My mother recently retired from the United States Postal Service after 33 years in Atlanta, Georgia. She was a single parent much of her adult life, raising two children, and we have the good ole USPS to thank for keeping food on the table and clothes on our backs. When I think about my mom, I see her as a pioneer. She grew up in rural Georgia in the early 1960s and 70s. She attended segregated schools (yes, they still existed) and experienced the emotional trauma of integration. With nearly perfect grades as a senior in high school, her counselors advised her that college was not for her, despite her stellar academic achievements. Unfortunately, she did not have anyone to tell her otherwise as her parents did not attend college.
So, she left Hart County, Georgia, traveled to Atlanta, and the rest is history. She spent her entire life in Georgia and she provided a stable life for her children without attending college. Now in her retirement years, she is taking classes to earn her CNA degree and is open to traveling and seeing what the world has to offer.
Why am I telling you this? Well, the world is changing. People are different, and the stories of folks remaining at a job for 30+ years is becoming something for the history books (although this is a wonderful accomplishment). When my mother sent me to college, I had originally planned to become a high school band director and I wanted to move back to Georgia to live closer to her. One event led to another, and I am now living in my 5th state after I left home in 2002.
This was not the original plan. Even after I moved to Texas, I was going to stay and earn tenure as a faculty member. There was no vision at that time for administration. After becoming a faculty senate president and witnessing the various levels of community college administration, I wanted more. Specifically, I wanted to have a broader impact on students outside of those I taught from August to June of each year.
I was in a large college system in Houston and progressed through the academic ranks, achieving a dean's position. I thought, "this was it." I was on my way to earning a Vice President's position and would remain in that college system for my career. Trust me, I tried to stay, but I hit the infamous "Glass Ceiling," while my other more seasoned colleagues were promoted. I applied for Vice President positions and was often told that I was too young. I even had one person tell me "you need to bake in the oven a little longer."
After a couple of crushing defeats, recruiters telling me I was not qualified, or those infamous emails saying the position was filled, I decided to expand my portfolio and move to a separate college further away, but still in Texas. The entire time, though, I never lost that itch to become a VP.
Here is where the support of family comes. At the time we had two children (Lyric and Izzy) and my husband was working in the university sector of higher ed. Once I came to terms that I would not get any higher than a dean in Texas, we pulled out a map and circled the places we were NOT willing to travel to. States like Kansas, Alabama, and Mississippi were immediately identified as places we would never, under any circumstances move to (use your imagination). This left a wide range of options available to us. And again, the rest is history.
In today's time, it is difficult to move up the ladder and stay in one place. Remember, in order to grow you've gotta go. We stayed in Florida for 8 years, Texas for 6 years, and New York for 3 years. One day we will make our way back to family in Georgia, but honestly, we enjoy traveling and the adventures that lie ahead in each state we have visited. Our children have seen more than what we saw at this stage in our lives. All I knew was Stone Mountain, Georgia, and the occasional vacations we were able to afford as a child. But our kids have seen different people, places, and cultures in a matter of almost 15 years. While there are some obvious disadvantages to this, Isiah and I have focused on keeping a close eye on the kiddies to ensure their positive well-being.
In addition to the children, our various moves have been difficult on our extended families. When the news broke of the opportunity to relocate to Texas, my mother was naturally worried to have her youngest daughter and her only grandchild at the time move halfway across the country. My husband's family was also initially worried about him going from Florida to Texas as they were when we went from Texas to New York and now New York to Washington state.
It is not easy. We do not have easy access to a babysitter. Our families are not down the street and around the corner (that is actually a good thing). But that forces us to rely on each other. Our bond as a family, is tighter than ever before. As partners in marriage and as professionals, we have learned to sacrifice and make it happen along the journey. There have been good times as well as bad, but we have learned to stay true to ourselves during this process.
You may be questioning whether to make the big move. Will your spouse be supportive? How will your kids respond? And then there is the family to consider. These are extremely personal choices and no one can make them for you but you. We chose early on to not live with regrets and to not let others define our careers or lives. When Isiah and I earned our doctoral degrees, we made a commitment to each other, to our children, and to making this world a better place. The only way we have been able to get close to our goals is to move around.
We met some truly incredible people along the way. I've made friendships that will last a lifetime. I admire strong women like Jenn and Denise from my first neighborhood in Saddlebrook Ranch and couples like the Fountains (Steve and Demetria). Women like Debbie (aka, Debster) and Fig that made sure we had what we needed at Lone Star College - University Park. Colleagues that are now friends: Brian, Dr. B., Tony, Uche, Sarah, Anastasia, Amy, Bridget, Linda, John, Kim, Lindsay, Chris, and Julie. Then there is Janice who taught me the importance of beauty to enhance your features and not to create a different person. It is because of Janice that I will NOT leave the house without foundation on!
I've met amazing community activists dedicated to defeating the stereotype and giving the underrepresented a voice. Fearless Queens such as Gwen, Lisa, Ocesa, Evelyn, Helen, Nati, Twiggy, Adrianne, Juhanna and countless others that are rolling up their sleeves to get the work done. Finally, other presidents that served as a personal inspiration for me as I moved around in this journey. Merrill, Ty, Orinthia, Casey, Shah, Annette, Aneesa, and so many others that have formed a support network like none other. I would not have this amazing network if I stayed still, in one place.
Don't get lost in the sauce at your job because everybody is replaceable. Let me say that again. EVERYBODY is replaceable. No matter how good you are, people will move on when you are gone. With this in mind, take a leap of faith, and say yes only if it is right for you. You will not regret it, just make sure you live close to a major airport and a Macy's (you never know when you will need a crispy new suit).
For my mother and my ancestors who came before me and could not leave their homes or receive an education, I am doing this for them and standing on their shoulders.
What will you decide?
Let me know your thoughts below!