Photo of a boat on water in the evening with dark clouds around it

I am hanging in there, Friends.

As I move through this period of transition for myself and my family, I am so present to the immense privilege of my life.

I do what I love.

I am deeply loved and held by family and community.

I am safe. I no longer have to worry about physical or emotional survival.

These are things that are absolute gifts that I don’t take for granted.

But it is hard to exist with an extremely open heart in a world where there are so many that don’t have these things, for whom basic survival seems tenuous, opportunities to be seen and feel loved seems far away, and opportunities to live in ways that are their best expressions of themselves (even within unjust systems and institutions) feel completely unrealistic.

So I am working on being with these contradictions in the midst of transition, to never take for granted that I am extremely blessed, sharing those blessings generously with others, and also recognizing that there are so many that don’t have these things, that the arc of justice is long and requires committed, intentional action.

I am often very tired these days, Friends, often sprinting the internal marathon between my head and my heart multiple times a day.

Thank you for those who offer water and rest, for those taking things off my plate when I’m not even sure what to give you, for those who continue to honor my spirit and my heart.

I want to let you all know that I am fine, as fine as one can be in this world in which we live, a world that is not meant for the fully human and tender hearted. I am continually moving towards greater wellness, but this is not a marathon I can sprint, it is one that requires slowing down and intentional steps forward, with occasional steps back.

Thank you for being my lifeboats, for coming alongside to pick me up from the water when I feel like I’m drowning. I know I will never be alone because you are with me.

I love you and am grateful for your care always.

A Different Pace Towards a Different World

“Our liberation is connected. And so is our oppression.”

“Identity is all we have left.”

“War is not going to solve anyone’s problems. Violence begets more violence.”

“So many of us are not allowed to mourn.”

“It’s not easy when the world is silencing you.”

“We all have a locus of control.”

“Fight for freedom, for ourselves and others.”

It is the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Annual Convention 2023.

These are thoughts from a beautiful session this morning entitled, “Palestine, We Teach Life, Sir.” It is a session that reminded me deeply of shared humanity, of courage, and of suffering.

I have been moving through this conference at a different pace. A more measured and intentional pace.

I have been sitting with and in the world in a different way.

So many of us feel so alone in a sea of 10,000 people.

I have been listening and learning from my Palestinian and Jewish friends and colleagues, many of whom are sharing in deep suffering, many of whom feel alone in a time of deep grief, many of whom are calling together for a cease fire and an end to dehumanizing violence against families and children in Gaza and beyond.

I have been remembering in my heart and in my bones, what it is to feel alone in your deepest moments of fear and of grief. I have been carrying unresolved intergenerational trauma and grief and seeing how it shapes my walk in the world. The noticing allows me to acknowledge and choose differently.

I have been holding (for far too long) in my body the heaviness of pushing on, smiling, educating, loving, in spite of, in the face of, and while also holding sorrow (which was perhaps correctly corrected to sorry) that is too much.

I have been trying to heal myself and love on others, to be open, to continue talking across difference, to continue working towards community-based conversations and actions that remind us of our power, even when our governments, our institutions, our organizations do not act in ways that represent us, acknowledge us, love us. When things feel both overwhelmingly complicated and completely evident. When it is so much and too much, and when survival itself is resistance. When community and collectivity are the only ways forward, but we are kept in siloes away from one another, fighting and feeling alone.

My friend said that she hugged me so hard when she saw me the other day because there was a moment when she wondered if I had died (from my recent accidents) if she would have to my children that I had died from carrying my own grief and the grief of others. That the weight had become too much and it had crushed me.

I have a tattoo. The translation of the first half of it is, “You bring into existence the world in which you believe.” The second half is, “I believe in better.”

I believe in the possibility of my own liberation and my own healing. I am fighting for it, as I am fighting for freedom and community for others, that we might create spaces in which people might feel loved, seen, safe, known, even and especially in their deepest grief.

I hope you are able to be in and bring into existence (s)paces that move us collectively forward, that advocate for humanity, that act courageously. I am working on this. I believe that we can move this way if we give space to one another to grieve, to heal, to grow, to live peacefully with enough. It is not so much to ask and yet it is everything.


A photograph of an engraved glass apple and a bouquet of flowers on a desk

Today was probably my last convocation as a CSU Long Beach faculty member.

It’s one of those things that I knew but I didn’t really feel until my colleague Lindsay mentioned it, and then all of the sudden, I thought, “Yes, this is one of the first of the lasts of this semester, of this leg of my professional journey.”

