Seeking Balance

Photo of a bowl of chiriashi with salmon, kampachi and spicy tuna

I made this today. It’s beautiful and nourishing as I hope this next period of my life will be, if I take the time to focus on it.

I am a Libra.

It’s an identity marker.

While I’m really not THAT into the Western (or Eastern) horoscope, I do find that I function better with equilibrium, seek balance, and go to extremes when I’m not doing well. I also try to listen and reconcile multiple sides of an issue, am sociable and capricious. If you look up Libra characteristics, not gonna lie, this is pretty much me.

As a Libra, I’ve been struggling A LOT lately. My life has been all out of sorts for awhile, because there hasn’t been balance…pretty much anywhere.

But, I am finding my way back to equilibrium, and seeking balance.

I want to thank the amazing Lorena & Roberto Germán who posted this entry for #31DaysIBPOC yesterday which got me thinking a lot about joy. I read their entry in the morning and couldn’t get these lines out of my head:

“we need to resist through joy. We feel it deeply. We feel it urgently. None of these people, none of these systems, none of these events can steal our joy.”

While there is such truth in these words, they hit me hard. I felt as though they were an indictment of my own complicity to my suffering. These people, systems and events cannot steal my joy…unless I give it away.

I do not mean to criticize myself or to claim that in the last 15 months, I have not experienced joy. However, the further I have gotten away from my life prior to March 13, 2020, the harder it has been to center joy and to find a balance between joy and advocacy, joy and struggle, joy and obligation.

But now, it is time to resist by centering joy.

This year, I’ve also done a lot of thinking about resistance. Earlier this year, I published a co-authored piece using a framework around coalitional resistance. Part of the central argument of that piece is that resistance doesn’t always look like one might think it “should.”

Yes, sometimes, resistance is direct and visible, particularly in situations where one’s position and privilege allow for direct action to affect change.

Sometimes, however, resistance is behind-the-scenes, hidden from much of the world, but still effective in ways often not celebrated.

Other times, resistance is found in a quiet resolve that may appear to be submissive, but is actually both navigational and future-focused.

Still other times, resistance comes through surviving unjust institutions, in fugitive spaces of solidarity that allow for visions of transformation.

And sometimes, resistance is reclaiming balance, finding and centering joy authentically in a world of injustice, being wholly human, a complex collection of grief, outrage, joy and love.

I am resolving, as I move towards a period of sabbatical, to seek this balance, to affirm a right to rest, to work towards letting go of things and people that are not for me so that I can truly embrace that which is mine, to let myself be poured into so that I can naturally allow for the love in me to be fully expressed, to choose my battles intentionally so that I might also be there to stand alongside those who are fighting their battles with my complete presence.

In balance, I know I will come closer to reclaiming my authentic voice, my joy, myself.

I’m so ready for this journey and what it will bring.


A picture of mountains with a sky layered in colors: purple, orange, yellow and blue

To be surrounded by love and to be able to take it in

To have your words and work make a profound difference in the lives of others

To have community that stands with and for you when you can’t stand for yourself

To have (chosen) family that reminds you that putting on your oxygen mask first is not selfish, it is an act of self-preservation that does indeed serve others

To laugh freely and loudly without a care of who hears

To smile so much it hurts

To love with the depth of your heart and soul

To live after spending so many moments wanting to die

To move towards freedom and liberation

To struggle righteously alongside those that deeply feel the struggle

To honor humanity

To see those you love thriving and growing surrounded by the love of others

To savor all that you take in, from drink and food to moments and sights

To pause

To breathe

To embrace life’s uncertainties

To know that if you fall, community will catch you

To be in community

To feel love

To feel joy

To feel beauty

You are my greatest blessings.

Reckoning, Reclamation, Resistance, and Restoration

Photo of a semi-lit staircase against a dark background

CW: Eating disorder, Suicidality, Trauma (Skip to the Tl;dr if you don’t want to read that content)

Dear Friends,

This post is a hard one, but one I’ve been contemplating for a very long time. It’s a conversation I need to have with you all and there is no better time than today.

