Cut the small talk

Recently, a classmate was asked to find as much information about me online in five minutes. First of all, this experience was absolutely terrifying — my mind played back everything that he could possible find — would he find my awkward middle school pictures or many failed attempts at trying to be funny on Facebook. I was certain that he would find more things about my personal life than my professional life — I was wrong. His search revealed that I was an engineer, consultant, graduate student and interested in transforming the energy industry in Nigeria. That was it. These are all very accurate,but those who know me know that I am more about people and passions, and less about the career and accolades. My online persona only shows one side of me and it is time to change that — I want to tell my story. I want to be perceived as more than just my profession.

I looked around my friend circle and realized that most women that I knew would be perceived the same way, especially women of color — all work and no play — that realization motivated me to create this blog.

It is no secret that the honest and complex stories of women of color are rarely told. We are often times limited to the personalities created by false narratives created by the movie, TV and music industries. As a woman of color, I am inspired to be the medium that takes highlights from my conversations with amazing women and presents them to the world!

To begin, I want to start by giving you an insight into my story.

Name: Chinasa

Ethnicity: Nigerian with a smidgen of Texan

Where do you call home?: I was born and lived in Nigeria for the early part of my life, but have lived in Texas ever since. I guess home is in two places — Nigeria and Tejas.

What makes you amazing?: My honesty with people makes me amazing — my friends will tell you that I really don’t like small talk. I like to find out what defines and motivates people! God has blessed me with the desire to care those things, so while every one else is too busy talking about the weather I am doing everything I can to be the person that provides an opportunity for people to talk about the things that matter.

What makes you beautiful?: My ability to laugh — that actual laugh sounds ugly but I appreciate that I can find humor in almost anything.

How do you balance your professional and personal life?: To be completely honest, I am horrible at balancing the two. For a very long time my professional life has been a priority and I have completely ignored my personal life. After years of trying to be the perfect professional, I realize that I am starting to value my personal life more. I want to achieve the same success that I have gained in my professional life in my personal life. It is a daily struggle and every time I attempt to focus on my personal life I default back to throwing myself into my work because it is much easier to think about and deal with.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced as a professional woman?: As a black woman I constantly feel like I have to work really hard to prove myself to everyone. I have faced many instances in which I walk into a classroom or show up for a presentation and I can automatically see the look of apprehension on people’s faces — when I walk into a room my gender and race walk in before my qualifications do. After putting all of this effort into being a strong person professionally, I still feel like the kid that gets picked last is gym class.

What is the biggest benefit being a woman has afforded you in your profession?: The ability to have empathy for (most) people. I believe that my womanhood makes me very sensitive and attentive to the needs of others.

What do you want other women to know?: Don’t be afraid to embrace your emotions. For a long time women have been told to be tough to gain respect, to hide our emotions to not be perceived as weak, and to suppress our frustrations because we don’t want to seem difficult. That narrative needs to end today! We are women and we should be allowed to be, feel and act in a way that makes us comfortable and valued-it is time to stop having to code switch just to fit in! The world needs to begin to adapt to us!

Three words that describe you: Passionate. Quirky. Careful.

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