Growing up in a single parent home really did a number on me. It played on my confidence and in many ways worked silently to strip me of my identity. For a large portion of my life, I looked through the color stained window of my reality wishing that I would wake up in another’s storyline. So much so, that I despised my life and I struggled with self-esteem, which as a result, caused me to settle more times than not. I was never the cool girl but somehow I was always positioned around the “in” crowd. Never fitting in, but desiring to be recognized caused me to morph into someone who I am still working to unbecome today. I didn’t realize it then, but what I was trading for the acceptance of my peers was far more valuable than what I would receive from them.
My low self-esteem coupled with parental issues led me down a path that was praiseworthy but motivationally bankrupt. What I mean is that there are generally two paths that people can travel when they are running—either we become hyper-something (overactive) or hypo-something (underactive). I was both. Because of my familial history and my own personal defeats, I threw myself into education. This, of course, was a great cover because it allowed people to praise me for my accomplishments, while secretly feeding my insecurity. I felt that I wasn’t enough. In essence, I was not succeeding because I was interested in school, but because I needed validation and I knew that if I achieved things then I would be able to get high off of the praise of others. It worked for a little while, but then the feelings of emptiness would resurface with a vengeance.
Because of this, I entertained LOTS of dead relationships. Though there was a knowing deep down that they wouldn’t last, I wanted them. Why? Because I wanted to feel wanted. No matter how bad they were to me. No matter how unfamiliar I became to myself. No matter what I had to trade, I wanted them because I needed them to fill a void. I stayed when I should’ve left. I compromised when I should’ve stood strong. I gave when I should’ve stored. This, of course, is my own fault because I willingly became a participant in a game where I would be the biggest loser. I entertained a 7-year on and off relationship with a man that I was sure was my husband. We did bad to one another. We lied to one another. We were wrapped up within one another so closely that I didn’t know where he ended and where I began. I think we both were spiritually dying and didn’t know it; however, I still had school to cover me. People didn’t know that it was bad between us because I was a master of disguise, and then I graduated Magna Cum Laude.
Due to the fact I didn’t have a plan, I entered into a PhD program under conditional admittance, which meant that for the first time I was placed on academic probation. (Que the insecurity here). All of the feelings of not being good enough, not being smart enough, and emptiness came rushing back. Perhaps they never left but now that I didn’t have a relationship to cover them, I had to deal with their weight. This, coupled with the stressed of a PhD program landed me in a very interesting and unexpected place—in the doctor’s office with a prescription for depression and anxiety medication. “How did I get here,” I wondered. This wasn’t supposed to happen but it did and I was shocked. See, I had run for so long and I’d finally hit a wall that I couldn’t run through. I had to do my work, and it was a hard work to do. I had finally had a reality check. Running will get you nowhere and education will turn on you.
For three years now, I’ve been (re)building my life. It is an active happening because I discover new things about myself every day. Becoming is not an isolated event.
there are generally two paths that people can travel when they are running—either we become hyper-something (overactive) or hypo-something (underactive).
I was both.
I’ve had great success thus far. And, sometimes people ask me how I’ve managed to do so much in so little time, and with so little resources. I tell them that I listen for the whispers of God. When I got saved at the age of 24, though I was raised in church, I had no idea into what I was getting myself. It’s weird because I was living in St. Louis, in the second year of my M.A. program, and preparing for preparing for graduation but I still felt empty. I think I had a divine appointment with God and he used my education to get my attention.
All of my ideas have been God ideas. Everything from the articles that I write, the books that I pen, and the presentations that I prepare. Though I might not fully understand at the time, they all come together to work in the larger scheme of things. The ideas have come to me while doing random things such as driving down the street, cleaning my home, or working out. They were invisible ideas but very vivid to me. Sometimes people thought that I was crazy and even called me extreme but when you’re working towards the vision of your life that only you can see when your eyes are wide shut, then you must risk looking “crazy” to observers. The interesting thing is that the same people who once called me crazy are now my biggest supporters. Look at God.
All of this to say that I had to develop an ear to hear Him clearly and this came through spending intentional time with Him. So, when I enter into academic spaces or places of worship, I don’t have to worry about the validity of my ideas. I know they are valid. I got them straight from heaven lol. Seriously though, my success comes from my ability to admit that I don’t know everything, that I want to know more, and that I am willing to humble myself long enough to learn.
I guess my “in-crowd/out-crowd” experience finally worked to my advantage.
The “in-crowd/out-crowd” experience is my very unique ability to be close enough to the people who were considered “cool” or “popular” without being one of them. Sometimes it would frustrate me but it has allowed me to see their blind spots and build my life in a way that would catapult me further in a shorter amount of time.
So what does this have to do with my salvation experience? Everything. My life started on that November 2nd day and has yielded fruit in both secular and sacred arenas. I follow the invisible vision until it manifests.
