Moving with Intention

2023 has been a year.

I suppose that every year is a year, and this year may actually have felt closer to many years, but I mean that it has been a very full year with much rapid movement despite a beginning steeped in stillness.

Coming into 2023, I had a feeling that it would be a year of growth and change. I felt a shift in energy as I entered the year that was preparing me for a “what’s next” which ended up being a large personal and professional move, a move that will officially begin tomorrow, on the first day of 2024.

I entered 2023 on a social media pause. It’s interesting to me that my natural winter state is one of retreat, of time to collect myself away from public access, of drawing close to those who are nearest and dearest to me. I also spent a big part of the first quarter of 2023 grieving, reflecting on mental health, wellness, and trying to find a balance between overwhelm and balance.

In April, as I entered the second quarter of year, I made the big announcement about my professional move to the University of Washington (Seattle), a position which will begin tomorrow. It was an incredibly busy month where I was doing way too much and not making a lot of space for my heart. In May, as the academic year wound down, I realized the need for space and made commitments to embracing my own humanity. They were beautiful commitments, many of which I have held to in the several months since even while I haven’t been present to them consciously. I am grateful to my May self for guiding the rest of this year.

The summer was a beautiful season of embracing presence in the midst of transition, receiving affirmation and acknowledgment in the world, and realizing a vision months and years in the making. It was a time of completion as I left my interim department chair role for my final semester as CSULB faculty, and a time of new possibilities, as we toured several campuses with my son in preparation for college application season.

As summer moved into fall semester, the reality of transitions began to set in slowly. It was a particularly challenging semester, for many reasons. Personally, there was a lot to hold in the courses I was teaching, and my son struggled for the first time in a course where my interventions couldn’t do much. ┬áIt was also a time of too much, where all that I was holding began to spill out from my arms. I had a health scare and an accident this fall, with the latter taking away a lot of my sense of independence. Things I had worked extremely hard on began to unravel. The world also felt like it was unraveling, painfully, before our eyes. It still feels like this, particularly in Palestine. At many moments, I also began to unravel, feeling unmoored, untethered, in a time where I desperately just needed to hold on to something.

It is the winter again. I find myself at the dawn of a new day, when still so much of the pain of the world continues without pause. I know I cannot hold it all, but I feel stronger in my resolve to hold onto myself when there is nothing else to hold on to. I know that if I am here, I can stand up, show up, and use my voice to advocate for a better world for those facing so much injustice, violence, and loss.

This year, I hope to move with more intentionality, more slowly and deliberately, with more kindness to myself that allows me to listen to, understand, and have the energy to move authentically in solidarity with others. I hope to forgive my imperfections and truly live them as places of growth; I hope to honor the calling of my heart and body and trust myself as I walk always towards greater good in the world around me. I hope to do less, but to do what is done whole-heartedly, and always, in love.

Closing a Chapter: Final Reflection for the Fall 2023 Semester

Picture of a violet screen with the words "Please Wait" in white letters

It is the end of the fall semester.

As has been my tradition every semester that I teach, since the beginning of my academic career, that means it is time for a final reflection.

This final reflection, however, feels both similar and very different from previous final reflections.

It is similar in that I am finding myself ready for a break after a long semester and in that I am feeling so proud of how far the students I’ve had the privilege to work with have come in this semester.

It has been a particularly hard semester in terms of teaching, as I took on a new prep which I assumed would not be a particularly hard lift in terms of content knowledge (which it wasn’t) but that I didn’t realize would be extremely time intensive.

This semester, I taught the second semester of an action research seminar during which I was ostensibly supposed to guide the two cohorts of Masters students I was working with through a systematic inquiry into their own practice which they had set up in the spring. However, for many reasons beyond my control and that of the students, the course and the semester were not as simple as it might have appeared on paper. Our work required many hours of learning, unlearning, and close collaboration with the wonderful working professionals in the course. It was extremely fulfilling, particularly as they shared the impact of the process of action research for them, and as they shared their “products” and findings of their action research with one another.

When I say this final reflection is different, I suppose it is to be expected. This semester was the beginning of a transition which only now feels very real. I chose to stay for the fall semester at my current institution to support the transition of our new external department chair (a role I took on for an interim year last year as we conducted a search for a chair) into the institution and role, and to more actively support the doctoral student I’m working with. Although I was primarily still in my current institution, I began to lay the foundations for my transition to my next institution where I will begin in the new year.

I am grateful to be able to have had one more semester in a community that I love deeply, but transitions are hard, and given the multiple state, national, personal, and professional commitments I have and had this semester, this transition particularly was a lot, at times too much, for me, particularly in a time in the world when so many are suffering. As I tried to power through things, it was clear my brain, my body, God/ the universe were not okay with me continuing to pretend that I had no limits.

I am grateful to have survived.

I am grateful to have been given multiple chances to choose differently as I move to this new role.

I am grateful for the grace, kindness, and generosity of those in my community who love me deeply.

My university “clearance,” the process of check-out and transition, has officially begun. I am cleaning out my office which (strangely) never felt fully like mine, even after more than 10 years. Next week, I will return my keys and technology. I’ll keep my e-mail (for a year) and many of my friendships (for a lifetime, I hope), but in many ways, it feels like my time at CSULB will be quickly erased and soon it will be as if I wasn’t ever there. It is humbling to have given so much to an institution, to a place, and to feel like when it is over, things will go on, in many ways, as if I hadn’t ever been there.

I know this is not fully true, and that there will be parts of the work I’ve contributed to that will endure long after I am gone. But I also am feeling acutely the ways in which institutions cannot love you back.

And it is strangely okay.

Because as much as institutions cannot love you back, people can, if you invest deeply in them.

My time at CSULB’s College of Education has been an incredible blessing to me. I will be forever grateful that the search committee and dean that brought me into the university saw who I could be and opened a door for me. I worked hard to make the most of every opportunity I was given, including those that I “shouldn’t” have had; I overcame the skepticism people who doubted me because of the type of institution I worked in; I built relationships with beautiful teacher candidates, (teacher) educators, communities; I strengthened the work of teacher education in my institution, community, and state. I was fortunate. I take none of it for granted.

It has not been easy, but it has made me better, and I will ALWAYS cherish this time.

This chapter is closing. I chose to close it in a way that is in integrity with who I am and my commitments.

It has not been easy, but it has made me better, and I will always be grateful for the lessons I have learned this semester.

The chapter closes, but the story continues.

I am looking forward to the next chapter, to building alongside cherished community (established and new) and to continuing to grow in humility…after a pause.