Balancing Being Selfish and Selfless

I spent my entire summer absorbed in my own mess and conflicted dilemmas.  I stopped working on all of my projects to focus on studying for the Maryland Bar and barely took a moment to even think about anyone else and their feelings.  I shut myself off from the rest of the world, because the only important thing to me at that moment was passing the Bar exam.  Looking back on that time, I cannot decide if that was a right or wrong decision.  I thought I was making the right decision at that time, but in hindsight I became someone who I never wanted to be; completely self-absorbed in myself.

From the end of May to the last week in July, I only had enough space in my head to think about myself.  Honestly for the past 11 years, some of my family members feel as if I have only thought about myself.  I went off to college and rarely came home.  I spent more holidays and summers with friends instead of planning activities with my family.  Coming home was always a chore and being there wasn’t always an enjoyable experience, so I kept it short and sweet.  Although I did not think I was being selfish, some feel that way and today I can start to see why.

Being selfish is always looked at as a negative thing.  It is viewed as a character flaw instead of a strength.  After having a 2 hour-long conversation with one of my favorite cousins, she said to me, “I finally understand why you left here and never looked back.  You have to be selfish sometimes to get where you want to be in life.”  She gets it.  Although she is my favorite cousin, we have not had the best relationship over the past few years.  We always seemed to be on the same side of things until recently.  Suddenly I was enemy number one and she became the voice that was going to bring me back to reality.  She learned that I don’t allow those type of relationships to burden me and I silence voices that aren’t here to help or encourage.

During our last conversation she finally began to understand that being selfish is not a character flaw, but a calculated decision to be focused enough to get to the next level instead of being stagnated by the opinions of others.  There are times in your life where being selfish is a form of survival.  Many people give until they are empty and have nothing left for themselves.  Being self-less can be a greater character flaw than being selfish.  Your emptiness can be more detrimental than being fully focused on your goals and dreams.

I can finally admit that I am selfish.  I can finally admit that I can be self-less at times, but I am mostly selfish.  I am learning to accept that as an asset and not a flaw.  I am doing what I think is best to be balanced, but you cannot always stop and explain to people why you do what you do, but most importantly you just have to know that what you are doing is in your best interest.

Right now I am in a self-less mode.  I am trying to change the world.  Literally.  I am still working on my own personal ventures, but most of my energy is going to initiatives that are greater than just me and mines.

Being balanced is hard.  It is truly a constant process.  I am a work in progress.  Pray for me on this journey. Be you.  Do you.  Tell your own story.  On your own terms.

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Trying to Focus

When you are not settled and going through so many changes, it is hard to focus and blog.  I have started so many blog posts and had so many ideas, but I can’t find my flow or the rights words to finish them.  My best blogs have popped up in my head and flew off of my fingers, so I am slow to post ones that take a lot of energy to complete.  I am in a transitory period and I am not in touch with my balanced and centered self.  My heart is South Carolina with grandma and my soul is in Maryland holding down the fort.  The most important pieces of me are not close and that leaves me feeling very imbalanced.

This adjustment period was necessary and would have been so much harder with my son.  I needed the time and energy to make good decisions and to find a rhythm.  My son won’t be coming into chaos but a mom who is settled in at work, settled into a new apartment, and has set up his new educational experience at a center close to our house.  I hate that I cannot see my little boy and I miss him terribly, but these past few months have shown me how much he needs consistency.

I want to blog when my heart is totally in it and I can relay the message that I know is needed.  I do not have a quota to fill so I am going to focus on quality and not quantity.  When something hits me and I can put out a few hundred words I will, but bear with me until I get the pieces of me back together! I am learning so much about myself and my purpose and I cannot wait to share the lessons that have been revealed to me over this rough summer, after making a huge move, and after seeing my failing bar results.  I have grown more in the past month than I have in the past year! 2014 has been rough but I will not let any of it be in vain.

Do not force your greatness.  Do not pre-release your wisdom.  Let your lessons be a natural light.  Be you.  Do you.  Tell your own story.  On your own terms.

My Advice to Future RN/JDs: Keep Your Foot In All Doors

A student from Howard School of Nursing called to ask me to donate and I politely declined because in the words of my Twinnie, “I ain’t got it!”  She followed up with a few questions about becoming an RN/JD and 20 minutes later I had given her advice that I wished someone would have given to me.


In the end, I would not have done things differently, but I would have done things better.

1.  Keep your job in healthcare, even if it is just PRN.

If I would have kept my previous position, I would have had 6 years of active nursing experience instead of just 3.  I also would have had an easier time finding a position in that current healthcare system as a long-term employee.  I could have increased my hours after I took the bar, to help me in my post grad transition.  I quit my job because it was difficult balancing school and work initially and the administration convinced me that I could not work and do well my first year.  Do not listen to that.  Staying busy sometimes helps you focus and properly prioritize your time.

