A Full Heart

Photograph of a letter confirming my promotion to Full Professor

Today, at 4pm, I received notice that I have been promoted to Full Professor at California State University, Long Beach.

This is not my first rodeo as full professor (I was full professor for a year at another institution when I was on leave from CSULB) and it’s not the last institution I’ll be full professor at (since I transition at the end of this calendar year to be the Boeing Endowed Professor of Teacher Education at the University of Washington), but this hits differently because I have been through the entire tenure and promotion process at, and given my heart and much labor to CSULB, an institution which, despite all that institutions represent, contains a community where I have been seen, loved, nourished, and affirmed, in spite of it all.

It’s a big day and it comes at a time of much transition indeed, as I prepare mentally and spiritually for things ahead, as I am on Day 11 of prioritizing the things I love about this work, giving myself grace, and resisting temptations to overwork.

I am grateful that on this day, I am fully present to the culmination of my years of teaching, research, and service to this community. Today, I got to eat lunch and have a mentoring conversation with a former credential student, spend time with research collaborators, and meet with my own femtor and friend. I got to spend an hour and a half on research and got to have my work acknowledged.

Soon, I’ll go to pick up my 17-year old from his last dance practice before the summer break at his studio. To him and my little one, I am not any different than I was this morning. This letter doesn’t mean anything in particular. But, I am most grateful to them and for a partner who has supported me in this journey, even when none of them quite understands why it means so much to me.

I am also grateful to my community who has sourced me and believed in me even when I didn’t know how to believe in myself. I am fully aware that I am because we are, and that no one gets to this place alone.

Finally, I am grateful to my mother who sacrificed a doctoral trajectory to be mother to my brother, whose absence is felt most acutely at these milestones she only gets to witness in spirit. And to my grandmother before her who sent her youngest to study in the US not knowing that someday the baby of the family would be among the few Asian American women who are full professors.

My heart is full of gratitude and love, of community and ancestral strength, of joy and peace.

Onward in community and always in love.

Abundance and Joy

Today was full of joy and community.

I got meaningful work done, some of which was hard, because my data tells hard stories of unjust systems and dehumanizing practices, but telling the story of this data is a privilege and honor that I do not take lightly.

Alongside that work, I got to be in community with the best of friends and chosen family, taking time to connect, reflect, eat, laugh.

I dream of every day being this balance of meaningful work, intentional play, and love.

I believe that if I can dream it, it can someday be a reality.

What a privilege to reclaim dreaming, to feel the joy of community embodied.

I am truly grateful.

Embracing Life

Two art figures embracing

I am a hugger.

This week I’ve been at my first in-person conference since the COVID shutdown, a smaller statewide conference, but one that has been a professional home for me since my first years as a teacher educator. It’s been masked, busy, and full. For the first time in a long time, I feel the remnants of my life prior to March 2020 falling back into place, but like pieces of torn paper, not quite being taped together the same way. It’s been exhausting to be back, in person, in a much larger gathering than I’ve been in up to this point.

But also, the hugs.

Human touch is important to me and I pride myself in giving consensual embraces that convey the full affection that I have for people. It’s the best.

I am fortunate that during the pandemic, I have lived with my 6 year-old, who loves good cuddles. I don’t know that I would have made it through without her.

But that is different than reconnecting with friends and fictive kin, including some that I saw regularly on Zoom throughout several months, but never got to know in person.

It has been so restorative to feel the embrace, energy and love of those around me, in human form.

It’s grounding to be truly embraced.

I am taking away from this conference the privilege it is to share space with those you care for, the importance of patience and precautions that honor the humanity of the people you care for, and the power of human connection.

I know that many close friends and colleagues are still not able or ready to hug or be in person yet (or maybe you’re not a hugger or someone who ever wants to be in person), and I am holding extra space for that moment when you are able to do that which fills your soul.

And of course, sending hugs.

Seeking Balance

Photo of a bowl of chiriashi with salmon, kampachi and spicy tuna

I made this today. It’s beautiful and nourishing as I hope this next period of my life will be, if I take the time to focus on it.

I am a Libra.

It’s an identity marker.

While I’m really not THAT into the Western (or Eastern) horoscope, I do find that I function better with equilibrium, seek balance, and go to extremes when I’m not doing well. I also try to listen and reconcile multiple sides of an issue, am sociable and capricious. If you look up Libra characteristics, not gonna lie, this is pretty much me.

As a Libra, I’ve been struggling A LOT lately. My life has been all out of sorts for awhile, because there hasn’t been balance…pretty much anywhere.

But, I am finding my way back to equilibrium, and seeking balance.

I want to thank the amazing Lorena & Roberto Germán who posted this entry for #31DaysIBPOC yesterday which got me thinking a lot about joy. I read their entry in the morning and couldn’t get these lines out of my head:

“we need to resist through joy. We feel it deeply. We feel it urgently. None of these people, none of these systems, none of these events can steal our joy.”

While there is such truth in these words, they hit me hard. I felt as though they were an indictment of my own complicity to my suffering. These people, systems and events cannot steal my joy…unless I give it away.

I do not mean to criticize myself or to claim that in the last 15 months, I have not experienced joy. However, the further I have gotten away from my life prior to March 13, 2020, the harder it has been to center joy and to find a balance between joy and advocacy, joy and struggle, joy and obligation.

But now, it is time to resist by centering joy.

This year, I’ve also done a lot of thinking about resistance. Earlier this year, I published a co-authored piece using a framework around coalitional resistance. Part of the central argument of that piece is that resistance doesn’t always look like one might think it “should.”