There has been a part of me that has held this last convocation with a deep pang of sadness. It is the sadness of transition, of a chapter of my professional life coming to a close soon. It is the sadness of leaving the proximity of community that I have built over 11 years, that has nurtured me, and that loved me and continues to love me even as I grow and will soon leave it.

The pang of sadness is there because there has been so much joy. The joy of seeing staff and faculty colleagues that are friends and even chosen family, the joy of being together in the beautiful sunshine, the joy of belonging, of feeling seen and loved and honored.

Institutions are what they are and there are challenges to all of them. My son often tells me that universities are just collections of buildings where the learning takes place, but I know that this place has been more than that for me. People and communities have made this place my professional home. The many years, many challenges, many fights, some losses, other victories, the work and walk alongside so many people I cherish. That is what makes any place home.

While there has been sadness and joy, what has most profoundly been with me today is peace and gratitude. I have given with my whole heart to the people and programs that I’ve been involved with in the last 11 years. I will continue to give with my whole heart this semester. I will stay close to many cherished friends and colleagues that I have met here. I will drift away from others, after having passed a beautiful season together.

Not everyone finds a professional home. Not everyone feels seen and loved and joyful where they work. Not everyone gets the privilege of deep connection with brilliant, committed souls.

But I am blessed, even in transition, to have a forever family at CSULB.

Feeling Transitions

Photo of a sign that says, "Last First Day (I'm a Senior) and still humoring my mom. Please get that lady some Kleenex. August 9, 2023."

Today was my son’s last first day of his K-12 (primary/ secondary) schooling career.

Throughout this “rising senior” summer, I’ve had moments of fleeting awareness that this day was coming, that this benchmark would arrive, sooner than I was ready for it, and today, it did.

I did not need many Kleenex, as I predicted I might. Although a few (just a few!) tears were shed, mostly I did okay sitting in the passenger seat as he drove himself to school. I didn’t break down into heaping sobs after he left, like I did the first time I dropped him off to daycare as an infant. I know he’s going to be great and that we will navigate his senior year together which brings a lot of calm in my heart, even as change is hard.

Today, though, marked the first time I felt in my body the transitions we are going through this year. My son is off to his senior year. I am no longer department chair. I am transitioning roles and institutions, preparing for a move, cycling off important service roles, proposing new projects. There is a lot of motion.

People have been asking me for months how I’m feeling about all of these transitions. I have simply replied, “I don’t know. They don’t feel real to me yet….” until today, when they all feel real and immense and a little overwhelming.

This is a place I know well. Change has been a constant in my life for a long time, one I used to spend much energy running from. I am practicing, instead, what it means to be with all the things, to breathe deeply, to hold boundaries, to claim rest, to cultivate joy, in times of upheaval, in times of change, in times of transition.

I see my imperfections reflected in broken boundaries, in insecurities, in a tendency to continue doing too much for too many, but I am learning to give myself grace, to return to myself and my breath, and to see my imperfections as growing edges, staying present to the love and joy that is around me if I just pause to let it in.

I am also drawing from deep wells of community and dipping my toes into a growing pool of self-affirmation that I am beginning to fill. In holding space for myself to choose work and a walk that is generative, in learning to trust the choices I make that are aligned with the energy and commitments I have, I am making progress, slowly, but surely towards the better world that I believe in.

Moments and Movements

A group of awesome Asian American people around a long table

Sometimes imposter syndrome (and scarcity syndrome) is (are) real, bred by isolation within a society that encourages competition and comparison, that wants to gives rise to hyper productive doer drones who operate within mindsets of never being/having/doing enough. Sometimes one can (I can, we can) feel like we’re not doing enough or we’re doing things that we have no right to do because who are we to do such things? Sometimes, because we privilege knowledge over inquiry, within a world where absolute truths (even when they are half-lies) are definitive and exploration seems flighty, we miss out on the exact community we seek and need to work and walk towards a better world.

I am in a time of transition, a time that can be both about openings and possibilities, and about fear and imposter syndrome, sometimes in rapid succession or all at once.

Eight days ago, I arrived in Detroit, Michigan, preparing to host the “Moments & Movements: Challenging Asian American Invisibility in Racial Justice in K-12 Education” institute, part of a conference grant and work that began over 18 months ago through conversations with a small group of fellow Asian American (teacher/higher) education scholars, and continued in deep partnership with my dear friend and colleague, Dr. Roland Sintos Coloma, at Wayne State University, just a few blocks from where our institute was held.