May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.

May is also Mental Health Awareness Month.

Mental health is something that is not openly talked about in Asian American families and communities. It was certainly not something that was talked about in my family growing up. In fact, problems at home or difficult emotions were always something that shouldn’t be talked about at all, but should be swallowed, held in and kept to ourselves, in our homes, a secret.

I have always cried too much.

I have always talked too much and talked too loudly.

I have always been the black sheep of my family.

I have always carried shame.

I swallowed a lot, for a long time.

Until I couldn’t swallow anything else.

For a long time, I have been fairly open about my struggles with mental health since beginning an academic career in 2012. Mostly, I have been open about my complicated grief process, spanning from the sudden death of my mother in car accident in the spring of my junior year. Grief is a somewhat acceptable form of struggle. I’ve approached my grief and healing with growing honesty and vulnerability in the past few years, particularly over the past year.

But there are some things about me that I haven’t written about because they have felt like too much: too much pain, too much vulnerability, too much shame.

However, shame festers in the silence. And I am not ashamed of where I have come from and who I am today.

Today, I am ready to tell the story of my darkest times, to reckon with these times publicly because in the light, there is healing.

I want to tell this story not just for my healing, but perhaps also because those I love may benefit in knowing that there is a beyond one’s darkest time, because I have come so far from a time that was not so long ago.

And also because I want people to know that you know someone who has struggled with suicidality.

Because you know me.

But, first, a deep breath.

A moment to remember that you are my friends.

A moment to remember that I am not ashamed.

I have never been a good boundary setter. As a teenager, my mother set boundaries for me until she died and when she died, I had no practice in setting boundaries for myself. Wanting to be a people pleaser, I threw myself into working as hard as I could to make other people happy. I was eager, and talented. Working hard made people like me. People were drawn to me because not only would I do things well, but I would listen to them deeply. I could see people in ways they needed to be seen; I could hear their truths and accept them for what they were. I gave and gave, and felt like in return, I gained validation, a sense of why I should stay alive after my mother died.

I needed validation and approval to stay alive, and in fact, the first time I thought about killing myself, I stood by the window of the house where I was living with a rusty razor blade in my hand thinking about how much relief I would feel if I could just die. Because I had been a disappointment. Because people I loved and respected told me that I was a disappointment. And because I thought I was a burden to everyone, that no one understood me and that I was completely alone.

What kept me alive was not wanting my brother to suffer the loss of his entire family in less than a year, and a chance to honor my mother in my valedictorian speech.

I began to work harder to gain people’s approval, to shut off all the bad, selfish things that I might want and stay focused on doing “the right thing” for others, so that people would love me.

Ten years later, shortly after my son was born and my daughters’ adoptions were finalized, I began to get very sick. I lost a lot of weight when breastfeeding my son. I wasn’t sleeping well. This went on for years, and even when my son stopped breastfeeding, I kept losing weight. One of my daughters had a very serious mental health crisis. Because I didn’t understand mental health well, I thought that, in addition to weekly mental health sessions, what my daughter needed most was someone to listen to her. Perhaps this was partly true. But, I became my daughter’s only lifeline. She left therapy when she turned 18. If I was not on the phone with her,  she began to spend money to fill the time and emptiness she was feeling. I never told her no. I just kept paying off her credit card bills. I wanted her to be happy, and healthy, and to have someone who deeply cared about her, all the things I needed when I lost my mother at her age. I was naive and well-intentioned, but ill-equipped to support her.

My weight kept dropping. We began to slip into debt. I kept working. I took on more work, in fact, to keep up with my daughter’s spending. I stopped being able to process most foods. I didn’t feel hungry.

I started wanting to die again.

Not to kill myself actively this time, but to die.

I felt it would be better for everyone.

I couldn’t be the mother my son needed.

I couldn’t be the mother my daughters needed.

I couldn’t even conceive of being the wife my husband needed.

I couldn’t work enough to pay our bills.

