tell you how to become a leader today or to find your purpose in life when it may seem like it is so hard to do or find your way?
Especially after waking up to the news of yesterday. How do you accept the fact that the next President of your country is a man that does NOT value you as a young woman or value you as a young person of color? How do you accept the fact that you may have a MUCH harder time going to school in the future? Or how do you even find your place in this mixed up society? The questions you may have are numerous and all I can offer you are these few things:
1) Pray and/or meditate.
Our people are a people of strength and a people of faith and assurance. Take the time regularly to first meditate or pray to your deity/entity of choice. Somewhere in the midst of your mental conversations and meditations, an answer will slowly show itself. It may not be the answer you want, however, most of the time, it’s the answer you need. Stand firm in that.
2) Think about what your future career will/should be.
You’re a teenager! Enjoy! But, you’re also a teenager…adulthood is right around the corner. While you don’t have to have all your plans in alignment, you have to think about what do you want to do in life. Do you love that history or civics class? What do you plan to do with that? You could be a historian, a sociologist, a librarian, a museum curator and the list continues! Or maybe you play a sport and don’t necessarily want to make this your career. Maybe you could be an athletic trainer or sports reporter. The choice is definitely yours for the taking. You just have to take the time to think about it and how you would hone in on this in college.
3) Know your values.
If you are all for gender equality, racial equality or LGBTQIA+ issues (to name a few), then say so! It is important for you to know what you value and how this affects you and your view on the world. If you are a practicing Christian, your values may be a bit different than someone that is a practicing Buddhist. Or if you are a young woman of color, you are going to look at life differently than a young white male. Also, in knowing your values, know what you are willing to stand up for. I met Dr. Angela Y. Davis in October and along with the picture with her, there are some words she spoke to another young black princess that have really stayed with me. The 11 year old asked “Dr. Davis, how can I stand up for what I believe in and fight for issues when I am only eleven?” Dr. Davis responded with “Little one. Guess how old I was when I joined my first organization to advocate for black rights? Eleven. So the time is now. Find an organization. Volunteer with them and educate yourself.” If you have a passion about something, princess, and you are ready to do work for it, the time is NOW.
4) Seek mentorship.
Everyone in every phase of life needs mentorship or someone that helps guide you. Sure, your mother/father/guardian will always be there and be a person like that, however, a mentor is someone that further helps with your development as a person professionally, spiritually, etc. For example, my mentor is the woman that gave me the chance to start my professional career in higher education/diversity work. She hired me as two things: one, her nanny for her son and two, a temporary Program Assistant for the Cultural Center at the University. As I worked, she shaped me professionally and pushed me out of my comfort zones numerous times to allow me to develop. Maybe your mentor for right now will be the favorite teacher or your youth pastor. Just find someone that can help you and provide a safe space for you.
5) Be confident in you and who you are.
The most important thing is be YOU. Princess, you are a young, bright, determined woman of color. Rest in that! You have a purpose in life and it’s up to you to fulfill it. If you like anime and video games, so be it. Maybe you are the fashion girl and love all things haute couture, avant-garde and modern. Or you are the band/arts geek that can play five different musical instruments, sing, dance and act. Be who you are and be confident in YOU. The minute you doubt yourself, the rest of the world will, too. I know the world is depressing, scary and large but I leave you with these words from Maya Angelou: “Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave, I am the dream and the hope of the slave. I rise. I rise. I rise.”
Lead with this and always trust your intuition.
One Introverted, Chic-y, Geeky, Educated and Proud Queen of Color
Emily Dixon is a born and raised North Carolinian. Now residing in the eastern part of the state, she works at East Carolina University at the Brody School of Medicine in the Office of Diversity Affairs. Between her professional work and her involvement in her fraternal organizations, Tau Beta Sigma National Honorary Band Sorority, Inc. and The Order of the Eastern Star, Prince Hall Affiliated, she takes mentorship in the community and diversity and social justice issues very seriously. If you’re in the surrounding area around East Carolina University or are interested in more diversity work or programming, please reach out to her via email or connect on LinkedIn.