How To Be Happy At Work: Be Authentic

In an earlier blog post, I talked about the

importance of living in your truth.

 I specifically discussed how I decided to be more authentic at work, in the classroom with my students. I was really tired of splitting my energy between presenting a professional image of a college professor (that was very much based on a socio-historical/cultural image of college professors as "old white men") and being myself. When I first started teaching at my current university, I was so worried that the students were judging me based on my youth, race, and gender that I developed a

severe anxiety

 about my teaching (despite this being my third university teaching job). I was afraid of my students viewing as "the unqualified, bad black female professor." So, I over-prepared and carefully chose my words when I spoke. And, if I misspelled or mispronounced something, I internally freaked out and then beat myself up about it after class. I hated going to work. I was miserable, severely anxious, and deeply depressed. This way of being was not healthy and limited my capacity to put forth my best work. 

Though things got better as I got used to teaching at this university, I still had a bit of anxiety about my teaching. This all changed this semester; I decided that I was going to stop "playing professor" and just be myself all the time---smart, young, loud, opinionated, quirky, emotional, a bit fearless, and #veryblack. I wore my "

Notorious BIG

," "

Hillman College

," and "

Because of Them We Can

" sweatshirts, and 

Nola Darling shirt pins

, with my dress pants, skirts, and shoes. I didn't back down from talking about racism, sexism, homophobia, police brutality, islamophobia, xenophobia, and other social ills happening on campus and across this country. I let go of my insecurities and "kept it 100" (as one of my students said). I stopped worrying about their evaluations of me. I talked to my students the way I talk to everyone else in my life. I challenged my students and myself to be honest, open, and authentic inside and outside the classroom. I admitted when I was wrong or didn't know something. I laughed at my spelling mistakes and brain farts. I allowed my passion for teaching take up 100% of my energy and focus while I was in the classroom. 

After doing all of these things, I can honestly say I no longer feel anxious. Instead, I am now happy at work. And, I am getting the respect and praise that I wanted, needed, and deserved. 


Here are the responses I received (in the form of notes from some of my students and a special message from the Provost/Vice President of Academic Affairs) after I decided to "be authentic" at work: 

Professor Tavernier, I thank you so much for all the work you have done and all the care you have taken for your class this semester.  You can see what a difference you are  making.  How lucky we are to have you teaching with us.

To all of you, thank you for all you do.


Provost, Vice President for Academic Affairs

thank you for teaching this semester and making my brain work. 

Happy Holidays,


Hope you have an wonderful christmas break Dr. T.

It was a pleasure having you as a professor, hope to see You again soon.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year



Professor, I would just like to thank you for an incredible semester! I learned a lot and I hope we can stay in touch. Have a good break and happy holidays!


I really enjoyed our class this semester and I hope that you have a great break.

Thank you, 


Thank you for a great semester!

Hope to see you soon,


i wanted to thank you for an amazing semester and experience have a happy holiday and wish the best for you in the future.



I had a wonderful semester. I will easily try to take another one of your classes. i hope you had a great holiday, and Happy new year!


Thank you for being such a great influence on me this semester. You have taught me more life lessons than probably anyone. I appreciate you so much and am truly going to miss you. I am going to visit you next semester so please send me your office hours! Have a fabulous winter break and a very Merry Christmas! Don't forget about me!  <3 


Thank you for a great class. You really opened my eyes to alot of things and I learned alot as well. 

Keep keepin  it real

Thanks again, 


Thank you for teaching our class. I truly enjoyed it. Have a good break!!



Thank you for a great semester!


It was a pleasure being in your class.

Thank You


Thank you for a fun and interesting class. I feel it really helped me learn a lot about things that are super important to me.

Thank you!


I hope you have a great break and thank you for being a great teacher. I look forward to taking another class with you in the future!

Thanks again,


I just wanted to say thank you for this semester. You were one of the best teachers I've ever had and I am looking forward to being in your class (white collar crime) in the spring semester.

Enjoy the holidays,


Hello Professor Tavernier, 

I Just wanted to say Thank you for all your help and support during the class it was greatly appreciated and I learned a lot and I definitely keep in touch! Have a great break 

Hi Dr.Tavernier,

‪I really enjoyed your class.You made it fun and a real learning experience.I wish the best to you and your family for a happy and joyfull holiday. 


Quit the Job You Hate & Find the Right Career

"It doesn’t matter how far you might rise...At some point, you are bound to stumble. … And when you do, remember this: there is no such thing as failure. Failure is just life trying to move us in another direction."  -Oprah Winfrey

Are You Ready To Jump?

A year ago on October 12, 2014, I jumped out of a plane and it changed my life. I know it sounds a bit cliche, but the jump was more than a thrill-seeking activity, it was the culmination of the hardest two years of my life. From the fall of 2012 to the spring of 2014, I was silently battling with severe depression and anxiety. The stresses of completing my dissertation and phd program, feeling unsatisfied with a career in academia, and feeling like I was lagging behind my non-graduate school friends, mixed with feelings of insecurity and fears of failure, caused me to fall down a dark hole of hopelessness and inadequacy that I saw no way out of. It was dark times. I felt that I couldn't achieve any of my goals. I was afraid to ask for help or to admit that I needed help. I didn't want people, especially my family and friends, to see me as a failure. And honestly I almost gave up on my degree, on my future, and on my life.