The epigraph that begins our Spencer grant proposal is by Grace Lee Boggs, a Chinese American Detroit community activist whose work was grounded in solidarity and liberation:

We ask ourselves what it means to be human, how do we know reality? What a wonderful gift to be able to talk with one another.

Conversation is a wonderful gift and not to be replaced with speakerphones or emails that are so unilateral and not mutual….

I want people to ask themselves and each other what time it is on the clock of the world.”

Time for conversation is indeed a wonderful gift. Time to come together, in person, to be grounded in the identities, communities, contexts, and purpose that drives our work for three days is a wonderful gift. Time to build relationship, to be fully human, and to attend to our bodies and minds, is a wonderful gift.

I came into the institute scattered, wondering who I was to be “leading” this work. After administrating for a year, my work with Asian American teachers and students felt far away from my everyday consciousness. Being pulled in many different directions with little time to rest, to pause, to be in my day-to-day life, had made me question if I could really be present to this wonderful group of scholar-educators we had assembled.

A few weeks before, in meeting with our amazing advisory board, Roland and I had been reminded to focus on the uniqueness of the space, to open up time for conversation, to not drive towards products, but to bask in the process of becoming, of building community rather than one more initiative, of supporting one another’s work. We each came from different contexts, were up to different things, and were at unique moments and movement spaces in our own lives.

We embraced this, and made space to share, to listen, and to support. We began with a community dinner at a local restaurant, our first chance to build community together. Breaking bread together, getting to know each other better as people, (re)connecting with friends across the country, set the tone for our time together.

Group of Asian American people at a restaurantThe next morning, we moved through deeper introductions, considering our work, our identities, our contexts, and our goals for the institute. It was beautiful to hear what each person was up to, but even more than that, the resonance of themes of isolation, of not feeling __________ enough, of our continuing work, for ourselves, and in communities where place and identities were constantly shifting, of transition, it reminded me that I was not alone, that I was indeed enough, and that we were a community.

We took time that afternoon to pay honor and homage to the space we were in. I appreciated the call in and reminder to acknowledge the indigenous lands we were on by Mohit (who also led daily restorative/yin/light active yoga to make sure we had the opportunity to be centered in our bodies each morning). I was also grateful for the time to consider the death of Vincent Chin and Lily Chin’s struggle for justice following her son’s death which was a pivotal moment in the Asian American movement. I was humbled to learn more about the community-grounded, solidarity-based justice work of Jimmy and Grace Lee Boggs, to visit the Boggs Center and Boggs School, and to see the ongoing legacy and justice work that continues even as the Boggs have transitioned to be ancestors. It was also a gift to hear about Grace Lee Boggs’s humanity from our tour guide, Soh Suzuki, Grace’s former housemate (and beer runner).

Photo of painting of Grace Lee Boggs with quote, "We need to discern who we are and expand on our humanness and sacredness. That's how we change the world, which happens because WE will be the change" -- Grace Lee Boggs

Coming from a space where I am surrounded by numerous and diverse Asian American communities, being in Detroit, where Asian Americans only make up 1% of the city’s population, and where Hmong and Bengali communities predominantly make up that 1%, it caused me to pause and reflect, as we learned about push out, migration, and flight of Asian Americans from the city. Context and communities shape who we are, how we move, and the stories we have access to.

Our next day, we picked up conversations from the prior day to reflect on how we look out for and support one another, building networks across our networks, and participating in sharing roundtables that considered: purpose & power, context, content, and practice. These were rich conversations that brought new perspectives to the work we’ve been engaging in.

We then had space to do what we needed to do: work individually, collaboratively, connect within the group, take care of ourselves and our families, be more grounded in the space we were in. This open space was grounded in trust of ourselves to know how to best use the time, and trust of each other, continuing to build upon the conversations we had during the previously 36 hours.

Jung told me to nap, so I did, briefly, and then we got to work together, outlining our next book together and pulling together a conference proposal. It was a reminder to me that we have to take care of ourselves and our bodies first (and listen to call-ins when people see the fatigue that we’re used to constantly pushing through) and that the work of our heart will get done (in community). It was a reminder that I’m not alone in the work, that I don’t have to do it all, and that my people have my back.

That night, a few of us went to see Joy Ride, which was pure joy and another layer of community. At dinner before the movie, Lisa asked why we went into teacher education at the university level, or professor-ing more generally. This was both a rich conversation and a moment of reflection, as I considered what it meant to leave behind my middle school classroom and a community I loved deeply for the work I currently do in teacher education, and how I’ve built another community I love deeply, but not perhaps in the way I expected.

