Updated: Aug 17
Becoming a pioneer of anything can be a daunting and uncomfortable affair. There isn’t much of a benchmark to follow, the fear of taking such a bold step alone can easily deter us and the irresistible thoughts of failing can hinder any steps towards progress altogether. To overcome these obstacles and intrusive thoughts, we must become comfortable with being uncomfortable. In her 2018 TED Talk, writer, activist, and self-proclaimed “professional troublemaker,” Luuvie Ajayi addresses her experiences in being the first domino in her career, personal life, and society.
I’ve had the opportunity of being the elemental domino in both my academic and personal life. I am the first in my immediate family to pursue a degree in higher education. Packaged with that comes uncharted territory, a substantial lack of direction, and as a bonus, thoughts of failure. My first year in college was a rough one. I was pursuing a major that I knew wasn’t going to support my purpose, I was overextending myself to people who didn’t view me as equal, and my mental health was suffering from the change of pace and educational environment (I attended a very small private, conservative high school). It wasn’t until the second semester of my freshman year that I was able to leave that “friend” group and embark on my own. That was a difficult decision, seeing how I met them during freshman orientation and created a sort of safety net with them. We’d eat at the dining hall together, hang out together and we even had a group chat! But I would often feel as if I was on the outside.
After leaving the group, others followed suit, leaving to its collapse. Turns out, I wasn’t the only one that felt alone within the group and it was refreshing to know. The second half of my sophomore year is when I mustered up the courage to switch my major from Biology/pre-med to Psychology. When I would bring up the topic of switching majors to my parents I was always met with waves of disapproval and doubt. “You won’t find any work with a psych major,” “Why would you stop pursuing pharmacy? That’s always been your dream,” (An aspiration I set for myself when I was twelve years old). I understood the pros and cons of switching majors and even consulted a few advisors and friends before going forth with my plan. The resounding message from all of them was that this was my life, so I had every right to do what I saw best to enhance it.
To be an effective leader amongst others requires us to be effective leaders for ourselves. When dominoes are lined up, it only takes one piece to fall to create a harmonious chain reaction for the rest. Being a domino comes with discomfort. Keeping things the way they presently are and maintaining silence is a form of comfort. When we speak up about truths that are challenging, we often leave our comfort zones- a process that is scary, but painfully necessary.
Rosemond Baah is currently a success manager at Michael Sgro Leadership Coaching. She is a rising senior at Le Moyne College studying Psychology and Gender & Womxn Studies. She is a CSTEP Scholar, mental health advocate, and life long learner.