This is a dissertation reflection written by Sofia Pertuz, a doctoral student, and Assistant Dean & Director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs at Fordham University.
Marianne Williamson stated eloquently in her book Return to Love, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be?”
As I made a major personal decision to re-commit myself to completing the dissertation I had started and stopped time and again, I started reflecting on the overwhelming flood of feelings that comes with attempting to complete a life goal that seems to elude you. I started reaching out to everyone who could help me make it happen, my family, my work colleagues, my advisor, my faculty, the department chair, and anyone who would entertain my zany idea that I could find the time to work on a dissertation with all of my other responsibilities: family, children, caring for an aging parent, work, etc. No one even blinked an eye or looked at me with disbelief. They all seemed to think this revelation I had was actually appropriate and well timed.
On the one hand, I felt such gratitude towards everyone in my path who recently, and perhaps have always been supportive of me. But on the other hand, I also felt a hint of something that is usually regarded with a negative connotation – entitlement. What other word describes how much I feel that it is due time and that I deserved this outpouring of support? After all, for years I have been mentoring and coaching others, effectively transmitting generous energy into the universe, not in hopes of some day getting it back, but because it was the right thing to do. Therefore, in short, I deserve this positive energy coming my way.
Entitlement is not a dirty word – it doesn’t have to be. If more Latinas and other underrepresented populations felt this kind of entitlement we would have more of us in leadership positions. Even our highest ranking Latina, Sonia Sotomayor, was criticized for her self-confidence when she tried to put into words her life experience and struggles she had to endure to get to the post she is currently in as a Supreme Court Justice in the United States of America. The infamous “wise Latina” comment was something that came up in her confirmation hearings that almost cost her the appointment. Critics doubted her “neutrality and objectivity” because the comment demonstrated that as a judge she might be “swayed by her gender and ethnicity.” Fortunately, her solid record and experience prevailed and her appointment was ultimately confirmed. She was wise indeed.
Another wise Latina I admire, is Editor-in-Chief of NewLatina.net, Dr. Angelica Perez, who wrote a phrase that captured this feeling perfectly in reply to an e-mail I sent letting her know that all of the pieces for getting re-enrolled in my doctoral program to finish the dissertation had fallen into place. She said simply, “Once YOU decide you’re ready to move forward with something – - people around you respond accordingly.” Dr. Perez is right. I embrace the journey of completing the Ph.D. and hope that other women get out of their own way and get going on whatever that elusive goal they might have. I invite other Wise Latinas to get used to this type of entitlement. You work hard and you deserve it. Don’t be afraid to let everyone in on your goals and ask for help.
So I end with another Marianne Williamson quote: “And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” Well put. Adelante!