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What makes you you?

I have been reading Steve Jobs biography. I am about 100 pages in and he has been consistently open about the trauma of his adoption. As an adult he acknowledges a lot of anger, rage, and sorrow and abandonment for being given up. Up to this point, he has focused a lot on how it shaped him. He was clearly a very driven man, very passionate, extremely spiritual yet a razor-sharp edge that would cut his employees, friends, whoever was in his path instantly. Up until today, I didn’t understand how he could have been in touch with feeling abandoned. He was adopted within days of being born and his parents were open about what they knew. Yet, he was just as obsessed about this as he was with what he was eating and not bathing.

He grew up in an area of California where technology was it. His neighborhood was full of engineers, people who worked for companies like Atari and HP. I guess I just figured Apple just became Apple and this story is teaching me it happened one step at a time and by a man who walked a delicate line between being completely driven by it to entertaining the notion of walking away completely. A fascinating dichotomy and incongruence to navigate. Is that like what my spiritual teacher and others keeping talking about—Destruction=Life, Love/Hate, Black/White. Everything is the opposite of itself and they are both one and of the same. Everything/Nothing. Beautiful/Ugly. Is that the trick to having everything, in instant it could be gone and it will all be ok.

When I was a professor, I clenched it tightly and thought it was my whole life, all that I wanted to be and I was nothing without. Six years ago, I stopped being a professor and I still mention it when I tell folks about my 2minute career story. I literally had my career ripped away and handed back all torn and tattered. I refused it because I could not accept that path for myself.

Icouldn’t let another abuse me to such a raw point of character assassination, manipulation, conspiracy, and emotional rape. I say emotional rape because I have never been raped and I feel the experience of having those in power make up a lie, scare those around me into questioning my integrity, professionalism, then isolating me and making me feel like it was my fault. Getting set up to take a fall, to dismantle a group that I was leading without even realizing it, in the name of professional survival.

Who knew the stakes were so high? I certainly didn’t. I thought I was working for the inclusion and social responsibility we all wanted. I didn’t understand the depths of faculty politics and presidential administrations.  Tests of allegiance, allies, enemies, camps—it should be the next reality sitcom—Faculty. They could follow 5 new faculty on one campus and capture all the hazing, backstabbing, and public humiliation that all happens in the name of tenure and paying dues.

The experience of losing all that I thought I had and was–was truly life changing. I rose like phoenix and continue to rise. As Maya Angelou says, “I rise.” Read her poem below out loud and tell me what comes up—

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

About Joy Rain

Joy has been a diversity and inclusion consultant and mediator for over ten years. Prior to consulting, she was professor of Psychology and Women Studies. Joy has a Master of Arts in Psychology (Boston University) and a Master of Education in Social Justice Education (UMASS Amherst).

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