As a young person, how often are you asked by an adult, “What do you do?”
Once a week? Twice a month? Every day?
How often do you stand there, shuffling through all of your memories, trying to condense your life experiences into something easily consumable; from the lessons of trauma to the joys of a breeze, to the anxiety of discontinued projects or the elation of newfound passions.
I will admit that the pressure to network, discover, and explore D.C. can feel like an oversized shirt. Sometimes I feel like I am swimming in the fabric, my sense of self obscured by cloth, while other days I hike up my jeans, strap on a belt, and tighten my bootstraps. As a first generation, low-income student, the pressure to establish a legacy can feel overwhelming.
So, what does it mean to “do”?
As a young, queer human of color, to “do” is to “exist” and that existence requires that I consciously balance my most precious resource on Earth: time. However, my time here in D.C. is limited and there is so much I would like to do.
So, the question then becomes: How can I maximize my 8 weeks here? How will what I do here in D.C., contribute to who I am?
I consider myself a social entrepreneur, a storyteller and an advocate. As the co-founder and originating designer of a scholarship program in my hometown, I am committed to expanding access to socioeconomic resources for youth, to listen to their stories, identify a need, and prepare them for what’s to come.
For a while I struggled to find a way to translate my skills into a career. That is when I discovered the Frank Karel Fellowship in Public Interest Communications (PIC). Through this Fellowship and this field, I found a way to combine the skills of a budding Anthropologist, storyteller, and advocate.
For my Fellowship I was matched with Martha’s Table, an organization that provides fresh, no-cost produce and pantry items, as well as work clothes and infant items to local community members. They also offer low-cost early childhood care and family support.
So far I’ve been given the opportunity to photograph events, interview staff and community members, and tell stories through blogs. I’ve also created flyers, pulled research, drafted press releases, and organized data. I lighten the load of my co-workers. That is my job here in D.C., to be a resource and not a burden.
These responsibilities inspire me to explore who I am here. Led by their first black CEO, Kim Ford, the staff at Martha’s Table represents a mosaic of colors who bridge their differences to meet the needs of their community. They have built an environment that has inspired me to explore where I can be most effective.
So when I am asked, “what do I do?” I politely respond, “Who am I? Well…let me tell you a story.”
The details of the story vary depending on who’s asking. But it is always a story that represents the various experiences that I have lived as a first generation, low-income, queer human of color who is a social entrepreneur, an advocate, and a storyteller. My mentors, family members and friends have taught to take pride in my failures and successes. The story of resilience and determination make up who I am.
So, I realize that it is not necessarily “what you do” but rather, “who you are” that determines your sense of success and opens new doors of opportunity.