Do What I Say…

Photograph of a sign that reads Progress Not Perfection

I try not to be hypocritical. I really do.

The problem is that I love other people so much more than I love myself.

So, I remind them to do all the things that I know are important in order to maintain our humanity in the midst of a dehumanizing world: sleep, eat well, spend time with those you love, breathe, prioritize, remember that YOU are more than you produce, pace yourself, hydrate, give yourself lots of grace, honor your truth.

I know these things.

I pray for them, hold space for them, offer grace and advocate for them, support them through the their struggles.

I do these things.

I feel the difference when I live in ways that hold these truths and these spaces for myself as well.

And yet, so often, I am not the model for others that I want to be.

I am working towards honoring my truth by living it.

I am starting by taking time each day to reflect.

I am feeling the impact of not living my truth.

I am making space for the progress and set backs.

I am giving myself grace when I need it.

It is a work in progress.

I am a work in progress.

But progress offers more promise than perfection and I am working towards loving myself.

Opposite Action

When I was actively in major treatment for my mental health, I was encouraged to explore opposite action.

I realize that for me, opposite action is probably what typical action is for a lot of people.

When I am tired, my emotional response is to work more, because it is my autopilot response, and there is always more to do.

But tonight, in my exhaustion, I am pausing, and reminding myself that what got done today was enough.

I am going to take a bath, drink a cup of hot tea, and go to bed.

I am proud of me.

Showing Up

Photograph of the cover of How We Show Up by Mia Birdsong

I’ve been reflecting a lot this weekend on how I show up and who I show up for.

I started rereading How We Show Up: Reclaiming Family, Friendship, and Community by Mia Birdsong, a book that was gifted to me during an earlier part of the pandemic by my dear Sister-Friend, Ruchi, and that I had read then, but in a different space and place.

In coming to it this weekend, I’ve been thinking a lot about chosen family and the ways I show up for community and how I allow community to show up for me. This has been particularly in my heart in the wake of the ClubQ shootings and as we approach the 10th anniversary of Sandy Hook.

I think about my LGBTQIA siblings; I think about my own brother and my nephews and their town; and I think a lot about how to show up, using my platform, positions of power, and proximity as ways to hold space, reach out, speak out, or do work unseen, all grounded in love and community and centering those who are suffering most.

I have also been thinking about how I show up, given that this has been an incredibly busy and challenging time for me, and will be, for the next few weeks, a time in which I need to be fully present, as much as possible, while holding space my own continued grief, for the trauma and loss of people that I hold dear, and while also helping my sister with an unexpected move and my daughter with unexpected and lingering unemployment.

All of this leads me to the realization that I cannot show up (fully, authentically, truly) for others when I am not showing up for myself.

This is funny to me, in some ways, because my whole life has been about compartmentalization, and showing up for others in spite of a profound lack of connection to my own heart and longings. But showing up in that way has left me at a loss, exhausted, and in many ways broken.

I have been on a journey to reconnect with myself, and in finding myself, to find my community.

I have been on a journey to reconnect with my community, and in finding my community, to find myself.

In this moment on this journey, I know that I can only do what I can do right now, that this is the best I can do. The limits of the grace I can show to others, and the space I can hold for them, and the ways I can show up, is bound in the ways that I show up for myself and in the ways that I call upon and connect with community in ways that allow them to show up for me.

I am trying to let go of the guilt of not doing more.

I am trying to remember that I am enough.

I am trying to feel with each breath that those I love know that I am always with them, and that our love for one another is not contingent on what I can or cannot do in a moment, because we journey together over a lifetime.

I am trying to hold on to love and rest as resistance.

There will be other opportunities to show up if I cannot show up today.

But I need to be around to show up for them.

I have been reminded in the ways that those I love have shown up for me recently that my life matters deeply, that needing to rest is human, and that I do not need to keep running. I can simply be, and the next right thing will come to me. I can simply be, in all of the complexity that being may bring, and feel the love of those around me.

That love, and that being, will bring forth my love, and my authentic voice, which will speak in its time.

There is nothing to prove to anyone.

