Living life with passion and purpose is in my blood.
I live my life on my own terms because the women in my life showed me that was the only way to live. Fortunately for my family, my mother and my aunt were raised by the strongest, most determined and purposeful woman I know — my grandmother, Roberta Sherrill White.
I was blessed two-fold. Not only did I inherit her spirit, I was also given her name. In honor of Women’s History Month, I’d like to pay my blessings forward and share some of the most valuable lessons I learned from her life story.
As one of 12 children growing up in Pulaski, Tennessee, my grandmother and her siblings enjoyed a happy and comfortable life as they were raised by a well-respected preacher and town butcher. Eventually, the family moved to Nashville and the elder Roberta decided she would attend Tennessee Normal School (now known as Tennessee State University).
Roberta flourished in her new city and college. During that time, she met the man of her dreams, Robert White. The couple married and had two daughters, Hannah and Jennie. Tragedy hit the loving family when Robert became ill with cancer. He died when my aunt and mom were ten and seven years old.
Though she was hurt, Roberta didn’t miss a beat. Because she knew she was responsible for the lives of two young, impressionable girls, she carried on to ensure their needs were met. My aunt often remarked that her mother never cried, worried or became depressed. She remembers her as a strong, yet compassionate woman who was committed to raising her daughters her way, and on her own terms.
As a widow, my grandmother was courted by many suitors, including a wealthy businessman in Detroit. This businessman cared deeply for Roberta and her children, and her family thought she should marry this man and start her life anew in Michigan. But my grandmother would do no such thing. For her, it was more important to carry out her own vision than to do what others felt was best for her. She did not want to marry someone, move to another city and have another man raising her kids. She wanted to live her own life and follow her own unique, divine purpose.
Roberta held multiple jobs, including one at Fisk University. She enjoyed sharing her life with a host of family and friends. She joined social organizations, had a Bridge Club, traveled, raised two amazing women, and had a great life; all on her own. Both of her daughters graduated from college and my aunt became a nurse and my mother became a school teacher. She set a great example – a standard for how all of the women in my family have chosen to live their lives. It is a value that I hope to pass on to my own two daughters.
When I think about where I am in my life today, I think of the example my grandmother set and how it guides me today.
I left corporate America and started my own consulting firm. I am a divorced mother raising two girls, and living on my purpose – on my own terms.
I am a part of a legacy of women who are not defined by what others want. I know I can choose to chart my own course and live my life by my design following in the footsteps of the women in my family who came before me. The woman, for whom I was named, Roberta, taught me the life lessons that I adhere to each day and encourage me and push me towards living in my greatness.
Here are five Women Empowerment Life Lessons instilled in me:
1. No matter what you do in your life, be true to yourself and be the best self that you can be.
2. Always be a lady and handle your business.
3. Take risks and live life on your terms.
4. Be a role model and encourage others along the way.
5. Position yourself for greatness and follow your dreams.
I was truly blessed to have great women in my life my entire life – women who shared their journey’s with me, who told me how proud they were of me, who talked to me about family history and more importantly, who loved and encouraged me.
So in honor of Women’s History month, let’s pay homage to those women in our lives who made us who we are today. I want to challenge you today to think about where you are in your life, the women who helped get you there, and the sacrifices they made so that you can live your dreams and live on your purpose. I remember Roberta Sherrill White.