At some point in everyone’s life (and often times more than once) there’s a moment of reflection…clarity…reverence…thankfulness. This Easter morning, while sitting in the lobby of my San Antonio hotel, looking out of the window as the sun peeked its way through the cloudy sky, I had one of these moments.
I must say, I’ve never been one to take the easy road. Not purposefully, but it’s just the path my life has taken. At the age of 22, I was thrust into a world of investment banking after passing the Series 7 and 66 examinations. A young black woman who didn’t even know what a mutual fund was, studied and passed the tests on her first try. The Monday following these accomplishments, I proudly walked into the office expecting to be greeted with the congratulatory face of my manager eager to help me chart my path for success. What I got was someone who didn’t expect me to pass and had no plan for what to do with me now that I had.
Ideally, I would be partnered with a senior advisor who would teach me the ropes and allow me to work the dormant accounts in their book of business to uncover opportunities to re-strengthen and/or deepen their existing financial relationship. Ed, the middle-aged white guy who also passed the test, had 5 brokers clamoring to work with him. I had none. I knew why. It was very evident. Ed’s qualifications were no better than mine. He came in with no investment experience, just like me. He passed the test on the same day I did and he certainly wasn’t smarter than me. Those guys wanted to work with Ed because he was familiar. Relatable. He was someone they would be comfortable around. He was white.
I’ll never forget how I felt that day. Belittled. Insecure. Confused. Helpless. Sad. Angry. Lonely. But I did what many black women do in seemingly unsurmountable situations. I made it work. I survived nearly ten years in an industry that never embraced me or wanted to recognize my value, until one day I decided working a job that I hated, no matter how lucrative it was, was not what I wanted for my life. I wanted a career. I wanted to wake up excited about what I was doing.
I always loved following sports, sharing my opinions and talking trash. I took pride in the fact that my knowledge gained me respect by both women and men. I never thought about writing. I just spent lots of time on ESPN reading articles by sports writers I enjoyed like Scoop Jackson and Bill Simmons. It took the encouragement of an old friend to get me to try my hand at putting my thoughts and analysis on paper in the form of a weekly NFL Sunday wrap up column. To my surprise, not only did people read my stuff, they liked it. That was it. I’d discovered my passion, so I traded one industry that made me feel invisible for another.
My journey as a sports journalist has been interesting, to say the least. From writing articles between placing trades, to covering some of the biggest sporting events in the world; sometimes as the only black female writer. It’s not always a welcoming place to be. You get the who are you stares. Why are you here, you don’t belong stares. You see the hate in the eyes of a reporter who’s been trying to connect with a player all season and notices you get farther than he has all year with a thoughtful, well-placed and relatable question. People you’ve had conversations with Friday will ignore you when you flash a familiar, welcoming smile Saturday. And although the same feelings of sadness and loneliness that I experienced after I optimistically walked into my office after passing the series 7 sometimes creep in, I just cleanse myself by shedding a few thug tears and move on.
So this Easter morning, as I reflected on my journey while looking out of my hotel window, the cleansing tears I shed were different. They were happy tears. Joyful tears. Accomplished tears. Blessed tears. I would’ve never thought life would bring me to the place I’m at right now. The little tomboy whose Mom worried about her having ugly knees because she played too rough, is sitting on press row (knees in tact) covering her favorite sporting events, knowing that she doing is what she’s supposed to do and hoping to inspire someone along the way. Hoping to help someone along the way. Hoping that in a few years she will never be the only black woman on press row.
They say your passion will lead you to your purpose and I’m so blessed to be living in mine.