Those who need to know have always known or will come to know, and those who do not understand cannot be convinced. Those who feel my heart are connected in ways that need not be seen or known.

I just need to work on trust, trusting myself, trusting those I love, trusting community, trusting that in whatever time I have left, what is mine to do will be done.

I am showing up as best I can, for myself, and for those I love.

And that is enough.

A short post…and then a little more

Today I’m tired.

I don’t know if I’m tired because I did too much today or if I’m tired because the last few days and few weeks have been exhausting but this is what I have the energy to write today.


But you know who was not tired?

My 7 year old, who has actually been tired and off of her routine for the last week, but insists she just wanted to stay up “a few more minutes.”

And now she is asleep, and miraculously, I feel more awake.

It’s funny how energy transfers between us.


Chosen Family

Photograph of a group of people

I have been thinking a lot about chosen family.

Today, I saw dear friends who we co-owned a triplex with before we moved to Southern California. The time when we all lived together (they lived on the top floor and we lived on the bottom floor of a shared larger home and then we had a third unit on our property which we rented out) was a time of much change and growth and struggle. It was the house where we established a family after many years in which I felt alone. It was the home we lived in after we got married. It was the home my older daughters first visited with us and to which I brought my son home. It was the home where our dog became part of our family.

It was also the home where I felt the lowest in my life, where I sat on the sidewalk outside, sobbing in desperation and what I thought could never be better.

We are in different places now, just over 10 years later, both physically and emotionally, but these friends remain family in my heart, always. Family are not the people you necessarily see each day, but the people that you can quickly find home with again.

I have been thinking a lot about chosen family.

I used to be deeply saddened on Thanksgiving because it’s always close to my mother’s birthday and it used to be such a big celebration in my family of origin (or at least, bigger than most holidays). This sadness was compounded by the fact that we generally celebrated with my husband’s family which made me feel acutely separated from my own experiences growing up (despite my deep love for his family).

This year, our first Thanksgiving meal was with my in-laws, but my second and third were with friends who have become family, and family that I have found from half a world away (namely, my sister). These people, and so many others who reached out via text and messages and calls yesterday, remind me that I am deeply loved. That I am chosen, as much as I have chosen them.

This, of course, doesn’t replace my mother’s presence, or fill the hole in my heart that has been left by her absence, but it brings me a measure of peace that wasn’t a part of my life for so long.

I am grateful for that peace, and for the ability to breathe it in, and hold it close to my heart, where there used to be only loneliness.


Photo of a group of people Photo of a group of people

It was a wonderful day, filled with beautiful people.

In person, on the phone, via text.

So many beloved people.

I am grateful.

And very tired.

I will have one more meal with beloved friends tomorrow.

After a sleep, and allergy medication for my very swollen foot.

I was almost too tired to write.

That would have been okay, but this is also good.

A moment to reflect, even in my exhaustion.

A moment to hold that even with all the love that surrounds me, there is a part of me that still longs for those who are not here.

I am writing.

Writing is showing up for myself.

I am grateful.

A Year of Writing? A Commitment to Reflection

Photograph of the corner of a table with a person's hands poised to write in a journal

By nature, I have a very all-or-nothing, addictive, jump in with both feet and give all the things all the energy approach to life. This comes from the desperation of always wanting (or having) to be the best in order to prove myself worthy of love at all. But once this approach becomes internalized, it is just a part of one’s identity. Or, at least, it is a part of my identity.

This manifests in constantly seeking to attach myself to new things, to people, to conversations, to commitments that drain my energy.

I am exploring detachment. Or at least, investment in re-energizing commitments.

How do I take a step back to evaluate that which fills me and that which depletes me? How can I gain perspective? How do I do less so I can be fully present to being my best?

I am taking a breath.

Being all-in all the time is exhausting. It makes me inaccessible to everyone, at least at a deep level, and that troubles me, particularly with respect to those I love.

Don’t get me wrong. I am always as present and genuine as I can be with the people I choose to spend time with, but sometimes how present I can be is limited by all the things I have to do.

People ask how I am and I answer reflexively that I am well, that I am blessed, that I am making it, because those things are true. I know them.

