Family, Grace, and Thanks

Today, my mother would have been 85 years old.

She is eternally 56, but I often think, and always on Thanksgiving, particularly when it falls on her birthday, about how my life would be different if she were still here, how we would celebrate her, how we would celebrate with her.

I feel (more) acutely her loss, and the longing for 28 years of memories that were not to be.

This is the first time in quite awhile that I’ve celebrated Thanksgiving with my mother’s side (my side) of my family, as I’m with my cousin (my mother’s sister’s daughter) celebrating this year. We’ve had a beautiful and joyful time of laughter and exploration this week with our two families. I’m so grateful.

For a long time, because I was hurting and because I was also the youngest in my family of origin, it had never been my task to keep connected with the family. I didn’t know how to reach out or who to reach out to. I missed out on connecting with my mom’s side of my family, which was, in effect, the only side of my family I had ever known.

These were hard times where I felt incredibly alone. There were periods when I didn’t feel like I had any family that truly knew and loved me. They were there, I just couldn’t feel it.

These feelings have taught me incredible empathy, and an understanding when things happen in my own life and people I love need to distance themselves from me, or when I need to distance myself from them. Sometimes this is just something that happens. It is hard, but sometimes it is what it is. I have learned to trust that when the time is right, if the relationship is meant to be (repaired), it will be.

It has been, in some ways, a very hard week, at the end of a very hard month. And it has also been an incredibly joyful week as I reprioritize parts of my life, and I work hard…at rest.

I am grateful for the generosity of grace and space, of people who are able to make space for me and give me grace in my imperfections and in the spaces we may never agree, for the people who hold on to love for me anyways. I am grateful for the ability to be fully human and to write from a place of that humanity. I am grateful to make memories with my family in the midst of times of grief and loss on so many levels in so many places. I am grateful that we can hold hard things alongside beautiful things.

I know that many people, many who are grieved on many levels, struggle with this holiday season, particularly with a holiday that has a tainted historical origin and that is so connected with family. I am holding space for all those suffering, near and far, today.

It is both this particular day (and holiday) and every day that I am also so incredibly grateful, for the life I am blessed to have, the fullness and light, and the loneliness and darkness.

I am coming into myself and the presence of all the things. I am grateful in the midst of it, even when things are hard, and especially when they are beautiful.

Thank you for being here with me.

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.

Life and Death

A screenshot of a tweet that reads "Work is an addiction that will literally kill you. We are all replaceable to institutions, but not to those who love us. Reminding myself because I need to hear it."

A little over three years ago, I tweeted the above tweet (which came up in my Facebook memories on the three year anniversary of the post).

Two weeks ago, at a work-related conference, I was involved in a health-related accident that, had it gone slightly differently, might have led to my death. This is not an exaggeration or over-dramatization. I am grateful to be alive.

I have not talked about this incident extensively because I didn’t want people to worry; I was not seriously injured; and I haven’t had the mental and emotional bandwidth to process what happened. The world is also experiencing multiple genocides and extended warfare which feels much more important to amplify than focusing on my own existence.

I am writing this blog now for a few reasons: 1) I have to deal with the fact that I almost died, then the next day, just went on like nothing happened. This is not normal; 2) Life is so precious and so fragile. There is no time more than the present for us to embrace this and focus our energy on our collective humanity; 3) When I was not sure if I was going to be okay, the one thing that I worried about most was who I was leaving behind, and how my family would be if I was not here. In the moments when I was in the ambulance on the way to the ER, I felt profoundly alone. In the last few weeks, I have felt profoundly alone. So mostly, I am writing this because I cannot keep going alone; we cannot keep going alone.

Our society, academia, hypercapitalism, fear, scarcity, pride, all of it pushes us towards disembodiment, towards dissociation and towards dehumanization, of ourselves and others. This has become so clear for me in the last two weeks. We often spend our time justifying and defending what we think is “right” even when it costs us (or others) our (or their) lives.

Every person should have a right to live, to feel safe, to have clean water, to have enough to eat, to live in peace. These should not be controversial statements.

I am an educator. Children and families are my heart.

Friends, people are dying; so many children and families are dying or being irreparably broken. Thousands of people in genocides in Palestine (and less widely publicized in Sudan). Hundreds of thousands displaced in these same countries and in the Congo. This does not take away from the loss of 1400 Israeli lives on October 7. However, neither does one loss of life justify the loss of many, many others.

As someone who is deeply acquainted with grief and loss, blame and justification do NOTHING to bring back those who have been killed. Anger and dehumanization only serve to destroy us.

