No one makes room at the table like Creator of @MyTruthTheirTruth, Vanessa Philogene. On a professional and personal level, she has always pulled a seat for others to share their experiences, ideas, and appropriately, their truth, to always move the conversation forward, and lift others with the simple fact that none of us are going through this alone. When she is not making sure millions of social media followers are being heard on large and small forums, she always carves time for the 1-on-1 real-real conversations. Vanessa recently drop' in to reflect on our Dwelling in Other story and shared what heartfelt memories the piece got her thinkin' about:
What is your fondest childhood memory about where you grew up? What sounds, smells, colors remind you of home?
It dates back to when my dad asked 7-year-old me what I wanted to be when I grew up. My dad had just come home from work. Like we normally do during that time in Haiti, my brother and I would greet him at the door. My brother grabbed his suitcase while my father and I headed to the dining room. The kitchen windows were open. I could smell the freshly cooked rice prepared for him and the sound of street vendors passing by. That day he sat down in the dining room chair and put me on his lap. As I was playing with my dress, he asked me the question. I told my father I wanted to be a journalist after watching a few episodes of Oprah on my TV box. I had no clear understanding of what the path to get there looks like and what a TV production entails. Neither did he. However, my dad made me believe I could become her. It's my favorite story because it entirely shaped not just my career, the scope of my life. Although no smell nor sound today brings me back to that place. Whenever I'm with my dad, I remember that conversation. As a young girl getting that permission to be and feel limitless allowed me to dream beyond my current circumstances. Everything I've done and I do is in the pursuit of achieving that which I told my dad I could be...BOUNDLESS.
Have you ever felt ‘other’ where you grew up?
Feeling like the "other" is my life's tale. I remember I had a strong need to fit in two worlds. I wanted to hang out with the regular kids and the popular girls. All through middle school, I felt like an imposter. Everyone got along with me. However, I carried this weight that I wasn't doing enough. I didn't feel deserving of their friendships because of what family some of them were from or what they did on the weekends. Once I entered high school, the script flipped. Feeling like an outsider was no longer an emotional battle with self, but more psychological. Being bullied for my thick Haitian accent and dressing "uncool" had taken its toll on me, and kept me to my books. I had to work to feel seen, and to be befriended by my classmates. The privilege of being myself and being accepted for who I was didn't exist. These were painful and revealing years. I only fit in my church community, a group of much older ladies.
What does being ‘privileged’ mean to you?
In Haiti, I had many privileges. It was an advantage to have friends with common languages and social norms. It was an advantage to have access to people and resources that added to my knowledge. Through societal influence, I isolated myself rather than embraced what I "thought" made me different. But looking now, when I removed my victim hat off, I was more privileged in Haiti than when I moved back to the U.S.
What does ‘belonging’ mean to you?
Today I have friends with common languages, some with similar interests as me, many with very different careers, and life experiences, but I learn from those differences. Over the years, I've learned that belonging doesn't always need to equate to uniformity nor agreement. Belonging to me means allowing oneself to experience what you may not understand fully. My desire to belong is no longer limited to grabbing on to those who look like me, sound just like me, eat the same food as me. My sense of belonging in this world inspires me to create which does not exist using learnings from all the differences around me. Curiosity feeds my need to belong. I feel boundless because of it.