1993 - 1999
I was born in Reno, Nevada, on November 17, 1993, to two United States Army soldiers who met during Operation: Desert Storm. It is safe to say many people would follow up with, “Being a soldier is in my blood,” or “I was raised to be a warrior.” However, never having served my country in uniform, I cannot gauge as to whether I would be a good soldier, but I do believe that selfless service is in my blood, and this selfless service is perfectly personified in my mother. Not long after I was born, my parents nullified their marriage. E’Rick Robert Finch became Eric Matthew Washington, and Sharon Ann Finch once again became Sharon Ann Washington. Therefore, it is safe to say that as soon as my mother and I reclaimed the Washington name, my life truly began.
Childhood was a fast-paced blur. How many of us can genuinely remember our childhood vividly? How many of us can do that when you have to relocate every couple of years? Having a soldier for a mother is interesting in and of itself. My mother was highly sought after, and everything regarding her work was something I could not understand. My mother traveled the world, but I became a hybrid of experiences from California, Texas, and Alaska. However, Alaska is where my childhood memories truly begin. I spend most of my elementary school years in Anchorage, Alaska, at Anchorage Christian School. It wasn’t long until my mother decided it was time for me to meet my extended family--my aunties and uncles. It was that decision that brought me to the great state of Texas, a decision that ultimately changed the course of my entire life.
2000 - 2011
Living with my aunties and uncles was an interesting and unique experience. As a kid, I thought nothing of living with a single mother. That was all I knew, and for nineties-babies, not all that uncommon. However, even as a child, I knew that shifting from living with a single mother to living with blood-relatives was going to be quite the transition, but I welcomed the change. I remember even as a child thinking that spending all my time with women would make me quite the Ladies Man. However, my Aunties did not teach me any dating skills. Instead, my lessons were provided by Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, Wednesday Night Bible Study, and Thursday Morning Prayer. My homework consisted of hot sauce, soul food, Top Ramen, and frugal spending. It is safe to infer that as a kid, I was tired of always attending church. Instead of listening to the weekly sermon, my mind was always on my Auntie’s cooking. Being raised by my Aunties in addition to my Mother--all true Southern women from Monahans, TX--came with all the above and so much more.
As I grew older, High School is where I shaped my worldview. From 2009 - 2011, I had the privilege of being nominated for three conferences that would expand my horizons and show me that the world was much bigger than Bryan, TX. The first conference I was nominated for was during my time at Hammond-Oliver High School (a magnet school for those interested in the medical profession). I was nominated by one of my instructors to attend the People to People conference at Harvard University in the summer of 2009. During my time at Harvard, I networked with people from every region of the world imaginable.
The next summer in 2010, I was nominated by an additional instructor to attend the National Young Leaders Conference in Washington, D.C., where I gained an interest in government and public service. The conference piqued my interest so much that my ability to engage with the material caused me to be voted upon to act as the President of the United States during a simulation that addressed a hostage situation concerning U.S. citizens and Somali Pirates. The National Young Leadership Conference indeed helped me find a passion for domestic politics, but I sought to take my talents internationally. Therefore, not long after the National Young Leaders Conference, I took a leap of faith and signed up for an additional People to People Ambassador program, this time traveling abroad in the Mediterranean in 2011. Throughout my travels with People to People, I met some fantastic people, some of whom I still friends with today. Indeed, it amazes me to look back and realize that studying abroad as a young teenager was the seed that was sown to spark my interest in International Relations. It is safe to say that if it were not for those three summer conferences, my worldview might not have given me the pivotal skills needed to contribute to the fight for equity.
2012 - 2016
However, I would also argue that being raised by four strong, southern Black women, equipped me for a life of service and the fight for equity. I began pondering a lot about these concepts in high school, where I started to not only learn about myself, but also how the world views me, those that raised me, and everyone "who matches the description." Blackness, in all of its concepts and cultures, consumed my thoughts, and left me with sleepless nights. I began to read African-American literature and make societal connections that only a few of my peers understood. However, as a teenager, I was not able to articulate my thoughts about Blackness and the Black Diaspora well enough. Thus, I refrained from speaking my mind about my thoughts and ideas about society.
Therefore, near the end of my High School career, the tension concerning my thoughts and ideas on race and society became a dark cloud. Graduating from high school in Spring of 2012 came with it some shocking experiences. These experiences would further shift how I think about race and my interest in public service. For instance, the death of Trayvon Martin on February 26, 2012, made the months leading to May of 2012 eye-opening. The worldwide sensationalism around Trayvon's murder forever changed my world-view and further stoked my flame for social justice and public servitude.
Not long after graduation, in 2012, I enrolled at Texas A&M University. For a year and a half, I wandered aimlessly. It was difficult to grasp a sense of community, a sense of work ethic, and, most of all, a sense of purpose. I did not know anyone, and I found out the hard way that my high school education was evident that I did not know anything. Thus, I was stuck in a mental limbo. I was a student with no major, no friends, no money, and no sense of home. Therefore, I knew I needed to, at the very least, find a community and find one fast.
I completely went overboard. I signed up for as much as I could in alignment with my beliefs and interests:
- Texas A&M University Mock Trial Team (2012 - 2016)
- MSC Carter G. Woodson Black Awareness Committee (2013 - 2016)
- Young Life (2014 - 2016)
- IMPACT (2015 - 2016)
- Kids Across America (2015 - 2016)
- Southwestern Black Student Leadership Conference (2015 - 2016)
Thus, with one major, two minors, three concentrations, and hardly any time management skills, I became too comfortable, too fast. Despite the evident passion for upholding the law, serving our youth, and serving my community. The pursuit of the fight for equity quickly became the pursuit of the fight to merely graduate. My grades slipped to a point I was put on official academic probation the Fall semester of my senior year, and I was right back to square one, I was on every organization’s bad side because I could not be at three places at once, which lead me to many rounds of mental chess, several disciplinary meetings, and numerous humble apologies.
The only thing that kept me from becoming a complete pariah to every organization I committed to was due to my event planning results and leadership skills. Making ideas come to fruition by the skin of my teeth became an unwanted brand that I was forced to acknowledge and something I will forever work to change about myself. Despite my utter lack of juggling multiple things efficiently, I was able to successfully fulfill my duties and obligations to all of my organizations and even win numerous awards because of my work. However, the irony does not escape me.