No one who is successful has ever made it to the top alone. Most people who have achieved some level of success or recognition have been able to do so because of a support network that was there to help them achieve their goals. Just think about Beyoncé, whose work ethic I truly admire. She had her mother who made outfits for Destiny’s Child, and her father who left his job to become her group’s manager. Obviously, Beyoncé has worked very hard to get to where she is. But it also can’t go without saying that her parents, and probably countless others, have worked equally hard to help her get to where she is today through their support.
I can’t sing like Beyoncé (or probably dance, even), but I have worked my tail off to get to where I am. However, I also know that for the countless exams that I stayed up studying for going back to high school, I had the emotional support of my family to help me get through them, as well as their home-cooked Haitian meals that kept me nourished.
During my adolescence, I had the luxury to only think about school and was never expected to work by my family. While we were not rich, my family’s ethos was that whatever financial pressure they may have been facing, was not my concern as a student. It’s not lost on me that many people grow up without having this same privilege. So, I am thankful that I was fortunate to have a family that put education first, and that was willing to make sacrifices so that I could have whatever I needed to succeed as a student.
While my family structure was my foundation, I also have friends and mentors to thank for bringing many opportunities that I never knew existed to my attention. In high school, a very good friend of mine encouraged me to apply for a public service fellowship that has significantly contributed to my life trajectory. I remember getting information about the fellowship from my high school career counselor, but was totally going to dismiss it for reasons that I don’t even recall – maybe I didn’t think I’d get it? Maybe I didn’t feel like doing the work to apply for it? But because of my friend’s encouragement (and also because of my career counselor’s), I applied, got accepted, and ended up working for a federal district court judge in Boston during the summer after my junior year – which absolutely couldn’t have been a better setup for a high school student with dreams of going to law school.
Not only have I stayed in touch with this judge since I interned for her, but she was the one who swore me into the Federal Bar after I took and passed the bar exam ten years later. I had my very own private ceremony in her courtroom, equipped with a stenographer, my family, and a US Attorney (who, coincidentally, also graduated from my undergraduate alma mater, Cornell) who moved for my admission to the Federal Bar. Thus, from when I was a high school junior to becoming a newly minted attorney, that judge and the fellowship have been part of my full-circle experience into becoming a member of the Bar and officer of the Court. In addition, because I participated in the fellowship during high school, I also had the distinct privilege of working on Capitol Hill as a college intern, which, as you can imagine, was all kinds of exciting for being 19 in D.C. Today, I serve on the Board of Directors for the fellowship, and I help recruit high school students to apply by sharing with them the impact that the fellowship has made on me.
So, I write this to say thank you to everyone who has helped me along the way, namely, my family, my friends and my mentors. You have always looked out for me and have pushed me to take advantage of great opportunities, even when I was oblivious to the benefits I would eventually reap from them. If you’ve ever had people in your life who have pushed you to greater heights, remember to thank them and to let them know how much their encouragement has meant to you. You can do no wrong by surrounding yourself with like-minded people who have high goals, and who also want to see you succeed. I have no doubt that these same people will be the ones there for you in your greatest time of need.
Be who you are
Speak for others who fear to speak their truths
Know that you are great and amazing
Stop doubting yourself
You got this
You always did
Now act like you do
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 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 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.
I believe in the world in which I can be me and not fear what others think of me.
I believe in my beauty and excellence and in not making myself small.
I believe that others’ perception of me as a threat is all in their heads.
I believe that the only thing that matters is my business and not what someone else is doing.
I believe that I am mighty and powerful and that the world won’t know what hit it when I peak in my power.
Every step of each day is me walking towards my peak.
Always working makes you feel as if you can’t enjoy life sometimes.
I have a full-time, and a part-time, and I’ve been working non-stop for the past few months. I’ve even had a few spurts of work-related travel, which, as a whole, has been great when looking back on it. But in the moments when I was packing to go on my trips, doing so felt like something else I needed to do, but didn’t have time for, in the constant time-crunch that has defined my life as of late.
I’ve been telling myself that when I’m no longer going through a hectic period, I’ll be able to enjoy all that I’ve done more.
But when is life not hectic? If it’s not work, it’s family: birthdays, holidays, and reunions; or friends: coming in to town for the week, inviting you to happy hours, networking socials, or fundraisers for good causes.
So, I’ve realized that it’s not about when it’s over, but it’s every day before you go to bed that you have to take a moment to wind down and take stock of your day. You can think about what made you productive or unproductive, and let your mind roam free of obligations for ten minutes. You can sit, drink tea, write, or read your favorite book (which I honestly haven’t done in a while). Or, you can look at pictures. But most of all, you can just let your mind wander. Inspiration always comes to me this way: when I’m not thinking or planning, but just vegging out or meditating.
The mind knows everything when it’s not overthinking.
This is obviously easier said than done. And if you’re like me, you’re always thinking about all the things that you’re not doing when you’re really stressed. But when you take a moment to find your breath, you give your mind and body just what they need: that little boost of energy to keep you going.