I internalized the “voices” that told me I was not good enough. I have come to learn that my form of activism is using my life to fight for the cause that I am passionate about.
Four months ago, I wrote these words:
“I was a physics major for a week. Don’t get me wrong. I’ll always be intrigued by the complexities of quantum mechanics, but my goal in life has never been to be a theoretical physicist. My aspiration is to create the world where a young girl with skin of bronze can believe that she is golden enough to study dark matter alongside the masculine fair skins that dominate the field and society.”
I never realized that the young girl who needed the push to pursue a career in the physical sciences was me. I have spent the past semester confused and not knowing what I wanted to do, or should I say knowing exactly what I wanted to do, but being too afraid to pursue that dream. I began to believe all of the negativity that had been forced into my brain for nearly two decades.
Shades of black
I internalized the “voices” that told me I was not good enough. My therapist told me to replace negative thoughts with positive ones, but I was not sure of how to do that until now. For a little over a year, I’ve had auditory hallucinations, but I was beyond ashamed to admit it. Admitting to being depressed was hard enough, but hearing voices? I was flat out crazy. No one could convince me that I wasn’t. As a person of color and a Christian, I am “not allowed” to suffer from mental illness. All of the doctors told me that I’d know my illness was serious when it started to affect my daily life; not only was it affecting my day-to-day functions, but it started to distort my future. I saw everything in shades of black, no white, no light, no hope — just black.
“You’re an idiot.”
“Down all of the pills — right now.”
“You’ll never be anything in life.”
My form of activism
Activism, by definition, is a set of vigorous actions that supports or opposes a controversial societal or political issue. An activist, then, is a person who advocates for a cause and uses their actions to support a stance. Stereotypical activism is picketing, protesting, dedicating a life to nonprofit work or education. I have come to learn that my form of activism is using my life to fight for the cause that I am passionate about.
Since childhood, I have had a knack for science. Anatomy books, science kits, and weekend trips to the museums comprised my elementary years. When I realized that I was interested in writing and Black history, I decided to pursue that wholeheartedly, leaving behind my passion for science. I convinced myself that I was chasing my passion, when really, I was running from it. I had bought into the narrative that women and people of color can not make sufficient scientists. My activism will be following my dreams and breaking the stereotypes that hold myself and my people back, just like Katherine Johnson.
“Know how to learn. Then, want to learn.” – Katherine Johnson
Hidden Figures Pushed Me Out Of Hiding
I spent a little over 30 hours in the psychiatric hospital. I was in complete isolation, and at the beginning of my stay, I was terrified of being left alone with the same brain that led me there. I felt completely numb when I left — I am not sure if it was the medication or the lack of sleep. After a few days, I began to feel like myself again, and I realized how much I missed studying the sciences.
Then, I saw Hidden Figures. It details the lives of three African-American women who worked at NASA, including Katherine Johnson, who calculated trajectories, launch windows, and emergency return paths for several flights from Project Mercury. She worked at NASA during the era of segregation, and she worked hard to prove the doubters, sometimes including herself, wrong.
Katherine Johnson was an activist. She dedicated her life to what she loved, mathematics, even though society was tightly holding on to the stereotype that only white males could compute. Her life destroyed that negative notion, and aspiring scientists and mathematicians, like myself, have an incredible role model to look up to because of her bravery. Courage is at the heart of all forms of activism.
I decided to continue studying writing and journalism, but to add something else.
I am a physics major — again.
“Fight for you.” – My mom
Read more: “I am Afraid of Being an Activist”