But I feel sometimes like a shell of myself.

I am a deeply feeling person, and because of this, I am often doing all I can to avoid my feelings, instead of letting them guide me.

I scroll mindlessly because I cannot attend to my heart if my mind is taking in new information.

But this is exhausting.

I feel sometimes like a shell of myself.

The year after my mother died, I wrote in a journal every day. I do not remember why I stopped. Perhaps it is in the pages of the almost 30 year old journals that I still cannot bring myself to read.

I want to commit to writing personally again, to giving myself the gift of reflection, every day. Perhaps not publicly, but intentionally.

I am exploring detachment.

So what does it mean to commit to myself and detach from the necessity of mindless scrolling each day before bed? What does it mean to detach from external validation to seek internal understanding?

I don’t know….yet. But perhaps I’ll come to know in this year.

Walking Towards the Light in a Time of Darkness

Photo of a candle from House of Intuition called Winter Solstice

I had dinner with my friend Cait last Wednesday night, on the eve of NCTE and we were near a store called House of Intuition where they sell crystals and candles. I was drawn to this one: Winter Solstice. It is not yet winter. I am not generally drawn to things of this color or candles in general, but I kept coming back to this candle.

The salesperson in the store said that the crystal in the candle was calling me to it. They remarked that my clothes matched the candle, which I hadn’t noticed. I turned the candle around and it had this empowering mantra, “I am steadfast in tending to my needs.”

I was similarly drawn to a small piece of Black Onyx.

The card next to the black onyx said, “Black Onyx is a stone of strength and guidance. In times of stress and loss, it allows us to maintain our grounding and not feel overwhelmed. The protective aspects of this stone take negative energy around us and transmute it into something more positive. With this stone, negativity becomes positivity, aggression becomes strength and apathy becomes perseverance.”

I typically am not one who believe in the power of crystals and candles.

And yet, I believe God (and the Universe) brings you what you need in the moment you need it, if you trust.

Oh dear friends, how I am struggling to tend to my needs. Even in the light of the obvious nature of them, I am hiding in the shadows, running from the peace and calm that God (and the Universe) wants me to have.

It has been a day after a weekend after a week after a month after a semester after a year after a lifetime of running away from the very things I am seeking.





I know all of this is here for me in abundance.

But I must slow down.

I have to allow myself to have needs, to feel loss, to be present, if I am to transform my frantic pace into intentional pause.

“The Universe is providing resources and time, you do not need to rush in taking care of your needs in the dark of this Winter before the Spring brings a new dawn of possibility.”

Tomorrow is my mother’s birthday. She would have been 84 years old. It is the year of the Tiger. My mother was, ironically, a “Tiger Mother” although not in the sense that has been popularized. She was fiercely protective, strong and brave. She was brilliant, loving and kind. My mother was imperfect, but she was a model of humanity, of someone who always tried her best and supported others. She was a light. She continues to be a light to me.

I am often frantic in this time. I cannot focus. I feel lost as the light becomes less in the year and as the distance between my life with my mother and my life as a mother continues to grow. I become focused on controlling all the things. I don’t want anything to go wrong. Yet, I am acutely aware that the smallest and biggest of things can go wrong at any moment.

Maybe if I work harder, I can prevent tragedy this time. I have to believe I can do something to make things better.

This is the time when I am anything but “steadfast in tending to my needs.”

To tend to my needs, I must recognize them. To hold myself to them, I need accountability.

I need to rest.

I need to breathe.

I need to prioritize and set boundaries on work, which will, if I let it, consume me.

I need to trust.

I need to hydrate.

I need to write.

I need to reflect.

I need to hold space for myself, my grief, and my joy.

I need to listen to the ways I treat my family and make sure they are aligned to my love for them.

I need to listen to my body.

I need to feed myself even when I don’t want to eat.

I can be steadfast in attending my needs, if I let my community support me, if I listen to those who love me.

I must keep walking towards the light in this time of darkness even as my survival has been hidden in the shadows of solitude and fear.

