A man’s gift maketh room for him, and bringeth him before great men. Proverbs 18:16
This is something that my mom would always say to me when I was growing up. It was something that I honestly got tired of hearing. What was my gift? What room would it make for me? Why would anyone see a loud laughing, spunky black woman and think – HER, She’s the one that I want to work with – to lead my mission – to talk about my product. And then last week happened. My time at the Mom 2.0 Summit ended with the Iris Awards and one of the biggest surprises of my life. People valued my gift. When I texted her to let her know that we won, she responded with the exact scripture I posted above, and we came full circle.
I was nominated for Iris Awards in two categories. Mom Blog of the year and Philanthropic Work of the Year. I was hopeful about winning one of them – Philanthropic Work of the Year for the We Sow We Grow Project – but the other – Mom Blog of the Year didn’t have me wishing for a win, because I knew that there were far more people out there who didn’t think I was worthy of the honor, and I let that get in my head.
But I did win. In BOTH categories. Looking back at video clips shared with me, I realize that I sat for a good long time after my name was called, not believing that I was supposed to be honored in this way. You see, all the other winners in this category were WELL KNOWN. Liked. Meek. Always smiling. Quiet. Yet we had one thing in common, we were firm with what we wanted to and chose to share about our families. We tell our story our way.
Let’s tell a little bit of a story, shall we? Actually, let’s not. I was going to give the people who told me I COULDN’T a platform today, and it’s just not in me. Today, I want to honor those folks who said I could. Who consistently showed up for me when I got quiet or became a little too rough on myself. Some of them I’m close with, some of them are just online associates, but they still came through with the right words at the right time to move me forward in the way I should be going.
In the past year I’ve shared stories about our family that I didn’t expect to. Our journey to sending our oldest child to college. Our first summer of “lasts.” and realizing that I only have three more of those to go. Our Route 66 series. I talked about how parenting frays the edges of your emotions but leaves you open for so much more. I’ve shared a little more of my heart than I planned on doing. Sure, it’s easy to paint a pretty picture with sponsored content and perfectly edited photos, but getting down to the nitty-gritty in a house with six personalities and sharing that with the world takes a vulnerability that I wasn’t ready to really show. And then Nathaniel became a high school senior. And then my oldest daughter turned 10 way too fast. The twins lost their baby fat, and then I lost my uterus – well not really – I know where it ended up, but you get the gist.
This space can be discouraging. You have people who want to see you fail. Who ignore you until it’s necessary to pay attention because of facades that they have created within the community. You have people who don’t even know why they dislike you because they’ve created so many different reasons to share with people that they can’t even look you in your eye. They’ll applaud you instead because appearing likeable is more important to them than appearing honest. Those people aren’t yours to deal with. They aren’t your audience, they aren’t who you should want to impress. They won’t lift you up. Then there are other people you’ll meet. People who you take an early morning uber ride from a conference and sit and talk with until your plane starts boarding. It’s amazing that Amanda’s words from three years ago perfectly sums up everything about this past Friday’s awards night. There will be people who friend request you and you check them out from afar before introducing yourself because you have to make sure they are legit. Alice has become a friend and prayer partner. Of course, there are friends who you bond with in a way
Then there are the rooms that you find yourself in, not really knowing how you got there. Of course, you work hard, but you work hard in a way that others do, yet they aren’t here. That’s not your worry either. Your gift makes room for YOU. Didn’t get an invite to that brand dinner? You weren’t supposed to be in that room. Didn’t get that sponsored campaign, that wasn’t your jam. I’m about staying in my lane. It may be a lonely and unexciting race when it comes to writing, but it’s one that will always be rewarded greatly. Sometimes in duplicate.
I do want to genuinely thank everyone of you who nominated me, voted for me, didn’t vote for me, spat at your computer when you saw my name. It’s okay. It happens. I want to especially thank the supporters. The TRUE supporters. Those of you with words of kindness when you saw that everything wasn’t going well with me. Instead of sitting an observing, you got in the trenches.
For those of you who have extended our community into true friendships. I’ve learned that opening myself up to enjoy brand new friendships has been one of the most challenging things I’ve made myself do. I used to say I don’t like people – when that’s not exactly true. I just don’t like rude people. People packs that thrive on sowing discord.
Allow your gift to make room for you, and get comfortable being in a lot more rooms the more you do.