Charlene Wheeless’s book, “You Are Enough,” is now available, and I had the distinct honor of interviewing her for a Page Conversation about it on Monday.

During her battle with cancer, Charlene found herself changed – depressed and questioning whether the life she was fighting for was one she herself wanted to live. She tried to find help and advice, but, finding none, decided to tell her own story. Her blogs about her experiences left nothing to the imagination.

But she felt she had more to say and resolved to tell her story in a book as “a platform for sharing my cancer journey of finding strength in weakness and learning to put more life into my life.” Along the way, though, the book grew to be so much more – a story of resilience and tenacity and fearlessness – and most of all, a story of authenticity.

As a Black woman in workplaces dominated by white men, Charlene often felt invisible, or, when noticed, she found that she was always having to prove herself, seeking to overcome the doubts. “I don’t recall a time in my career when I walked into a room and where the senior people, usually white men, assumed I was competent.”

The book is a candid telling of her story, but much more; it’s a compelling testimony to a way of thinking and acting from which all of us can derive life-changing lessons.

For example: 

  • “Quit Whining” (Chapter Two) – “If you don’t like your circumstances,” she wrote, “change them. Period.” Is it that easy, I asked? “Yes,” she said. “It’s choice, not chance, that changes your life. It just takes seven seconds of courage. Nobody’s coming to rescue you. Make a plan and find your seven seconds of courage to do it.” 
  • But that doesn’t mean you don’t stick it out when the going gets tough. “Fit Matters” (Chapter Seven) – “If you don’t fit,” she said, “it doesn’t mean you have to leave. But you have to understand how you don’t fit. You can only make change from the inside.”
  • “If You Do Something Good, Tell Someone” (Chapter Three) – “When it comes to your career,” she wrote, “sometimes humility is overrated.”
  •  “Ask for What You Want.” (Chapter Four) – “If you are working toward something,” she wrote, “make sure the right people know about it. Otherwise, you have left it up to other people to determine your future.” 

In the Page Conversation, I also thanked Charlene for speaking so passionately as chair of Page on the racial justice and equity issues of the past year. “I felt those messages needed to be delivered,” she responded, “… to tell those true stories of what this racial and social injustice and lack of equity really feels like day-to-day, because it wears you down…. You, know? Why am I having to fight for a basic need?” You can find her most recent Page Turner blog post here, and it is definitely worth your time.

Charlene concluded, “Legacies are not built by the things that we do, but by the lives we touch along the way.” Her legacy is clear: With her voice in this book and beyond, she is touching all of us with her clear and unwavering faith in being authentic, and in knowing that we are, indeed, enough. I will be forever grateful to her for her leadership and her friendship.