“Mama exhorted her children at every opportunity to 'jump at the sun.' We might not land on the sun, but at least we would get off the ground.”
- Zora Neale: Hurston Dust Tracks on a Road
"You can be anything you want to be", they said. As long as you put your mind to it, they said. These constant reassurances dominated my childhood. My parents and teachers told me that the world was mine for the taking—that I could have everything I wanted. And they were wrong. Mostly.
I navigate the world as a Black woman and I know that there are certain spaces that will never welcome me. I know that I may not be given certain jobs or be allowed into certain clubs because of my hue and my gender. These facts make me no never mind.
Because I jump at the sun anyway.
I invade spaces not meant for me whenever I feel like it and I create my own spaces when necessary. But most importantly, I pursue the unattainable not because I know I will succeed, but because there is honor in the attempt. The attempt builds character. The attempt puts me on the path to my true destiny.
When I was in college, my dream was to attend law school. This dream slid into my life one day like a dick pic slides into your DMs—abruptly. I was watching an episode of The West Wing and a character named Ainsley Hayes busted onto the screen. This petite white woman (with views different from my own) was an attorney, fast-talking, shrewd, and smarter than everyone else in the room. I figured I could be all of those things (except for small, white, and a Republican).
After researching for some time, I met with one of the lawyers at my internship ( I was a legislative intern for the governor of Tennessee at the time). I shadowed him. I watched him. Then I decided to jump.
I was an English major and everyone else I knew with the same dream was in a pre-law or a criminal justice program. I was apprehensive—afraid that I was not good enough. But my determination outweighed my fear. So I studied. And studied. And studied some more. The Law School Admissions Test eluded me though. The needed score I could not obtain. So that dream was dead.
I thought God had portrayed me. All that praying had been in vain. I felt that I had been lied to my whole life. I was told to go after my dreams and those dreams would come true. As a naive 22 year old, I could not understand how the thing I wanted to do in life was out of my reach.
Time forced me to move forward and I landed somewhere else. Although the pain of rejection lingered, I realized that the old adage is true: "life begins at the end of your comfort zone". With endeavoring to get into law school, I took a chance on something outside of my comfort zone. I failed. But I gained so much more in the process of failing.
Failure brought me long lasting relationships with people—relationships I otherwise would not have encountered had I not attempted to follow my dreams. Failure led me to a profession in which I am able to educate young adults and encourage them to pursue their dreams (just as my teachers did for me).
And now I’m doing it again: I’m pursuing a dream that may or may not land me on the sun; but I’m jumping anyway.