Moving, Movement, (E)Motion

Photograph of a messy room

It is a time, my friends.

This week, in preparation for selling our home, there has been a lot of disarray, a lot of movement, a lot of sorting.

Keep, give-away, recycle, throw away.

It is simple but never easy.

At least for me.

My two children sorted through things with much greater ease than I did. They have been blessed with much, so their attachment is much less to things than to people. It is easy for them to recognize when they’ve moved past things.

I grew up without a lot so everything seemed so valuable.

Then when I lost my mom at 16, time seemed to stopp. For a long time, I couldn’t throw away anything from the before times. In my series of moves after my mother’s death, in high school, throughout college, in my early career and first house, back down to Southern California and into this house, there have been boxes I have refused to look through. The boxes that follow me, like ghosts from eras past, from place to place, because I refuse to see them. Memories of the before times and of the year my mother died and the end of high school. I have perhaps held on to all of these things because it was too painful to remember a before time, a rupture. It was too hard to revisit that time and losing the most important person in the world to me.

But, somehow, now is the time.

Today, after beginning my day sorting through some of my college memories and a few childhood memory boxes, I left to give a keynote to a sizable cohort of teacher residents earning their Masters of Arts in Education. In my keynote, I said these words:

“When we spend time talking at one another instead of talking to one another, when we are bombarded with information at such a rate that it’s overwhelming and we don’t know what to believe, we begin to lose connection with our own humanity and the humanity of others. In these moments, we must hold onto our why and hold on to our humanity.

I’d like for all of us, whether you are a graduate, faculty member or guest to take a moment right now and think about your why and I’d urge you to reach out to the people who are your why and to tell them how much they mean to you. When challenging times arise in teaching, these are the people that ground us.

We have to hold onto our why, to know and embrace all of our humanity as educators because our humanity will be tested within and beyond educational institutions. When it is tested, if we do not hold on to our humanity and our integrity, our reason for being here, if we lose ourselves, it is a huge loss to those who love us, to our students & their families, and to the difference we are committed to making. We must stay committed to listening and learning from our communities, from those most impacted by violence and inequities, and to using our privilege and position to amplify their voices.”

When I asked the audience to think about their why, I thought about mine — that my why has always been to honor the legacy and sacrifice of my mother, and to be a good future ancestor for my children. My why is about making a difference in the lives of others, seeing them, because when we are seen, we can fully be, in ways not otherwise possible.

Somehow, in holding onto my why, the what suddenly became less important — that is to say that, suddenly I was able to revisit a time that I couldn’t be in before and let go of the things I carried from home to home, from year to year. I left the ceremony and went to pay my respects to the elders in my family (my aunt, uncle, mom and grandmother) then came home and sorted through the box (it happened, perhaps not coincidentally, to be the box that was next to be sorted through) that had my letters from high school and all of the cards we received when my mother passed away.

I read through them and kept a few but let the majority of them go.

It was time.

It is time.

I am finally in a place where letting go of that time, letting go of those things, does not mean letting go of my mother.

I can never let go of her.

She has sourced so much of the good in me.

It is a time. It is a time to hold those we love dear to us in our hearts, to sort through the clutter to get to the essence. To heal so that the next generation doesn’t carry forth our burdens.

It is a time.

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