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From Prayers to Programming: My Path of Faith, Learning, and Tech Empowerment (continued)

Note: This post is a continuation of a previous post where I shared insights and learnings from my adolescence, teenage years, and my 20s.


Growing up, with Jamaican parents my childhood was filled with the wisdom of Jamaican proverbs. A proverb I fondly remember my grandmother reciting:'Hog always ask mumma, "Mumma, mek yuh mout so long?" Mumma seh, "Ayy...pickeney, yuh a come, yuh wi see..."' My grandmother was conveying the idea that as young people, we often question or pushback on things we don’t fully understand, and while adults may not always have the answers, wisdom, and understanding will come with age and experience.


The transition from my 20s to my 30s was filled with paradigm-shifting moments. It was a decade rich with lessons on life, career, love, friendships, faith, and spirituality that ultimately propelled me into a new phase of adulthood. I could write an entire book about my 30s alone, and maybe I will one day. In the interim, I’d like to share two key lessons from that decade that I carry with me today:



Chap 30: Dream Boldy and Take Calculated Risks 


For many women from marginalized communities, a sense of risk aversion develops as we age. As responsibilities mount, such as caring for children or our family, major decisions—like changing jobs, pursuing new career paths, or returning to school—can carry far-reaching consequences. Black women are the glue that holds our families together and often, we have to balance personal aspirations with practical considerations. For some, this leads to a period of stagnation or delayed gratification, but for many, it results in years of setting aside personal aspirations and a lifetime of unfulfilled dreams.


Yet, despite the weight of these responsibilities, for me, my fear of stagnation always outweighed my fear of change. I was driven to explore uncharted paths and over the years, I've become more comfortable with embracing the unknown.


During this time, I had built a solid career as a Full Stack Web Developer and landed a job as a Senior Information Technology Analyst at the Federal Reserve Bank of NY. However, after a few years in my role, I began to feel stagnant. As a single mother to an adolescent girl, I was also feeling the financial strain and the pinch of rising living costs. I knew it was time for a change. 


Taking a leap of faith, I began charting my next chapter. Over several weeks, I consulted with family, friends, colleagues, leaders within my company, and mentors, gaining invaluable guidance. This process introduced me to vision boarding and passion planning, life tools I continue to use today. As my planning neared completion, clarity emerged and I got laser-focused with my goals: I enrolled in a Master's program at Pace University and through recommendations from my professional network, invested in the guidance of a professional career coach. I pursued my studies while continuing my full-time job and navigating the responsibilities of being a single mother. 


By the age of 32, I had achieved significant milestones, including completing my graduate studies and securing my first Director of Information Technology role. However, my journey wasn't just about career advancement. I felt compelled to contribute positively to the lives of others. This feeling was deeply rooted in a sense of community responsibility instilled by my parents, culture, and faith.


With unwavering encouragement from close friends and the invaluable support of Pace University, I took a significant step towards fulfilling this calling in a way that was meaningful to me. I spearheaded the launch and co-led the NY Chapter of Black Girls Code, a move that allowed me to contribute significantly to empowering young Black girls in the field of technology. This initiative marked a turning point in my life, as it opened my eyes to the profound impact one can have on their community and future generations.


This effort also enlightened me to the incredible power of collective impact. The effect of this endeavor was both personal and professional. On a personal level, I witnessed firsthand how uniting diverse minds and resources could cultivate an environment where young girls, who might never have seen themselves in the tech world, could now envision a future as developers, engineers, and leaders in technology. This initiative opened doors, providing these young minds with the tools, confidence, and inspiration to pursue careers in a field where they have been historically underrepresented. I am still in touch with many of these ladies today and I am filled with immense pride each time I witness their accomplishments and growth.


Professionally, the journey was equally enriching. As I navigated through the challenges and triumphs of growing the chapter, I honed my skills in public speaking, teaching, leadership, project management, and strategic planning—skills that have proven indispensable in my professional life. Not to mention my professional network. I built lasting relationships with industry leaders, fellow technologists, and community advocates, many of whom remain good friends and colleagues today. The overall experience broadened my understanding of the tech industry's landscape and its potential for positive societal change.


Navigating the uncertain waters of career change, advancing my education while balancing single motherhood, and spearheading a community-focused initiative were no small feats. This journey was a testament to the fact that when passion and purpose converge, the possibilities for growth and impact are boundless. This period required an unyielding belief in the possibility of a better future – not just for myself and my daughter but for the community I was serving. As Nelson Mandela aptly said, "It always seems impossible until it's done." Today, I stand as a proud Black woman, a leader in my field, and a role model for aspiring IT professionals and young women from communities like my own. 