Photo of Asian American people in front of Joy Ride movie poster

Our final morning together, we discussed what we mean when we say Asian American Studies and what distinguishes Asian American Studies from Asian American Multiculturalism. Just as the term Asian American studies is evolving, contested, contentious, continually process-driven and context centered, and fluid (and many other things…), so our conversation was. It pushed us to consider and reconsider our ideas about multiculturalism, access, and who defines/ how we define the bounds of Asian/ American success, inclusion, and identities.

We ended with acknowledgments, writing notes to one another on large chart papers to take with us (in photo or in actual) to remind us of one another, of ourselves, and that we are seen and cared for.

A poster with many things written in many colors

It has taken me a few days of being home to write this post. Our time together, though brief, was transformative. It was a reminder that when we “move at the speed of trust” as adrienne maree brown calls us to do, we can move mountains, within us and in the world. It also reminded me that sometimes stillness rather than movement is our call in a moment. Sometimes, it is enough just to be, and it is the most important thing, particularly in times of transition.

I am committed to creating more spaces like these: humanizing spaces for educators to be and to be in community with one another, vulnerable spaces where we can bring our whole selves without the need to posture or prove our worthiness, spaces that encourage rest and restoration, spaces where we can hold one another and allow ourselves to be held. This is the work. Everything else will come when we come from a place of wholeness.

A New Routine

During this time that has been transformative over the last two weeks, it has been clear that my current routine is not working. It is a routine of survival that does not allow me to center myself and touch my humanity and gratitude each day.

This morning, I woke up early.

I love getting up early because the morning hours feel precious.

I checked e-mail because I’m 9-hours ahead so the work day has already ended. I responded to all the e-mails I could before 1pm PT (when I went to bed) and then I responded to the rest when I woke up (around 8pm PT).

I would like to remember that this is just fine. It is fine that I only respond to e-mails during part of the day then catch up after the day is done. It is also fine that I wake up and respond to e-mails first thing. For me, my responsibilities (at least those in the immediate) need to be cared for before I can be at peace.

I did Duolingo and Wordle. Duolingo is, for me, an addiction, and a structured one at that, which has to be done between 6am-noon and 6pm and midnight because otherwise I miss out on bonuses. I am who I am and I’ve come to accept that after a 1347 day streak, I can probably count this as something that is a regular part of my day.

I was restless for a moment after that. In my daily life, there is not time for restlessness after Duolingo and Wordle because there is preparation of kids for school, there is preparation of me for the day, there are things to do.

And there will continue to be things to do. At home, after the things to do in the morning, the e-mails begin and continue all day and I find myself exhausted with only a few minutes between urgent communications in which to actually pause.

A few moments is enough for some things: to breathe, to stretch, to remember I need a cup of tea or to look out the window, to take a short walk around the building.

But it is not enough, when stolen from between e-mails, to fully reconnect with my humanity. It is not enough to thoughtfully engage with ideas, to prepare my heart for the writing and work I’m committed to, to bring my most authentic self to the conversations I’m a part of. It is not enough to sustain me.

This morning, restlessness, when I leaned into it, led me to prepare myself for the day ahead, led me to read during breakfast, led me to write this blog. It let me be human, stopping in the course of writing to answer texts and messages, but without urgency, grounded in love and peace. It led me to stay hydrated and to attend to my body’s signals.

I am always aware of the ways that the systems in which we are embedded, in which I strive to do humanizing work, are inherently dehumanizing.

Yet, I have found myself this year, mechanized by the systems and structures of dehumanization that I fight so hard against.

It is hard to be in the machine and find your way out.

But it is also joyful to find yourself and your humanity again. It is joyful to be in community with those who know you and can bear witness to your evolution. It is joyful to lean into ourselves instead of constantly resisting and fighting to exist. It is joyful to have no one to prove oneself to, but to walk the walk and do the work in front of you.

I am attending to this joy.

And I am confident that in attending to this joy, there is actually no worry about productivity. There is an abundance of contribution that springs from joy, and my joy always leads naturally to a desire to contribute.

But it must start with enough time to touch my humanity.

Soon I will return to my daily life.

I do not know how to stay in this joy in that space.

I do know that while I need time to be alone, I can’t stay in joy alone.

I also know that I am stubborn and often don’t listen to the people in my life who have been telling me for months that I need to take a break, focus on myself, and calm down.

I come from a place where there is always more to do. I have internalized and enacted dehumanizing practices that have suppressed my light and joy for years. It is not easy to unlearn these things in a society where they are valorized and validated and where I am rewarded for hyper productivity whether or not it is sustainable for me.

