“Lead from the Outside”

I recently finished reading Stacey Abrams’ book, Lead from the Outside. She has fascinated me from the first time I heard her speak as a candidate for Georgia governor. Following her campaign and after reading her book, I firmly believe she will be sitting in the White House one day, although I do wish she would make it there by way of the Senate. We need bright young forward thinkers there too.

As I was reading her book, there was a post on Facebook asking for reading suggestions from my niece, if my old brain is remembering correctly. I suggested reading Ms. Abrams’ book. To which my niece asked what it was about. I wasn’t ready to answer then because I was still digesting the book and percolating what was it about to me as a gay white male who grew up dirt poor.

How did it speak to me?

I finally have the answer to that question. I’ll answer first by saying what I believe the book is about to the mass audience.

From my lens, it is meant to be a book to help people of color to recognize they too have big goals in life, acknowledge those goals and accept they have the right to have big goals, then offers ways to get to those goals despite not having many of the leg-ups people of means and particularly straight white men take for granted. Ms. Abrams has a way of telling her story while highlighting how she was able to accomplish many of her goals. Along with that, she doesn’t gloss over the pitfalls she encountered, some of her own doing.

Personally, the book spoke to me in two main ways. The first was to vicariously experience her life as a poor black woman from the south. To see underlying things I wouldn’t necessarily see or experience even though we have similar backgrounds/experiences.

Now as a gay white man who grew up dirt poor in one of the poorest parts of southern Ohio and in being from that part of Ohio, being labeled an Appalachian, which means I was eligible for some extras because of the Appalachian plight. Interestingly, I didn’t know I was one of them until the end of high school.

This book helped me see the underlying feelings shame in being poor, of the prospects not available to me due to my zip code and home place, of how people of power work hard to keep the poor poor, of how hard it can be to overcome the obstacles and how many aren’t able to do so.

This book helped me at least see why I often feel less deserving, having a feeling of not being enough, and of being afraid to take really big risks because if I fail, I have failed my people, thus making the stereotypes true.

A couple of examples are having a couple of business ideas that I believe are viable but I’m afraid to take action even though all I do is think about them, and how they may help me be able to earn enough to put in a few hours of work a week with the rest of my time to pursue my other passions. Of having a book written in my mind, but just can’t seem to put it down on paper because who am I to think I might be an authority on this topic, even after demonstrating in actions I do know what I’m talking about. Of having opinions I’m afraid to write about when I have them, then seeing those same thoughts being expressed by well-known pundits a few days later. Of having found a wonderfully supportive loving husband who has shown nothing but support and I still worry when he might wake up wondering why he has stayed with me all these years.

I know these are my own “demons” to wrestle with in my life. And, I either will or I won’t.

I’ve taken greats risks in my life, which have paid off dearly, many due to the wonderful people who have come through my life and those who continue to be a part of my life.

Even with those good, and successful, experiences, I still struggle and probably always will.

We all have our stuff, this is mine, of which I freely own.

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