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.

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

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

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

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

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

But all of it together is too much.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

And yet…

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I am navigating this tension, imperfectly.

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

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

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

So, I return to this:

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

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

MamaScholar Spring

Photograph of the author wearing a Pokemon mask and a multiracial little girl holding a running medal

It’s Saturday morning and I’m stressed about a talk I’m going to give in a few hours.

My little girl has a soccer game in an hour and a half. I will miss it because timing was too tight to get there and to my talk which is close, but not quite close enough.

I’ve only been to two soccer games and two practices this entire spring season.

My 16-year old has his last orchestra concert of the year tonight. I’ll make that, but only because I’m leaving the post-conference reception early.

I’ve been away from home nearly half of the last 6 weeks, including last weekend when 6 had back-to-back soccer games and 16 was playing trombone at an all-district event.

It’s my little one’s birthday in less than two weeks, just between the last class of the semester and graduation.

Next week, we volunteered to bring birthday snacks & goodie bags for her soccer team & we’re going to host a birthday playdate for her class.

Which means this weekend I need to get invitations and prep goodie bags and figure out snacks, while also coordinating the panel and activities for my last class…while also grading lesson plans and fieldwork reflections, and giving a virtual book talk.

My partner will help with many, if not most, of these things, but I will need to organize them. And, I will have to let go of the fact that I cannot be all the places at once; I cannot do all the things; the goodie bags will be good enough; and I am doing the best I can.

My family knows that this is their mama. They are proud of the work I do. They love me unconditionally. They remind me it’s okay if I’m not at every thing. They are happy when I am at the things I can be at.

But it weighs on my mama heart to miss moments with them.

It weighs on my teacher heart to feel pulled in a million different directions and wondering if I can do more.

It weighs on my scholar heart to not have time to reflect, as I know reflection brings growth.

This is a post reminding myself and other scholar parents (particularly mama-scholars) to breathe. I can unlearn and choose differently, but I can’t really make any choices in a state of reactivity and disequilibrium.

And we are okay.

Costco & Party City are our friends.

The kids don’t care about perfection, they prefer presence, and play. They prefer play.

The people who come to hear me and engage with the ideas I share will take exactly what they are supposed to take.

Students in my courses are growing in incredible ways as teacher candidates, and I am moved by the ways they are committed to seeing and acknowledging students’ humanity & identities in their lesson plans.

I can only continue to move forward when I remember my own humanity and identity, trusting in the process, acknowledging what is, and the possibilities of what can be.

What Does It Mean to Be Seen?

A photograph of flowers including white lilies

When I was a little girl, I learned that if I wanted to be loved, I should be small.

I should try to quiet my naturally loud voice, particularly my loud laugh.

I should work harder than everyone else because only through determination would I be able to prove myself, and even then, I might still not be seen.

I learned that I was not worthy for who I was but for what I did, how close to perfect I could be.

I learned I shouldn’t cry, that showing emotions, humanity, and vulnerability, particularly in relation to who I was and what I was struggling with made me weak and would leave me alone.

Instead, I should temper the strong feelings that rose up within me and I should swallow my tears, living in fear that someday “they” might find the real me and see that I didn’t deserve any of the respect afforded me.

I have spent the last several years trying to unlearn all of these things.

To reclaim my voice.

To stand proudly and know my heart.

To not perform for love or be afraid to lose love, but to trust in the strength of community, even when I make mistakes, unintentionally hurt someone I love or fail at something I so deeply want (because I still do, so often).

I have spent the last several years trying to honor the little girl who lost her way because she wanted more than anything to be loved, because she thought she had to earn love, and to earn love, she had to be what everyone else wanted her to be.

I have been trying to find that little girl and all the younger versions of me that had dreams, and the present version of me that has begun to dare to dream again, and I have been trying to listen to them, listen to us, listen to myself, to my quiet voice and my loud voice, to my sorrowful cries and my belly laughs.

