Way Outside the Norm: Dear Janet Mock

Dear Janet,

I don’t think I’ve ever had the proper chance to say thank you.

When I first heard of your story through Marie Claire, (and through the extensive research I would then do in order to secure you as a speaker for my college), so much of your story resonated with me. Not the parts that folks would assume—us both being a part of the LGBT community—but the parts of your story about being a young poor woman of color who aspired to be a writer, to go off to college, and pursue your dreams in New York City.

As my career continues to grow and evolve in ways that I could not have imagined while growing up in the inner-city with my mother and sister, I find deep encouragement through possibility models like you. Janet, in the process of embracing my otherness I have discovered that sometimes embracing otherness can feel like an isolated and lonely process. That daring to break down the walls of the squares that I have been placed in means tearing down the picture frames and memories of those who insist on remembering a version of me that was not authentic. That in my quest to living a more wholehearted life, I have taken on the burden of exceptionalism and the guilt it brings.

Recently during your Super Soul Sessions talk, (Click here to watch her talk) you nearly moved me to tears. You moved me to write this open letter to you. Because while I have had the distinct privilege of hearing you speak a handful of times in person, the pure vulnerability of your talk, The Path of Authenticity—Embracing the Otherness, reminded me why I got so excited the first time we met. Why I appreciate that moment I drove us to get coffee before one of your talks and you insisted on Dunkin’ Donuts instead of Starbucks (I’ll admit, I wasn’t expecting you to be a DD fan) but I remember how much I appreciated the conversation we had. Janet, I remember thinking as I was driving us back to campus—Janet is going to encourage a new generation of storytellers who are unable to find themselves in narratives to write their own stories.

In your Super Soul Sessions talk you said: “Just because I clicked my heels and made it out of Oz, doesn’t mean everyone can. Growing up othered, I was taught that normal was the pathway to success and contemptment but I’ve learned that none of us should reach for normal; normal is so basic. Owning who we are is power. We gotta dare to stand out, we have to be different.”

Thank you for reminding me that it’s okay to exist and thrive way outside the norm. That these stories I have lingering in me are not meant to be kept out of the narrative of my life but rather, meant to be the vehicle in which I drive in order to be the change I hope to see.  Thank you for modeling what it means to be unapologetically authentic, fierce, fabulous, and the author of our lives.

“There is power in saying: I will no longer be ashamed, I am mine. For each of us to own ourselves is key. There can be no equality, no love, no justice until we embrace ourselves and one another. “- Janet Mock

Con mucho amor and gratitude,

Mark

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