Finding My Way..
Updated: Sep 9, 2020
First, I want to say this blog and the people who support it (and BLCK SPCES as a whole) have given me a completely new outlook on life. That's in regards to my personal life along with my professional life - starting this blog, in a time where I had no idea of what was next, gave me a sense of self-confidence I've never really had in my 28 years of living and my 2 1/2 years of being a "practicing" planner. So.. THANK YOU! I can't express that gratitude enough..
(you can watch this video about finding my way on my IG @thedee_p too!)
Second, I want to say that being a planner of color, particularly Black, has been a rollercoaster of emotions lately. Nonetheless, I've actually found myself and my VOICE more so during this quarantine/lockdown and time of racial tension. I started laying the foundation for the planner I wanted to be back in 2016 when I started my graduate program and now I feel like I'm finally starting to become that planner. Granted getting to this point has been far from easy... from struggling to deal with my then terrible work life, to resigning from my job in December of 2019, to never-ending interviews with NO offers, to the pandemic, to just completely falling apart, to instances of depression and self-doubt... this newfound elite level I found in myself has been hell getting to. I can't quantify how grateful and thankful I am for the support of the people close to me, my mentor, and really my folks for being there every time I stumbled, failed, couldn't pick myself up, or every interview that came up short - that's a sense of love I can't ever repay just know I'm forever indebted to all of y'all. This road of growth has been so got damn frustrating, refreshing, and liberating all at once. I'm here now and I'm not taking anything less than what I'm worth - PERIOD.
I fought through self-doubt pretty much every day for 3 1/2 months straight before the pandemic hit - nothing was sticking and things weren't panning out the way I'd hope they would aka life. I left my previous job because I was essentially told I couldn't grow and there wasn't room for my ambitions in my position or that organization - it was a huge blow to my career, my self-confidence, and really my mental. I was traumatized, upset, frustrated, angry, and more hurt than anything to have put so much into a position only to have it spiral the way it did. Despite the fact that I went through some of the darkest moments of my life at that job, I never downplayed what I wanted to do and the planner I wanted to become. Nor did I bash my previous employer for treating me the way they did, I took as a blessing in disguise because I took a leap of faith when I left - I just knew there was more out there for ME and nothing could stop me from getting to it. Even with my confidence rising, my resume seemingly on point, and a list of interviews all over the DFW still NOTHING - I went on roughly 15+ interviews from late December until early March with no job offers just generic email responses telling me I was a "great candidate, just not what we were looking for".
Through all this back and forth with cities, firms, and the like I felt like I was qualified (if not over-qualified) for every job I'd interviewed for, yet I was always on the short end of the stick; literally. Honestly, I said fuck this and immediately started thinking of ways to be sufficient as a planner on my own terms and learning as I went, granted that was a direct reaction off emotions it actually laid the foundation for where I am now. I was just pissed when I made that claim because I was essentially downplaying myself, my skills, and my true ability as a planner to fit into the corporate "planner mold". I mean I was dumbing down my responses in interviews because I'd been told I came off as "too ambitious" when I answered certain questions.... so yeah, I was well over it. It being applying for jobs, doing pointless assessments, creating example projects, going for interviews (sometimes multiple), hearing nothing for weeks, and so on to prove I was good enough for these positions - it was just dumb to me by February. I knew from the jump what I wanted to do and was willing to do anything to learn to get better, yet that wasn't good enough. At that point I just wanted to get my foot in the door even if it was taking a position that was entry-level in nature. It finally dawned on me that people were intimidated by my ambition, my work ethic, and desire to be an impact (this was well before I found the voice I have now) - I was in a way, too real, for their generic molds. It's wild really, I knew what I wanted to do but was willing to work in any medium to get there; no job I interviewed for believed me when I said I didn't mind working my way up as long as there was a chance to grow. My work ethic is unmatched so I refuse to be pigeon-holed again.
I want to be 100% transparent and say that despite the fact that I knew what I wanted to do and was very clear about it I lost a lot of sleep, cried a couple nights, and just sat stuck because I felt like I'd made a huge mistake leaving my job and getting turned down after every interview I went on. I was depressed to be honest. I couldn't find myself, I was just drowning in self-pity, anxiety, and worry for a couple months - I barely had the desire to get out of bed; it was bad all around. I wish I would've reached out and expressed those emotions back then but I was too proud and slightly embarrassed to tell anyone that I was lost, no real plan, no real idea of what the hell I was doing, nor how I was going to find a job... I'm learning to be vulnerable in those moments I actually feel what I feel. Anxiety consumed me every single day - I talked myself out of doing virtually anything, even convinced myself to block out family and friends because I thought I needed to suffer and be alone. It was dark as ever and there were times I didn't know if I'd be able to bounce back honestly... I'd really lost hope for the next stage of not only my career, but also my life. I truly credit my resurgence as a blessing from my guardian angels; there's no other explanation. They saved me from me, they brought me back to life when I was pretty much flat lined, and they saw my potential when I had given up entirely on myself. I'm not extremely religious but I do believe that was my saving grace in becoming the person you see today... since that wake up call I haven't looked back.
