"I never thought you'd be the one," she smirked.
"What do you mean?" I asked, as I plopped down in the chair diagonal from her desk. It was Thursday, four days after we had crossed the stage at Commencement.
"The one that would have trouble letting go," she said. "There's one every year. But I never would've guessed it'd be you."
I never would've guessed it either; but the fact of the matter is that I wasn't quite ready to let go. I wasn't ready to turn the page on what has been one of the most life-changing chapters of my life. Wasn't ready to say goodbye to the characters that have had more of an impact on my life and who I am than I gave them credit for.
Dr. Freddye T. Davy was one of those people. In a word, Dr. Davy was a BOSS. An original gangsta. An O.G. - yeah, I said it. She kept her pimp hand strong and her words even stronger. She didn't waste her breath and definitely never wasted her time. Many didn't realize that Dr. Davy has been sick for awhile now; you never would've guessed it by looking at her. She rarely missed a day of work and refused to slow down no matter how much her health deteriorated. She often said she was working on borrowed time; time I'd like to think she borrowed to see my class off into the world. I think that's what caused the tears to fall. It wasn't sadness; it was more like overwhelming gratitude.
Throughout college I've lost so many mentors and leaders as they transitioned to new chapters in their lives. First, Dean Tony Brown, the journalism legend whose leadership at the Scripps Howard School is the very reason I chose Hampton University. Then, Professor Martha Wilson - the first teacher at Hampton who truly invested in me. Then it was Opel Jones, the director of the Leadership Institute. Dr. Taylor of the Honors College and Leadership Institute left soon after. Mr. Dillard, director of University choirs passed away unexpectedly last year. During my tenure at Hampton, I experienced three different school deans, two different Leadership Institute directors and two different mentors in the Honors College. Dr. Davy, however, made it known that she wasn't leaving until she was good and ready. After spending a few days in the hospital last week, she checked out after ignoring the concerns of her doctor. She allegedly told the hospital staff that she refused to lay in a hospital waiting to die. The next day she returned to work. Just days later, I was told that she bid the Honors College staff farewell for the day with one casual phrase that I'm sure the secretary will never forget: "See ya when I see ya."
Words can't describe what Dr. Davy meant to me. If you had talked to me just a year ago, I would've told you that Dr. Davy had a personal vendetta against me. She would barely let me get a word out before challenging my thinking, my word choice and even the way I carried myself. There were times when I would go weeks hiding from her to avoid her critical gaze (though it was difficult because I lived in the same building as her office). Now, I'm thankful that she cared enough to give me the tough love that she did. I'm grateful to be one of the few whose names she remembered. And while I'm glad I was able to thank her face-to-face for everything she taught me a few weeks ago, as well as see her celebrated when the Honors College was renamed in honor of her just months ago, I felt inclined to create a post sharing the invaluable wisdom that she bestowed upon me during my tenure at Hampton.
Dr. Davy has taught thousands of students during her lifetime, but here are some of the valuable words of wisdom that I gained from her. I like to call them...
- Think before you speak. Forget "um" and "like," Dr. Davy would barely let me get a word out before calling me out for saying "basically" or "you know." She taught me to mean what I say and say what I mean. There's nothing wrong with pausing to collect your thoughts and, in most cases, it makes people pay more attention to what you're saying when you do take your time. There's nothing wrong with slowing down and paying attention to what you're saying and how you're saying it.
- Pay your dues, then get paid to pursue your passion. Dr. Davy used to say that my generation was too caught up on following our passions. The fact of the matter is, in her opinion, that dropping everything to follow your passion is not only misguided, but stupid as well. "At 22-years old, what are you sure about?" She asked me one day. Before I could answer, she cut in. "All you know is that you want to be able to feed yourself and be financially independent. Pursue something that will help you to do that and along the way, you'll find your passion and have the ability to pursue it without losing everything." According to Dr. Davy, she didn't find her passion until after years of school, teaching and random jobs here and there. It wasn't until later in life that she began doing what she was truly passionate about - on her own terms. Dr. Davy often didn't come in to work until after 11 a.m. She had earned that privilege because her dues were paid.
- Love what you do and you'll never work a day in your life. Dr. Davy was passionate about the Honors College. She lived and breathed it, investing everything she had in each student she had. It was often that I would see the light on in her office as late as 11 p.m. She loved the work she was doing and I truly believe that that's why she was able to stay with us as long as she did.
- It's not who you know, it's who knows you.
- Don't ask people what they can do for you; tell people what you need from them. [WARNING: The power of this technique is semi-dangerous if used correctly. Not for the ill-willed or weak at heart]. I like to call this one "The Davy." I often witnessed it when she would call students and faculty into her office, or even when she would reach out to alumni. It's a technique that I marveled at and, to this day, have practiced using it for my own purposes. The results have been surreal. Dr. Davy had a way of getting what she needed from you by phrasing a question in the form of a statement. For example, instead of asking someone, "Can you help me build an ark later? There going to be a flood;" Dr. Davy would say: "I'm going to have you get started on this ark I'm building. There's going to be a flood and there's no time to waste." If you practice this technique enough, you'll never have to worry about rallying support or getting things done.
- Common sense ain't that common. Too often we question what we already know to be true. It's often about what we should or shouldn't do in a situation. We try to safeguard our actions by seeking validation from others instead of trusting our gut or intuition. Thinking before you ask questions and trusting your instincts will get you much further than adopting a CYA mentality all the time. Too often it's better to ask forgiveness than ask permission.
- Waiting for the spanking hurts worse than the spanking itself. So get it over with! If you did something wrong, own up to it and own up to it quickly. The faster you take responsibility for what you did, the faster you deal with the consequences. Also, being honest and accountable often will get you more respect than waiting to confess and playing the blame game.
Rest in peace.
What are some Davy-isms that you learned from her? Celebrate her life by commenting and sharing what she taught you.