by Sabrina Acloque
They say that luck is what happens when opportunity meets preparation, right? Or is it that opportunity is a combination of luck and preparation?
Whichever one it is, I’ve reflected that so many opportunities have come my way just by showing up. I’ve been fantasizing for a while now about having my own consulting gig, through which I’d get called to give talks and presentations on a number of issues about which I can write ad nauseam. I’ve always imagined this to be a gig that I’d get once I no longer have as many responsibilities. But, as I’ve slowly come to figure out – over and over again – time (and opportunity) are not linear.
Usually, new opportunities happen in the context of other things happening in our lives. Today, I gave an introductory presentation to a group of students on the art form, Capoeira Angola, which I began practicing many years ago. This came about because I decided to attend a meeting on barriers to mental health equity in the Black community. I saw the flyer for the event a few months ago, and I asked permission from my supervisor to go. At the event, I met someone who sat right across the table from me and told me that he teaches mindfulness to young kids in the Cambridge public schools. We had been given a small group assignment to work on at the event, which was to come up with action items to address the systemic issues of inequality that were discussed during the presentation. I told him about my passion for Capoeira, my mindfulness art form of choice, and that was all it took for him to invite me to give a guest presentation to the students in his class.
Just yesterday, I was conversing with a colleague with whom I’ve been preparing to give a city-wide civil rights training, and was telling her about my personal interests outside of work. Based on our conversation, she asked me if I would like to speak to her group of young women of color about career pathways and even do a guest presentation on Capoeira Angola. Yes, I do. This is exactly the exposure I want. There is nothing more rewarding than being asked to speak about the things that bring you joy in your life, and Capoeira is one of them. Little by little, I’ve been getting the chance to incorporate my personal passions into my professional ones, and I now get to offer people a more complete picture of who I am, and the ways that the activities I’ve done have changed my life for the better.
Almost one year ago, I told myself that I wanted to immerse myself deeper into international law. At that time, I joined the American Bar Association's Section of International Law, and immediately saw an opportunity to travel to Barcelona, Spain for the Section’s annual conference. It was a spontaneous decision that I will always be happy I made. I went to the conference for the sole purpose of being around other international practitioners, and to absorb the latest updates in international law. At the end of the three-day conference, I was invited to speak at a conference of my own, in a part of the world that I never thought I’d see: Sydney, Australia (see my page on Sydney). It was a dream come true that only came true because I decided to show up to an event because I knew I’d be interested in it.
Many times, we want something so badly, that we are afraid of going after it out of fear that we’ll fail while trying. I am guilty of this almost every day. But I’ve learned that the change we want doesn’t have to be as drastic or as overwhelming as we both desire and fear it to be. Sometimes, it’ll just happen for us by showing up. By attending, by conversing, by networking, by telling people who we are and what we like. Sometimes, it’s as simple as that. So, if you are seeking that long-desired change, just go after it. Look to share spaces with people whom you admire and attend events that you like, and take the first step by showing up.