Name: Felicia Harris | City/Town: Philadelphia | State/Province: PA
Sincerely Syreeta: When did you have your #ATOEpiphany and what were the circumstances that preceded it?
Felicia Harris: It was when I was working in DC at a company hated my job and at that point I felt like I also kind of hated the life that I was living at the time. I had moved to DC to get experience in education policy and it didn’t’ work out the way I thought it was going to work and that was like, the second career path that I had tried and felt like I had failed at. I had a breakdown and talked to my parents about it and they were fully supportive. When I finally got back to Philly, the advice I had got from mentors was, take time just for myself, “you don’[t have to work for like a month or a few weeks; try to clear your head.” And I did that and in that moment I did feel like, “and it’s okay,” I also realized that I had to stop making my own plans and trust God’s plan.
SS: What was that process like to let go and let God?
FH: It was definitely hard because I’ve always believed in having a 5-year plan and at that moment in life I didn’t even have a 5-minute plan. [laughs] Every minute was like, “oh let’s see what’s next.” I was never that type of person; I’ve always been a planner so letting go of trying to have complete control over my life was extremely difficult, but it also felt freeing. It was very freeing in the sense that not having a plan in that moment—you can’t fail at something that you’re not even trying to do; that’s the mindset that I end up adopting. Believe it or not, opportunities started to present themselves. I think opportunities that I would not have even seen were presented to me—only because I was open to almost anything that I felt was a great opportunity, I pursued it.
That’s how I go to where I’m at today. In that moment, people were sending me job descriptions and one of them was to be an assistant for Sharmain Matlock-Turner at the Urban Affairs Coalition. I was dreading being someone’s assistant again because that was a bad experience I had before but I went for it because I felt like I had nothing to lose and fast forward to 4 ½ years later and I’m the marketing and communications manager. Who would’ve thought it’s what I went to school for so on top of it I’m using my degree.
SS: So you’re one of the few people who are actually doing what they went to school for! [laughs] What did that epiphany teach you about yourself?
FH: That not everything in life is going to go the way you want it to go and you have to be okay with that. You also have to learn how to be adaptable, resilient and not give up because there were points where I was ready to give up on myself. I was sitting in my room, hair not even combed, just like, staring in to space trying to figure out: “What is life really about?”
SS: And what have you learned about life?
FH: I learned that life is about living and you can’t live in your room. You have to just go out and let life take you by surprise and you can’t do that if you’re not open to it. So….
Sincerely Syreeta: What words of wisdom would you pass along to someone else that is experiencing something similar?
FH: You have to believe in something. You have to have a strong faith in something, and I’m not going to say what it has to be. For me it was my religion, God, but for some other people it may be: their family, a certain person in your life, [or] it may just be something that you’re passionate about changing. Whatever it is you have to believe in something and then you have to let your faith in that belief guide your direction.
SS: Since having your #ATOEpiphany, how do you live your life differently now?
FH: I don’t live my life broke for one. Never again, never again. [laughs] I’m more open to trying things, even if they don’t align with what my current plan is because you never know if your current plan isn’t going to work out. Or a lot of times those things that you try that aren’t aligned with your plan may actually propel [it] and you won’t even know because you never tried it. So I try not to be closed minded to things that are not in my “bucket.”
SS: In keeping with the idea that things don’t happen to us, rather for us: Why do you think that this may have happened for you?
FH: I don’t know. I don’t think we’ll ever know why things happen at a certain time. We can speculate. We can look back in hindsight and say, “I’m glad that happen,” but I don’t know if I could ever look back and say why it happened at that time. I have no idea why that happened at that time in my life, but I am glad that it happened in my early 20’s versus my later 20’s and early 30’s! [laughs]
SS: If you could sum up your ATO Epiphany in one sentence that ends with “and that’s okay”, what would it be?
“Things may never go as planned, and that’s okay.”
Photo credit: Krissy Sheehan