I am not judging anyone who responds to trauma with anger. It’s not my place. But I am holding on to another way. I believe in Dr. King’s words: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” I also believe in calls to hold out hope in these dark times.

But we can only hold on to light, love and hope if we hold on to one another.

We have to keep one another safe. We have to resist those that would put being right ahead our our shared humanity.

Finally, I just want to say, because I am alive and I can, that if you are someone with whom I am connected, I deeply love you and value your humanity. That is not conditional on our agreement. We never know when we will not see those we love again so I want you to know this.

There aren’t more words and this hasn’t been coherent, but that’s all I have for now, in a time that is beyond words. Thanks for reading.

My Mama Heart

17 year old son of the author standing at a green chalkboard (in a lecture hall) with a piece of white chalk

Where We’re At…

My 17 year old son is in his senior year of high school.

He holds one of the biggest pieces of my heart.

It has been a lot for both of us.

Last Saturday, we went to a family lunch to celebrate my birthday where we think we both ate bad oysters. His symptoms were worse than mine and while I was feeling better by Tuesday, he woke up on Wednesday morning with new symptoms, a fever and aches which we now think are part of a stomach flu virus, which took another turn for the worse in the wee hours of this morning. Food poisoning –> Stomach flu in one week, for a foodie and a senior (or anyone for that matter), is a lot.

He ended up missing three days of school, including his community college class and an after school project he was supposed to support. Tomorrow, he was supposed to retake the SAT, but we canceled it because his health (and the health of others in the room) are more important than the 50-80 points we estimated he might improve his score. This is the last SAT session that he can make before he needs to submit his college applications (he will be testing for his 3rd degree Tae Kwon Do blackbelt during the November test date).

All of this has been a thing, but mostly it hasn’t, except that I wish he felt better.

How We’ve Been

Both of us have been stressed lately.

At the beginning of this week when I was feeling extremely ill and not able to sit up for long periods of time, the 11 projects I’m working on (several of which have looming deadlines) felt completely overwhelming. In addition to these projects, conferences that I’m helping to facilitate are coming up in less than two weeks and I felt completely unprepared. The multiple transitions in our lives have been weighing on my heart.

My son was upset about his science class where, for the first time ever in his secondary school career (in a STEM subject), he felt that his grade didn’t reflect his knowledge at all. He was stressed about the SAT. He recently failed his first attempt at his drive test. He’s been struggling with injuries that aren’t allowing him to do the final demonstration/ testing that he wants to.

It has been a lot for both of us.

What We’ve Learned

Somewhere in this week, we let go. We (independently) came to the realization that we couldn’t do more than our bodies would allow us to. We remembered that our worth (to those who truly care) is more than a set of numbers, is more than our productivity, is more than getting everything right. We recognized that we both are privileged enough to be in places where the consequences of missing a few days will not be dire (when we have family members who don’t share this same privilege). We came to understand that we had to trust the process, the universe, God, ourselves, that we would get to exactly where we needed to go even if it didn’t look the way we thought it should.

[We also realized that a school that could not see past 50-80 points of difference on a standardized test (which is truly not a measure of skills needed to succeed in college) into who he is isn’t a school he should be at anyways.]

The stress can blind us from seeing one another, from seeing ourselves, and from listening to our embodied wisdom. Our bodies could not go on. They forced us to listen. It’s been a hard lesson to learn in some ways, but so important.

Seeing Ourselves and One Another

One of my 11 projects involves interviews with teachers. I interviewed three this week and at each of these interviews, my mama heart felt a deep tenderness (this has been happening A LOT in these interviews). What has struck me about these educators is that they seek to see their students, to create a place of belonging for them. They want students to feel like they have someone who cares for them on campus.

Next month, my 17 year old and I will present together on a panel with other friends (of mine, at least) about his high school experience, which has largely not been this. Hearing these teachers reminds me so much of what my mama heart yearns for, that this quietly extraordinary young person that I’ve known for 18 years (before he was even born) is seen, is affirmed in his unique form of amazingness, that he is loved and held by more than his family, for the entirety of who he is.

This week, as hard as it has been, reminds me that we’re going to be okay, even if this journey for him hasn’t been all that I wish it was and even if it still isn’t exactly what I imagined.

Sometimes, we have to let go of these visions to see one another; sometimes we have to let go of what is hard to embrace what is in front of us.

In all of it, we have to trust.

My tender mama heart is learning and leaning into this, even as one of its biggest parts is aching.