I have begun to tell all the parts of me that there is a place for them.

I am trying to be honest.

I am working to reclaim my humanity.

The last 5 days, I’ve been at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, a space that, for many years, made me feel invisible, so much less than so many others, a space that was not mine because I was not enough.

But it was not that space this year.

Instead, it was a space of authenticity and of humanity. It was a space where I brought my loud voice. Where I heard the cadence and rhythms of my true heart speak boldly and with confidence.

It was a space of community and communities. Of people I have loved for so long, and people I had never met in person who I love just the same, and people I don’t even know, but who know me.

It was a space where I didn’t know everything, I wasn’t the fanciest, biggest fish, but I was enough just as I was, in my ripple of the pond.

It was a space where people saw me. Where people have seen my words. Where they told me my name is being spoken in places that I may not ever be.

It was a space filled with love and possibility. Of grace and generosity. Of working and walking towards justice, even when I stumbled. It was a space where I knew I could stumble because I would be picked up if I fell.

I cannot fully express what it means to be seen after feeling invisible for so long.

I cannot fully express what it means to be acknowledged for the work of my heart.

I cannot fully express what it means to help create community, to share community, to support community.

But it is community which is embracing that little girl who felt so small, so unseen, so unworthy for so long. It is community that is healing her through their love. It is community calling her home.

Entering a New Year, Entering a New Season

Photograph of brush painted horse tattoo

It is Lunar New Year’s Eve, and many places that celebrate Lunar New Year have already entered into the Year of the Tiger. My mother was a tiger. Tigers are brave and protective; they can be stubborn, but are also generous and intelligent. She was an earth tiger: strong-minded, determined, always ready for a challenge, honest and independent. My mother was all of these things.

I am an earth horse. Earth elements like my mom and I are about balance (fitting since I’m also a Libra). Earth horses have many friends and are always trying to help those they love. They can be indecisive and like to get involved in (far too) many things. They value freedom & independence as long as they also feel supported and encouraged. Sometimes they can be temperamental. I am all of these things.

When my mother died 27 years ago this week, I was 16. With her sudden death, I lost a large part of myself, being thrust into a world that I was unprepared for, and it took me many years of searching to find her, to find myself again.

Today, on Lunar New Year’s Eve, as I start the week of the anniversary of my mother’s death, and as I continue a journey to reclaim my own identity, learning and unlearning, growing and evolving, I got the tattoo in the photograph above. I have been thinking about this tattoo for over 10 years. Originally, I was scheduled to get it at the end of last year, but COVID delays meant that today would be the day for this tattoo to find its home.

It is even more special as my former student, a Taiwanese American woman who I’ve always shared a kinship bond with, did the tattoo for me. We spent hours catching up on years and sharing stories, like I always wished I could do with my mother. We spent an afternoon of borrowed time together. We spent hours of time unpacking shared and distinct histories.

I am so grateful.

This tattoo is me and it is for me.

The Chinese character for horse is the single radical: 馬; the Chinese character for mother adds a woman radical before the horse: 媽; the Chinese character that indicates a question marker is the mouth radical + the horse radical: 嗎.

This horse is me the earth horse, me the mother (both to my children and to myself, as I carry forth my foremothers from previous generations), me with more questions than answers, with ever more to know.

I carry me, as I have been doing for many years, but with the freedom and wisdom to know that all of me is moving forward.

I am so grateful.




Breathe In, Breathe Out

Breathing gif: Inhale, pause, exhale, pause

For the last 4 weeks, I have been holding my breath.

It’s not uncommon during this time of year when I am always looking for grief to come find me.

But this year, with my (fully-masked) son contracting COVID-19 from his Taekwondo practice just before the new year, the virus making its way unceremoniously through our family in more or less the most lengthy process possible (with nearly 7 days between each case manifesting), and a four-week rolling isolation period, it’s been hard to breathe. Literally and figuratively.

