Leadership Reality Check: Are You There For A Cause, or A Check?

For those who haven't followed me on social media, or are new to getting to know me, this year I celebrated 7 years of working in the Social Justice movement. At 26 going on 27 years old, I would have never imagined being at such a high point in my career. Throughout the beginning of my career I rapidly became a well known young leader in HIV. I had a passion, a fire in my eye, and a story to tell, nothing was going to stop me. Many people within my field saw that and wanted to fuel that passion, but that came at a price. 

Flashback to 2014, this young fiery little person from Fort Lauderdale starts to get invited to speak at conferences, be a brand ambassador, and do things I could have never imagined. It all came very fast and the feeling of being "important" felt amazing. Over the next year and a half I became caught up in the lifestyle of traveling city-to-city, being called by major media outlets, and filming one of the largest HIV testing campaigns in CDC's history. I walked into my job feeling like the shit, and that I ran the show. However, that wasn't the case at all. 

Unknowingly I started to stink, no not physically smell, but my attitude became "Grand". I started to only go to conferences or meetings when it was convenient or there was a something in it for me. And when I was in those spaces I would put on a front, and in those spaces you very easily get your ego stroked. Being surrounded by "Yes" people is great for the short term, but it wasn't until I saw that same attitude looked like in other young people like me that I knew that wasn't who I really was and that I needed to take a step back. 

As I took a step back I started to notice that this was an all too common occurrence within many social justice spaces. Through my observation it was all about who did you know, what campaigns have you been in, what is your title at your organization, and how many "accomplishments" can you get under your belt. For some people all they strive to be is "Known", and for others they want to truly advocate to change shit. Trust, this trend of seeking exposure as an activist is nothing new, but speaking from personal experience you can really tell who is there for the cause and not for the check. 

The impacts of being caught up were that I began to blur who I was with who I wanted to be see as. I am a person who used my work credentials, and experiences as a barrier from people getting to see the authentically vulnerable me. I was scared that if I was to truly be authentically vulnerable people wouldn't give a fuck about what I really wanted to advocate for. Thats when I knew I had to get back to basics and find my passion for advocacy and activism. 

The first thing I had to do was examine my social circle, was I surrounding myself with people who will call me out when I get grand, and were the willing to challenge me when I am wrong? Once I began to surround myself with those who would keep me accountable, I had to learn what am I really passionate about in this chapter of my life, find that fire that I had and grow from it. To be honest I am still figuring shit out, learning to make meaningful change every single day, and realizing it doesn't matter how many likes, retweets, or praise I get for the work that I do. Because as long as I knew my heart is pure, and that I did everything that I could it's all that matters. And for the future, I am working on rebuilding relationships and connections with those who I may of burned bridges with. 

Love & Light,

Benji