A Mother’s Heart: An Open Letter to My Sister’s Mother

A photo of a stuffed corgi on a sign that says Tsui Tsui, Welcome Sister

Dear Aye,

I know we don’t really speak the same language, but we are both mothers who love our children very much, and I am also a daughter separated from her mother at a young age, so I wanted to write to you because I love you and Tsui and because I hope that my words can help you to worry less, even though you will miss her very much. I am hoping someone will translate this letter for you into Burmese and that you will not lose much of the meaning in the translation.

I wanted to tell you how much I admire your courage and hers. It is a very scary thing to come to a new country from your home at such a young age, to a family that you have never met, to begin life in a very, very different place. It is also a scary thing to let  your daughter go to people who are strangers, connected by marriage and not blood, in the hopes that they will treat her like family, love and protect her, especially when you have been with her during her whole life, for all of her important moments.

I know that this is the best choice for right now, that Tsui would come while you stay near my father, but the best choice does not always mean the easy choice. I want to thank you for trusting us to help Tsui adjust to the United States. I promise to do my best to help her, to be a good big sister to her, to love her as I love my own children, to protect her as best I can, and to teach her what life is like here. We always welcome you. We hope one day you can come to be with her here or that she can come back to you there, in safety. If and when that time comes, I hope you know that we will support and help you too, however we can. You are our family too.

I know what it is to miss someone you love with your whole heart, who is, in many ways, an extension of yourself. I wish we could make this easier, but I don’t think we can make this part better. What we can do is share photos and messages and memories that Tsui will make here, be here for her, until you are together again. We will love her and treat her with care.

I hope we can meet you soon too. Until that time, we are holding you in our hearts.

I am holding you in my heart.

With love,


Learning to Trust

two hands being held with a field in the background

I am learning to trust myself, those I love, my community.

For a very long time, although so many people count on me, I have struggled with allowing myself to be fully seen, known and loved. I have struggled with trust that when I was in need, people would hear my cries, see my tears, hold my pain.

But there are moments in life when, without the support of others, there is little else that helps us endure.

These past two weeks have been among the hardest in my life (and I have had many, many hard weeks).

But these weeks have also been my teachers.

In these two weeks, I have strengthened the bonds I have with my community, with those I love deeply, even, to a degree, with complete strangers.

I have learned to trust my voice, my intuition, my feelings.

I have learned to listen to the wisdom that my body holds (thanks to my dear friend, Leigh, for the reminder that our bodies hold wisdom we may not understand) even when that wisdom is confusing and feels unbearable.

I have learned to speak the truth and trust that it will reach the right people.

I have learned to reach out, to be embraced, seen and loved.

I have learned to trust love, even when it is painful and feels unbearable.

I have learned to accept help (I’m still working on it), and to trust that even when I can only respond with a heart emoji or maybe not at all, that in the act of demonstrating love, the people who are showing their love will know that they are making a difference.

I have learned to listen to my community’s solidarity.

I have learned that so many people see me and will show up for me, privately and publicly.

I have learned that sometimes I cannot do anything “productive.” The feelings of helplessness are the most overwhelming.  But productivity is a construct, and survival is a necessity.

I am learning that in those moments, there is nothing to do, there is only being and trusting, and the next step will reveal itself.

I have learned that although I have made many mistakes, I am not the sum of my faults or my regrets. I do not need to make up for my imperfections. It is my imperfections that make me human.

And it is my humanity that touches the truth in others.

My friend, Ale, says that I am someone who makes lemonade from lemons. It is true, I suppose that I often try to turn the bitter into the sweet.

There is so much to be bitter about. There is still so much pain. There is still so much senseless violence.

But I will continue to draw from my humanity to try to connect with the humanity of others.

It is all I know.

And in a dehumanizing world, it is my greatest act of resistance.


Justice as Praxis in Education (Day 2): Bringing authenticity & ourselves to justice in research & praxis

Light shooting from a central spark

You are a light.

Your story is a gift that we can all learn from.

Don’t let anyone tell you differently.

Today is day 2 of the Justice as Praxis in Education Conference.

We opened by watching Amanda Gorman’s beautiful “The Hill We Climb” and reflecting on her powerful words and what we took from day 1 of the conference and our time together.

