This is part of a series in which I celebrate the diversity of insight and experience expressed by the women that I have the pleasure of knowing and admiring, women from which we have lots to learn. These are my friend crushes; my inspirations; my teachers; these are CULT LEADERS.
The first time I ever met Leah, I was sitting around a table with people I had never met but had already agreed to live with in a Real World-inspired scenario the following summer. I would be auditing summer courses in sociology and theology while my husband took them for credit, all while living in this strange housing arrangement. I was quickly--instantly--drawn to Leah (like every other person that has come across her). She is uniquely warm; endlessly positive; unequivocally uplifting. She is honest; she is smart; she is never, ever too serious--and she can party. She has a way of sensing the strengths of those around her and praises the hell out of others in a way that is completely genuine. Mash all of these qualities together, and you get an A+ social worker and A+++ friend. I am completely convinced that the world would be rid of violence if everyone had the pleasure of calling Leah a friend.
MEGAN: Introduce yourself. Who are you, and how'd you get here?
LEAH JAMES WRIGHT: Hi, I'm Leah Ellen James Wright! I work as a Case Manager for 28 individuals seeking income and housing in downtown San Diego. It's amazing. And pays juuuust enough to eat and pay rent, but I'm planning to work my way up to earning 6 figs. I have the most amazing group of friends and a new hott husband. I was born and raised in Chino Hills, CA. I studied at Point Loma Nazarene University and San Diego State University. I worship at Church of the Nazarene in Mid-City. Hobbies are a new concept to me now that I don't have homework, so far the only one I've mastered is watching TV.
What is important to you?
It is important to me to celebrate being made in God's image and recognizing God's image in others. It is important to me to participate in relationships that recognize my worth and value while also graciously reminding me to live simply and expand my capacity to generatively love, be patient, be creative, and forgive. It is important to me to be a hard-worker and be a successful Social Worker, and have a healthy work and relaxation balance. It is important to me to be open-minded and empathetic. It is important to me to know people who have similar and different past and present experiences than myself. It is important to me that I hold and squeeze babies. It is important to me to incorporate cheese into every meal.
Tell me about the best decision you ever made.
The best decision I ever made was prioritizing and working towards a profession that I love. Spending 40+ hours a week doing something you enjoy, are successful at, and will get paid for is really satisfying. God is allowing me to use my spiritual gifts and provide shelter and food (lots o' cheese) for my family! When you're working hard, challenging yourself, and celebrating your gifts, you're attractive to others and can lock them down in marriage and friendships - those relationships are some of my best decisions too!
Who is your favorite fictional heroine, and who are your heroines in real life?*
One of my favorite fictional heroines is Scout Finch; I remember reading To Kill a Mockingbird my freshman year of high school and feeling inspired. She's a smart, assertive, honest, and empathetic, young girl who questions racial prejudice and violence. Another, more light-hearted, fictional heroine I love is Liz Lemon from 30 Rock. Liz is based on Tina Fey and is an intelligent, hard-working, unapologetic feminist who laughs at her imperfections. Woo! One of my real life heroines is Dr. Maya Angelou. Dr. Angelou is a resilient trailblazer who is constantly mastering a new subject. Read I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and just soak. it. up. And of course my mom is my ultimate real life heroine! Marilyn James is intelligent and beautiful and she birthed me!
What advice do you have for women?
My advice for women is that we celebrate each other constantly and thank God for blessing the world with us. I've had the divine pleasure of working in a transitional housing facility with dozens of women who have extremely diverse backgrounds, but all of whom display overwhelming intelligence, strength, creativity, and generosity. My sisters outside of work amaze me too by participating in marketing management, pastoring, financial accounting, raising children, teaching, writing, making art.... We are unique; we are similar; we are sisters; we give life. It is crucial for us to advocate for the safety and rights of women locally and globally, and the rights of other marginalized groups.
*A super grateful nod to Feministing for the creation of this wonderful question.