When I am calm and in the clarity of my heart, I am not afraid. I know I am a writer, that words will come. I know I am a thinker, and can engage with the thoughts of others. I know I am a teacher, and can respond to and build with those I fem/mentor in educational spaces. I know that I can leave and come back and the words and ideas will still be there.

But where I am from, I am rarely in the calm and clarity of my heart.

For me, the solution will not be to reproduce what I have here over there. There are too many differences in society and positioning and context. It may be to spend more regular time here to reground and remember who I am, but I must learn to be within the contexts I find myself, to adapt to that which is and model transformation.

This is long and without a place to end except with these final thoughts: 1) the end must be space that includes gentleness and grace as I find my way, as we find our ways; 2) the way(s) must be found in love-imbued community; 3) to make deeper connection, there have to be boundaries that honor our commitments.

I hope you will support me as I find my way.

Every New Beginning…

Photograph of Seattle skyline with Mount Ranier in the background. Sky is a shade of purple

Photo by Zhifei Zhou on Unsplash

[Note: There’s an announcement in this post. I’ll bold it if this is tl/dr for you.]

I quoted from Semisonic’s “Closing Time” as the title of a blog post at the end of my first semester as an Assistant Professor at CSULB. In that post, I talked about the challenges of mothering a 6-year old through transitions from a bilingual program we loved to a new unfamiliar school system, designing new syllabi, transitioning professional identities, and finding strength in my voice as a teacher educator. I also talked with joy about the opportunity to live out my dream of teaching teachers, a dream which might not be a very ordinary dream, but which was mine. I quoted from kind student comments in our end of semester reflections that grounded me in the heart of this work.

Today, I am, in many ways, a similar person — a MotherScholar, a teacher of teachers. I am a very human person who continues to struggle with bouts of imposter syndrome and tries hard not to compare myself to others.

I am still a MotherScholar who consistently wrestles with the tension between what is best for me and what is best for my family, who feels pulled in multiple directions, but grounded in the enduring love of the people who are my home.

I am still a teacher of teachers who loves teaching and teachers and is constantly learning from teachers and about teaching in ever evolving contexts.

I am still someone who struggles with comparing myself with others, with wondering whether I am good enough, with thinking about whether my work is the right kind of work, with doubting that I will live up to the expectations of others.

And also, in those 10.5 years, I have grown and changed. Just days after that post, my nephew would survive a mass shooting that would change our lives and my heart forever, making my grief and thoughts about collective grief a core of my public self. It would make this blog not just about an academic journey, but about a personal-professional journey because I would realize that the personal and professional (for me) are inextricably connected, that we are bound together in our humanity (if we let ourselves be), and that community is at the core of moving forward. (Note: I am aware that collective and public grieving is not the way for everyone, but this blog, at many moments, has been a source of deep connection to other grievers and to finding healing in my own humanity.)

I now see myself as a researcher, something I might not have said 10 years ago. I have been able to explore research on teachers and teacher educators in ways that have moved me and have helped me learn so much about myself, about teacher candidates and teachers, about teaching (my own and that of others), and about the ways structures and systems can often act to perpetuate the push up and push out of so many incredibly talented people from classrooms.

I am working on trusting myself and trusting my community, trusting the faith they have in me and that their love and respect are well-placed. I am working on the grace and humility necessary to respond (rather than react) when I am called-in and pushed to grow. I am working on trusting that the right opportunities open up at the right times, and it’s not for me to decide that I’m not good enough.

And so in all of that, I am invoking the lyrics of Semisonic once again to announce a new beginning:

Beginning January 1, 2024, I will be the Boeing Endowed Professor of Teacher Education at the University of Washington (Seattle) 

I will be staying at CSULB through the end of the fall semester 2023 to support the doctoral and masters students whose work I am chairing, as well as to support transition to a new department chair and finish up some grant work and curriculum development. I also get to teach one last class.

Our family will transition in time, the details of which are beyond the scope of this blog, but in a way which we’ve collectively decided is best for us.

This is a big next step for us, and for me, one that I have been processing for a couple of weeks, and am just now starting to fully embody and take in. If you know me, you know that the importance of this move is not in the title or institution themselves, but in the opportunities this position opens up for collective movement towards the greater good. I am grateful to be entrusted with these opportunities. And beyond all of this, I am so grateful for community, for the colleagues, friends, and family who literally made this move possible. I truly am because we are.