My road to mental health was long one. It started with first admitting to my graduate advisor/mentor that I was depressed and had stopped writing my dissertation because I was depressed and anxious. She was extremely understanding and forthright about her struggles as a woman in academia and told me something that I will never forget--"there is nothing wrong with needing help." She recommended I talk to my doctor about my depression so that I could work on a plan to restore my mental health and to move forward with my life and goals. Although it was hard, I followed her advice and spoke to my doctor, who was also very helpful and understanding. With my doctor's guidance, I started my climb out of that dark hole of depression and anxiety.

The next (and hardest) step was talking to my mother about what I was dealing with. My fear of failure has been strongly connected to my desire to make my mother proud. She sacrificed so much for me to make sure that I got a good education. She is an immigrant. She is focused and hard working woman. She is my role model. I have never ever felt comfortable admitting to her when I couldn't do something. I felt ashamed that I was having so much trouble getting my dissertation done or that I was seeking help. After I was honest with her about my issues, she surprised me with her response. She told me that she cared about me being happy and healthy and not whether or not I got my phd, and she supported whatever I wanted to do, as long as I was happy doing it. From that moment, she did a series of things that helped me further climb out of my dark hole. She threw down a rope and encouraged me as I pulled myself up.

By the time I got to the airfield on October 12, 2014 for my skydiving jump, I had overcome many obstacles physically and mentally. I had completed a final draft of my dissertation and was preparing to defend it in front of my committee and my family and friends later that month. I had climbed out of the dark hole and found a new happiness, new career focus, and new strength. I was ready to start the next chapter of my life. To move forward. To face my fears and doubts head on. When I jumped out of the plane, I let go. I gave myself over to God and the elements and laughed (literally) at fear and doubt. After I successfully planted my feet on the ground, I felt that I could conquer anything. I jumped out of a F#$%ing plane. I can do anything. I have no reason to be afraid of what people think of me or my work, to be afraid of failing, or to be afraid of following my gut and doing the things I need to be happy and healthy spiritually, mentally, and physically.

Check out my JUMP in the video below.

And The Point of It All Is...Higher Education Matters

Not too long ago I was engaged in a heated debate on Facebook with a few friends about the pros and cons of incurring student loan debt in the pursuit of getting to putting a few letters behind one's name. In my case, I have amassed over 100k in student loan debt to be called Dr. LaToya Asantelle Tavernier, B.A., M.A., Ph.D. Having that much debt is not a great thing. I have lost sleep some nights thinking about how much money that I owe Sallie Mae and her bastard minions. And I have often talked about my thoughts on the graduate school experience and on whether or not I would do it again if I could relive the past 10 years of my life. But since I can't turn back time, I have spent many hours thinking about what was the point of all the debt and stress that I brought on myself in the pursuit of the professional titles.

One of the participants of my Facebook debate argued that people today put immediate gratification--the desire to pursue advanced degrees in spite of their inability to pay for it without taking out massive loans--over their financial health--the future ability to buy a home or save for retirement. They suggested that folks should attend schools that they can afford (e.g., attending community college or state schools instead private universities), and/or they should work first and save money (or get their employers to pay part or all of their tuition) before they pursue advanced degrees. This opinion didn't go over very well with me or my Facebook friends that possessed advanced degrees and student loan debt.

I completely understood the point of living within your means. I know that my massive graduate school debt is going to delay, or possibly prohibit, my ability to buy a home or to build a sizeable nest egg for my later years. I live at home with my mama in her house. I have been living there for the past 4 years because I am not in a place where I can afford to live in my own place, pay bills (including my monthly loan repayments), put food in my belly, and have an active social life. But you know what, I can't say that going to graduate school straight out of undergrad and taking on thousands of dollars of loans a year for the past 10 years was a poor or unwise decision. Yes, I could have made better efforts to apply for scholarships and to find ways to cut my loan amounts. But I can't say that I have ruined my chances at good financial future. Maybe it will take me longer than my friends who didn't take out over 100k in federal loans in the pursuit of intellectual growth and a professional title. But I will get there. I may not have my own home or my own apartment at age 32. But I have the satisfaction of knowing that I have accomplished something that a small percent of people in this world, especially among those who look like me and come from where I came from.

I have earned my PhD, a goal that I created for myself in my early teens. That accomplishment makes me happy. It gives me great pride. It means more to me than owning a home in my 30s or having $10,000 in my savings account.

Because I truly believe that the point of it all---in my case, the stress, student loans, long nights reading, the multiple research assistant and adjunct jobs for low pay, low bank statements, and the living at home as an adult (in other words, LIFE)---is for me to be able to do work that I love and that I am proud of. That is something I tell my friends, family, and my students. The point of this life is to be happy (and to not let debt, naysayers, self-doubt, and other barriers stand in your way).