“As industrious Autumn falls away, allow time to renew your energy. As the Sun enters Capricorn, allow its light to give you the patience to arrange and rebalance your home and sacred spaces. The Universe is providing resources and time…”

Tenderness, Tension, Community & Connection: Reflections on #NCTE22

Photograph of a stage with a lighthouse and a circle with the words ¡Sueños! Pursuing the Light and the National Council of Teachers of English logo

What does it mean to dream? What does it mean to pursue the light?

This year’s National Council of Teachers of English Annual Convention theme was ¡Sueños! Pursuing the Light. It was the first annual convention held in person since 2019, and it was held in my current hometown of Anaheim, California.

I was on the program 10 times, and had the honor of facilitating a conversation with Dr. Seema Yasmin on her new book What the Fact: Finding the Truth in All the NoiseIn fact, all of the program appearances were an honor: from work related to chairing the NCTE Research Foundation Trustee Board (whose mission is not only to promote research within the organization but also to support the Cultivating New Voices among Scholars of Color program), to presentations with colleagues and friends who are amazing and brilliant educators, to work with my beloved professional home & family: the Asian/Asian American Caucus, to supporting the work of mentoring and networking (a session I had to bow out of, but to which I hope to return). All of it is important work that is close to my heart. All of it is work to support community & commitments that I hold dear. All of it is good.

But all of it together is too much.

On the night before Day 1 of the conference, I began to lose my voice. By the morning of Day 1, it was almost completely gone. I did not feel sick. In fact, I had recovered from a recent cold, tested every day for 3 days to make sure I was not COVID positive, and felt better than I had in awhile. I thought maybe the laryngitis was a result of new allergy medication I took. But whatever the cause, I could not speak like myself.

I also could not fully rest my voice, given the schedule that I had: a board meeting to facilitate on Thursday, two presentations on Friday and a full Saturday schedule including the MainStage presentation, after an 8am session and before the 11am Caucus Open Forum.

In between all these things, I was coordinating an important, time bound project at work (even with my out of office message on). I was also running into people I hadn’t seen in years who I love deeply in the halls between sessions, snapping a quick selfie and moving on because I had to get to the next place.

As I saw people, those who knew me best heard my voice, looked at my face, had seen my name on the program, and said, directly and indirectly, that they were worried about me.

I was not in my body enough to worry about myself.

Finally, as I was leaving the Caucus Open Forum on Saturday at noon, my friends, Jung and Grace, told me that I needed to duck out of my scheduled session to eat and to rest. They knew I had another 3 commitments in the afternoon/ evening and that I would have just kept pushing forward if they didn’t forcibly stop me.

So, I excused myself from the session & was given so much grace by the session organizer, ate some food with Jung & Grace, got a couple of books signed, saw some really lovely and dear friends, then went to rest.

Then I got up and did the rest of the conference like I had done the part before Jung & Grace’s intervention.


My very last session of the conference was with people who I consider family. It was a small session, mostly just the presenters and a few dear friends. So, we chose to forego the typical academic format, and talk truthfully and justice, grief, healing, community, family, rest, resistance, humanity, dehumanizing institutions, and how we live our truth. It was a healing and authentic space where I could breathe.

And yet…

In that session, there was a moment where I began to choke on my own breath. I tried to take a sip of water, but I began to choke on that too. I left the room, sat on the floor outside the door, in the registration hall, and coughed until I was crying. A woman I did not know began to approach me to see if I was okay. I signaled that I was, because physically I knew I could recover myself, but I realized that I also was not. I was not okay. I had fallen back into the trap I know so well. Doing, doing, doing to the point that I was choking on the very things that gave me life. I could not be with the things that I needed to live.




My body knows more than my mind. It was telling me that I am human, that I cannot do all the things. But I refused to listen. I had gone on autopilot.

When I give control of my body over to my mind, I can run on reserves until I am a literal shell of myself. My voice was silent and then strained. But I would not stop talking.

So, my body made things that should be automatic and reflexive: breathing, drinking, swallowing, into things that had to be intentional. I had to slow down. I had to pay attention. There was no other way.

My dear brother, Shamari K. Reid, reminded me that I, like so many other women of color, have to slow down, have to stop, pause, breathe, rest, or we are enabling our own death. We become complicit alongside the institutions that would kill us. I know this, but when he reminded me, I felt it.