What Is Often Unseen

This week on Twitter, there’s been an ongoing debate about mental health days and what qualifies one to take a mental health day, considering the burden that it may place on one’s colleagues.

First, let me begin by saying that it is not up to individuals, nor should it ever be, to be responsible for systems that are not able to incentivize or support enough substitute teachers to be present when teachers take time off. As an educational leader in a higher education setting, I recently had an instructor approach me and ask what would happen if she needed to leave a course mid-semester. I honestly didn’t know, but I told her, if that was the case we’d figure it out. She ended up staying as we talked through possible shift that could make the course workable for her to continue, but had she left, it would have been my responsibility to figure another arrangement to make sure that students got the instruction they needed. That’s my job as a leader, to support the instructors in my department and to make sure students are getting what they need, which is sometimes less than ideal, but we do the best we can in the circumstances that we have.

Beyond this, however, the conversation on mental health days was extremely triggering to me and it took me a few days to realize why. At first I thought it was because I am a fierce defender of teachers, particularly teachers with whom I’m personally connected and those who have shared their stories in my research, who are going through so much suffering right now.

And that’s true, that does upset me, but there is a very personal layer to this story as well.

I have always been a performer and someone who compartmentalizes. After my son was born, I went back to the classroom less than 4 weeks after his birth (when my sick time had been exhausted) because I was deeply concerned that the subs that my students had were not supporting their learning. I planned all the lessons while I was out, continued to grade work, and refused to consider temporary disability to stay home with him until he could get his two and four month vaccines before he went into daycare.

The week after he entered an infant daycare, he got extremely sick, and because I was poorly insured at the time, my entire income for the rest of the academic year went to paying his ER visit (on top of what it had cost of labor and delivery). At the time, I was also supporting my two older (adopted) daughters with the transition that came following my son’s birth. I was exhausted and began losing significant amounts of weight.

I put everyone ahead of myself, particularly my students & colleagues and my children. I normalized and justified this, but over time these choices had devastating consequences.

Two years later, after my oldest daughter had a serious mental health crisis, and I was trying to deal with a continually tenuous financial situation which led me to work my full time job and 4 additional part time gigs, the academic job market (and finishing a dissertation), a toddler, and a second teenager, I hit a wall.

I entered the hospital at an incredibly low weight and was admitted to an inpatient eating disorder treatment program, which after 10 days was stepped down to intensive outpatient treatment.

During this whole time, I was trying to keep teaching a university class (which the instructor of record pulled from me because I was hospitalized for the first section) and get back to my classroom as soon as I could despite a medical leave note that had me out for 10 weeks. I still tried to send lesson plans and keep up with my students. At the time, I let some follow me on Facebook, and I sent a notice to please try to be good for the subs and that I’d be back as soon as I could.

A parent saw my Facebook post and called the principal saying that if I was well enough to be on social media then surely, I wasn’t that sick and should have been at school teaching their child. The administration notified me that maybe I shouldn’t post anything while I was out.

I understand the parent’s concern. I know the kiddos in my class that year didn’t get my best, but I was completely devastated that a post made on social media, which was my only real connection to the world outside and my world (my students), had been taken to mean that I was fine, perfectly healthy, and faking my sickness to avoid teaching these children that I loved deeply. I was also so sad that I was being asked to take myself away from what had been a lifeline for me, during a time of extreme isolation.

At the time, I was incredibly mentally and physically vulnerable. The parent’s comment broke my heart and nearly broke my spirit. It could not have been further from the truth in characterizing how invested I was in my profession and my classroom. It has been nearly 15 years since that incident, but I still remember it. I was so sick, but to the outside world, or at least to this parent, it seemed like I was sitting on social media, chilling out, and collecting a paycheck while those around me tried to cover the slack I had left behind.

We don’t always know people’s stories. We don’t have a right to them.

But we can hold space for the humanity of teachers who are trying their best to stay in this profession and maintain their love for teaching, students, and education generally. We can come from a place that assumes that most people are trying the very best that they can with what resources they have in the moment that they make choices. Sure, there will always be counterexamples, but I believe that they are exceptions rather than the rule.

I hope we’ll move away from shame culture and assumptions based on single social media posts and towards building sustainable educational systems that affirm the humanity of everyone who is within them. But it’s much harder to build when we feel broken, when trust is broken, and when you are building on a foundation that is cracked, or when we continue to hold on to being right about a person or people instead of trying to see their humanity.

Let’s hold on to each other, take care of one another and give one another the space and trust to know that we’re really always just trying to do the best we can.

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.

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.