• Courtney Dianne

Interview: The Renaissance Woman

Brooklyn native Dr. Anne D., 34, is a voice for the times and a modern-day Renaissance woman: an activist and leader in the field of education with the doctoral credentials to boot; a serial entrepreneur in travel, philanthropy, and social networking for people of color; and a real-life "Carmen San Diego" having traveled to 56 countries and counting. Hear from her, in her own words, on the gift of sight, being a resource for others, taking time to recover, and why it's time to stop apologizing. Also, read on, as she shares a very special announcement.

Education has always been really essential in getting ahead.

I have a penchant for wanting to learn certain things formally rather than winging it, so returning to school at various times throughout my working years has always been beneficial across all the work I do in a variety of ways. Furthermore, it may sound cliche, but I was a Brooklyn public school kid who had teachers who saw my curiosity and inquisitiveness and nurtured me to go past the zoned schools I would have attended. My mom also supported my love of reading my entire life and made sure to keep me involved in after-school activities and church (I danced for six years as part of a youth group, which many people don't know about me!). I still see how my mom's sacrifices got me to this place today.

Even though I grew up low-income and in the ghetto, my mom and family never really let that define what we did and who we were.

I grew up living with my family, and my aunt worked two jobs for 25 years. She always made time to travel to places such as Switzerland, Brazil, and Costa Rica. She was on it and had us go on family cruises when I was in high school. Also, in high school, I was involved in a lot of activities that kept me out and about past where I lived, so I learned about the importance of expanding your horizons.

There are many challenges in trying to move up the socio-economic ladder, and, to be honest, I still face a lot of those challenges - even though I've surpassed my mom and aunt's incomes.

However, the hustle was born and remains out of the resilience of being constantly tested, as well as the faith, fortitude, and knowledge I have acquired from having to constantly think through and around life's crazy hurdles. It feels like they come out of the sky sometimes, I swear, lol. All of these things have kept me on my feet, humble, hungry, and accumulating assets to be a resource to others.

For eight years, I lived and breathed working with black kids, doing my best to put them onto the ways of the world and teach them strategies to survive and make it beyond school.

I also love history and, as a US history teacher, was able to be myself in a way that I couldn't in any other role I had up until that point. So, when I decided to stop teaching in the classroom, it was one of the hardest decisions I ever made.

When I reflected on the work I had done, even before teaching in the classroom, I realized that my calling was and is to educate and provide exposure for all who are receptive to it.

For all the experiences I've had and the people I've spoken to, people have learned something - that is, been exposed to a new place via travel, a new idea, and/or tools to be and think beyond what they initially thought of themselves.

I was able to figure out my calling by being persistent in doing what I wanted...

(even if it wasn't traditional, even if it was risky or seemed unrealistic); by spending a lot of time reflecting on my experiences (both the good and the bad); and by growing in my faith and spirituality (The Secret and The Alchemist changed my life after graduating from university).

The universe and God are ALWAYS pushing you to where you need to be.

It just takes a special kind of self-awareness to recognize the little nudges. I've been fired; I've been denied like a lot of people. While those developments were always disappointing, when I look back, they were all for a reason, and I ended up in positions when it was much better suited for me. I just followed my heart and learned to trust God's voice and myself a bit more that others' opinions.

I quit teaching in the middle of the school year last year with a mortgage looming over my head.

It definitely wasn't what my mom advised. But after suffering from early depression, significant weight-loss, racist and cultural persecution on the job (if you are ever put on a performance improvement plan and realistically work hard, that's what that is!), and being diagnosed with an auto-immune disorder that attacked my skin, it was time to go and finish the degree I worked hard on before I got the job in the first place.

After leaving the classroom at the end of March, I took some time to rest and recover from overwhelming stress.

I dedicated the month of April to completing my dissertation; I defended it and made it in time to walk for May's graduation, with my degree conferred in August 2019. I wouldn't change a thing. Everything happened the way it was supposed to for me to make the moves I did. I also will add that my leaving my job was not a surprise because I was honest about not really fitting in prior to the events that led to my resignation. Maybe, I would've applied for disability to get more income coming in before leaving; but God held me down, and I made it through.

I learned and fought for the ability to tune out other people and do what I want.

I also am a big advocate of driving in MY lane and staying there. No one knows your story or walks in your shoes. So all the advice and opinions in the world can't factor in your thoughts, desires, and beliefs. Being in tune with yourself is way more valuable than the weak and loose metric of society. Have you seen society lately? I think I'm kinda good on societal expectations..lol! Better to work on the gift of sight for yourself.

Some life hacks I can share are:

  1. Never wait until you need something to get it. I always have toilet paper, toothpaste, dish soap, and snacks. I need millennials to stop living on the struggle bus for no reason.

  2. Always pay yourself first with an account you DON'T have a debit card for. You can set the percentages of where your money goes, and 10% isn't something you can feel, even if you earn little. Just don't play with that money.

  3. Learn to enjoy your own company and figure out what YOU like for yourself. It is worth everything. Always make time for dates with yourself to treat and take care of yourself by doing what you love.

