Pressing on Through Challenges

This week, I gave a talk as an invited speaker for a departmental seminar at my alma mater. 

Before I even got the email requesting the title and my curriculum vitae, I had been thinking about it and thinking about it, and wanted to make sure that the title would give me enough room to speak on the reason I was invited and also deviate a little if I elected to do so.

I decided on the title, “Charting Your Own Career Path.”  

Once the title was sent off, it was time to work on the talk. For me, this meant doing some reflection about my journey, my life, my support system, the ups, the downs, and the challenges I overcame. It also meant trying to see what to highlight and what to save for another time while making sure that the audience took away the points that I wanted to leave with them.

At some point, a thought crossed my mind that said… “You are just getting started with your professional development, what story do you have to share with people.” I was questioning my journey, and its significance, but more so, its significance to me and if others would value it the same way that I valued it.

I was so worried about not being good enough that I focused on what was missing instead of what was there, which was the life that I had actually lived up until that point.

I eventually classified the question and feelings and thoughts that came along with it under imposter syndrome.  Feelings of never thinking you are good enough. Feelings that you are not worthy of anything, even your own story. Feelings of worthlessness, and just outright fear of being shamed by those that helped to get you to where you are currently in life.

I mean after all, this was my alma mater and my department that awarded my doctoral degree. Will they think that I’ve done enough? Will they be proud of me? Will they regret their decision to invite me?

I wondered and worried about what their answers to these questions would be.  In fact, my thinking about them and focusing on them too long actually crippled my thought and left me unable to put the talk together.

It wasn’t until I pushed all those negative thoughts aside, and realized and accepted that I am worthy, I am good enough just the way I am and that my story is important, just like every person’s story is significant that I was able to develop a plan forward.

I decided that I will tell my whole story, not just highlighting the great things that happened over my lifetime be it the accomplishments and accolades, etc.  I decided that I would also highlight the hard times, the challenging things that I had to overcome, and the things that had to happen to help me press on through the challenges.

In short, I decided to show up as my authentic self and tell my full story, giving the final cut and all the behind-the-scene images as well.

That meant, for starters, I would be showing up with my fabulous crocheted blue faux locs.

I remember a time when I would have been concerned that how my hair looked would make people think that I’m unprofessional or would make them not take me seriously. This time, I loved myself so much that I wanted to make sure that whatever virtual background I would be using on zoom for this talk would complement my look and not shape my hair weirdly 😊.  So, I spent time looking for the perfect zoom background, I found a colorful picture with a beautiful butterfly which is my “everything is going to be ok” sign from nature😊. 

Once I had the zoom background, I was good to go.

Now, we had to get the PowerPoint template just right, everything had to complement, so I created a PowerPoint template with colors that popped and blended well with my zoom background.

After that, I was all set to work on the actual content.

 I know, I know, I went in reverse order this time, as typically, I would work on the content of the talk first, then figure out the layout and design for the slides, and lastly followed by the zoom background for this new virtual pandemic world we are still living in but….yep, it happened in reverse order.  


sometimes you have to change things up, and go with the flow of inspiration which is what I did and let me tell you, it worked out.

By the time I sat down to work on the talk, my brain was ready, my mind was open and my heart was prepared to share. I mentioned my heart because for this talk, I decided to share the personal (nonprofessional development related) side of my story. I actually planned to share my experience with suffering a pregnancy loss during my graduate program. But before this dreaded swing to the “not so great side of life happenings,” I shared the joy of getting married, and the joy of expecting my first child.

However, the first part of the talk was about the professional development side of my story. I talked about my scholarship, character and excellence that I portrayed on my professional journey. The successes that resulted in my being a black woman in America with a degree in a STEM field. This  included graduating as my high school class valedictorian, being nominated for a prestigious undergraduate summer research program, and interning with a major biotechnology company. I was also inducted into a graduate honor society named for the first African American to earn a doctoral degree in America. Among my service to the community, I shared my volunteer and science outreach experiences that later qualified me for another life changing professional experience.

Of course, all the successes came with challenges during the professional development portion of life as well. I shared the struggle of having to start over during my second year in the program, during my preliminary exams, a time that is already typically seen as a challenging time for graduate students.

All in all, I painted a picture of a whole person, that wore many different hats during the career journey.

Why did I share so much? I shared a lot and was very transparent because I think that it is important to showcase people in different roles. However, the most important part we will ever play is ourselves being our whole selves, actual human beings that are complex and multi-layered.

 The biggest take-home point that I wanted people to walk away or “log off” from my talk thinking was this:  At any given time, a human is more than the part of them that you see or the role you know them to play in your life.  Also, that every “success story” has another side to it, challenges that were overcome.

Also, I forgot to mention that during my talk, my youngest toddler shared with me that “she had to pee pee” and the events that came after that, lol, “she had wiped herself.” 

and Yes, she shared this with me while my microphone was live😊.

No, I didn’t panic.


….Because I’m a MUM working from home with little ones. 

I simply asked the audience for a moment, attended to my child and then returned to continue my talk both times, without missing a beat. 

The reception and feedback following the talk….



Not only did they give me this great feedback, but I also felt the energy in the virtual room and accepted all the words as real and true.

So in the end, all the negative thoughts, the imposter syndrome that reared its head….NOT REALITY!



So, as U come to the end of this blog post, I hope that U are encouraged to press on through your challenges. And as you are pressing on, share your story with others along the way, because no matter where U are in your journey, your story matters and could be just the thing that someone else needs to hear to help them keep pressing on.

Also, don’t be afraid to live your life in color because NOTHING in life is ever just black or white, it’ colorful, just look at nature 😊.

“Color is Life.” Feel free to use it as a tag line and don’t forget to @ me (@Dr. U) when you do.

Embrace the full range of the color spectrum and embrace the full range of who you are.

Above all else, U be proud of yourself for sticking to it and still living this thing we all call life.



I know it matters.

Until next time, stay true to who you are and share your thoughts on this blog post below.

Dr. U
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2 years ago

One of the best gifts the virtual workplace has given us is that it has forced everyone to show more of their humanity. Instead of thinking people are ‘unprofessional’ because we can hear a dog or a child or them cooking dinner, it should be yet another reminder not to judge someone’s value on things that have nothing to do with their performance/ capacity.

I’m hoping that one day we will stop telling young people that they won’t get their dream job because they’re not wearing closed toe shoes or their suits aren’t buttoned properly, and that we focus on encouraging them to look for opportunities to make an impact.

We become who we are BECAUSE OF those detours and mishaps along the way rather than in spite of. Thank you for reminding us of the power of sharing those stories with others 🙂

Dr G Bickham
Dr G Bickham
2 years ago
Reply to  Kendra

Being who you are is a key to life. This increases more self confidence and high self esteem. No two individuals are alike Maintaining balance in life can be
very rewarding.This presentation
is very inspiring and encouraging. Thank
you Dr U for empowering people that there is always a green light at the end of the tunnel . We are looking forward to reading more from you.

Dr. U

Hola! I'm Utibe also known as Dr. U. I am sharing my experiences as a wife and mother, as well as a woman starting her career. My goal is to live a more holistic life, Join Me!