I resigned from The University of Chicago Microfinance Initiative (UCMI) this past Thursday at our Annual Celebration, but I did not completely digest this fact until today. I began packing this morning and as I filed each UCMI folder away in boxes, I felt a bit of myself dying out or shrinking. By the time I had filled up two boxes of UCMI-related materials, I no longer felt like myself. I felt like I had been torn into thousands of pieces and the aggregate of myself had no meaning. I was numb- I could not comprehend my new identity. I did not know who I was becoming. I realized that I had to grasp with the question that I had avoided until now: who am I post-UCMI?
Except for brief stint in Chicago politics, my professional life has always been related to my work in social finance and microfinance. By creating and running UCMI, I also cultivated my identity as the young entrepreneurial microfinance person in the Midwest. Any time someone needed to do something about microfinance, whether consulting–oriented or investment-related, and youth engagement, they came or were referred to me. By being the face of UCMI and one of the leaders in youth engagement in social impact, I was, in essence, UCMI and everything it stands for.
Now, I no longer have UCMI. I no longer have the familiarity and protection of the UCMI brand on which I can fall back. I am alone. I am alone sans identity as I tread into Nairobi in two weeks to work in a completely new industry. I have no relevant professional brand name or credential. I am leaving behind the comfort of UCMI and its status as social enterprise in the Midwest. In other words, I am starting fresh. Back to square one.
I am in a frenzy about this right now. I don’t know what to think. I have no conclusion to offer. I guess that it is always nice to start anew. Without any history. I can then carve my own route. But I was happy and comfortable with my previous role in society.
Time to graduate in life, I guess. Time to grow up and be a big girl.