2. If you have a specialized career path, go to a school that has the resources to assist you with breaking into that field.

Although my law school had a previous RN/JD & have quite a few alumni in healthcare positions, I did not connect with them until I was in the middle of my job search.  There are a few law schools that have health care law certificate programs, concentrations in health care, or a course load that allows you to get more in-depth knowledge with policy and healthcare.  I did not think that my path was that special or that I would need a lot of assistance in obtaining a policy or healthcare associate position, but a different school could have possibly expanded my potential opportunities.

3.  Make time for extracurricular activities that can connect you with people in your future field.

I cannot make any excuses as to why I was not more involved in the ABA or other organizations that had a host of healthcare lawyers.  Although I was encouraged to join them, I did not feel that I had the time.  One thing you forget in law school is how to balance and in doing so, you can miss out on very important connections that you may need in the future.

4. Your career path is special and you should highlight that often.

One thing I could have done better was highlighting my transferable skills clearly.  Many people see my resume and do not understand why a nurse would want to be a lawyer, despite the millions of current issues that intersect with healthcare, policy, and the law.  People need to understand the why although you think that it is obvious.  Being able to have practical patient  experience that involves very calculated decision-making and collaboration is key to being in policy or in legal positions.  Do not shrink yourself to seem normal when you are not.

5. Do not be afraid to ask for help from those who have been hired to help you.

I made the mistake of not reaching out to Career Services until I had put in over 60 plus applications.  I thought that I would be able to land a position with the resources I had.  The Career Services Office is there to help you and connect you with the right people.  It is all about who you know, even more so in this current job market.  Although you may look great on paper, people may not even look at that paper if they don’t have a reason to pull your resume.

6. Keep an open mind.

Although my back up plan was to go back to nursing, I never though that I would really go back into nursing.  I know that some people may see this as a step backwards, but financially it is 10 steps forward and now I am apart of a healthcare organization that may be able to use all of the skills that I have obtained over my 8 years of schooling.  Do not be afraid to take an untraditional path to the right position.  You will always be a nurse and your  skills will always be valued.  Make sure you don’t keep yourself from a great opportunity because you have a plan that you do not want to deter from.

I wish someone would have told me a few of these things.  I may have listened or learned on my own but I want the next person to know better and do better.

Keep your foot in all doors.  Always think ahead and of the potential issues that can arise.  Maintain your nursing license.  Be you.  Do you.  Tell your own story.  On your own terms.

Processing the Pain Properly

For the past year I have been looking for the right opportunity that would combine both of my degrees and experience.  I started the search and application process for positions as a 3L, and I just knew that I would be starting a new job soon after taking the bar.  After not hearing back from many of the opportunities I applied for and receiving many rejections, I began to increase my search, get creative, and network like crazy.  Although I felt that I had a lot of support and even a few potential opportunities, nothing seemed to pan out.  At various points through this process I was close to having an interview that would lead to one of my dream positions, and suddenly everything would suddenly fall through.  I could not understand why these things were happening to me, despite all of the work I had put in over my lifetime.  Arrogance.  Here is where I made my biggest mistake.

I wrongfully assumed that just because I sowed in many ways that I would reap my harvest when I was ready for it.  I wrongfully assumed that I did not deserve to go through this lull because I had been doing the work.  I wrongfully assumed that I had the credentials to get me into every door and I should be being recruited, instead of applying for jobs that I probably was over qualified for.  We all know that assumptions are wrong, especially those made about a life that you cannot completely control.

Instead of believing that something greater was coming, I was bitter that it was not here right now.  Instead of focusing on being able to sustain and still keeping things together, I focused on the things that I could have been doing if I was working.  But then I was reminded of why I left my job back in 2011.  I was extremely unhappy, my previous positions lacked autonomy, and I did not feel that I was appreciated or encouraged to grow.  After I realized that I never wanted to go back to being into that type of situation, I sat back and became patient again.

With my renewed patience I began to process my pain.  I realized that I needed to be humbled.  I had to begin to understand that I was not above growth.  I felt that I was doing so much that I did not need to grow in any area of my life because I was DOING things.  I did not have to pray more, focus more, read more, balance more, love more or think more.  I did not feel that I had to be fixed because I had made it this far being who I was.  Once I started to process my pain, I realized the agony came from me pushing against the process instead of learning as I endured.

It is hard to tell someone to enjoy the pain.  It is not easy to convince yourself that these feelings of depression are only temporary.  I acknowledged that these feelings are normal but I allowed them to consume me.  I allowed my situation to take over my outlook.  Even when I was able to come up for air, something would happen that would make me feel that I needed to stay under in order to survive.