Today, my partner, who was the last person in our family to contract the virus, tested negative, ending our 4-week isolation and returning us to the world, still fully-masked, still cautious, but with a bit of relief for the next couple of months and with the reassurance that my son will turn 16 in that time, making him eligible for the adult dose of his booster (the 12-15 dose was approved the day AFTER he began showing symptoms).

In this time, I’ve been aware how important community care is. My community has not only asked how to help, they have just shown up, dropping off care packages, groceries, sending gift cards, checking in with notes and messages. And I’ve learned to ask and depend on others as well. When we were all isolated in the first two weeks, I ordered delivery, I asked for friends who offered to add our items to their grocery lists, I asked for grace when I just couldn’t do all the things, I soaked in the love of those sending good wishes. I rested because I couldn’t do anything else.

This is not normal for me.

While I believe in the deep and redemptive power of community care, I couldn’t choose it until I had to or until others chose it for me.

It is hard to unlearn the narrative of individual struggle, productivity, and exhaustion.

And while it was powerful and transformative, I also know there is still so much unlearning for me to do.

I haven’t been able to breathe, to reflect, to write, for four weeks. I continued to create to a degree and have been getting what needs to get done completed, but I am spent instead of energized. I felt constantly in a state of alarm because I have been in a state of disequilibrium. I am just beginning to come out of that today, with my partner’s negative test, with my children’s negative tests and being back to their lives.

I couldn’t see it when I was in it.

I couldn’t feel myself holding my breath.

Even when I was resting, I was not at rest.

But today, I am breathing deeply. My schedule does not feel so daunting although it is full. I am taking time this morning to write, to reflect, to be. I am taking a moment to feel all that I have been carrying for four weeks, and in cycles for 27 years, and even before that, at times, my whole life.

Breathe in. Breathe out.

I am constantly working towards a life that is more than survival. Today, I remember my body, my spirit, my heart.





Living Authentically

Photograph of a woman with a gauzy scarf and her hair blowing in the wind

I have been speaking my truth and living it.

I have been holding space for ease and patience, comfort and calm.

It’s different, but it’s also been transformational.

I am realizing that peace and freedom aren’t what I thought they would be.

At times, they bring amazing joy.

At times, they bring me to tears.

I have been giving myself permission to embrace my humanity in its full scope, to feel all the things, to want unreasonable things.

This is liberating and also heartbreaking.

It requires levels of honesty with myself and others with which I am completely unacquainted. Levels of honesty that are, in fact, antithetical to the way I’ve lived my compartmentalized life for years, in order to survive and advance. Levels of honesty that rebuff compartmentalization as a survival strategy to embrace integration as a strategy to thrive and honor the deepest desires of my heart.

As I stop holding myself to levels of expectations that I don’t have for others, as I learn to embrace the parts of myself that are the most tender and vulnerable, the parts that I have always feared would leave me abandoned and alone, as I make room for the true fullness of my humanity, I am flooded with all the things.

The reality is that my community has always been ready for me to embrace myself.

They have been waiting to be let in.

They have been trying to tell me.

They have seen parts of myself before I see them.

And the parts that they didn’t see coming don’t change who I am fundamentally. They are, in fact, consistent with who I am, and with my very real humanity.

I am fully loved.

I am beautiful and brilliant.

I am emotional and full of contradictions.

I am intimidating and unpredictable.

I am unapologetic and responsible.

I am complicated and simple.

Whoever I am in this moment, I am firmly rooted and grounded in a depth of humanity and love that underlies it all. I am grateful. So deeply grateful.

The Safety of Silence

Photograph of a person holding their finger to their lips

I’ve been thinking recently about the safety of silence and the cost of that safety.

I have always been an over-sharer and as a second-generation Asian American girl, this was probably the greatest of sins.

I should not take things outside of our home, of our family, of our closest circle, of our culture.

In my adult life, if I wanted to preserve what I had worked so hard for, it was better to self-censor.

If I want to keep myself and my family safe, it is better to be careful what I reveal.

