Be Original, Be Yourself – Thanks Mom

The ACPA opening speaker Cory Booker, Mayor of Newark New Jersey, shared one of his favorite quotes by Abraham Lincoln, “Every man is born an original, but sadly, most men die copies.” This was one of the many amazing, inspiring, and hilarious things he had to say, it was also one of the more powerful things for me.

I have a strong personality and a lot of conviction. I am also very assertive. In short, I am not the girl you want to ask, “Do these jeans make my butt look big?”, because I will tell you the truth. I was taught to be strong willed, independent, hard working, and to have unshakable conviction in my family and faith. I am assertive and I a love constructive feedback, it challenges me to grow both personally and professionally.  In life in general, I find that people either love me or hate me for these qualities.

Professionally, supervisors find this to be difficult to navigate, especially supervisors who suggest, “You should be more like me.” As a graduate student and professional staff member over the past five years, I have had eight supervisors. Do the math, it’s not cute. Of these supervisors, a select few allowed me to be original and be myself but pushed me to be the best professional version of myself I could be. They served as sounding boards, gave me positive and constructive feedback, understood my priorities and helped me understand theirs, gave me the freedom to be myself, and pushed me to be better. I am grateful to these people and would like to Thank You specifically to Cyndy R., Kim F., Jill C., and Marquita R.

On a personal level, my mom, Lori, has instilled countless values that make me the original person that I am. She is the definition of strong and independent. When told or treated by others to laugh a little less loud, keep quiet and not express my opinion, not take credit for my work, not stand up for myself, etc. my mom has always told me that these were not, in fact, options at all. She made me understand that I should never settle for something less than who I am and will grow to be. To her and for her, I am eternally grateful and proud. She is my backbone, my harshest critic, and my biggest fan.

How do you maintain a sense of self? What circumstances and people have helped you become a better version of yourself? How are you original? Who encourages you to be this way? How do you encourage others?

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