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Balancing Black Ambition and Self Preservation

By: Lynette A. Shaw

As a Black woman growing up with Generation Z, the expectations to perform well and represent my ethnicity are boundless. However, as a recent college graduate (Bachelor's in Psychology), and incoming graduate student, I am beginning to realize that much of the pressure I feel to perform well is often coming from within. I graduated from undergrad in three years, with my final semester consisting of 23 credit hours (7 classes). It was strongly advised that this may be an unwise decision, and I was elated when I received an email from the Dean cautiously signing off on my maximum course overload. At the time, I was working two jobs and maintaining two internships. At times, I began to wonder why I was so married to the idea of graduating early. When people asked me "why", I retorted, "why not?". It had been a serious ambition of mine since high school. Part of me believes this is because I like a challenge. It had nothing to do with pleasing my parents or proving myself. It was something I knew I could do, so I did it. I graduated Magna Cum Laude in May of 2022.

As I reflect on this past summer, I can genuinely say I relaxed and practiced serious self-care. I can't tell you what happened the first two weeks after graduation, because I was sleeping. I had to teach myself that it was okay to recuperate and rejuvenate before graduate school. With graduate school on the horizon in a few weeks, it dawned on me that success is no good if you are not practicing self-preservation and care. I used this summer for reflection and good old-fashioned fun! On the one hand, I could let the approaching of graduate school trigger my anxieties and fears, or I could appreciate the calm before the storm and bask in the last few moments of summer. I am excited to see what graduate school has in store for me, as I am one step closer to my dream. Going into the field of counseling psychology has provided me with a lot of time for self-reflection, and has caused me to ponder the phrase, "you can't pour from an empty cup" which was once said by a social worker by the name of Joseph Fleming. I think this phrase serves as an appropriate mantra for women of color when we experience fatigue, exhaustion, stress, and frustration. I believe it is incredibly important to remember this as we enter the new academic year.


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