Going Back to the Basics: Why I'm Stepping Away from Traditional D&I Work

Dear Journal,

I’ve gone back and forth with whether I should write these thoughts down. I'm not sure anyone cares enough about any of it, but then again, I'm not sure if I'm writing these words for anyone other than myself. I have grown to recognize and respect the power of speaking things into life. The power of manifestation. The power of committing goals and dreams to paper. So that is what this journal entry is intended to be – a proclamation of what I hope to see manifested in my life and work from this day on: self-care, inspiration and empowerment.

I’ve spent the last two years trying to build a business as a diversity and inclusion consultant. Anyone who knows anything about entrepreneur life knows that nothing about that journey is easy. We all hear about the late nights, the financial periods of feast or famine, and the incredible amount of doubt you feel when building something from scratch and asking the world to validate it. I haven’t been immune to any of those things in my journey. Mix the general hardships of starting a business with the content of my work being an extremely polarizing topic for most Americans and you have the understatement of an uphill battle.

To put it simply, diversity and inclusion work isn’t easy. It’s hard as hell. There isn’t a day on the job that you don’t come up against resistance in one way or another. The people who just downright disagree with the need to even discuss these issues. The people who think they know of a better way of doing your job than you do. The allies stepping out of their lane and speaking on your behalf to alleviate white discomfort in your approach. It’s all expected, but all so very exhausting. And I’ve come to realize that I need to step away from it for a while.

Before I share more about why I’ve made this decision, I should make something very clear. This is personal. It has very little to do with the real hardships of diversity and inclusion work. If it was just the work that was taking a toll on me, I’d be able to keep at it. Because the truth is I honestly enjoy this work. And not to toot my own horn or anything, but I’m pretty damn good at it. I just can’t devote the amount of time and passion to it that it deserves, because I need me right now.

A lot has happened in my life over the last couple of years: I miscarried a baby. Lost my grandmother. Had two surgeries within three months of each other. Got married. Graduated from law school. Moved away from my family and friends to a new state where I had neither (I did have a few incredible in-laws nearby, though). Walked alongside my husband as he sat for the Bar (survivors of that beast know what I’m talking about). Moved again (never really made friends in the previous town, but the idea of “starting over” was overwhelming). And will likely say goodbye to another grandmother by the end of the year (but the Lord knows I hope not).

As you can see, there was a lot of change in my life, some I chose, others that chose me. The miscarriage and loss of my grandmother were the big traumas, however. Life just never really slowed down during either of those events and I naively didn’t do anything to prioritize the grief. Both happened in law school during my two hardest semesters. I had no choice but to push through and set grief aside so that I could be at least a mediocre student. I did want to graduate, after all. In the process, I  never got the chance to honor just how traumatic those incidents were to me. And while I think I always knew they would eventually catch up to me, I don’t think I ever had a grasp on just how bad it would be when they did. Well, that all became clear as day in February when I hit my wall. Hard.

Levi and I miscarried our beloved Noah on Feb 13th during a grueling semester in law school. The anniversary of that day has always been hard. It also doesn’t help that it’s the day before Valentine’s Day when everyone else is projecting all the happiness those cheesy Hallmark cards can muster. That juxtaposition was hard. The truth is that it took everything in Levi and I to love on each over those couple of days each year. Both us were constantly pushing aside anger, guilt, grief, disappointment and more. Things we stuffed away for the remainder of the year, but couldn’t avoid when the anniversary came around. It was full-time work just to not cry all day. And I honestly don’t know why we didn’t just let that happen. After all the emotional avoidance, we didn’t really have much left for each other. Which just lead to more hurt, because the one person we needed to help us through it was unavailable and distracted.

In law school, when the first anniversary came around, we could dive into school work as a distraction and use it as an excuse for being distant. During our year of transition after our move to Colorado, we could pawn those same things off on Levi studying for the Bar, me starting a business, and his job search. We really mastered avoidance with this trauma. This year, however, it all changed. We didn’t have an excuse readily available. We were left with each other – with no fires to put out and our lives steadier than they had ever been. Our only available path forward was painful honesty about just how much we hadn’t moved through over the years. That wave came crashing in with a message neither of us could ignore anymore. The time for avoidance and distraction was over. We needed to heal from this.

About two weeks before the anniversary of the miscarriage knocking me off my feet, I got news that my maternal grandmother was unlikely to make it through the rest of the week. Every single moment of fear and devastating heartbreak from the loss of my other grandmother came rushing back as I sat by the phone waiting for the call that would break my heart all over again. It was one of the top three worst weeks of my life. By the grace of God, my grandmother is still with us for the moment, but we’ve been given no certainties for how long that will be. That leads me to why I’m stepping away from diversity and inclusion work for a while.

Add all the unresolved issues up and mix them with new issues and emotional hurdles and you have a girl who has hit her limit. My emotional energy isn’t as limitless as I once thought. It is not sourced from a bottomless pit. I had to decide what areas of my life I’m going to spend this precious resource on and I chose me.

Diversity and inclusion work takes a lot out of you. It is emotional labor on a whole different level. There is always a fire to put out. Transference is real. An emotionally healthy me could do it just fine. Although, it still wouldn’t be without costs. However, I simply can’t dedicate the time I need to heal my heart when I spend 8+ hours a day engaging people and content that is so triggering so often. That doesn’t leave me with any emotional energy for my personal life, which is in dire need of some serious prioritization right now. My emotional labor station needs to be recharged – for my personal wellness first and foremost, then professional work, should I decide to step back into this version of it.

Therefore, I’m going back to my original inspiration for why I created Telling Kindred in the first place. I always envisioned Telling Kindred as a storytelling platform that shared real stories from real people at various stages of their inclusion journey and cultural celebration. From day one, I let so many unnecessary influences drive me from that original mission. I didn’t stay true to me and was wooed by ideas for monetizing areas of work I wasn’t passionate about. I’m putting a stop to that and going back to the basics.

What does that mean for me going forward? I won’t be taking on any new clients for the remainder of the year. I’ll still be sharing D&I tools. I’ll also be available for two of my signature workshops. The content for each is revamped to speak more to the individual empowerment for change agents. Rather than starting from the negative place of convincing collectives of people that they’re doing things wrong. That type of inclusion work is no longer for me. The pushback that comes with that is not something I want to have to move through each day.

Instead, you’ll find me with my camera in my hand. If you don’t see a camera, you’ll likely see a pen and notebook filled with words that have no purpose except to reflect exactly how I feel in the moments I write them. I want to tell stories. Stories that inform. Stories that inspire. Stories that empower. Focusing on photography, writing, podcasting and other creative projects is a privilege that I intend to take full advantage, indefinitely.

You’ll also see me outside more. I’ll be hosting hikes in my corner of the Rockies on the second Saturday of each month for other people who are looking to shed the icky of whatever they’re pushing through as well. I wish I had words for just how healing and self-informing it is for me when exploring the beauty of this country’s public lands. I’m learning so much about the Native peoples who inhabited them long ago and it has inspired me to be more intentional in my allyship to them and their communities. I hope to share some of the incredible work the members of their various communities are doing to bring awareness to their causes in this space in the very near future.

I’m so proud of my decision. I’m proud of my courage. Finding peace in slowing down, stepping back, and doing what feeds my soul has been a game changer for me. I’m excited to see where it takes me and hope to see many beautiful faces along the way.

-       L. Glenise Pike

P.S. Whoa. That was longer than I expected, haha. If you made it this far, thanks for reading all my ramblings!