Invisible to Invincible—Seeking a Support System
“Can’t leave rap alone, the game needs me.”—Jay-Z
Happy New Year!! I’ve been gone for a minute, but I’m back and I’m better! What have I been doing for the last two months you might ask? Well, I spent the holidays relaxing, traveling, spending time with family, and doing a little self-reflection. Oh and I also turned 30 (eek!)
On a bittersweet note, my beloved MacBook from college/grad school finally saw its last days (RIP). But my wonderful husband gifted me a beautiful new MacBook for my birthday. So, as you can imagine, it has been a process getting up and running with new technology. But fear not…I am here and ready to kick off the new year with all of you! Just know that my goal-game is coming in strong for 2020.
So going back to this “self-reflection” that I have been doing. It honestly started at this past ASHA Convention in November 2019 in Orlando, FL, and has now extended into 2020. This was my 3rd ASHA Convention I have attended. Each time I leave an ASHA Convention, I feel like a more resourceful, more supported, and more connected SLP. Although, I am always surprised by the number of SLPs I meet who have NEVER attended an ASHA Convention—particularly more “seasoned” SLPs. I am aware of the ongoing conversations of “What can ASHA do for me?” I get it. Those dues hit hard in December. However, I am also aware of the ease of isolation in this field and the aloofness that can be associated with that isolation. To stay in your workplace/city/state can quickly lead to myopia and distortion of the resources that are actually available when you shift from your comfort zone. And after speaking with a lot of SLPs of color at ASHA, isolation and misfit seemed to be a recurring theme. Trust me, I’ve been there (and I’m still there some days), but being at ASHA reminded me that the opposite can be true. I felt that my support system was highlighted, my work was reaffirmed, and I was reminded of my purpose.
In November, I gave my very first (and hopefully not my last) ASHA presentation with a group of amazing SLP and AuD early career professionals (ECPs) through ASHA’s Committee on Leadership Cultivation (CLC). This presentation specifically addressed ECPs who are looking to engage in leadership opportunities at the local, state, and/or national levels, but don’t exactly know where to start. It was speaking to those very people who want to give more to this profession, but don’t see where they fit in and may be lacking support to get started. (I’ll plan to delve into these opportunities here in the near future.)
Initially worried about wandering the Orlando Convention Center aimlessly by myself for 3 days, I found myself enveloped in support and encouragement for the duration of the convention. By the final day, surprisingly, I felt more at home than when I am in my hometown. I reconnected with my wonderful S.T.EP mentor who helped guide me through graduate school (and I am SO inspired by her #browngirlmagic). I went to my graduate school alma mater's open house and got to see some of my favorite professors who helped mold me into the clinician I am today. I celebrated ASHA’s Office of Multicultural Affairs’ 50th year of service to culturally and linguistically diverse professionals. I met up with members of my MSLP cohort (shout out to class of 2015!!) I attended the Sisters in Speech Therapy and Audiology (SISTAs) luncheon where I spent the afternoon mentoring young minorities in our field and received some much-needed advice, as well. I turnt up at the NBASLH mixer. I ran into some old friends and met a few new ones. And the absolute icing on the cake was meeting a few of my blog followers.
Despite being scattered all across the country, I was reminded of my strong network that continues to support and encourage me as a professional. In these transient seasons of feeling downtrodden and overcome with isolation, I left ASHA rejuvenated and ready to take on goals that I had previously let fall by the wayside.
So, in the spirit of new year self-reflection, I think about my accomplishments, goals, and aspirations, and I reflect on those individuals, groups, and organizations who helped create a space for me and equip me with the tools needed for success in this profession, and I reflect on how much I continue to rely on them. After speaking with numerous graduate students, clinical fellows, and minority ECPs, I realized that there are so many who are facing isolation, adversity, and are wandering in search of a support system to affirm their intentions, capabilities, and ambitions. I was reminded of myself. And while I appreciate the strength of my own support system, I further recognize the need for me to be deliberate in modeling tenacity, courage, knowledge, and integrity for others to absorb and emulate, in hopes that one day someone will consider be to be a part of their powerful circle of support.