Navigate Far, Far, Far Away From Your Naysayers
Here is an excerpt from a Toastmasters’ International award-winning speech I wrote in 2013. I titled it “Beware of the Dreamsmashers”.
Dreamsmashers! They’re everywhere and can be anyone. A parent, a sibling, a spouse, a friend, a friend of a friend. Their purpose…to SQUISH, SQUASH, STOMP on your dreams and aspirations using ridicule and snide remarks. They plant the seed of self-doubt in your mind and enjoy watching it grow until your dream is nothing but a memory.
Have you met anyone like this? What did you do? Did you believe someone else’s perception of who you are? Are you living with regrets?
Don’t You Dare
In 1969, I was a junior at a recently integrated high school. When I started there as a sophomore, many in my segregated neighborhood said, “Lynette, don’t you dare go there!” While those in the other neighborhood said “Colored girl, don’t you dare come here!”
I went anyway.
I endured the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. Bully, bully for me! While attending this school, I was a straight-A student, a member of the National Honor Society and a winner of the French Club’s Poetry contest (merci beaucoup), yet there were some who felt the need to discourage me from following my dream. I had wanted to go to college and medical school since I was 9-years-old.
Yet, when I went to my guidance counselor and asked “Would you please help me to apply to college?”, she said “Now you might be able to get into one of those Negro colleges, but no medical school’s gonna take a Colored girl!” And with that, she refused to help me.
Proving Them Wrong
Believing what she said, I thought I was doomed. I had no plan B. What was I thinking that a colored girl like me could aspire to become a medical doctor? My salvation was my great-grandmother “Granny” and a chance encounter with the admissions director of a women’s college in Pittsburgh.
My granny told me “Lynette, you can be anybody you wanna be!” And the admissions director (how she found me is still a puzzle) sent me a bus ticket to visit the college and awarded me a 4-year academic scholarship. Upon graduating with honors, I attended medical school. These were just two of the DreamKeepers in my life helping me to drown out the noise of the naysayers.
Years later, my mother encountered that guidance counselor in the local mall and when she told her “Lynette just graduated from medical school” the woman had to sit down. “I didn’t know white people could get any whiter,” mom said chuckling. She added, “I left her with this shocked look on her face and it felt so gooooood.”
40 Years Later
Fast-forward to 2012, when after over 30 years of practicing medicine, I wanted to be a stand-up comic, I shared this dream with a colleague.
“Hey John, I’ve decided to quit medicine and become a stand up comic! I think I’m pretty funny.”
He’d been eating a donut and stopped mid-chew. There was a blank look on his face as he stared at me, mouth open. Coming out of his sugar-high stupor, he swallowed the donut wad and spoke.
“Lynette, that is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. My advice…keep your day job.”
Why is it that one person’s opinion can mean so much? I’m sure there are numerous scientific papers that explain this phenomenon…scientifically. Yet, even when we know why negative opinions affect us, it’s still so difficult to disregard their vibes. After my encounter with “John the Dreamsmasher”, I found many who saw my new found passion illuminating. Some even lauded me for being brave.
Yet, his comment haunted me and I slowed my pursuit to comic enlightenment. I returned to my status quo. But fortunately for me, I couldn’t shake this dream. I feared dying with regrets more than falling on my face. Even if I did fall on my face, I’d surely get a laugh! Mission accomplished.
Now, I’m no Jim Gaffigan or Dr. Ken Jeong or Wanda Sykes. I tell my jokes at open mics during a 3-5 minute set. However, when I’m on stage, I am happy and feel fulfilled. I have no regrets.
Head the lesson, grasshopper!
It’s time to put those past decisions based on BAD INTEL behind you and listen to your own wants and desires.
When you encounter the negative voices dissuading you from following a path that gives you joy. Run – don’t walk – away from it. We are beings that need to find our joy in the brief life we have to live. Don’t squander it based on someone else’s image of who you should be. If you fail, you fail on our own terms, NOT on the terms of others.