Finding your safe and authentic space

Happy day, good people!

It’s been a second since I last updated the blog and with everything that has transpired over the past few weeks, it has taken me a minute to gather my thoughts, and simply reflect.

I’ve been doing quite a bit of traveling.

In fact, this past weekend I had the esteemed pleasure to attend and present at the annual American Association of Blacks in Higher Education (AABHE) conference,  a premiere organization that celebrates, supports and empowers African Americans working in areas of post-secondary education.

Both the conference and organization have been on my radar for a number of years and with my ongoing interest in first-generation professional identity, it was only fitting that I attend as it spoke to my most visible (and salient)  identity which is that of an African American male.

Being in the presence of same-race scholars from a variety of disciplines was truly a sight to behold. Even as I attempt to put my experience into words, I’m fearful that I may underscore the importance of the conference and the impact it had on me for those three days.

Yet as I reflect on the experience, I can only help but think of the initial reason I was drawn to the conference and why I elected to attend and actively participate.  Safe and authentic space is something each of us craves because it provides us with a  sense of belonging and also support.

Like most people, I too crave these things and have found myself searching for spaces where I can let my guard down and simply be me.

AABHE’s annual conference served as the perfect platform for me to let my hair down (ok, maybe this part is wishful thinking considering  I’ve been bald since my early 20s) and also satisfy a thirst that is often times unquenched.

To put it simply, each of us needs to be in spaces where our identities are affirmed and our stories are authentic. My lived experience as a first-generation practitioner working in higher education has made me reflect on these very things, and how our stories are often times cast aside.

It is imperative that we own, author, and articulate our stories in a way that is authentic and true to us.  This goal can be accomplished by identifying safe havens or spaces where we are built up and encouraged to be ourselves. Recognizing that I am not alone in the never-ending pursuit of space, I wanted to present a few ideas that could guide you along the way.

  • Assessing your values

As we age, grow, and mature so does our values. Being aware of our values within the context of life’s changing roles can help us to understand our true needs and the timing of our wants. In my role as a professional, my needs have evolved over time.Yet the timing of those needs has been influenced by various factors including life’s transition and a yearning for growth. My identity as a spouse and partner has led me to value collective growth rather than individual growth, while my identity as a professional has led me to value authenticity. The latter value (authenticity) was a driving force in me attending last week’s conference based on my desire to be in a space where I would be welcome without little condition. Awareness of my values simply reinforced my need which helped me to put things into perspective at a time when it was severely lacking. I recommend finding a space where you can be yourself by first assessing your values, and also connecting it to your purpose. This brings me to my next suggestion.

  • What is the why?

Think and reflect deeply on the real reason you’re craving authentic space. Could it be a void you’re trying to fill? Or could it be the opportunity to connect with others? For me, it was the combination of the two as I sought out a safe haven for me to express myself openly without fear of judgment. Sure, there are spaces in my life where I’m able to express myself. But are those spaces authentic enough for me undercover my mask and be vulnerable?  Beginning with your why can help to solidify your purpose, which can in turn purposely guide your desire to achieve space. This can be applied to many facets of your life including work and relationships you may hold dear such as those with family.

As I mentioned in my first entry, by no means am I  an expert in the area of authenticity.

But I recognize the importance of space and why each of us needs to find a safe haven. My experience at this year’s AABHE conference reinforced the need for authenticity and it is my hope that each of us takes a closer look at our values when considering our desire for space.

Until then, may your values dictate your every step in your pursuit of peace and happiness.

Authentically yours,

Marquis

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