I typed this out a few weeks ago and have been too lazy/stressed to bother posting it. Until today, when I saw what the President thinks of one of my favorite cities in the US. I honestly don’t feel that his comments deserve a lot of attention, but it made me think a lot about the last time I was in Baltimore…

A few weeks ago I went to a scientific conference in Baltimore for work. I had a couple objectives in mind:

1. Discuss the current work at our company that may be of value to the attendees by resenting a new poster that detailed our studies

2. Learn more about a specific area of drug manufacturing and get to know some of the experts in the field

The day I arrived, there was a reception, kind of like a mixer. All the great minds in the field of chromatography. A very experienced crowd with a lot in common. Including age, race, and gender. I stood out like a sore thumb as a black woman and it was pretty intimidating.

Stepped out of the room for a second to try to calm my nerves a bit and one of the security guards at the door asked if I was leaving. I told him that I just needed a break but I’d be back. He said “Good, come back. We need you in there.” I chuckled and headed for the bathroom.

When I came back I nodded to the guard and headed for one of the beer and wine bars for a soda. The gentleman serving drinks grinned and asked how everything was going. I guess I sighed because he told me he was happy to see me at the conference. We talked for a bit about what the conference was for and I told him I’d come back to visit the next day. When I went to put a dollar in the tip jar, he said “Nuh uh. Nothing from you. Just go out there with your head up, shake some hands and promise you’ll come back over and let me know how things are going. My name is Charles.”

Charles made my day and I took his advice to heart. I strutted through the exhibit halls and in and out of those meeting rooms with purpose and no apologies. And the result was a very productive trip. Both personally and professionally. I needed that.

No matter how many degrees I earn or what accolades I gather, there are people that will think I don’t deserve to be considered equal. And I have to admit that I fall into the trap of believing them. Full-on imposter syndrome. It’s always nice to hear that someone is proud, but I truly felt a sense of community while I was in Baltimore. It may sound silly, but I felt like an underdog in a big fight with a whole group of people who look like me in my corner. And I knocked out the presentation, my nerves and any doubt that others may have had.

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