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|When "Them" Become "Us" - Page 6|
As my eyes were closing, I was interrupted by my great-grandmother, Anna, whose image hovered above my bed. She'd lived with my family until she died, when I was junior in college. Now, leaning over me, lovingly but with an obvious look of disappointment, she administered a reprimand: "Tired? You say you're tired? Who are you to be tired? People have been hosed, jailed, beaten, shot, and lynched for you and never once complained about being tired. You don't even know what tired is! You want to quit because it's too hard, but you can't be loved by everybody. It isn't about you, and you have to stop making it about you. I don't want to hear nothing else about you quitting or being tired!" Then her image evaporated. I continued to stare at the ceiling, thinking about her words, until it became easier for me to breathe and I could finally sleep.
I can't say that this was exactly my conversion on the road to Damascus, but I was disturbed enough the next morning that I decided that I couldn't quit just yet; maybe I did need to hang in and not give up so easily, maybe even grow up a little.
As I went about doing other workshops on diversity, the shadow of South Carolina loomed large. I felt less apt to rattle off quick, assured, ill-thought-out responses. I became less spontaneous and "authentic" in some ways, and more cautious. It was like learning to drive a standard shift again, all jerky and prone to unexpected lurches and stalls. But something new began to dawn on me: the power of patience, of being more willing to back up and try again, to listen before rushing on. It wasn't as much fun as being a self-assured star, but slowly I began to "find my touch."