Recently, I had the great pleasure of attending a book signing for one of Cleveland’s own iconic “Hidden Figures”. If you have seen the movie or read the book, you know that these two terms are used to characterize three amazing women with beautiful mathematical minds whose work was hidden behind the scenes of racial divide and discrimination. You will soon see why I use the terms to describe Mr. Robert P. Madison, the first African American architect in the state of Ohio, who endured many of the same challenges along his path toward becoming an architect! His trailblazing rise to national and international recognition is intriguing to say the least.
You will have to read his book, Designing Victory: A Memoir to receive the entire story, but I will share with you a story he shared at his event and why I connected so deeply with it. During the book signing event, Mr. Madison shares that when he was 6 years old, he was playing and drawing as young people that age often do to pass the time. He wasn’t drawing anything particularly recognizable, but as he explains it, he drew only one line! When he shows his mother, she responds as many often would…telling him how GREAT his line was and then, plants the seed, “You know what? One day, you’re going to be an architect!”. Hearing him tell the story made me emotional. A six year old, offered a vision and dream during a time when no one would ever consider anyone of color in this type of position. She did not falter. She continued nurturing this dream and he ran with it! He is 96 years old today, sharing with me and several others how he made that one line and a dream become a reality of reputable proportions.
In my 47 years of life, as I’ve grown and experienced life, the one thing I’ve always known is that I wanted to have a positive impact on the community. Quite honestly, on the world! I had no idea how I would do this, but I knew that I wanted to contribute to making the world better. I worked small jobs as a teenager and enjoyed working in customer service. I have had two long term careers, first in the mental health field, then in education, for which I am currently employed. This is over a span of about 30 years and still, I feel like I’m trying to figure my life out.
I’ve been a classroom teacher for 18 years, but for the last five, the love I’ve had for the practice has been changing. It’s been harder and harder to motivate myself to even enter the school building and in turn, an even greater challenge to motivate my students. I began to reflect on what was causing my distress. For two and a half years, I was an Instructional Coach and LOVED it! Providing professional development and training teachers was fulfilling and brought me joy! It was time for something to change and that was the direction I decided to go. This didn’t mean leaving education altogether, but I wanted to impact the field in a different way and I wanted to begin with the teachers. I began to dream of working for myself as a consultant in education. In 2014, I founded Transitions Educational Consulting, LLC. This was it! My dream! But at this point, that is all it was…a dream.
Here and there, I was already working the business, but as a classroom teacher, it’s not easy to do and make the type of impact I truly desired. Year after year, I’d become more and more unhappy with my status, wanting to do and be more! To reach farther and impact greater! That is, until March of this year when I made one of the biggest decisions I could make. After great thought, I finally decided to follow my dreams! I felt that my current career was holding me back, so, I have decided to leave the classroom! I have been talking about it for 5 years, but moving very slowly with little of a plan to drive me forward. Now, I will have the time to develop new relationships and create new opportunities for teachers that I have been unable to do before. I’m excited that now, without restrictions, I will be able to impact education the way I envision.
Mr. Madison, and the many like him, have inspired me in such a great way. At such a young age, he decided that, from that line, he would continue drawing, learning, challenging limits, and blazing a trail for others to follow. Although it has taken me 5 years to get to this place, the most important thing I did was….decide!
Right now, there is someone reading this having the same internal battle I have had for years. I encourage you. Don’t sit on your dreams or limit yourself to what you think your life is supposed to be. Dream BIG and then…dream even BIGGER! Be confident that YOU can be the one to impact change in your community! All you have to do is decide to do it and that is often the hardest step to take! Think about it, if a 6 year old can do it and live to talk about at age 96, then you can to! Just… DECIDE!