As a child, I prayed a lot. My grandmother, a devoted Christian, instilled in me the importance of faith and routine. One of my earliest memories is our bedtime ritual. After dinner, my sister and I would wash up, brush our teeth, slip into our nighties, and then kneel by our grandmother's bedside to recite 'The Lord's Prayer.' After reciting 'Our Father,' our grandmother would guide us into a moment of gratitude. It was a time to reflect, to give thanks, and to acknowledge the blessings of the day. Then, only after our thank-yous, could we make a prayer request. Some days my request was for the Lord to grow my hair all the way down to my back like the girls at my school; other days, it was for the Lord to help my grandmother and mom make enough money to get the gas company to turn the heat back on. And often, I'd whisper a wish for a big house, one where I could have a room of my very own.
These childhood rituals taught me early lessons in hope and humility. They showed me the importance of appreciating what we have, while also nurturing dreams for the future. This balance of gratitude and aspiration has been a guiding force throughout my life. It's a reminder that even in our moments of need, there is always something to be thankful for.
As I embrace another year around the sun, I find myself reflecting on four decades of life. From those humble beginnings of praying beside my grandmother to navigating the tech world, my life has been a testament to the power of faith, hard work, and perseverance. With that in mind, I am drawn to share some invaluable lessons I've learned along my journey. Each one is a gem, honed through challenging and rewarding experiences. Here goes...
Chap 1-13: Love Yourself First
Growing up as a young Black girl in Southside Jamaica, Queens, I faced a constant struggle with my identity and race. The world around me seemed to elevate standards of beauty that favored whiteness, leaving little room for the appreciation of my own unique features. Colorism was and still is pervasive in our communities, and it made me question my own beauty and worth often.
Thankfully, my mother stood as a figure of resilience and strength in my life. She was a fine example of a proud Black woman, unapologetically embracing her Jamaican heritage and Black beauty. Through her unconditional love, she immersed me in literature and experiences that celebrated our rich culture and affirmed the beauty of my Blackness. I still remember the days of my mother coming home from work with magazines and images with words that affirmed Black is Beautiful. These experiences gradually helped me to unravel the complex layers of self-love.
Learning to embrace my identity, culture, and heritage has become a lifelong journey. It has taught me to appreciate and love the very things that made me unique. I’ve learned the journey of self-love and self-acceptance is fundamental in shaping your confidence and individuality. This lesson of self-love, seeded by my mother's wisdom, has become the bedrock upon which I stand today, unwavering, unshaken, and full of pride.
Chap 13-19: Resilience is Your Superpower
My teenage years brought their own set of challenges. My neighborhood was hit hard by the crack epidemic, and by the 90s, everything seemed to be spiraling out of control. I have vivid memories of seeing neighbors, once happy and vibrant, succumbing to the grips of addiction. Watching the transformation of my community from a lively, close-knit neighborhood to one overshadowed by the struggles of substance abuse was traumatic. Many who were affected are no longer with us, and some are still battling their demons today.
In addition to the community turmoil, I was navigating personal trials like my parents' divorce, the complex social dynamics of high school, and academic pressures. Given these challenges, I was mildly motivated in school. I was a C student at best, but something about my math and engineering classes kept me engaged. I was one of a handful of students from my middle school who got accepted into one of New York City’s technical and vocational schools, now known as NYC CTE schools. In these subjects, I found a sense of enjoyment and achievement. This environment led me to be introduced to the world of computing and charted a path for me to study computer programming, ultimately guiding me to where I am today.
This chapter of my life was about finding my footing in a world that often felt unstable. It taught me that resilience isn't just about weathering storms; it's about finding your passion amidst the chaos and using it as a beacon to guide you forward. These formative years were crucial in shaping my determination and resilience, laying the groundwork for my future successes in the field of technology. There’s an old adage, "It's not where you start, but where you finish that counts." It's a reminder that even amidst the chaos, there are opportunities for growth and success.
Chap 20: Never Stop Learning
Entering my twenties, I embarked on a journey of both formal and informal education. During this decade, I wrapped up my undergraduate studies, delving deeply into the world of computer programming and information systems. However, one of the most enriching aspects of college was the peripheral experiences. I actively participated and held leadership positions in various clubs, the student government association, athletics, and social events that significantly enriched my understanding of teamwork, leadership, community, equality, and justice.
This period of my life was not just about acquiring technical knowledge; it was also about developing soft skills and personal growth. I learned the importance of networking, effective communication, and the value of diverse perspectives. These years taught me that education is multifaceted – it's as much about the lessons learned outside the classroom as those within it.
Securing my degree was only the first step. It wasn’t long before I landed my first technical summer internship at The New York City Human Resources Administration. This internship, along with subsequent ones, gave me a critical revelation: with each new role, the necessity to keep learning and adapt quickly was paramount. The pace of technology was changing so rapidly that programming languages and development tools were quickly becoming obsolete. My ability to stay relevant in the industry was predicated on being a self-motivated learner. I learned the importance of adaptability, problem-solving, and recognized the need for continuous learning in a rapidly evolving tech industry.
As I navigated these formative years, I realized that learning is a lifelong journey. Each experience, whether academic or extracurricular, contributed significantly to my personal and professional growth. It taught me that education does not end with a degree; rather, it is an ongoing process that continues well into your career and life. This chapter of my life laid the foundation for my future endeavors, instilling in me a relentless pursuit of knowledge and a dedication to never stop learning.
To Be Continued…
Thank you for reading! My hope is that these lessons will not only inspire you but also offer new perspectives on life's journey. My insights from my 30’s and 40’s will be shared in my following posts. Stay tuned for more of my reflections on dreaming big, taking risks, and more.
Left to Right: Peta-Gay, Grandma, Sister