We had the good fortune of connecting with Spshelle Rutledge and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Spshelle, how has your perspective on work-life balance evolved over time?
Having a mix of work-life-balance began early on in my life. I became a Marine serving over 4 years and throughout that time, my service consisted of working up to 40 hours or more a week while also balancing my personal life and endeavors. When I honorably retired and transitioned back into the civilian workforce, I found myself having to juggle more to include the adjustment. Working full-time at my new job at a hospital, being a mother, co-parenting, trying to maintain healthy relationships, finishing my education and more took up most of what was on my plate. Though juggling my obligations was doable, this also caused me to become more aware of where I should and should not put most of my energy. Making conscious choices to place my energy into my obligations and what motivates me made finding stability in my overall work-life-balance easier. I think a stable work-life-balance is important and everyone deserves this privilege. Every organization should ensure this is a part of their culture and every person, in general, should try their best to make this balance their priority. Without a healthy work-life-balance achieving something as vital as, let’s say, mental wellness can be difficult. Outside of work, time with ourselves, our loved ones, and/or our communities is necessary to thrive.

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I am excited about being the African American/Black outreach coordinator for the San Diego County-funded program Breaking Down Barriers under Jewish Family Service of San Diego. My role is to help reduce mental health stigma and discrimination for the community throughout San Diego county and provide cultural humility trainings to the providers and people that serve us. I work alongside a team of 6 others who each serve a specific underserved community such as the Latinx/Hispanic, Asian Pacific Islander, Native American /Indigenous, LGBTQ+, African/Refugee, Middle Eastern communities, and where there’s intersection. Even during the current pandemic, we are continuing to do sessions via zoom until further notice, posting resources and mental wellness tips on our Instagram and Facebook platforms (follow bdb.sd). I am also a Question, Persuade, and Refer (QPR) trainer with the County Suicide Prevention Council. Aside from work, I am the International Health liaison for the Human Rights Forum under the American Public Health Association (APHA) where I serve as the communication link. Amidst the current pandemic where the importance of public health and equity cannot be stressed enough, it has been an honor being in these roles. In my personal capacity, I’ve been a keynote speaker and like to model and act. It was truly a journey getting to where I am at today. It took determination, courage, support-systems, and a willingness to take risks when opportunities presented themselves. It took me being brave enough to walk through doors that opened for me and accepting the ones that stayed shut. I had a bit of low self-esteem and did not recognize my worth growing up and into adulthood like I do today, so getting here was not easy. What stuck with me despite my insecurities was my desire to make a positive impact on the world and despite closed doors, keep going until one opened. This required me to garner up the courage to walk through those doors, ask for help and seek advisement from mentors as I carried on. I was encouraged to overcome like my mother and also like my ancestors who came before me whose shoulders I stand on. I managed to obtain a bachelor’s in healthcare administration, a master’s in public health, and gain experience in fields both in and out of healthcare. What spearheaded the career path I am on began with my father while I was growing up in Denver, Colorado. My father was raised in the 1960s and 1970s in Alabama, a Black male who served honorably in the U.S. Army and eventually became a church minister. Despite his life, he was still a person harmed by injustices we see in our society and therefore still predisposed to incurring illnesses that something like smoking cigarettes could exasperate. At age 7 I helped him quit smoking cigarettes which I strongly believe prolonged his life. My drive within my career-path continues with my son who I hope continues to grow up recognizing his value as he navigates this ever-changing world that he too can positively impact despite embedded systems of oppression. What I learned from my experiences is that when you put your mind, body, and spirit first, you can go from living to thriving. When I take pictures or model now, I like to say “my glow took work” because it truly did. I know now that if I cannot be who I am when I work or do whatever, then it is not for me and I’m ok with that. There is so much that could have held me back but it did not, I am glad to be in a position to inspire others and pay it forward as we all should try and do.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I would first advise that they stay at least a week.
Day 1, I would advise them to go to some of the first places I went to when I first got to San Diego and that is Balboa Park and the Gaslamp Quarter. They could end their evening at Suckerfree Southern Plate & Bar or Boutique Vino.
Day 2, I would advise them to go to North Park for food, drinks, and fun at lounges.
Day 3 could consist of beach hopping and store shopping from the outlets to Lili Kouture in City Heights to Mission Beach and everywhere they could make it in-between.
Day 4 could consist of traveling more north and to places such as Cynthia’s Artistic Expressions, an art gallery in Oceanside.
Day 5 could be a day to get exercise and views hiking up places like Cowles Mountain in East County.
Day 6 and 7 could consist of simply relaxing, exploring, and some more eating at chill places like SPACEBAR Café & Wine Bistro.

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
There are so many people I can name but I will be brief and name a few. I want to dedicate my shout-out to my mother and father, Daphne and Allen Rutledge. Without them there could be no me and you all set the foundation for who I am today. To my prince John H. Mensah II, as if my love could not grow any bigger, you were born and changed my life for the better. To my sister-coach Sade Burrell MSW! Mother of two, homeowner, author of two books, What Are You Reaching For being one of my favorites, you inspire me. Your love and support mean so much. We have witnessed each other’s struggles and growth over the years. I can always count on you to keep it 100 with me and I would not have it any other way. To my significant other, friend, confidant, and more, Mathew Arthur Gordon. Time truly flies… you have witnessed my joys, pains, highs, and lows the past few years. The times I would attempt to doubt myself you would not let me, and you still do not. You are not only my humble man but an honorable man to the community making longstanding contributions and change that cannot go unnoticed. Your daily love and support have meant so much to me. To every church family that has stood in the gap as my support system the times family could not, and that helped guide me spiritually. I send my love and gratitude!

Website: https://www.spshelle.com/
Instagram: @spshelle
Twitter: @spshelle

Other: For mental wellness tips and information about local community resources you can follow: Instagram at bdb.sd & Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/breakingdownbarriersbdb/