This is why I am so tired.

Because at the core of myself, I have always know that freedom and liberation can only come through community.

That to fully accept myself, I have to see myself in community.

That I cannot nor should I try to solve all the things on my own.

But, I’ve been socialized that my worth is found in my independence, in serving others, in doing all the things to earn the love and respect of those around me.

I’ve been socialized to stay silent, humble and grateful.

And while I am humble and grateful, I no longer wish to be silent.

I have lived in so much fear and shame.

Fear that if you really knew who I was, you would not love me.

Fear that I am really just a disappointment.

Fear that if I said the wrong thing to the wrong person at the wrong time, everything that I’ve worked so hard for would be taken away and that those I loved would suffer the horrible consequences.

Shame for choices I made to survive, that I wouldn’t hold against anyone else, but that I cannot escape from within myself.

Shame that reaching out meant showing weakness, that I could not care for myself.

Shame that my need to set boundaries might take away opportunities to ever be seen.

I feel so often that I have lost so much: my language, my culture, my connection to my family.

I feel so often that I have lost so many of the best parts of me.

The silence has been killing me.

I am slowly learning to speak my truth, that every post doesn’t need to end with a silver lining, that every truth may not be easy, that trust is hard but important.

It is slow.

And so hard.

But it is better than dying.

I am slowly reclaiming, relearning, unlearning and listening to the wisdom of my ancestors within me, taking steps to honor the beauty of a deeply scarred young person within me, finding time to embrace the most vulnerable parts of my humanity.

It is slow.

And so hard.

But it is, I know, the only path to freedom.

There will still be moments of silence, times to be silent, choices to be silent. I can embrace that too.

It is slow.

And so hard.

But I am not my sins and I am not my silence.

I am simply myself.

Intention, Recognition, Action

person holding sparkler near grass

Sometimes, you have to set a clear intention, make space for it’s realization and watch it manifest.

No really.

Sometimes it really happens like that.

In real life.

Sometimes, you have to be seen. The power of having your potential recognized can allow you to grow in ways you never thought imaginable. It can allow you to ask for what you deserve. It can allow you to step into and embrace the force within you.

Rightfully so.

Sometimes, you take action to make room for the great things that are coming and you jump with both feet, knowing that you will be embraced by the community you’ve built. And that those that would let you fall were never your community anyways.

It is beautiful to know the difference.

It is such a hard time in the world right now, for so many reasons. Things are heavy and feel sometimes so overwhelming.

But there are still sparks of life.

There are still sparks of light.

Find your people.

Hold them as tight as you can for as long as you can.

Let them light your way.

Let them embrace you.

Let them remind you that you are worth more than a position or a dollar sign, that you are worth the risk, that you are worthy because you are.

Let them remind you that you are a blessing.

Let them bless you.

Be intentional.

Listen to the truth when it comes to you.

Show up for community and let them show up for you.

Act accordingly.

In love and justice always.

Holding Space When Humanity Shows Up

3 bouquets of flowers at a gravesite

Showing up for my foremothers with flowers & gratitude

It’s been a long week, full of humanity.

Way back in February, I gave a TEDx talk on humanizing pedagogies, which in short asked what might happen if we re-conceptualized our perception of excellence, specifically educational excellence, but generally was really talking about what happened if we really started listening to and learning from one another. This week, that talk finally went live on the TEDx YouTube channel, an exciting moment I’ve been waiting for, well, throughout the entire pandemic-borne time of social distancing.

It dropped on a day when I had a very human and humbling moment, saying something out of frustration that didn’t assume the full humanity of a student, within virtual earshot of the student. I took responsibility and owned the impact of my words, but it certainly was not a shining star moment, and it led to a restless night and some good use of the skills I’ve been working on in therapy.