When I began to take control of the things I had power over, I started to feel better.  Updating my financial spreadsheet and creating a debt elimination plan helped me see that I was not too far under or behind to catch back up.  Reconnecting with my friends and having very frank conversations about my personal struggles helped us all to see that we are all going through and growing continuously.  Finally, not being so hard on myself for being upset that I am unemployed was an okay feeling to have and there should only be an issue if I ever lost the desire to work despite my dreams and aspirations.  This feeling of uneasiness pushed me to continue applying, to continue asking for help from others, to continue exposing my vulnerability and need for others to survive.

For all of these things I am grateful.  I am still processing my current pain and hope to go through my next valley with a better mindset.  I am growing and growth is a beautiful thing.  Be you.  Do you.  Tell your own story.  On your own terms.

Law School. Check. Bar. Check. Job…

Everyone has their life planned out in their head to work out perfectly at every stage of their life.  Once we finish high school we plan to get into the college of our choice without having to worry about how to fund our education.  After we finish college we plan to land the perfect job that pays great and makes all of those late nights, exams and stressful moments worth it.  We plan to grow at our jobs or obtain all of the skills we need to get a better job and build our career.  After enjoying our early 20s we decide we want more and go back for an advanced degree to open even more doors.  After obtaining our post-graduate degree, we plan to walk into our dream job, make a difference and save the world.  Many of these plans work out but we are never prepared for the bumps along the road.

Many of these things were possible pre-recession and actually happened for a lot of people who are only a few years my senior.  Those of us entering into the market post 2008 experienced many unplanned bumps that derailed many of these well-intentioned plans.  Throughout undergrad, I was able to obtain jobs fairly quickly and build up my resume.  I  landed my dream job out of college.  I left that job and immediately started another job in DC.  I went back to law school thinking that we had passed over the roughest part of the downturn and we have, but the market will never be back to the pre-recession glory of jobs and opportunities galore.

I left my job as a bedside nurse so that I would have more autonomy over decisions that were being made in healthcare and for my patients.  I loved my job but I did not like the politics.  Politics in healthcare harm patients and undermine the mission and values of the healthcare industry.  I left my job because I wanted to be happy and I decided that my next job would be something that I loved, doing what I love and building up to my forever job.

This mindset kept me from applying to just any job, taking just any salary or just doing something to get a check.  I made great money coming out of undergrad, so I know that I cannot make any less than that, but additionally I know my value.  The issue is getting others to see my value and getting the position that will allow me to use my skills while growing as a health care advocate.  I just want to be happy and to grow within an organization.  It sounds simple but I know that it is so much more complex.

Everything does not work out as planned but that does not mean that we made any missteps or should have done anything differently.  We have to believe in the good times and bad times that our steps are ordered and the desires of our heart will lead us to the right place.  I am not here to just build my resume but to actually achieve my goals of changing the world and improving the healthcare industry.  This time is just a test of my patience and to see if I will stick to my guns or fold under pressure.  I know the right opportunity is coming and when it does, I will be glad that I waited.

Throughout life we can plan with the best intentions but bumps will come, foreseeable and unforeseeable.  Through these moments we have to hang on tightly and stay focused on our end goal.  Having a support system in place is vital and helps to maintain your sanity, stay encouraged and stay the course.  After you have checked off all of your goals and one remains, know that the last check is coming in due time.

Focused. Check. Patient. Check. Grateful. Check.  Job…soon to be checked. Be you.  Do you.  Tell your own story.  On your own terms.

Job Seeker (Entry level risk management, healthcare policy, healthcare advocacy, healthcare law): www.linkedin.com/pub/irnise-fennell-williams-jd-rn/52/304/b60/

If I Listened to Society, I Would Have Never Succeeded

Children like me are not supposed to graduate from high school early.  They are not supposed to go to a great college or university.  They are not supposed to finish and get their dream job.  They are not supposed to get dissatisfied with their career and go back to a great college or university for a second degree.  They are supposed to have a baby out-of-wedlock but they are not supposed to marry their child’s father.  Children like me are not supposed to own a home, complete a second degree and have opportunities to choose from.

If I listened to society’s message about being black, motherless, fatherless, poor or a mother before I planned, I would have never succeeded.  If I listened to society’s message about the value of an education at HBCUs, I would have never fought to stay at Howard every semester and would not have went back to Howard, declining scholarship opportunities at other law schools.  If I listened to society’s message about balancing a family and your dreams, I would not be investing all of my free time into making my dreams turn into a reality.