That wake up call validated the planner I envisioned myself being along with the notion of working so hard that it doesn't even feel like work. I had to bet on myself and my abilities to be the planner/designer I affirmed I wanted to be back in 2016. At that point, I didn't have much to lose. So I did just that; I wrote out a "plan" of what I wanted to do to get myself seen, be taken serious as a consultant and as an urban planner/designer. I studied the fields I wanted to tackle/take over to figure out how to gain access to these networks which led me to applying for a landscape architecture graduate program. It was crazy to think about going back to school for the third time but it was also an epiphany kind of moment when it dawned on me how much these skills could amplify everything I wanted to do. I got into that program and even landed a couple of scholarships, I felt like if I was going to do this I was going to give it my all; no half assing. If I wanted to be an urban designer by title I needed the skills, the technical learning of design and architecture, and the design environment to get there. No matter what it took I was dedicated to finding my way and creating a lane for myself as an urban designer - nothing would stop me. I thought it'd be hard to sacrifice some things to take on graduate school (again) but in all honesty, it was easy knowing that this it's part of the process in becoming the best version of myself that I KNOW I can be. I realize I've been humble a bit too long and recognize it's time to show some bravado in what I do to show what all I'm capable of.
All in all, finding my way to right now has been nothing short of a hellacious road trip that I took control of to fit MY narrative. I'm telling the story now, directing the moves, and orchestrating the details of my growth. I never want to feel like a victim to a job/position because of money or advancement ever again. If I told you what I've laid out for my future in this field you'd probably think I was dreaming too big or out of my league which is okay because I know now I feed off challenging the status quo :) I gambled on myself in a major way and it's been paying off behind the scenes - my network has grown tremendously, my self-confidence has never been so high, and my voice has never been so adamant about what I believe in. I'm never going back to downplaying myself to fit into any type of mold. I'm no different than anyone else in planning - I'm just determined to be the best at what I do in this space of placemaking and design. I'm only in competition with myself to get better. I had to fail, start over, breakdown, and then some to see some light at the end of the tunnel, but even on my darkest days I knew I'd get to the light, I just wasn't sure of how to get there. I'll never allow myself to dim my light again, Black voices, BLACK PLANNERS' VOICES are so crucial right now there's no way I'm slowing down - it's only up from here.
I decided to become the realest urban planner/designer in the DFW (and beyond) without a ton of clout to back me up - so what? My desire to be successful is only the top layer in fulfilling my passion to help create, build, and design places for congregating/recreating in Black and brown communities. If I'm successful why would I be mad at another successful planner doing something similar? Lol exactly. It's enough racial inequities to go around so there's no need to compete just get better for the them - the communities, the people, the marginalized voices.
This is truly the beginning and I'm more excited than ever to be in conversations that I'm in now. All the interviews with no offer, all the disappointment from each one, every journal entry of feeling defeated, every application I filled out that didn't bring an interview, every portfolio I submitted, every time I was told I'm "too ambitious", every moment of self-doubt has been a blessing. I'm actually thankful nothing worked out for me a few months ago because it allowed me the time to find myself, find my way, and create my own lane - thank you to those jobs that turned me down. Special thank you to the organization that turned me into a monster for putting my passions first! I got my first taste of creating something from nothing there and I'll never forget that amazing opportunity because it ignited this fire. Thank you to those I reached out to for guidance in navigating this space and you told me there wasn't a lot of money or opportunity for growth! I'm happy now, motivated, inspired, liberated, and more PASSIONATE than ever - I'm excited for y'all to experience it.
Every lesson, hardship, challenge, and NO has been key to my growth into the planner I'm constantly crafting now. What Nipsey say, "never let a hard time humble us."
Manifest mantra - BLCK SPCES, is going to be a known placemaking firm.
#urbanplanning #cityplanning #blackurbanplanners #blackwomeninplanning #blackurbandesigners #placemaking #blackcommunitiesmatter #blackplannersmatter #blackvoices #forusbyus #beheard #knowyourworth #blackexcellence #staypositive #passionbuilt #nipseyhussle #tmc #keepgoing #blckspces