Yes, sometimes, resistance is direct and visible, particularly in situations where one’s position and privilege allow for direct action to affect change.

Sometimes, however, resistance is behind-the-scenes, hidden from much of the world, but still effective in ways often not celebrated.

Other times, resistance is found in a quiet resolve that may appear to be submissive, but is actually both navigational and future-focused.

Still other times, resistance comes through surviving unjust institutions, in fugitive spaces of solidarity that allow for visions of transformation.

And sometimes, resistance is reclaiming balance, finding and centering joy authentically in a world of injustice, being wholly human, a complex collection of grief, outrage, joy and love.

I am resolving, as I move towards a period of sabbatical, to seek this balance, to affirm a right to rest, to work towards letting go of things and people that are not for me so that I can truly embrace that which is mine, to let myself be poured into so that I can naturally allow for the love in me to be fully expressed, to choose my battles intentionally so that I might also be there to stand alongside those who are fighting their battles with my complete presence.

In balance, I know I will come closer to reclaiming my authentic voice, my joy, myself.

I’m so ready for this journey and what it will bring.

Give Them Their Flowers While They’re Still Here

Flower arrangement with a card

This afternoon, I was sitting in virtual office hours (so actually, I was sitting at my computer on zoom where I am most of my waking hours, except I was by myself because no one dropped in) and the doorbell rang.

I wasn’t expecting anything.

After about 3 minutes, I got a text from my husband that I got flowers.

“From who?” I asked.

I knew they weren’t from him. One of our wedding vows (alongside the fact that I don’t do dishes except on Fathers Day and his birthday) probably included that money should never be wasted on flower delivery when we are living together and he can just go to Costco to get me some roses…rainforest certified…for $14.99/dozen.

So, I walked down the hall and saw this beautiful bouquet (see picture) and the card.

It was from my dear friends, Kisha & Shamaine, co-creators of the Black Gaze Podcast, sending some love my way and acknowledgment for spending some time with them on one of their first season episodes.

Now, as I tweeted to them, this was completely unnecessary because spending time with them and sharing about Asian/ Black American solidarity (it’s episode 7) was a gift to me. I love these two women and have been a fan of this podcast since day 1. I am one of their biggest fans as individuals as well. Their successes are my successes. Their love brings me life.

But, the second half of that tweet was about how needed these flowers were.

I believe in divine providence.

I appeared on the podcast in the mid-summer. These flowers arrived today.

I have had such a hard last two weeks as the school year approached and began. At times, I have felt unseen, demeaned and more often than not, exhausted. I have learned so much, but I have also been hurt often, from unexpected sources. It has taken so many of my reserves.

But today, was the first good day in weeks.

The first day where I didn’t question what I had gotten myself into or why God led me down this path.

Today, was the day I got my appetite and my conviction back.

Today, I felt seen and loved, for my whole self.

And these flowers, this beautiful and extravagant arrangement of love that I never would have spent money on for myself, they spoke a million words to me.

Yesterday, I had to draw upon my own strength.

But today, I remembered that my greatest strength is in community.

Thank you, my dear sisters and my dear friends, for these flowers today. They mean more than I have words to say. I am so grateful for your uplift, everyday, but especially today.

Love people while they’re here. You have no idea what a difference it will make.

On Joy and Sustainability

12308488_10153354911524053_7399622976982620142_nThis morning I uploaded this picture as the wallpaper of my laptop.  It’s a picture of my 7-month old daughter and it always makes me smile.  Being mom to an infant (again, after a 9 year break between kids) has reminded me of pure joy, but it’s also brought forth the importance of sustainability, the big, elusive “S” that can be so hard in academia.

When I started this blog (and my academic position) a little over 3 years ago, I wondered if I was in the right place.  Questions abounded: Would I be cut out for academia? Would I be able to get published and advance a research agenda? Would my students learn from me?  Would I be able to give back enough to the university through service?  Would I meet the expectations of my colleagues and more importantly, of myself? Would the sacrifices that I had asked of my family in moving to support me in this new endeavor eventually pay off?

I can say, after 3 years on this journey, that the answer to these initial questions is a resounding, “Yes!”

I’ve had a lot of success in teaching, a few important publications, and a lot of opportunities to serve.  I’m blessed to feel proud as an academic of the work I’ve done and am doing.

But, it often leaves me exhausted and drained.  It takes away from my family.  It makes me feel like I need to keep doing more if I am to continue being enough.

And that’s hard because that’s not who I want to be.

So, I find myself at the crossroads asking myself if that’s who I have to be to maintain my success in this academic world, or if it’s simply a matter of setting better boundaries and choosing sustainability.

And at this crossroads, I think about my children.  Friends and mentors have been telling me for years that I need to learn the word, “No,” but I’ve always been worried that a “no” means closed doors and missed opportunities.  Perhaps.  Yet, I tell my own children “no” quite often, and when I think about why, it is because I want to keep them safe and healthy; I want them to enjoy the opportunities they do have rather than being overwhelmed with doing too much; I want them to be joyful in the longterm rather than making others happy in the moment.  I want their lives to be sustainable.

I hope that this will be the time when I am finally able to practice what I preach, to embrace my “yes” and my “no,” in the confidence that I am serving larger goals of sustainability, and making room for moments of spontaneous joy.  In this holiday season, and in times where there seems to be darkness all around us, a commitment to sustainability and joy seems to be the idea gift to myself.

Happy Holidays to you all too!