Society has a way of shaming, demeaning and humiliating women, mothers, poor people, minorities, working parents, those who are not sexual conformists or sexual purists, and anyone who attempts to advocate or speak up for these groups.  The messages that are highlighted in mainstream media, backed by “policies” and shown through biased images oppress, silence and discredit these groups. The instant and ease of access to social media, video recording and outlets that connect millions of people together have only begun to shed light on the truth of who we really are and who we can become.

YouTube videos, blogs, Instagram and Twitter hashtags have connected people from different walks of life who have endured similar experiences.  These mediums have allowed us to see that many of us are more alike than we are different, that we are powerful and we are beautifully complex and interesting. We have been exposed to amazing people with unique backgrounds, survivors of horrendous crimes and minorities who are making a difference in their communities locally, nationally and internationally.   We are beginning to accept that poor people are not the enemy and breastfeeding in public should be supported and not shamed.  We are applauding working parents, stay-at-home moms and dads and those who chose to do what makes sense for their own families at that time.  We are beginning to accept that civil rights should be equally applied to everyone despite who they love.  We are respecting the talent and value of a person despite their sexual identity.

The exposure to the possibilities of life and the truth of our existence has transpired because we have stopped listening to society.  We have taken control of our stories, the images we consume and strengthened our power by rejecting the limited scenarios that we have been offered to choose from.  Our power is to be feared.  An open and aware mind cannot be controlled.

They said I would never make it.  They said I should not go to college.  They said I would not finish college.  They assumed I would never find a job.  They thought I would become like my mother.  They wished that I would give up.  They hoped I would stop believing. Their words, thoughts and wishes did not work against me because I did not listen to them. I have succeeded because I did not allow them to define my success.

Stop listening. Succeed.  Be you.  Do you.  Tell your own story.  On your own terms.

When I Want to Give Up, I Remember the Why

Over the past 9 1/2 weeks, I have gone through a roller coaster of emotions.  It all started with the excitement of beginning the first steps to completing the final hurdle to complete freedom.  This soon glided into the endless feeling of being overwhelmed with the amount of information that I needed to consume daily, which then lead to mental exhaustion that made me fly back to feeling overwhelmed.  Then a sudden breath-taking drop came with the death of my grandfather, followed by the slow progression back to a level of focus that I needed to be productive and progressing towards being polished.

During many of the unproductive, completely overwhelmed and paralyzed due to exhaustion days, I wanted to throw in the towel, close the books, stop writing essays and stop practicing multiple choice questions, because I clearly was not going to make it to the end of this process better prepared than when I started.  I did not see the progress.  I felt that I was getting the same types of questions wrong and missing the same issues on the essays.  I decided that I would just go back to my old life, my old career, because I was never going to be ready for this daunting exam.  I kept telling myself everyday, “You are behind. You will never catch up.”  When I needed to rest all I could think was, “I am behind. I can sleep when I pass!”  I was angry at myself, at my lack of progress and at the idea of having to tell people that I quit.

Then after going months without seeing my son and days where he wouldn’t talk to me on the phone, we were able to connect with him on the iPad and I saw his precious face.  “Hi mommy. Hi daddy. Mommy. Daddy. Daddy. Mommy.”  In that moment, all of my stress, anxiety and fear melted away.  The only thing that was important was our special gift.  His smile, his laugh, his kisses…all of the things that I missed and the exact thing I needed to see to get my mind back in order.  After speaking with him and seeing his face, I realized that I cannot quit because I have someone watching my every step; basking in my successes and pushing me through my failures.

My son is my WHY.  For some people it is a car, a job or a vacation spot. For others it may be their mother telling them that she is so proud of them or standing next to their father who was sworn in as an attorney at the same place 30 years ago.  What your WHY is does not matter, knowing what your WHY is does.  If you do not have a WHY, you will give up during a breakdown MOMENT, instead of waiting a MOMENT longer and reaching your breakthrough.

After refocusing on my WHY.  I stopped telling myself that I was behind, and instead I told myself that I was where I needed to be.  Suddenly a burden lifted from my shoulders and I had renewed energy to make my WHY proud and complete the mission I set off to accomplish.  When you reach that moment where you cannot go on anymore, stop focusing on the negative, pessimistic or potentially disastrous outcomes and focus your energy on the positive, optimistic, and successful outcomes that you have worked hard to reach.  Focus on your WHY.  Keep pushing for your WHY.  Never give up because your WHY is waiting for you on the other side.

Your WHY won’t ever let you give up, so don’t give up on your WHY.  Why you do this.  Why this matters.  Why failure is not an option.  Why you can.  Why.  Stay the course.  Persevere.  Push through the pain.  Be you.  Do you.  Tell your own story.  On your own terms.