Have you ever conversed with someone and you could feel power illuminating from their presence? Well, that is exactly how I felt during a recent interview with the fascinating Osato Chitou Esq. The profound exchange between the two of us shed light on some of the many aspects of womanhood, professionalism, and culture. Watch her TEDx Women's talk, live in Tampa, FLA, December 3, 2021.
Marla: Before we get started tell me a little about yourself.
Osato: I am a lawyer by training. My area of expertise is corporate health care and health care compliance. I am an aspiring stand-up comic. I believe in living a life in which we exude all parts of ourselves. This is actually something new I’ve been learning over the past few years. Previously, I just used to exist, now I live. There is a significant difference between existing and living. So when you ask who I am, I am a multitude of things. God did not just put me on this Earth to pay a bill; he wants me to shine. So what does shining mean to me? It means that being a corporate health care attorney is just one piece of my life. There are many other, bigger things that I have been put on this Earth to do. There is only one me. In my uniqueness, I believe that I was specifically put here to fulfill a purpose. The bigger pieces of my life are the reason I was put on this Earth. The universe wants that piece to shine; the creator, the connector, the spiritual, that piece is tied to the struggles of Black women, Immigrant women; that piece is the audacity to live as we were meant to.
Marla: Congratulations on being named a TEDx Westshore speaker in 2021! Can you give us a little insight about your TEDx Women’s Topic?
Osato: I will be speaking about living authentically. This year's TEDx Women’s 2021 theme is What Now. So, what now? After all the universal trauma we’ve lived as Americans, immigrants, women, and Black women, what now? Can we begin to live authentically without repercussions? We are told we can, yet we still feel resistance in all things, both big and small. It’s important for all of us to question who we are in this new space we live in. It’s beyond what we do because that is only a small part of who we are. If we don’t know who we are, how will we know what we need in order to better understand ourselves? I believe we were all put on this Earth to do something special and significant. What is that special thing? We won’t know unless we truly ask ourselves who we are. Furthermore, once we know who we are, what will we do with that information?
Marla: Who or what would you credit in your life for your successes?
Osato: That’s a great question. If you had asked me this five years ago, I would have given you a completely different answer. It would have been someone in my professional work life. But now, being where I am today, it is my mother. My family came to the U.S. with nothing in the 1980s as immigrants from Nigeria. My father went to grad school in New York. In our culture, success was vital. Watching my mother’s transition from the 1980s mom, I once knew to the 2021 mom I have now made me realize how hard she worked. I never gave her credit. I didn’t recognize the power of having a working mother until recently. Now I see how difficult it must have been for her to balance working a full-time job and caring for four children while maintaining a traditional role as the caregiver in our home. I didn’t realize the significant impact she had on me.
Marla: What is the most influential book you’ve read and why?
Osato: The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz, I read this book recently. It is a simply written book. The book speaks about the four agreements of being:
Be impeccable with your word.
Don’t take it personally.
Don’t make any assumptions.
Always do your best.
I’ve learned, life would be a lot easier if we lived by these principles. Since reading, I have become more intentional in my everyday interactions with myself and others.
Marla: What would you say is the most significant misstep in an individual's journey to becoming their most authentic self?
Osato: Using other people as a measuring stick. The moment we start comparing ourselves with others, that in itself is a symbolic death. I get it; it is hard not to compare ourselves with others. We have created a curated world in a sense that is not real. Honestly, it is difficult not to compare one’s self to another. Nonetheless, we have to take a step away, and focus inward. We have to do an inner excavation to learn who we are and what we want to be.
Marla: How do we conduct an inner excavation? Where do we start?
Osato: If we can dedicate twenty minutes each day to sit with ourselves, however sitting with ourselves may look. It can be sitting in a quiet room, journaling, or reflecting. It is the quietness of our minds that allows for deep thinking. Start with this question; who am I? It is a hard question to answer, but its continuity brings forth the answers we seek. We need to continuously go back to that question throughout our lives because the answer can change. We have to give ourselves the space and time to answer the question wholly. It is easy to protect ourselves by creating a curated answer. I am Osato, and I am a lawyer and a mom. But we are more than what we do. Being our authentic selves gives us the space to realize the power within us. My goal is just that, to help others find their power within.