"Every achievement was once uncharted territory.”
- Kimberley Baker Guillemet
Navigating uncharted territory can be scary. However, someone has to be the first.
In 1864, Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler became the first African-American female medical doctor in the United States. In addition to navigating the academic rigor that is endemic to medical school, Dr. Crumpler had to do so as the first and only woman of color during a time of intense racism and sexism. After retiring, Dr. Crumpler wrote and published what is believed to be the first medical text written by an African-American author.
I can only imagine what Dr. Crumpler had to face to accomplish her goals. They were certainly uncharted territory for a woman and a person of color during her time. Though we are living in a time and space different from Dr. Crumpler, we still must navigate hurdles, both internal and external, when we set out to achieve a new goal.
How do we push past the very real external obstacles of exclusion, sexism, racism, classism and elitism? And, how do we ignore all of the internal insecurities that come up, such as:
What if I’m rejected?
What if I’m not good enough?
What if I don’t pass muster?
What if people think I’m crazy?
How do you get past all of that and just try? Well, the answer is simple: take the first step. Everything and everyone had to start somewhere. Every trailblazer had to set off on their journey with no roadmap directing their way. They did not have an instruction manual telling them which steps to take.
As this month is Black History Month, we can look to African-American trailblazers who demonstrated courage as they took their first steps into the unknown. There was no roadmap for George Washington Carver to use to discover over 300 uses for the peanut. There was no financial advisor directing Madam C.J. Walker on how to invest and grow her money in order to become the first Black millionaire. There was no roadmap for Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to guide him as he strategized and planned a civil rights movement. There was no instruction manual for former President Barack Obama to follow in order to ensure that he would be elected the first African-American President of the United States.
Similarly, there will not be a roadmap or instruction manual for whatever uncharted territory we will have to traverse on the way to accomplishing our novel goals. We will rarely know where the steps in our journey will take us or what our final destination will be, but we have to be brave enough to take the first step.
Is there something in your heart that you have been wanting to do? A goal you want to achieve? I challenge you to take the first step into your unknown, and then, after that, take the next.*
Worth it? Always.
You might just end up changing the world.
* This statement is not intended to incite behavior that is illegal, illicit or unauthorized. All minors should seek the advice and permission of their parents and/or guardians before engaging in any new activity.