Exhaustion, Anguish and Purpose

Writing this post, in fact writing anything at all, has been incredibly difficult to do. I’ve been too upset and angry to do much of anything.

But, despite the anguish, I can’t be inert. This moment, as raw as it is, is so monumental. As the nation protests the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and too many others, there is so much to bear. Losing loved ones. Losing jobs. Fear for what comes next. Systemic racism continues to prevail while the pandemic decimates black communities.

We see it. We fear it. We feel it. We live it. Despite this, we must find a way to show up at work and care for others.

As I type, my inbox is bursting with announcements from an array of companies, loudly asserting their commitment to Black Lives Matter and combating racism. We are increasingly aware of the companies who, despite the public proclamations, have been called out by their own people for their own failings.

In the workplace, the media, on our social media feeds, pretty much everywhere right now, conversations about race dominate everything. Trying to process, explain, support, advocate, amplify, and advance conversations and actions in such a traumatic time is just… I don’t know. I don’t know how to describe it. It’s so hard.

So I’m writing this to remind myself, and anyone else who needs support, to hold on to your purpose.

As I was growing up my mother would say: “You’ll have to work twice as hard to make it.” That statement wasn’t something I questioned. I accepted it and I followed it. I believed working twice as hard was the key to future success. I didn’t have any other point of reference. Like so many of us, I was often the only black girl in the classroom. The only black woman in the meeting. And sometimes, the only black woman in the building. I never had a black teacher. I’ve never had a black boss.

After I started building my career, I realized the mantra I’d embraced didn’t hold true. Yes, you had to work twice as hard, but that didn’t necessarily mean you’ll always make it.

As a career coach, I help underrepresented professionals land new jobs, deal with workplace conflicts, get promoted and accelerate their salaries. I live for those wins because they truly can be life changing. This is my purpose. But, as a black woman I also know this. The extent and breadth of how high we can fly in the workplace is ultimately determined by someone else. I don’t want to accept this, but the data shows this time and time and time again. The pay gap, the opportunity gap, the wealth gap. They all persist.

Last week, feeling exhausted, angry, and heartbroken, I was uplifted by Campaign Zero co-founder Brittany Packnett Cunningham. On June 3, Brittany moderated a conversation with President Obama, Eric Holder, Rashad Robinson and Phillipe Cunningham on Reimagining Policing in the Wake of Continued Police Violence. I was one of approximately 300,000 people who logged on to listen.

On that hard day, Brittany’s eloquence, intellect, empathy, and grit was everything. Brittany covered so many important things on that livestream, but the words that stuck with me long after the conversation ended were these:

“This is a moment of intense grief, but hopefully also a moment of intense purpose.”

If you are exhausted, angry, and heartbroken, protect and embrace your purpose. Whatever it may be. Find people to walk alongside you and support you. Don’t give up. Never settle.


Post by Octavia Goredema 

Octavia Goredema is an award-winning career coach, writer and the founder of Twenty Ten Talent and Twenty Ten Agency. You can connect with her on InstagramLinkedIn or over on Twitter.

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