I had been rejected from multiple academic job searches that I was well-qualified for, without even a phone interview.

I was working 5 part-time jobs at one point, which I finally realized couldn’t continue, so I went back to teaching full-time and was working in an adjunct faculty role at UC Santa Cruz. One night, driving home along Highway 17 in the Santa Cruz mountains, in the dark, I fantasized about just letting my car go over the side of the road, into the mountain or off a mountain into a ravine.

I thought this would be the very best thing for everyone. It would look like an accident. Everyone would assume that I had just fallen asleep at the wheel.

My family could live off of my life insurance money as I had for several years after my mom died.

No one would know that I just couldn’t go on.

But I thought of my toddler and my daughters, and I fought to get myself home.

I didn’t want to die. I just didn’t think I could go on living.

I thought it would get better through working like it had last time, by trying harder, by doing better, but nothing changed.

I finished that semester and was getting ready to start another, where I would share a TA role back at UC Berkeley, closer to my home, while also teaching full-time at my middle school. I had been breaking down crying in front of students when I would talk to my daughter during my prep period, and she would be upset in a way that couldn’t be resolved before I had to go back to teaching.

I was a mess.

On MLK Jr. weekend of 2011, I hit my breaking point. I didn’t want to die or be dead at that moment, but I started feeling like I was going to die. I began sobbing to my husband that I was going to die. I didn’t know why, but I felt like I was going to die. For months, I had been going to specialists and they couldn’t find anything wrong with me, but I was not well. I felt like one day I would just not wake up.

No one believed me. I seemed to be fine.

So, finally, desperate for someone to recognize that I was, indeed, dying, I called for professional help.

I called the number on the back of my insurance card for behavioral health services.

I told them that I didn’t know what was wrong but I felt like I was going to die.

After talking with me for about 15 minutes, and asking me several questions, the triage nurse asked me if I could safely get myself to an emergency room. My husband drove me there and dropped me off.

I told them I needed a psych eval.

I waited patiently in the waiting room.

Eventually, my name was called.

An intake nurse weighed me and took my vital signs.

I was 84 pounds. And my blood pressure was extremely low.

A doctor asked me what was going on. I began to tell them all the things.

Once I started telling my story, I couldn’t stop crying.

The doctor looked at me kindly and told me that they were going to recommend me for inpatient treatment for an eating disorder.

I was confused. How could I have an eating disorder? I wasn’t trying not to eat. I just couldn’t eat.

But I knew I needed to be in the hospital. I needed care.

I was hospitalized inpatient for 10 days and when through 6 weeks of subsequent extended outpatient eating disorder treatment.

In the midst of this, my daughter felt abandoned, I lost one part-time job and had parents complaining to the district at my full-time job that I could not possibly be “that sick” if I was posting on social media.

I felt like everything I had worked so hard for was disappearing. I was disappointing everyone.

On the outside, everything I feared might happen was happening.

But as I started eating again, I stopped wanting to disappear.

Somehow, on the inside, I began feeling more alive.

The program literally saved my life.

Seeking mental health care saved my life.

Hospitalization saved my life.

It helped me to learn to set boundaries, to prioritize what I needed to survive, to recognize yellow and red flags, and to seek out community. I am lucky because I had medical insurance and access to help. Without it, I would not likely be where I am today. I might not be alive.

Mental health treatment did not fix all my problems. It certainly did not change the external stressors that I was facing. But it kept me alive, and it started a process of recovery.

Friends, why does my story matter?

Many of you did not know me at that time, and even if you did, you may not have known what was going on. I hid things well. I still do.

Most of you who know me now would not ever guess how close I was to dying just a decade ago. Or a decade before that.

Mental health is so stigmatized. I didn’t know how to reach out before I reached my breaking point. I only reached out in a state of complete desperation. I had been dying in front of people’s eyes and I couldn’t ask for help.

