If you are not born into the life that you want, create the life that you need. --Dr. Taaka M. Cash
Have you ever been fortunate enough to watch the growth of someone who had many odds stacked against them? Well, I have. Dr. Taaka Michelle Cash and I first met in elementary school. At that age, neither of us could have imagined the different bumps, bruises and confetti that awaited us. I mean, what school aged child does? Sure, we all have big dreams and aspirations of being someone great. We plan out our lives, set goals and move in the direction of those desires. Unfortunately, life will throw an unexpected curve in our journey. Those curves are not meant to break us, but strengthen us; however, if we aren’t careful, it will halt us. Taaka has definitely had her share of curves; yet I’m truly inspired by how they motivated her. She tripped, maybe even paused, but that sister refused to fall. Today, she is a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner of her own practice, Privy Oasis, LLC. She has so many abbreviations behind her name, that she can’t help but be certified. She’ll be honest and tell you about her humble beginnings, she’s not ashamed. She’ll tell you that she’s just a country girl from little old Greenwood, MS, with a passion to be of service. She will tell you that she’s a survivor of many ugly adversities, that came to kill, steal and destroy her; but God. She’s still here, stronger than ever and being not only a role model for her teen daughter; but for her siblings, friends and associates. If anyone has ever paid attention to Dr. Cash, they will see that she has encouraged others, not just with saying, but with doing. My interview with Taaka was so much fun! It was spiritually sweet, vulnerable and hilarious. She insisted on a phone interview and I suggested FaceTime. Let me tell you that we chatted for over 4 hours. I feel like I grew an entire inch in spirit during that time.
Fill us in on who Dr. Taaka M. Cash is and don’t be modest.
Dr. Cash:I'm a survivor.
What would you say your greatest accomplishment is?
Dr. Cash:My greatest accomplishment is providing value. I see myself as person of value. People can be special all day, but it's about the value you hold for yourself. Once you start creating value and demanding it; for me I just don't want to be special, I want to be valued. It truly gives me a sense of validation when I feel most valued. I never pursued an opportunity for the sake of saying that I pursued it. What mattered to me was generating a value for myself that I could pass to my daughter. I work to be contagious for those I encounter. There are ten things of value to me: faith, family, friends, finances, my communication, my personality, my leadership, strength, support and my walk. If those things are off, so will everything else in my life.
What organizations are you apart of? Which one is your favorite and why?
Dr. Cash: I would have to say, living. Since I was a child, I’ve had to truly fight to survive. That includes having cancer as a child as well as the dynamics of my upbringing. I love to thrive in living. That’s what I’m passionate about. I’m focused on leaving a legacy for my child. I'm grateful that God gave me a second chance to live.
What woman of color would you say is your greatest influence? Explain
Dr. Cash:Dr. Sheriel Perkins has been my first and greatest influence. She was the first person to take me under her wings. I remember being so frightened to do a public speech in 9th grade and she invited me to her house, so that she could help me write my speech. As I transitioned in high school, she was readily available, consistently providing academic advice. Just to have a pillar in the community to take interest in me, with no idea of what I was dealing with at home, was amazing to me. I felt like I was one of her children and I'm thankful that she chose me as someone to sponsor. She created value within me. She told me that I would be someone someday and I was crazy enough to believe it! Even when I was pursuing membership into Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated, she didn’t hesitate to write recommendation letters. She has always been an intricate part of my black book. She may not be aware, that one encounter was so impactful on my life.
If you were chosen to speak at a conference for empowering women of all ages, what would be your message?
Dr. Cash:To allow your life to be contagious! I think that even in us talking, we wouldn’t have been on the call this long, if the spirits weren’t contagious. Learn to be connected in the spaces and learn to be contagious, period.
Thinking back to when you were a young girl, what do you feel would have aided in your success as an adult?
Dr. Cash:When I look back, I believe that having a family and community system in place, would have enabled me to soar. If I had support on those levels, I would have made it to "my here" faster. It just took me longer, but I got here. For me, I cannot say that my upbringing was ideal. Unfortunately, I’ve suffered all five of the abuses that you can experience: economical, psychological, physical, sexual and emotional. It all had to have happened for a reason.
What do you want to do, but haven’t done yet?