I realized that my reaction to this student, my assumptions of intention, my frustration was bred from my own sense of internalized perfectionism and internalized expectations of performance. This happens a lot when there are situations in which I feel I am dealing with entitlement or where I am working to meet someone 95% of the way, and they want me to move even further. I feel angry, angry that I’ve had to work so hard to get to where I am when others feel that they deserve time, energy and efforts that I have given and given and given at the expense of myself and my family.

Tonight, I read responses from a survey designed to get feedback from students about their online learning experiences. When one student responded, “Nothing” to the question of what professors, the program and university had done to support his online learning, I felt struck, as if all of the efforts that I have put into making this semester work for us all meant nothing.

I also feel these feelings, this frustration, sometimes towards my family, like all I do to keep us afloat, to support their learning and growth as human beings, to love them in the midst of big feelings I am struggling with, is not enough.

I know this is misdirected anger at myself. I hear the echoes of their humanity, or see them struggle and I feel a sense of my own inadequacy.

But it is not inadequacy, it is humanity.

They are teaching me humanity.

This weekend, I posted a Twitter thread after listening to a beautiful conversation that the Black Gaze Podcast (Drs. Shamaine Bertrand & Kisha Porcher) had with Dr. April Baker-Bell about Black language and linguistic justice. Hearing this conversation reminded me of where the internalized perfectionism and expectations of performance came from. It reminded me that these words that I swallow, that only rarely escape (and that I beat myself up for when they do), that this anger, comes from internalized oppression, from years of not feeling good enough around a society that I tried to prove my worth to, instead of accepting that my worth was in me.

Here’s the thread (revised slightly because I caught grammar mistakes in the first tweet that irritated me so I have to correct them now):

Let me tell you, I am declaring being done w/ the shame spiral & apologizing for my #AsianAmerican identity. There’s a lot of work to do as a community, but we can’t do that work if we can’t acknowledge that shame is part of white supremacy that keeps us in our place/

First, I want to shout out Black feminist & linguistic scholars, including the fantastic @BlackGazePod convo w/ Dr. @aprilbakerbell, @DrPorcher & @dr_s_bertrand. Your unapologetic stance that Blackness will save Black people reminds me to stand in my own truth/

Okay, and also shout out to the fantastic essay by @poetpedagogue that reminds me that we cannot abolish systems that promise us opportunity if we play by the rules until we conquer our own internalized oppressive mindset/

So here’s the thing, like many #AsianAmericans, I have made choices, my parents & ancestors made choices. For me, those choices have been rooted in assimilation for survival bc they thought it was the best option/

I am making different choices for myself & my own children, to embrace who we are and reclaim our complicated identities as #AsianAmerican as #TaiwaneseAmerican, as descendent from Han colonizers of Taiwanese indigenous people/

As people who have made choices or had choices made for us that separated us from linguistic identities that themselves were cloaked in language and cultural oppressions that we don’t know, but are our histories/

But I am not ashamed. Part of humanizing ourselves & others is the true belief that people do the best they can w/ what they have & that people, even the best of them, have human moments. When we know better, we must do better, but sometimes even then, we stumble/

Now, what there is for me to do, is the hard work of reclamation, of building community from an insider-outsider space, of listening/ learning/ seeking/ speaking, not from a space of shame, but from one of power, of visibility w/o performance/

Last thank you to @DrK_WhiteSmith for reminding me that we can be responsible for our actions w/o apologizing for ourselves. #Nomoreapologies for my existence. I will own my mistakes & my humanity, but I refuse to apologize for who I am. /end


Today, I went to put flowers at the gravesite of my foremothers (my mother, grandmother and aunt). Their strength gives me the strength to demand better for myself and for my children, even though I will falter along the way. Even though they faltered along the way.

We are always only human. We are always only learning.

And I am holding space for myself to be however I am, even when I am so imperfect.

And I am proud to be who I am, even when I am so imperfect.

This is the hard work of reclamation.

Reclaiming space to be exactly who I am, in each moment.

Holding space and striving to be in integrity with my most powerful, generous, and loving expression of self.

And loving my full humanity.