This year has been so hard for so many of us, including me. It has pushed me to my limits. But, it has also shown me how much I have grown. I am still not the best at boundary setting. I still struggle with overworking and not prioritizing myself. But I am alive, I am in therapy, and I am at a healthy weight. I have a community that sees me and checks in with me regularly. I have friends who will stage a full intervention when they see me going down the path to illness again.

Maybe you also feel pushed to your limits.

Maybe you don’t and have the strength to support someone.

Maybe you’re still reading because you’re interested in my business…

I’m not sure, but I’m wrapping soon.

This letter to you has become long, so here’s the Tl;dr:

Your life matters.

Your mental health matters.

Seeking mental health care saves lives.

It is SO SO HARD, but you can do it. And if you don’t feel like you can do it alone, find someone who will help you do it.

There is life after a crisis.

Check on your strongest friends, the ones who do all the things.

We don’t see the things we aren’t looking for.

I love you, Friends. And I love myself, and where I’ve come in this journey. I am not afraid or ashamed of my mental health struggles. I am proud of my willingness to heal, of my humanity and my better health, of seeking help in community. There is hope in community.

I see you because I see myself in you.

I am holding space for you to get what you need to live and to embrace your full humanity.

Take care,


#31DaysIBPOC Blog Badge

This blog post is part of the #31DaysIBPOC Blog Series, a month-long movement to feature the voices of indigenous and teachers of color as writers and scholars. Please CLICK HERE to read yesterday’s blog post by Chanea Bond (and be sure to check out the link at the end of each post to catch up on the rest of the blog series). 

Stepping Backwards, Moving Forward, Coming Home

a sign with welcome in black letters on a white background in front of a blurry tea set

After exactly one year and one day as the director of teacher education and a full professor at my current institution, I will be leaving my position on June 2, and return to being an associate professor (for non-academics, this is a step down on the professorial ladder) and a faculty member (on sabbatical for fall term) at my former institution.

Today, this decision was announced publicly so I am announcing it here.

And now that the announcement is done, I can reflect on all this means.

When I was offered this position 15 months ago, I agonized about the right decision. While I loved the institution I was at, my work-life felt unsustainable. I was exhausted. I had been in large public institutions my whole life. While I knew I would miss my colleagues and my students, the opportunity for leadership and mentorship seemed the right one to step in to. Staying didn’t sit right with my heart, so I took a step forward in faith.

I couldn’t have predicted that weeks later, a global pandemic would have taken place.

I have never met the majority of my current colleagues in person. I have led our program via e-mail and zoom this entire year, not to mention teaching new course preps in an entirely different context (a small liberal arts college), during a reaccreditation year, while creating and learning new systems, managing a new grant and trying to move forward important curricular and program shifts that centered equity. I thought I was exhausted 15 months ago, but my body remembered my most exhausted times this year, and relived them.

Did I mention there was a global pandemic?

Then, there was an international family crisis. In this time of pandemic, unfortunately so many have experiences local and global family crises, and been expected to continue with life “as usual” (whatever this means in a global pandemic) because somehow, we are supposed to “pivot” in all directions at all times.

I drew from ALL my resources this year. My mentors, my colleagues, my friends, my family, my loves, my inner strength, my mindfulness practice, my therapist, my writing — all the resources. Thank God for these resources. They helped me to survive and brought me moments of deep joy in the midst of all the things. When I felt unsure of how much longer I could sustain, a text or DM or email or call would make me smile or laugh or cry (cathartic tears), and buoy me just enough to go on.

But I could not keep going on and stay alive.

So, I chose myself, and my health, and my family.

I chose to return to a position that I knew, with faculty that love me deeply, at an institution I know well (for better and for worse). I chose to return to a place of comfort and security where I didn’t have to worry about proving myself or managing all the things.

Most importantly, I chose to return to a semester of sabbatical. Of rest and focus.

After a summer of family, helping my sister get adjusted to life in a new country, far away from the family and friends she has known her whole life, after experiencing the horrors of war in front of her own home.

It is a step “down” in rank, a step backwards, in some respects, but also a way forward.