I’ve spent my whole life in the classroom. Whether in the classroom of life or the academic class, I’ve been a student for well over 20 years. This means that I’ve consistently had to adjust to various teaching styles, preferences, and ideologies. What many people don’t realize is that when you stop learning then you stop growing. And, when you stop growing then you die both spiritually and physically. With this in mind, I encourage people to stay in the classroom. Though I frequently hear people say that “school isn’t for everyone” and that might be so, but you will be schooled by something. So, in whose classroom are you enrolled? Is it the classroom of love? The classroom of vision? Purpose? Have you adapted to the teaching techniques or are you resistant? The overarching question is, “are you succeeding?” If not, why?
“The classroom is the stage on which I stand to influence thought”
As an educator, I take the souls of people seriously. Far too often, I hear the traumatic stories of people who were mishandled by teachers. Whether through careless articulation of a critique or just the shortcomings of the teacher, we have the ability to leave wounds on the hearts of our students. Let’s not forget that we must provide productive feedback on papers and exams. (Whew!). Remembering my positioning as a student, seeking the validation of my teacher, and trying to stay confident in school, my approach to learning and teaching differ. I believe, as bell hooks posits, that facilitators “must teach in a manner that respects and cares for the souls of our students” which is “essential if we are to provide the necessary conditions where learning can most deeply begin” (Teaching to Transgress). And, it is in the “deep” learning model that I work to speak to the soul while challenging the mind.
One thing that my journey has taught me is that I have the ability to achieve high and that I value success!
8th grade: runner up to salutatorian
High school: Top 10 (#8) within my graduating class; International Baccalaureate program (4.3 GPA)
B.A: Magna Cum Laude (3.78 GPA)
M.A: Top of the class (3.9 GPA)
Ph.D: Highest performing student in my department (4.0 GPA)
I am a writer first by design and second by training. When I was younger, I used to write not very good stories and also write in a journal. I attribute this to my frequent and long stints on punishment for misbehaving but it helped me develop my gift. When I was in high school, I started to write a book, which I can no longer find, that never saw the light of day. There was always something missing in the story—character development. In retrospect, this taught me that I wasn’t a writer of fiction but that I am a writer of a different kind.
As a scholar, I write journal articles and book chapters on various topics. Some of them are about themes in literary books, digital projects, social issues, and any other thing that I deem significant to me. My job as a scholar is to uncover and critique; to provide insight and new paradigms through which to view a thing. Though laborious, I love it.
My publishing pursuits prepared me to pen my first book, Woman of Royalty: Rule from a Place of Authority in 2018. The long term papers and scholarly journals assisted me in teaching women how to find their identity in Christ. Honestly, I was irritated with hearing people say “you have to find your identity in God” without telling me HOW! As a result, my book walks women through 10 applicable steps on how to find their identity using the biblical story of Esther as a model. Within the pages, I also intertwine by own story on how God arrested me and enrolled me in heaven’s identity rehabilitation program.
As a blogger, I seek to encourage people to live within the highest realm of themselves. Nothing is worse than living beneath who you were created to be. I should know, I tried it!
I would love myself wholly
I would have confidence
I would find my voice and use it
I would stand at the intersection of church and state
I would openly profess my beliefs
I would stop settling for less
I would receive a terminal degree
I would live my best life
I would positively impact people
I would thank God for my life
To use my life as a small portion within a larger plan that will encourage you to realize your significance and the necessity of your unique ideas. You are not what you’ve been through or even the story to which you were born. You are more than that. You are inspiration. Love. Power. Authority.
To also give you FREE tools that will uplift and assist you as you move through in one or two journeys: identity and/or academia.
To stop you from believing the threadbare lie of any institution or prevailing mode of thought, and encourage you to create your own model for what success looks like.
I am a Christian-Academic who studies the long-standing relationship between the secular and the sacred. Using both biblical and philosophical principles to arrive at certain truths, I firmly believe that God has called each of us to live spiritually but impact naturally. It’s time that you occupy your mountain and dominate it.
Do you know what the mountain of your influence is? If not, do some research on the 7 mountains of influence.
Dr. Briana Whiteside is a Christian-Academic who studies the long-standing relationship between the secular and the sacred. Using both biblical and philosophical principles to arrive at certain truths, Briana firmly believes that God has called each of us to live spiritually but impact naturally. She is the author of Woman of Royalty: Rule from A Place of Authority, a book that teaches women, in a practical sense, how to find their identity in Christ. She has been featured on NPR and the Huffington Post as well as in various academic journals, anthologies, and magazines. She is a professor and literary scholar who finds joy in researching and challenging systematic forms of oppression. Her intellectual pursuits also encompass social justice activism in the area of carceral studies and prison reform.