New Perspectives

Photograph standing of large cedar trees towering above

Bent — mirroring the paths of elders

The earth beneath me is rest

Fallen from a grand parent

Lying among siblings

who will become the next generation

Resting in silence

Covered, home among the cedars.

–Poem from the perspective of a stick on the ground off the Forest Loop Trail at Islandwood.

Yesterday, I got to spend the day at Islandwood with my (future) faculty colleagues including my dear friend, Dr. Déana Scipio, Director of Graduate & Higher Education programming at Islandwood.

It was such a beautiful day that reminded me of the importance of connection, of observing the world around me closely, of taking new perspectives right where we are, of coming alongside and learning with and from, of moving at the speed of trust.

I still struggle with being the “new kid” in a different space, especially after having established myself in profound ways in my current space. It can be hard to be with that part of me.

Yesterday was, in many ways, as overwhelming as it was beautiful. These lands I’m on speak loudly if you listen. The trees and the water hold so much wisdom.

My (new to me) colleagues also hold so much knowledge and experiences. They are deeply invested in the world and established in the work in this region.

I have so much to learn.

Although I have already begun building and deepening relationships that I know will be foundational to my new work, there were still many moments yesterday when I felt adrift (and was deeply grateful for grounding hugs to pull me back to the present moment). There were many moments where all of the things I am taking in felt like too many things all at once. There were moments after I returned to my hotel room where I wondered if I said or did the “right thing,” where I wished I had connected with more of my colleagues, where I felt the full vulnerability in my humanity.

It is a year of transitions.

It is a year where I will need to take breaks, need to take breaths, need to embrace new perspectives, need to transform my relationships with time, myself, others, and what many things mean.

It is sometimes all of the things now, and while I may not always be ready for all those things, I will try my best to be reflective through the process, always learning through these beautiful moments.

Rest & Care

Photo of a screenshot from my Twitter (X) account that reads, "I love teaching. Also 14 hour days are a lot and now I am going to eat pasta, then maybe collapse in a puddle of exhaustion and tears. 😭"

Whew, friends. The last couple of weeks, especially the last three Wednesdays, have been A LOT.

I love teaching.

There aren’t even really words to fully express the joy that I feel from teaching. Teaching gives me the opportunity to profoundly connect with others and (often) support them in learning, while also challenging me to continue to grow. It’s a huge part of my professional heart. It brings me energy, life, and sheer joy.

And also, it’s exhausting.

This semester, I’ve returned to the classroom to teach a double section of a Masters (teacher) (action) research course (online) which I’m picking up from two other instructors mid-way through a two-course series that is split over the spring and fall semesters.

I could have spent my last semester teaching out a course (in-person) that I helped to create and transform, that I’ve taught before, to credential students, and that I love. But, for a variety of reasons, I chose to take on a new prep, also teaching something I love (and I always love students so that is what it is), but with very different constraints.

I love these students. I love teaching (teacher) (action) research (in parenthesis because this is not exactly how the course started in the spring for almost half of them). But it’s been a rough semester of transition for students and for myself, that has involved a lot of support, unlearning, and co-construction. I know we’re all going to be fine, but it’s…well…a lot.

Beyond this, I have a foot in (at least) two professional worlds as I transition universities (between fall and winter), am at a peak moment of motherhood, as I support my eldest biological child into college (my older daughters did not choose to go a traditional college path so this is a first for me), and have been working to wrap up initiatives and support others in my professional and personal circles. I also have multiple writing projects I’m working on, lots of them with people who are deeply important to me, going on consecutively. Fall conference season is quickly approaching. Oh, and I decided to start a new (part of a) study. It is all the things.

Not to mention that I am a whole human being, with feelings (lots of them), limits (working on them), and only so much energy.

So this week, after my third consecutive 14-hour Wednesday, I kinda hit a wall.

Or an ocean.

I mean, something in my path that stopped me (insert your favorite nature metaphor here).

If I’m being completely honest, I began to rapidly approach the wall/ocean/ inserted metaphor last week, feeling a deep sadness & loneliness, in spite of being surrounded by people and all the things there are to do. I was not taking a moment to pause and be with myself, to nourish myself in the light of those I care deeply for and love the most. I was just pushing forward without care or acknowledgment of what I was experiencing, without pause.

Urgency doesn’t bring, bridge, or build community.

I knew it was bad (good? making its own space for itself?) when I cried in a meeting with our new department chair, the third time that week that tears welled up in front of my computer.

