Mrs. Esonia is a Drexel graduate, who majored in Engineering. Her contact information was given to me by one of my favorite professors, who thought I could use her encouragement. I was very excited to learn how she survived the rigors of this university, especially upon finding out she was a minority student.
When I called Mrs. Esonia, she sounded sweet as pie. She was at work, but still, she stepped outside her office just to speak with me. Before I could even begin asking the several questions I had prepared for her, she said to me, “Who are you?” The question didn’t throw me off guard, and I felt well-equipped to answer.
“I am Jasmine Jones, a five-year Nursing Co-Op, with a creative writing minor. My goal upon graduation is to pursue a Master’s in Nursing and become a Nurse Practitioner. I am an ‘A’ and ‘B’ student; I’m also heavily involved on campus, presently serving as the Community Outreach Coordinator of the Black Student Union, Public Relations Chairperson of the Gospel Choir…” and before I could continue, she cut me off.
“Who. Are. You.”, she said sternly.
That stumped me. I was telling her exactly who I was, so I couldn’t understand why she was cutting me off in the process.
I began again, “I am a Drexel sophomore, very driven, focused, community and family-oriented…”
“Who. Are. You. You’re giving me these titles, names, and positions, that you hold, but you’re not telling me who you are…the impact you’ve made. Let me ask you something. Which do you think is better, being well-known or worth knowing? Don’t answer that. I want you to think about your response. Give me a call when you have it together.”
She hung up.
I was bewildered. For a conversation I thought would provide me with encouragement, uplift, and some type of formula to surviving Drexel, Mrs. Esonia made me feel like I had just tanked a very important interview. For the remainder of the day, there was a pit in my stomach, a feeling I couldn’t shake.
I didn’t want to call her back. She was mean. She didn’t want me to succeed. Hours of contemplation on the matter turned into days. Days turned into a week, and I had yet to call her back.
In the moment, Mrs. Esonia’s question tripped me up big time. Her question challenged me to really understand myself. After two weeks, I finally called her back and said:
“Hello, Mrs. Esonia. This is Jasmine. I am a student-in progress, a lover of meditation, gospel music, and good food. I enjoy spending time with my family, they are the people who truly drive me to live my best. I am a lifelong Girl Scout, and because of that I know what it means to live with the sole purpose of serving my community, and leading without dictating. My goals are paramount and they only begin with my attaining a Doctorate’s degree in Nursing. I also plan to spend my days traveling the world, writing books, because I am a woman who is determined to live free and without limitation.
“Well, hello, Jasmine. It’s nice to finally meet you…” She chuckled with her response.
Mrs. Esonia had my best interest in mind the first time we spoke on the phone. She wanted me to see that life is more than words. There needs to be a story, or some type of impact to back up the title.
Are you just words, and titles that others have given to you? Next time you’re on an interview, or someone asks for you to share information about yourself (depending on the setting and tone of the environment), don’t give the routine college student answer. Some people genuinely want to know who you are, as a person. How did you get to where you are, and how have past experiences shaped your lifestyle and goals?
I am more than the college I attend or the position I hold within a campus organization. I am a source of happiness that was built from within, and designed to spread my experiences outward. We are all here with different purposes. So, I challenge you to answer this question:
Who are you?
What words will you choose?