“It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.” Charles Dickens
The year 2022 has certainly been like this for me. Earlier in the year, I crashed and burned, which felt like the worst of times. However going through near burnout and slowing do
wn my life considerably gave me a lot of time to reflect.
One of the outcomes of my mental breakdown was a strong questioning of my purpose, and it was a difficult, albeit necessary process. I have so long identified as an equity soldier. It is my personal mission to wake up everyday and think about how I can contribute to making the world a fairer place. I lived this passion through my corporate healthcare career, where I am building my leadership and brand to drive inclusive innovation to change how vulnerable populations around the world access and experience healthcare. Additionally, as an entrepreneur I founded a women’s network, co-led a coaching program for minorities, and I built a platform to connect black women in the corporate world. I know, listing my activities like this does now seem like it was a lot, but with a lot of discipline, I was able to balance it all and in conjunction, was still living my best life socially.
My mental breakdown brought all these activities into focus and I questioned whether they really mattered at all? Was fighting for equity even worth it when the world feels like it is moving backwards? Wars around the world, rolling back women’s rights in America and Iran, alt right groups becoming stronger around the world, the dire climate situation we are in- It just felt like I was fighting a losing battle. I stepped away from most of my equity activities this year and spent a lot of time reflecting on these questions.
My reflection uncovered new depths and realizations to my purpose journey. Here are my three big lessons from this experience:
Small changes are just as important as the big ones- The universe reminded me in small and big ways how much what I poured myself into matters. It was in the women reaching out to me about how much the network I formed helped them through a difficult time. It was in the black woman who messaged me about finding my podcast and how much it touched her. It was going home to my country, and seeing HIV/AIDS being no longer the death sentence it used to be, because there is more widespread access to antiretroviral drugs. The universe conspired to remind me that even if at a macro level the world seems like it is going to hell, I have touched a lot of individual lives and that matters. This realization brought my purpose back into focus and gave it even deeper meaning. It reminded me of something I heard on a panel about equity: Our own way of effecting change may seem like a drop in the ocean, but if we all do our part, those drops in the ocean will create waves of change. So, find your corner of the universe and do your part.
I need to find a more sustainable HOW- One of my early reflections during my mental breakdown was how I was someone who felt immense responsibility for righting wrongs in the world, even for things I cannot control. In my entrepreneurship journey, I was hugely a solo act or carried the bulk of responsibility for the things I did and it was partially the reason for my exhaustion. That is not sustainable. I spent 2022 cleaning my slate of these old activities and I am stepping into a new era of finding a more sustainable HOW to show up in the equity world. I want to be more mindful of my health and as an entrepreneur I will no longer do this alone. Whatever I create next, I am building people around it to lighten the load and give myself space to live my life, while at it.
Sometimes you just have to roll with the punches- Before all this, I was a very high-strung person ( I never admitted it btw). I needed everything to go exactly according to plan otherwise the delicate balance I was maintaining would fall apart like a house of cards. I masqueraded this behavior as discipline. In slowing down I have found a new found appreciation of rolling with the punches. Several totally separate friends, including one who had not seen me in years, commented how I am so much calmer lately. I have learnt to let go more, focus on the positive and breathe through the negative. I am rolling with the punches more and even though I still have big goals and ambitions, I am flexible about how I get there and more ok with things not being perfect. I also focus more on being present in the moment of anything I am in and it has brought me a lot of peace.
What’s next for me?
As mentioned, I am reviewing all my activities and figuring out the more sustainable way to show up in the equity world. To give myself mental space for this, I made tough decision to step out of my old activities. I will be stepping down from the women’s network that I was at the helm of for five years and my friend and I stopped our minorities coaching program. I will be bringing back BsquaredC, the platform I built for black women in the corporate world, but I am in discussions of a co- founder construction, so that I am no longer doing it alone. I am looking forward to showing up in more intentional ways for the people I love, the causes I care about and most of all for myself.
Let’s see where this next chapter takes me.
Extra reading on this.
My second purpose essay https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/how-i-found-my-purpose-lessons-have-embraced-along-nancy/