  4. Always keep a list of all the things you've done that expand on your job duties, and, every few months, update your job description on your resume so that you're ready to show off at the next interview for the next job. While it's good to go above and beyond, just be sure to keep track of it, so you know your value-added.

  5. If you believe in God, read the Bible for yourself and take notes. Nothing under the sun is new, and I've learned more about people and behavior from doing this and increasing my faith than taking BuzzFeed quizzes!

  6. Stop apologizing all the time. Sorry is an overused word, and people do what they want, whether we admit it or not. Change your language into one that puts you in control and with agency, instead of without power and seeking validation.

  7. LISTEN to those who have been through a technical process, take their advice, and know that, if someone can't be specific/open/communicate in helping you, they may not know as much as they claim to or don't want to really help you from a place of genuine love.

I was perpetually single for a LONG time. Over a decade.

In my 20s, pre 2008-recession, it was definitely fun, but something about that downturn led to a downturn in the guys too! I had a bunch of situation-ships, ghosting (before it was a term, I called it Houdini), and flings. It wasn't a priority for me either while I worked on me, and I think it's important to say that. However, as my 30s approached, I took my desire to find love VERY serious in a way that influenced my actions significantly more than before. I also think that "finding" love for us ladies is a matter of being prepared for it by really being honest with yourself: looking at family patterns of romantic relationships, and acknowledging what you want vs need and how we have individually contributed to our singleness. I also changed the media I was consuming. I was surrounded by "N**gas aint sh*t" and those women preaching men as checkbooks, and I just didn't want to tell myself those things because it's hard to be faithful, with all of that around you all the time. That's a lot - but I found more success in being in actual relationships when I got serious about all of those things and changed my ways.

I went online after my best friend kept pushing me and found my now ex-boyfriend on Tinder.

Although that relationship ended, I learned a WHOLE lot in it and also shifted some of my needs in my next partner. After that break-up and a heart-breaking situation, I took a LONG break (3 years to be candid) and finished my PhD in that time. I went back on Tinder, where I met my current partner.

In all the years and experiences I've had, and those I've seen, some key takeaways on love I could share are:

  1. KNOW the worth of your body and stop giving people discounts and passes on YOU literally. I had sex when I was single, but, after a long while, you have to lock it down in order to see what a man is REALLY about and what else is on offer if you want more than that.

  2. KEEP your standards where they are, but understand that it IS difficult and standards are different from "desirables." What I mean is, one of the most useful things a woman has in her arsenal are her standards. Men will only do what they can get away with, so what standards do you accept for how you're treated, spoken to, and valued as a partner in relation to a man? You have to know what those are. There has to be a conviction in you that means you are willing to WALK AWAY if those aren't being met (and this has nothing to do with a man's height, swag, and other things that don't matter as much). Standards mean nothing if they're not held. And while many women settle (and end up unhappy because of it), it's the choice they made in waiving some of these essential things.

  3. Get deep, and pay attention to principles and values EARLY ON. The principles and values are what usually make for successful and healthy relationships. It always surprises me when people get divorced and they didn't know their partner didn't want kids, or one person in a relationship acts more like they're single than not. I think paying attention is really important because people are always showing you who they are. It's easy to be likable; but what DON'T you like and can you stand about a person? Is the man helpful, considerate, and supportive of your endeavors? I think these things are significantly more important than a lot of other things we sell to ourselves looking for companions. And there is a big difference between companion/partner and what some others pawn off as relationships.

  4. Last, but not least, know and acknowledge that you need work too! There are things we can ONLY know once we are in a relationship, and many people are not emotionally mature to accept that they need to work on themselves as much as they can readily point to their partner. Some of our flaws have kept us safe in singleness but don't work in partnership. I was guilty of that myself, but I am happy that I kept pushing to be better; and, to be honest, I could've missed out if I hadn't!

I guess now would be the best time to share that I'm pregnant!

So, while I was and am fine with social distancing due to COVID-19 because that's my mood in a way, it's been sad having to cancel my baby shower and not being able to celebrate in the small ways I thought I could in addition to the shower. My partner is amazing, though, and always finds some workaround to make me happy; his support and that of my family right now have been outstanding!

In light of COVID-19, work is really my refuge, and I find myself chipping away at projects and work that I want to put out there.

I've definitely curated my travel Instagram page, and I'm going to be blogging more and continuing to hustle through! I always knew I was a workaholic, but learning how important church is to me and how much I miss it, as well as how introverted I actually am, have been a bit surprising, for sure. I also lack the discipline to work out at home, lol, but I'm going to aim for that next week!

Life is always challenging me with something that tests the next level of my resilience.

But I cry when I need to, sleep when I feel like it, meditate, pray and go for walks to reconnect with myself. Travel is a huge recharging method for me, but it never had to be overseas; so I try my best to expand my horizons through books and some Netflix every now and again!

This is going to sound crazy but I wish I minored in Art History in university.

It's not a big regret but something I wish I did because I see how much I love art now, and it started in college!

Interested in Anne's travels or learning more about her travel services? Check out The Voluptuary on Instagram and Facebook.

Photo Credit: @tythaphotog


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