Welcome to This Is Me Thursdays! To read other posts in this series, click here. If you want to be involved, please email me for more details! Today, learn more about Emily Barksdale, someone I met on a journalism trip to Washington, D.C. back in 2008!
Side note: I can’t believe 2008 was 12 years ago. Wowza! Anyway, I’ve really enjoyed being connected with Emily over the years. She was also one of the winners of my recent giveaway for my business, Beyoutiful Intuition! Part of her Instagram bio says “Seeker of everyday magic,” and I really love that. It’s all about doing our best to navigate through life and find magic and goodness wherever we can. She’s so honest and vulnerable in her answers below, which I really appreciate and I know you will as well. Visit her Instagram, and let her know you saw her post here!
This Is Me: Emily Barksdale
Share a little about yourself and what you’re up to these days.
Last fall, I began a graduate program at the University of Virginia’s Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy, and I am loving it! It is definitely a full-time job for me, but the rigorous work feels right, important, and purposeful. I came here after seven years working in public education in Texas and aim to purse an education policy-focused position upon graduation in May 2021. In my leisure time, which I’ve learned to be protective of, I enjoy reading, traveling, playing soccer, singing karaoke, hanging out with dogs, and being outside.
What does life purpose mean to you? Does it really exist for you/all of us, or is it just some pipe dream?
First of all, I think this definition is multifaceted. I find it limiting to imagine that there’s just one thing we should each be doing. That said, I see my life purpose as the thing that continually lights a fire under me, the intersection of passion and skill. While my understanding of it and my path may evolve, it’s my sort of “North Star” that keeps me grounded and reminds me to persist in the face of difficulty.
What motivates and inspires you in your life?
I’m motivated and inspired most by humanity: while individuals are awe-inspiring, it’s humanity’s stubborn crawl forward into progress that reminds me that people are good, and good is worth fighting for.
Is what you do now what you always imagined doing? Why or why not, and what have you learned because of that?
I’ve never been one to plan too far into the future, but I don’t suppose I would have told you years ago that I’d be back in college if you’d ask where I saw myself at 30. My goal of working in education policy hasn’t always been my dream, either. But now that I think about it, I never really had the same career in mind for more than a few years at any one time in my life. I think my learning and advancing of new ideas about who I am and who I can be is a result of realizing that life’s more about development and connections than anything else. I can definitely see parallels among all the things I used to imagine I’d do to spend my time as an adult and the things that actually fill my days.
What’s something you desperately want other people to know or realize that may help them in their lives?
I want people to realize their own power and purpose. As my friend sings beautifully in her band, Emma’s Lounge, “You have what you need, so will you please go and make your medicine?” I believe that everyone has something special, unique, and powerful to contribute to the world, and if we all seek and do just that, we’ll operate in harmony. But only together can these things be achieved – humans were not meant to live in isolation. So along the way, as we develop our own gifts and share them with the world, we have to work on not only bettering ourselves but relating to one another, too.
How do you define belonging and connection, and how have your definitions changed over time?
Belonging, to me, is about inclusivity and comfort. Connection is about that profound resonance you feel when someone just “gets” you. My definitions have changed over time to be more intuitive and less societal – ironic, perhaps, considering that these are about society by definition. But the older I get, the more I give myself permission to “follow my heart” and realize that I know, deep down, what good feels like and what I need. Belonging and connection are two of those things.
What’s something you make sure to do every day/week/month that helps you practice self-care and self-love?
I love eating and drinking, and I almost always limit my consumption to foods and beverages that I’m excited to enjoy. This may sound odd, but I know so many people have disordered relationships with food, and it really disappoints me when I hear womyn especially use words like “bad” and “cheat” that have such negative connotations to refer to fueling their body. For example, I ate chips and salsa followed by Girl Scout Cookies for dinner tonight – and I feel great about it! I also worked out and drank a lot of water today, because my growth edge in life is finding balance. So, I guess the broadest answer to your question is that I listen to my body every day. What does she crave? What does she need? I try my best to provide it, and the fact that I’m working on it absolves me of any guilt that may try to creep in.
How do you define success in your life and/or business?
Success, to me, means having done work that I’m proud of. I feel successful when I’ve presented or finished or submitted something that I feel good about. Sometimes, it truly is enough to get something done, though; success for me is as much about the follow-through as it is the quality, because that can be so subjective from person to person or time to time.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the community contributions to the understandings I shared above. While I’m not going to make individual shoutouts, because this is not a 2003 AIM profile, I do want to underscore the personal and shared work I’ve done to get to this point. My best advice for anyone looking to advance their own understandings and self-love would be to find your people – even if they don’t know each other or are physically far away or whatever – and reach out for their metaphorical hands. Maybe it’s just the extrovert in me, but I live my life like that “proverb” of questionable origins: “If you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, go together.”
Photo courtesy of Emily Barksdale