Still, I felt compelled to work over the long weekend. That compulsion often comes up when I’m feeling out of control, a remnant of years where professional/ academic accomplishments were the only consistent validation in my life.

But this week, after Wednesday’s exhaustion, I couldn’t keep pushing on.

So yesterday and today, I am pacing myself. I am reminding myself that the work I need to do, especially the work that involves writing and femtoring, requires my full self, and my full self requires time, breath, and the modeling of wholeness (and regathering) that is not on a defined timeline. There will still be things that get done, but I am breathing into them, rather than rushing through them, and I am working on being willing to let some of them go, if they are not for this moment.

I am working on this. I am still highly imperfect at it, but I’m sharing this as a work in progress because that is a part of the life and times of an evolving academic, I suppose, and more importantly, it is part of the life and times of an evolving human.

Pause

It’s been a week.

I am adjusting to the flow of this period of transition. It is both hard and emotional.

In the past, I would have just buried the hard and emotional in the flow of the constant work there is to do. (There is always more that can be done in this work.)

But I am practicing humanization (including towards myself which I often find most challenging).

In being with my full humanity, instead of pushing through to do one more thing, I am pausing. I am feeling. I am reflecting.

It is a lot.

Transitions involve grief. Even the best transitions and even those which are gradual require a process of grieving. It is certainly a different form of grief than many others I have been through, but it is a grief process nonetheless. It is a letting go of what was, a being with what is, and an uncertainty of what will be. (I’ve been thinking a lot about expanded notions of grief since listening to the “Hella Healing Grief” episode of the Black Gaze Podcast and want to express my deep gratitude to Dr. Farima Pour-Khorshid and Yaribel Mercedes for their perspectives on this which have helped me approach myself more gently in this time.)

I am sharing this here, publicly, because I am great at masking grief, at being effective and high achieving, at being happy, when I am also holding a lot of emotions. I have a sticker on my water bottle that reminds me, “It’s ok to feel many things at the same time.” I am reminding myself, reminding you who read this, we deserve pause, we deserve our own gentleness, we deserve the space to hold many things at the same time, to be however we are, even when that can feel confusing and inarticulable, even as we continue to press on and survive when we wanted to be thriving by now.

Sometimes we will have weeks like this week.

It will be a lot.

And that is a part of our humanity.

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.

Leading, Living, (Un)Learning: A Reflection on My Year as Department Chair

Yesterday was the last official day of my interim term as department chair.

Although I’ll be staying on to actively support the transition of the department and our new chair, I am grateful to return to faculty life for the fall semester before making my next big transition to a new position in a new institution.

This was not my first rodeo in administration. Having served as program chair for a year at a small liberal arts college gave me lots of preparation for my year as interim department chair. I felt confident last year that, surrounded by a supportive department and leadership team, I was in the best circumstances to support my department (and college) through some key searches and transitions. I knew I was only in it for a year and thought that this year would be focused on professional leadership, as I had multiple leadership roles in professional organizations at the state and national level.

I learned a lot and healed a lot in the past year. I realized that while I’m good at administration, it’s not something I love. I do love being a contribution, supporting the work of others, and engaging with ideas alongside other leaders. I appreciate being trusted to make decisions and to move work forward effectively. I liked having more clearly defined boundaries on my time (if I had the strength to keep those boundaries in place). However, I missed teaching and interacting more directly with students on a regular basis. I missed having greater autonomy over my time and space, where and how I do work, with whom I do the work, and what work has to be prioritized.

Beyond this, I learned about the limitations of what is workable and sustainable for myself and my family. I was bone tired multiple times during the year and pushed through those times in ways that led to major health scares. I withdrew from my community during certain periods because I had such limited energy, space, and time. I felt like all the things were getting done, but not in the ways I was truly capable of doing them. But, of course, they were getting done in the ways I was capable of doing them in those moments, moments of survival and endurance.

I am learning to make space for and listen to my heart and my body as much as my mind, in doing truly humanizing work. I am learning that I am wholly imperfect as a leader and as a person, but that people most often show grace and accept me even when I can’t do it all, when I make mistakes, and when it’s not good enough for me. I am learning to lean on team a bit more and my own strength a bit less. I am learning to breathe.

I am leaving this position in a good place, for myself and for our department. I will still lead, but from alongside instead of from up front, in a different way, that also allows space for other parts of my personal and professional lives that bring me joy.

I am grateful.

I am always and ever (un)learning.

I am moving towards sustainable, whole, embodied ways of living.

I am working towards leading in community.

Now, at a healthier pace from a more present space.

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.