Black Excellence Spotlight: Tamara Simpson

Written by: Shannon Smith

What motivates a person to the path long taken by many who fall short? What encourages them to keep getting up every time they fall, to take a step forward into the unknown? The answer to that question could be answered in various ways, but the best way, perhaps, is to learn through human experience. Although it may not have been easy for Tamara Simpson, her journey is one she is determined to finish. 

 

Tamara, originally from Jamaica, left her country when she was a teenager to attend high school in the United States. When she was living in Jamaica, she became aware of her relatives’ medical complications. Her aunt lived with a spinal deformity that compromised her posture, and her grandmother was injured from a fall, from which she succumbed due to infection from previously diagnosed conditions. The only thing that Tamara could do was feel helpless, unable to do anything to help. Later, she took to the Internet searching for answers and came across a type of doctor who would have been able to fix injuries like her grandmother’s broken bones and her aunt’s curved spine—an orthopedic doctor. She realized that she wanted to help people who were hindered by these sorts of injuries, by medical complications that prevented them from living life to its fullest; she wanted to pursue becoming an orthopedic doctor. 

 

Upon graduating from high school, Tamara decided that she wanted to attend a college that would allow her to work towards being an orthopedist while continuing her two passions for track and field and music. She had experienced the struggles of being an Adventist in the public school system and maintaining her position on the track and field team. Track meets often happened on Saturdays; therefore, it prevented her from going to some of the track meets. She didn’t want to hinder her teammates, so she decided to take one Saturday and go to a track meet. She performed well; however, a piece of advice from her parents came back to her. They told her to stop and reflect on how she felt at that moment. “I didn’t feel good within myself. I wasn’t happy,” Tamara said. “I think after experiencing that for four years, I decided that I didn’t want to hinder my relationship with God because being out there on Saturday really wasn’t bringing me closer to Him—it was kind of drawing me away from Him.”

 

Tamara wanted to be close to God; that’s why she decided to come to WAU when choosing a university. Being at WAU has made it easier to go to events while also keeping her faith in God. In her senior year, as a Biology and Music double major, she has maintained a schedule between academia, running cross country, music, and her relationship with her friends and God. She has also taken upon herself the task of being a RA in the dorms, though her role has become less active due to COVID-19. Transitioning to online courses has been mentally taxing on many students. Tamara commented, “Sometimes I would feel down, and some days I would just be extremely exhausted, which would put me behind in my classes because I was mentally drained.” She finds that the best way to revitalize herself is to go on long walks or ride her bike on some trails, spending time in nature. 

 

Her musical talent also provides another outlet for meditation. She enjoys playing steelpan, on which Tamara takes time to learn a song she finds uplifting or motivating. She would then record it and play it back whenever she feels down, sometimes posting them on her Youtube account. Steelpans hold a special place in her life. Back in high school, when she began to learn how to play the instrument, she would often look forward to listening to steelpan groups during Christmas and Black History month at her church. Her interest in other percussive instruments like the timpani and marimba has opened up many opportunities for her, performing at Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center. These opportunities have not only allowed her to grow as a musician but as a person. Tamara stated, “For me, it is a way to express what cannot be said, and provides [a source] of happiness, passion, and comfort in my life.”

 

Tamara’s advice for any potential students who want to juggle a promising career and their passions is to go for what they want to do in life and not give up on it or themselves. “Don’t worry about what other people will see or think. Don’t worry if you need it or not, and…don’t worry about your fear of it,” she says. “ There were many times where I didn’t do as good as I wanted. And those times allowed me to wonder if I should continue, but I didn’t let the doubt stop me. If I had given up…I wouldn’t have been able to see that there was a better way.” As humans, we can be too hard on ourselves. It is tough to get back up after experiencing failure after failure. But that’s okay. Hold on to your motivations and passions, remember the reasons why you took the first step forward, and keep going. 

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