My dear sister, Sakeena Everett, reminded me that so many people want me to live. But that if I am to go, it is my children, my own family, that will not be able to replace me.

They said these things in love, with tenderness but firmness, with conviction and care that called me in, to myself and to community.

It is up to me to listen. It is up to me to live the life I choose, to model what I wish for those I love. They are looking to me. I am looking at myself.

There was much joy at NCTE this year, so many moments of reconnection and community. There was abundance, but I wonder how much richer those interactions could have been if I had allowed myself the space, time, rest, grace that I deserve as a human being. I wonder how much more present I would have been with pause.

There is always tension when one loves, between depth and breadth, between others and self, between fragmentation and wholeness.

I am navigating this tension, imperfectly.

In this tension, I am grateful for the love and tenderness, the grace and understanding of those around me, the strength and reminders that I have much to live for and strength to choose.

I will need help. I truly believe that without community, I would not be. I never want to disappoint anyone. I will need to know that the bond we share is not dependent on doing, but on being. Or perhaps I will need to let go of the energy to maintain so many strong bonds and let go of commitment, but remain always with affection.

It is hard. It is a lot. I do not know. I cannot yet feel the answer.

So, I return to this:

What does it mean to dream? What does it mean to pursue the light?

I do not know yet, but I know it cannot be done without space and the courage to come out of the darkness.

All the Things, All the Time

Stack of papers and multicolored files

Today was a day like all my days used to be.

This morning started off with a 2-hour working seminar with my French colleagues in French. I’m grateful and excited for our collaboration, but I also was extremely stressed about how this would go since I’m only used to functioning in French when I am actually in France, not when I’m in the states and thinking all the time in English. I’m also not yet fully adjusted to speaking about my research in French so everything takes longer and is more tiring.

In the 20 minute break between the seminar and my next meeting with the current dissertation student I’m working with, I ate, because I couldn’t eat anything before the seminar because eating is hard when I’m nervous. I was also trying to work on revisions to a draft statement on censorship for the state organization I lead.

Then I met with my student and had a good talk about how she can move forward. She was really encouraged to hopefully start interviews for her study early next week. (Later she would find out that the “interviewees” with whom she had hoped to conduct her interviews were likely bots or trolls.)

The AERA (American Educational Research Association Annual Meeting) notifications began rolling in around this time. 1 accepted roundtable and an additional role as a discussant. A little disappointing in some respects (particularly regarding a panel that I felt confident would be accepted and wasn’t), but on the other hand, a little relieving, as I’ll be able to attend sessions and reconnect with people for the first annual meeting in a very long time.

A mid-afternoon appointment led to moving remote offices multiple times in the afternoon and I began to fall behind on the slippery slope of e-mails and meetings (as my phone was also blowing up with text messages).

Before I knew it, it was time to pick up my son and shuttle him to TaeKwonDo, while grabbing In N Out drive thru and eating in the car.

After I drop him off, I usually find another “remote office” (often a Starbucks) to catch up on the e-mails lest I become buried alive. But, two of the myriad texts were requests for support from my dissertation student (regarding her interviews) and a lecturer colleague (and former student, about an incident in class).

After two femtoring calls (both of which were on hard, human topics that are exhausting to navigate on one’s own) in the hour and a half at TaeKwonDo, it was time to go home.

The e-mails were still there.

But, so was my little one who could not decide on dinner after her soccer practice.

I made her some scrambled eggs, with a side of grape tomatoes and milk and, finally, the e-mails.

Now, the e-mails are “done” (are they ever done though?) and I am about to begin a “long weekend” but there are two meetings that I could not fit in anywhere else tomorrow (and maybe a third on Saturday) and a couple of things I have to catch up on.

Where is the time to breathe? Where is the time for rest?

It is there to be claimed.

I have realized that I rest in this writing. Not in all writing, but certainly in the flow of these words onto this blog. It is sacred space and sacred time. It is restful.

So in the midst of all the things and all the time today, I am, in this moment, choosing me.

And that is a small, but significant, victory.