It was the best and worst of times - that was the consistent thought throughout this trip. I didn’t think I was really going to leave up until maybe the day of. My significant other saw the dread in my eyes, “You don’t wanna go, do you?” That answer was hard. My body wanted to go, but my mind was elsewhere. My week hadn’t gone as planned. I waited until the last second to shop for necessities in which I still didn’t have exactly everything but I KNEW I couldn’t back out of this trip.

During these months I was no stranger to canceling. My to-do list was far too overrun - something was ALWAYS pending. My boundaries were shot. I couldn’t say no to even save my own life and peace. I’d always take on too much, and eventually, something fell short. I hated doing this because truthfully, I was a timely, organized, put-together person, but my flow of life at this time was not conducive to keeping that up, so my true nature wasn’t really showing. This trip though, I knew I couldn’t cancel. I HAD to go. Not only because it was a major opportunity, but also because I needed to get away. I needed to throw my things in a bag - with what little I had - and just take off.

Where was I going?

I was heading to a national conference for my profession’s society - ASCLS (American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science). I was lucky enough to even be featured on their Labora-story (Check out BRIDGE BUILDER here). I had been graciously been awarded a travel grant for first time attendees since I was a recent graduate and applied. This was huge! To be in a room full of scientists with degrees ranging from bachelors to doctorates. I wanted to learn more about my field and network as a new blogger and young professional. I wanted to see how little 'ole me could advocate.

The trip ended up going amazingly. Although at times I felt small, I was HERE! My proudest moment came from the closing keynote session where the question came up whether being an “advocate” and “activist” were interchangeable following a discussion of if medical professionals had a duty to protest. I was quite nervous, but in my pieced-together outfit, hair wrapped like a melanated queen, I slowly put one foot in front of the other and made my way to the mic and gave my answer.

(Picture taken in front of a mural of Sandra Bland, David McAfee, Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd that had been vandalized just days prior in Louisville, Kentucky.)

I was elated by the praise and remarks I receive as I encouraged those that were hesitant of protesting that advocacy comes with levels. I stated that you must get active in the spaces you feel comfortable in the way that fit you - just do something! That is another story for another day, though. I was just excited that day to be in the number and be present even though during the weeks prior my body would show up to places but my mind would still be elsewhere.

On the last day and perhaps as our last hoorah, my boyfriend, now fiancé, and I wanted to see a few landmarks. We drove to some stadiums, found a Jackie Robinson plaque, but a special moment was us driving up to Churchill Downs where he snapped the following of me…

I look back to this photo today and reflect on how highly depressed and anxious I was off and on during these months. It amazes me how someone struggling so much inwardly could be so accomplished outwardly. I look at the photo and almost want to cry because I see it in my eyes, but what I also see is a fighter. Despite how she felt then, she got me here. I share this as a testament that yes, things get better. I made a lot of changes from then and now to get here. Some are practical - I’ve cut down on caffeine a whole lot, upped my vitamins, and started caring for myself more holistically. It’s a process, but I see the results unfolding. I also did a lot of healing. I sought out counseling, I started saying no and realizing that I’m not superwoman, and I switched out my closest circle to people who support my needs at this time. It’s easy to speak on now, but the process was UGLY. But I also felt ugly for a long time. Yes physically, but I felt ugly on the inside moreso. I knew something wasn’t right. So I decided to trade one ugly for another. If I didn’t stop everything and start to #unpack (Read “Packages” here) I would probably still be feeling the ugly. I won’t say every day now is easy, but it’s significantly better. That to me, was worth trading the ugly.

So the question is not if you’re doing, but today I genuinely ask, “how are you doing?”

Functioning just won’t cut it anymore.

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