My sister and I have 27 years of education between us, starting from our college years. (Insert proud alumnae shout out to the University of Mississippi – “HOTTY TODDY”!) If we add all official “schooling” years, that totals 52 years! That’s not the kicker – our combined age is 69. This means we’ve been in school 75% of our combined lives! (Did I mentioned I kinda like math?) One conclusion might be that we are really crazy, while another might be that we are really smart. But the real conclusion is that we had a LOT of support on our journeys, which we REALLY needed because it only got harder along the way.
After our MANY years in school pursuing graduate and professional degrees, I’d say we can be considered EXPERTS in WORKING HARD and PURSUING DREAMS! Sure, you can say I’m a research scientists turned higher education administrator, and my sister is a medical doctor – but underlying all of that “book” knowledge is the common thread of diligence, persistence, resilience, and faith in a dream.
During the 52 years in school, we were in what I will call our metamorphosis. I won’t try to describe in detail the biological process of butterfly metamorphosis (I’ll leave that to Ja’Larna, she was the biology major), but I will point out the key stages. In the beginning was an egg (me), and five years later there was a another egg (Ja’Larna.) You know the rest (if you don’t, go ask your parents about the birds and the bees). I will focus on the butterflies.
Our next stage was the little caterpillar, crawling around trying to figure out “what we wanted to be when we grew up” and ingesting all the nutrients (information) we needed during that stage to help our growth. A great deal of those nutrients were provided by our parents, grandparents, church, and various teachers who recognized our potential. After we gleaned all those good nutrients, we were ready for the most difficult and often very dark and lonely phase – the chrysalis (sometimes associated with the cocoon.) We eventually decided on a career path (well Ja’Larna did and mine eventually just came and grabbed me.) This stage was predominant in the years after undergraduate school where we realized that although we were “college grads”, we still had a LONG way to go before our dreams became a reality. In my reading about this stage, I was reminded that this phase is NOT a resting phase as commonly thought. From the outside, the chrysalis looks so calm and still, but there is a lot of growth, stretching and transformation happening within. In our case, this manifested a lot of difficulty, distress, disappointments, failures, loneliness, and the list goes on.
Eventually the late nights in the labs/libraries, days without sleep or a real meal, no money, forgetting birthdays (including our own) and important holidays because we didn’t know what day it was, feeling like no one understood, or that we made the wrong choice, there was a beam of light peaking through our shell. The DREAM was becoming a REALITY. Even after finishing the PhD and MD, there was the post-doc and residency. The light at the end of the tunnel (through our slightly cracked cocoon) was shining, but still ever so dimly!
The end result is beautiful. Our butterflies have been released – well, at least this one as there are many butterflies (visions, gifts) within each of us. My sister are I are now embarking on our next metamorphosis – reaching out to support other young girls and ladies going through metamorphosis. This is our season to nurture and protect other eggs, caterpillars and cocoons to ultimately be RELEASED!
Ja’Wanda S. Grant, PhD | Celebrate Sisters Co-Founder