I have gained relationships I would never have had without this year. I have learned my limits, and have seen myself as a leader. I have had a very different institutional experience than I had experienced previously. I have had to rely on community and faith to get through many days.

And all of this, my full humanity, makes me better — makes me a better human, a better mother, a better teacher, a better leader.

I hope that I’ve left my current institution in a better place as well. I hope I’ve touched the lives of some of those I’ve met and worked with this year in ways that have helped them to grow and develop. I hope I’ve helped students to feel seen, faculty to feel heard and advocated for, and leadership to feel supported. I hope I’ve created systems and changes and planted seeds of transformation that will grow long after I’m gone.

I am stepping back, but I am also moving forward. I am coming home, not to an academic institution, but to myself.

And I am grateful fo the journey, however arduous it has been at times, because it has brought me here.



Photograph of a blue plate broken into many pieces on the a gray cement floor

Today, there were beautiful people and beautiful moments and joy and community in those beautiful people and beautiful moments. For that I am grateful. Community, beauty, joy, moments are keeping me alive.

But today, I realized that I am completely broken.

I have been cracking for awhile, hairline fractures belying the tensions of this time that have been causing me pain and making me sick.

But today, I broke.

It could have happened any day, really. But, it was more likely on a Monday, a day filled with all the meetings and e-mails that were held back from over the weekend, a day where I was misunderstood from above, below, and to the side, a day when there was too much to do and never enough time.

I cannot keep trying to explain myself.

I cannot keep triple booking myself and working harder than anyone and everyone I know.

I cannot keep brushing myself aside. I cannot keep putting my family, my health, my well-being, behind my productivity.

I know my productivity is not my worth.

But ironically, the more I feel the tensions pulling me apart, the harder I work.

It has been the only way to prove my worth.

I have been breaking.

But today, I broke.

Today, I felt like crying the entire day. There was no shaking it once I got into the rhythm of work. There was no smiling and laughing it away.

Today, I felt the weight of all I am carrying the entire day. There was no relief even in the offers of support.

Today, I broke.

But there is hope for the broken.

Even today, there was hope, if I could bring myself to listen. There was support. There were the reminders that I could let go and people would be there to catch me. There were reminders that people appreciate who I am, the work that I do, and the heart that I do it with, but more importantly that they appreciate my life, my existence and my well-being above all that I produce.

But, if I am to embrace hope, I have to choose it.

I have to choose a future.

I have to choose a hard stop.

I have to choose myself.

I cannot gather myself, the pieces of myself, if I cannot recognize the truth of my brokenness.

I cannot heal, cannot pour the gold into the cracks to reassemble myself, if I keep going this way.

Today, I realized that I am completely broken.

It is hard to see myself in pieces.

I hate it.

But I will keep breaking into smaller and smaller pieces until I crumble to dust or become unrecognizable.

If I am to embrace hope, I have to choose it.

I have to choose a future.

I have to choose a hard stop.

I have to choose myself.

Finding Family, Fragility and Strength

Photo of three bunches of flowers in front of two gravestones Photo of blogger and her mother in front of flamingos when blogger was a child Photo of a girl smiling next to a unicorn jewelry box

I am ending this Mother’s Day weekend like my last post began, with reflection & amidst another wave of grief, one which is strong, but which I find easier to withstand.

Almost all the things I hoped for this Mother’s Day weekend happened as planned.

My sister made it safely out of Yangon, and is in the same city as her mother for Mother’s Day. She is in quarantine, but they will see one another soon, and she is safe. So they didn’t get to be together for Mother’s Day, but she is safely near her mother, and I am so grateful.

I visited the gravesite of my mother, grandmother and aunt.

I celebrated my daughter’s 6th birthday.

I rested, ate delicious food, woke up this morning sobbing, looked through boxes of photos, found so many pictures of my younger self and my mother and grandmother, laughed with my family, and gave myself space when I needed to.

I honored my full humanity.

I loved well and was present to so much love, from so many people, in a myriad of ways. My community has me even when it’s hard, and stands for and with me when I struggle to stand for better in my own life. I am so deeply grateful for the people in my life.