Dr. Cash:When I think of the question, what is something that I haven’t done yet, I immediately think of my future with my child. Immediately, it’s a maternal thought. I think, "what am I doing"? I don’t have to be in a certain place. I’ve traveled around the world, when your military, you go everywhere. It is great to be in those places, but it is even better when you can experience it with people you love and who truly give that love in return. This question is so hard to fully answer because everything that I’ve wanted to or should I say, everything that God has needed me to do, I have stayed the course. So the only thing I can sincerely think of, is to be used to my fullest capacity. I just want to be a blessing as I journey through my life.
In high school, you were diagnosed with cancer. What particular cancer was it? How was it discovered?
Dr. Cash:I was diagnosed with Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) and I was given 3 to 6 months to live. I got injured playing softball and that’s what started the journey to discovering my illness. I went to the ER and within a week or so my health started to spiral out of control. It was two weeks into the semester and I started experiencing different symptoms. While reading the newspaper, my mother discoverd that a young girl had recently died of spinal meningitis and she wanted me to list my symptoms; to see if they mirrored spinal meningitis. After I told her, she said that she would pick me up from school and take me for an examination. That same day, I was walking through the park on the way to school with my sisters and I passed out. I got up trying to figure out what happened and continued on to school. Later I was sent to Jackson, MS, for further examination. Coach Anita Herrod, the Physical Education Teacher and female basketball coach at the time, was an amazing advocate for my family. She volunteered to drive my family and I to Jackson for treatment at Blair E. Batson Hospital for Children. I remembered taking the drive from Greenwood, MS, to Jackson, MS, and looking at all of the hills. I don’t think I had ever been to Jackson before that trip. I vividly remember so many other children being diagnosed on the day. They performed a bone marrow aspiration procedure, which normally takes 15 minutes; however, it took over two hours to get a sample from me. They had to go from one side of the hip bone to the other, since my bones were clogged with cancer cells. The results came back and my mother was told that there was nothing else they could do for me. Despite that, my mom was given an option to allow me to participate in a mock trial of chemotherapy treatments and of course, she agreed. I was supposed to fail as a child! I was born into failur!e. I wasn’t supposed to survive as an adolescent! HERE I AM as an adult woman and I am thriving! While I’m here, I’m going to live life and I’m going to live my life to the fullest!
What were the positive and negative effects cancer had on your life?
Dr. Cash: I had to learn how to read again, since the muscles in my eyes had become very weak. I had to also learn to walk again, because my muscles had wasted away. Now I have to work very hard to remain healthy. The positive side is that cancer has been the best testimony ever. Not only did I survive so many hardships as a child, but I survived cancer too. To be on the other side and to be able to say that I survived all of that, hands down, the most positive experience ever. I remember being on a flight and I had been seated next to a woman who had recently received a diagnosis of Stage 4 Breast Cancer. She revealed it during our conversation. I wondered, "why out of all the people on the plane, God seated her next to me!" The woman began to tell me her story and how sad she had been. She expressed how she was traveling to see her children and not knowing if that would be the last holiday that she would spend with them. So, I decided to share my story with her. We prayed together. You just never know who your story is going to be meant for. God is going to make it to be fitting for someone in their moment. Every situation that I’ve been through, I find myself using it now. Whether it’s a lost child sitting in my clinic, who has gone through physical abuse, sexual abuse or economic abuse, I’m able to empathize. I honestly believe that the reason I experienced that storm, is so that I can truly understand the people that I encounter and connect with.
What do you feel your most important role in life is and why?
Dr. Cash: My biggest role is not only in operation of being a mother, but I think my role is to create value in others. If I don’t have value individually, how am I going to impact anyone on a mother level, sister level or even when in my executive role. I think that creating value is my role, hands down! My intentions are to bring the best out in everyone that I encounter, so that they thrive in their own purpose. My daily prayer is that everything that I touch, that it manifest into His light and His word. My daughter and I do daily devotionals. Our wish is that whoever we come across, that we are impactful in somebody’s life. Say "hi, smile, give a hug"…you just never know! There are a lot of people who don’t have someone in their space to bring out the best in who they were ordained to be.
You are the single mother of a teen daughter. What is your method for raising her?