Chap 30: Forgiveness Sets You Free


Growing up as a Black girl in America was a complex and multifaceted experience for me. Amidst a backdrop of societal inequities, racial biases, gender biases, and persistent stereotypes, Black girls face a set of unique intersectional obstacles. These challenges shape not only our understanding of the world but also our place within it.


Now imagine bearing the responsibility of raising a Black girl in this environment.


As a mother, we navigate a delicate balance of love, strength, and resilience. We must protect, nurture, and empower our daughters in a world that often seeks to diminish their worth. Simultaneously, as a Black mother, we confront our own experiences with racism and sexism, all while shielding our daughters from the harsh realities that can threaten their sense of self and belonging.


I recall a moment of peak frustration when my daughter arrived home from her Catholic elementary school with a letter informing me that her braided hairstyle violated the school's dress code policy. What pushed me over the edge was when my daughter shared how her principal had publicly and loudly chastised her about her hair in the hallway outside her classroom. This was clearly an effort to humiliate her. As you can imagine, I lost my shit. 


Yet, amidst the frustration and anger, I also felt a deep sense of pride in my daughter's resilience and self-assuredness. She had faced public humiliation with dignity and her spirit unbroken. She still proudly wears her braids today. 


As a parent, navigating these challenges can be particularly daunting, but as a single parent, the weight of responsibility is amplified. When my daughter entered her teenage years, her father and I had been separated for a few years, but my daughter by all measures was a daddy's girl. So you can imagine her dismay when her father decided he no longer wanted to bear the responsibility of being a parent and abruptly left, with no warning or notice. He just picked up and left. 


I was angry and devastated for my daughter. 


While my father and I had our own complicated relationship, I was incredibly grateful to him during this time. He stepped up in a huge way, allowing my daughter and me to move in with him so that I could finish my graduate studies while he provided the father figure she was missing. In the absence of her father, my daughter's family on both sides and friends have been a solid support system for us over the years.


A few months ago, my daughter's father reached out to me. He has been apologetic and expressed a desire to be back in her life. The truth is, I forgave him a long time ago. While I will never understand how a parent can just walk away from their child in that way, I had decided not to let that be my burden. There’s an old saying "Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die." I found this to be so true. My faith, too, underscores the importance of forgiveness: "Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Forgiveness is about releasing oneself from the burden of anger, resentment, and pain. Forgiving my daughter's principal followed a similar path. Initially, I of course had a few not-so-nice words for her principal but in time I forgave her. Forgiving her was not about excusing her actions, it was a refusal to let her wrongs steal our joy. 


Over the years, forgiveness has been my liberation, a path to peace, and a means to keep moving forward with strength and grace. Forgiveness allowed me to focus on supporting my daughter's growth and well-being, ensuring that we continued to thrive, unencumbered by the missteps of others. 



Chap 40: Embracing Evolution


I am just beginning this chapter of my midlife and as I sit here reflecting, I am overwhelmed with a profound sense of gratitude. Gratitude for the lessons learned, for all that I've accomplished, and for all the blessings bestowed upon me.


Naturally, this phase of my life brings with it new challenges and responsibilities. My daughter, blossoming into a whole adult, will undoubtedly present her own unique set of needs and experiences. Additionally, my aging parents will require increased attention and care. This, I’ve come to understand, is the hallmark of the "sandwich generation" – a delicate balancing act between supporting our growing children and caring for our aging parents.


Yet, as I venture into this new decade, I am filled with immense optimism. Midlife, for me, is a chapter where ambition meets wisdom. My journey has gifted me with a sharpened focus and a clearer vision, enabling me to pursue my aspirations and dreams with greater precision and deeper understanding. I am evolving not just in age, but in purpose, perspective, and depth. I find myself contemplating the legacy I want to leave. I am not only thinking about personal achievements; I am focused on creating a lasting impact that transcends my individual experience. An exciting evolution awaits, and I am eagerly anticipating the journey that lies ahead.


To be continued… ^_^


Much Love!

Peta-Gay


Left to Right: Donna Knutt and Me. Our first time gracing a conference stage.

Also, our teleprompter wasn't working. We had to give our talk from memory. :)

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