I am so deeply grateful to be so loved.

And I am still so deeply sad.

I suppose that I have learned over the last 26 years that, if I am honest, I will always end Mother’s Day with a heaviness in my heart.

I was loved so well and so completely by my mother and by my maternal grandmother that I still feel their absence every single year, even though I have lived the large majority of my years now without them.

And there is a hole in my heart that I speak of less often, being estranged from one of my own children and far from another.

And there is pain from having invited others to mother me and having had them turn away from me, in times of my greatest need.

And there are echoes of this abandonment, of my unworthiness and not being enough everywhere.

I have realized that humanity is not a zero sum game.

It is hard.

Even with so much love around me.

It is so hard.

But I am making space.

And holding space.

I am learning that honesty allows my chosen family to see what I often can’t and step in on my behalf when I can’t.

I am learning that in my fragility is also my strength.

In my hurt, in my heart, is also my hope.

It is hard.

I wish I could write away my sadness.

But I can only make space.

And hold space.

I can only mother myself, and trust those who choose me to support me in this journey.

It is so hard.

But I also know I am not alone in the struggle with this day, and in solidarity, there is also strength. In shared fragility, we become stronger. In our hurt, in our hearts, is also hope.

Tomorrow will not be Mother’s Day.

But I will still carry my humanity.

And I will still honor it, because it is the only way I can truly find a way beyond survival.

Lost and Found

Whew. Grief. It comes for you out of nowhere sometimes, or maybe from everywhere.

On a morning when you have a three hour professional learning session to give.

At the end of a week you weren’t sure you’d make it through.

At the start of a weekend that simultaneously holds so much longing, hope and joy.

I am grieving this morning, as I do almost every May when Mother’s Day approaches, and particularly in the last 6 years because my daughter’s birthday is around Mother’s Day.

When I had my daughter, I most felt the depth of the loss of my mother. And my mother’s mother. And being near family.

There is profound loss alongside profound hope every Mother’s Day weekend for me, but especially since then.

My daughter is the continuation of a maternal line of strong women, of those who resisted, in ways seen and unseen, what society said that they could do.

But she also could be the continuation of a maternal line that suppressed so much rage and denied themselves the love they so freely gave to others.

I am the continuation of both those lines, embracing our legacy of resistance and trying to allow myself to feel the rage I carry that my mother, aunt and grandmother did not feel safe to express because of the consequences that might come to them or their families, trying to allow myself to acknowledge that I deserve better, that they deserved better, that my daughter deserves better.

This Mother’s Day has added complexity as I wait for news of my sister, a sister with a shared father but another mother and maternal line, who I have never met in person, but who I hold dearly, and who brings her own stories that I do not know yet.  I know, though, that she holds stories of resistance, and that she has courage similar to my own mother’s in seeking to begin life anew in a country that is not her own among people that are not hers, not yet, but who I hope will be. We will hold her close. First though, I hope her mother can hold her close.

But in addition to all of this, Mother’s Day begin in May which is also Asian Pacific American Heritage Month causes me, today, to pause. It is another layer of loss for me.

As a second generation Asian American, I mourn how quickly I’ve lost connection with my Taiwanese roots.

I struggle to reclaim some of those ties to my maternal line and their histories so that I can share them with my daughter.

My mother, having died when I was an adolescent, before I had the wisdom to embrace her wisdom, and her mother having transitioned before her, left me untethered to their histories. Now, I want to reconstruct these ephemeral moments that seem to be blown into the wind, transcribed in short notes, in script I still can’t read, with my cursory Chinese language skills.

I feel the loss so deeply within me.

There are layers of loss, layers of grief, layers of anger, layers of exhaustion.

There are also layers of resistance, layers of hope, layers of a future that is not begotten by the limitations of our past.

They are both there, these layers, waiting to be acknowledged, waiting to be embraced, waiting for me when I least expect them.

For when I am most lost, then they will find me, and enrobe me in all of the complicated layers that make up this life.