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Taking a Different Path Doesn't Have to Kill Your Dreams

Updated: Jan 24, 2021

It is hard to start something new when you have prepared for something else your entire professional life.

When things don't go as you want them to go, it is easy to become fearful and not know which direction to move. It is also easy to remain stationary as you determine if you want to change directions.

When you have seen a particular vision for your life and have no thoughts of what you would do outside that vision, it is scary when that path you saw in your head disappears.

That is my life. At 19, after meeting the incredible Dr. Johnnetta B. Cole at Spelman College, I decided I wanted to be a university president. Everything was planned from that moment forward. I knew I needed to get a Ph.D. I knew I needed to be an expert in my field. I knew that I had to become a reputable scholar.

I did all of those things, moving from an Assistant Professor position to a Full Professor position in 10 years. At 39, I became a department chair. After a chair's position would come a dean's position, followed by a provost's position, and a president's position. At least it would in my head.

At 43, I distinctly remember the meeting where I discovered that I would no longer be a department chair. It's as if time stood still because the words I heard didn't make sense. I had sacrificed my health, my dignity, and so much more for this torturous position only to realize that the path was changing whether I wanted it to do or not.

I wondered if my dreams of becoming a university president were halted and may never happen. After all, these were the dreams that I'd spent decades thinking about and preparing myself for through moves across states, grueling exams, time spent away from family, and nonstop judgment and critique about my professional decisions.

Who would I be without my dream? Where was the path I had meticulously planned? I saw it disappearing before my eyes. I was crushed.