Rebirth, new beginnings, reappearing, and flourishing after a decline.
In speaking with a friend the other day, I shared how some days living in Phoenix, have been a tremendous struggle. I’m sure that is probably true for many people in a lot of places, but in this case, Phoenix is where I am now and so
I went on to note that at times instead of feeling like the Phoenix rising, I experienced the “rise of the ashes.” To put it bluntly, I experienced flickers of embers that burned to ash as they evaporated into the desert sky. I’ve come to understand that during transformative periods, both pain and opportunity rise out of the vibrant flame and the flickering ash.
Each represents the awakening of something different, a new idea being turned over before it starts-like the engine in an old car – turning and wanting to start but lacking that connection to that thing to ignite it and make it start. The struggle here has at times been bitter-sweet because the pain can hurt and cut so deeply, but pushing through to success can be so rewarding.
Eight years ago, I didn’t know how I would make it here or anywhere, for that matter. I was broken from an abusive marriage, divorced, broke, and without a job or steady income. I looked for work and took on consulting jobs or assignments when I could find them. While Executive recruiters in most other markets typically sought a degreed professional with my background, skills, experience, but here in Phoenix, that wasn’t the case. Granted, it was during the economic downturn that began in 2008, but it was much more than that going on. Repeated Phoenix-area recruiters shared that they were not accustomed to placing African American females with MBAs in this market, and if I didn’t have a degree – they could place me right away. Yes, I was really told that on more than one occasion, right here in Phoenix. Wow, talk about embers flickering in the desert sun.
As an accomplished executive, who was also Black, it was eye-opening to learn that I had no perceived value in this market, except for as an uneducated worker. So much of my identity was tied to my professional persona, that I no longer knew who I was without it. I was left, confused, perplexed, and burning in the flame. Let’s unpack this and rise from the ashes.
According to Leaningin.org, Black women worked all of 2018 through August 22, 2019, to make the income that White men earned in 2018. Furthermore, “regardless of their occupation, level of education, or years of experience, Black women are still paid less than men.2” So, what this reveals for me is an inability to place Black females and they’re twice as qualified and underpaid if they do. Many times life isn’t fair, but that doesn’t mean you stop looking for a pathway to rebirth and a new beginning.
I have come to believe that while I may rarely have control over things happening around me, I always have control over how I respond. The way I looked at it. I had the power of choice. I could focus on the problem or continue to work toward a resolution. I had some decisions to make. I could:
- Leave Phoenix for another location. I didn’t have money to relocate, and companies were not interviewing or considering out of state workers;
- Become disgruntled and complain about stereotypes and inherent racial biases – to who? and complaining wouldn’t alter my current state of existence; or
- Do something different.
I sought rebirth and renewal. The revival that is represented in the symbolism of the phoenix rising from ashes to be transformed and reborn anew. My grandmother always stressed education. She would say, “nobody can take away your education.” Phoenix schools needed teachers, so with my MBA and experience in marketing, I acquired substitute teaching and provisional certification of technical expertise (CTE) in Business and Marketing accreditation and began teaching 7th Grade English Language Arts.
James 2:26 says faith without works is dead. I had faith but needed to put in work to navigate a different path to opportunity. I further leveraged my education when I was offered an adjunct teaching opportunity at a private Christian university. I remember the day I met with the hiring team and the enthusiasm they expressed for my background, skills, and education. After being out of work for so long, I carried a slight hint of desperation and uncertainty. I don’t have the words to adequately express what I felt when they made the “on the spot” offer. I am reminded of Maya Angelou’s”Still I Rise,” a poem about defeat and survival. Today, I still teach. I also wrote a couple of books, work as a communications officer in state government, and host a podcast. I continue to rise out of the ashes with the renewing of my mind, body, spirit, and purpose.
That is a part of my story. Like the Phoenix, through the challenges of life, from the ashes, I rise like the sun with new life, a new purpose.
Reappearing, when once broken, I am reborn.
Challenged and broken, I am renewed.
Dimmed by the struggles of life, I am transformed.
I am bold, brilliant, beautiful, and bright, I rise and soar with a new beginning.
Lynn F Austin, MBA is an author and speaker. Her messages reflect her courage and commitment against fear, doubt, and disbelief. Dedicated to serving causes impacting domestic violence and at-risk youth, she strives to inspire others to live their purpose.
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