Dr. Cash:I can never say that I am a single mother. It literally took a village to raise my daughter. I have been so fortunate enough to have the best support system in raising her. My family has been readily available to provide support. My daughter’s father, her paternal grandparents, aunts and great-grandmothers have been such a positive force in helping me to ensure that she has the best upbringing. I’m more of a democratic parent. I allow her to have autonomy, to enable her to find herself. I desire for her to operate from a place of self-fulfillment. I don’t want her to get it from me or her dad. I want her to step outside when she is 18 years old and on her own, and say, “Although, I don’t know myself that well right now, I know myself well enough to know the difference.”
What have you found to be the most challenging aspect of raising your daughter in a single household along with running a business?
Dr. Cash: Having a life of balance! I was not born into the life that I wanted, but I created the life I needed in order to have a life of balance for her and for me. By having my company, it has given me so much freedom and autonomy. My momma used to work all day, everyday on two jobs. I am a firm believer that T.V will not raise my child. I am all about having a life of a balance. Being that I’ve created these companies, I’m able to pick her up from school everyday, we get to have daily devotionals, I get to cook, sit at the table, I'm not rushed and I'm not in traffic. The hardest thing is trying to keep that balance, so that my daughter can feel valued. When I was growing up and my mother was working all of the time, I didn’t feel that there was a place, purpose or value for me. We had to become creative with our time, since our parents were always working to survive. I always said that I never wanted to be that parent who would only work to survive.
What would you say the most impactful situation in your life was and why?
Dr. Cash: Surviving my childhood struggles and cancer, because I lived to thrive.
Tell us about Privy Oasis, LLC and how did the idea for this particular business come about.
Dr. Cash:Privy Oasis, LLC was born May 2013. We treat children, adolescents, adults and geriatrics for all psychiatric mental health limitations. We don’t just treat the individual, we treat the entire family. We specialize in medication management, therapy, telemedicine and house calls. Our primary concept is that we are a micro-practice and that is a small clinic. The purpose for this particular clinic is to reduce cost, focus on efficiency, effectiveness of practices, making sure that our services are equitable and ensuring that we are getting the right resources to those individuals. Our focal point is quality service and patient-centered care. The name came about to eliminate the stigma associated with mental illness. I wanted to ensure privacy and I thought that should be reflected in the name of the business, that’s how privy came about. The oasis portion came from a gospel song that came on the radio while I was riding and God underlined that word for me at that time, to add it to my business name.
I know you just opened up a second location for Privy Oasis. What can be expected of you next?
Dr. Cash:We are doing Privy Pop-up Shops. We are bringing our location to individuals in rural areas with transportation and financial issues. We came up with Privy On-the-Go, where we go out and reach the community, schools, etc.
You are undoubtedly a role model for so many women, what advice would you give to anyone wishing to be great?
Dr. Cash:Don’t sleep on your potential. So often we fool ourselves out of opportunities, because we sleep on our own potential. And never allow anyone to tell you that you will never be great. There is nothing wrong with trying. Operate in your potential of greatness and not the potential someone has envisioned for you.
Is there anything else you wish to add to this interview?
Dr. Cash:To anyone touched by my interview, as you travel your life’s path, always remember the triple C’s. You want to remain consistent, committed and understand the consequences of going back to that way of life. Once you've learned to live within your greatest potential, how do you continue that, focus on the triple C’s in order to maintain consistency for indivdual value.
Everyday there are so many African-American women questioning who they are, their strength and their capabilities. There are moments when as women, some of us settle and even use excuses to be complacent, in a refusal to blossom. Many of us have been unable to understand that we decide which direction our lives will take. Just know that your trials are purposeful. They are meant to strengthen you for your future and for the future of someone else. There is nothing superficial about your hardships or where you’re supposed to be. However, God has given us more control over our journey than we care to believe. The only person able to halt, kill or alter your journey is you. As Taaka said, “Be contagious in your change”. We all have a purpose to push others to flourish at their level. We have a divine reason for our existence and it is not just so that we live in our own desires. We are meant to connect and aid others in how they evolve. From this interview, I learned to appreciate my life a little more. It was confirmation that my purpose is bigger than me and I appreciate it that much more. I hope that each person that reads this, looks within and understands that there is value in who you are. I pray that you understand that the void within you is not for anyone else other than you and God to fill. Be willing to be the light for someone else, as there is someone put in place to be the light to you.