We were then led by the amazing and beautiful Drs. Cati de los Rios & Leigh Patel, who spoke to us about Doing Methodological Justice in research. What a joy to watch these powerful women and scholars engaging in conversation about research that is deeply rooted in community, in long-standing work with communities, and in acknowledging that we tell our stories about communities and for particular audiences. It’s an important reminder for those of us who are academics. Are we doing research with and for communities? If so, then highly ranked peer-review journals may not understand the boundaries we push through centering stories and voice and refusing to decontextualize them and take them out of their fullness, richness and communities. But, this doesn’t mean those stories don’t belong in the academy. We can do our work in AND alongside communities. In fact, that is what we are called to do.

I got the privilege to speak as the lunch keynote for this beautiful event. I asked more questions than I gave answers, considering who we are, what our roles are and how we continue to move towards justice as praxis in education. My talk notes are here.  What blessed me most about giving this talk was being in community in a keynote. Was so grateful for those who came out and engaged in thoughtful ways in the talk.

We are closing out through writing out now.

I am reflecting on the blessings of doing this work.

I am reflecting on my light.

My light reflects your light.

Tell your stories, my friends.

Live, write, speak, teach your truth.

Be in community.

And be well.

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.

82, 56 and the Space In Between

Two flower bouquets in front of a grave marker

If my mother were living, today would have been her 82nd birthday.

She, however, died over 25 years ago, at the age of 56, in a car accident.

In my logical mind, I know that, it is likely, given my mom’s age, she might have died of natural causes by now, had her life not been cut short 25 years, 9 months and 20 days ago.

Of course, that is my logical mind.

In my heart, I think about what one more day, or month, year or decade, would have been like with my mother. I wonder who I would be today if she were still here, where I might be, how my life would be different.

I wonder these things often, but more often at this time of year.

I have learned over time that these moments of wondering are part of the lifelong process of grieving and making space for all of the things: for missing my mom, for reconciling the truth of her imperfections and my own, for making peace with the fact that there was so much left unsaid and unresolved as there always will be between a teenager and her mother, of knowing that she loved me deeply and I loved her deeply, of holding close that even though I didn’t get to tell her one last time that she must have known how much I loved her, of working through regret, of embracing what I can hold on to, of continuing to move forward even though for her time will forever stand still.

There are many days that, despite the deep love that I am surrounded by, I feel the deep void that she left. I feel alone and desperately need her love, her reassurance and her comfort.

Then there are days that I feel closer to her than I ever have, as a mother, as a resistor, as a survivor of so many traumas meant to defeat me.

People who knew my mother tell me that they see her in me, that I resemble her both in physical appearance and in spirit. They tell me that hearing my laugh is like hearing hers.

I hold onto these things tightly, but more tightly at this time of year.

Happy birthday, Mommy.

I miss you often, but most often at this time of year.

The Pain of Exclusion, The Power of Community

Picture of Asian Americans on a Zoom together

Some of the NCTE Asian American Caucus Family at Today’s Rogue Happy Hour

Community is such a powerful place to dwell.

It was a little over four years ago that a random Asian American woman approached me on an escalator in a convention center and asked if I wanted to come to a meeting of the Asian/Asian American Caucus of the National Council of Teachers of English.

There were many things going through my head at that moment. Here are a few of them:

  1. Who is this random woman?
  2. What?! There’s an Asian/Asian American caucus of NCTE? Where has this been all my life?
  3. Wait, what if I’m not Asian American enough for these people?

Fortunately, I went to the meeting, which was not huge (maybe 15-20 people), but was affirming. That random woman,  Jung Kim, ended up becoming a close friend, running partner (although she’s way faster and has way more endurance than I do) and collaborator, my missing rage-filled, Korean American, English teacher, Oxford comma-loving sister, and someone who helped me to embrace and discover that however Asian American I felt or didn’t feel in any moment wasn’t just (or even mainly) about my own inadequacies, but about the systemic denial of affirming spaces, our own stories, and critical community for Asian Americans.

Fast forward four years and the Asian/Asian American Caucus of NCTE (#AsianAmAF) has become home and family to me. Filled with laughter and good spirited competition, memes, nerdiness and tons of love. Strengthened by solidarity and community. The caucus includes so many people that I so deeply admire and feel so proud to call friends. It brings me such joy and a sense of belonging that I hadn’t thought possible in a conference that often tops thousands of attendees.

In this moment, this space is so desperately needed.

Community Traumas, Painful Rejections, and Quiet Dismissal

It has been such a hard year, for everyone really, but since this is my blog, I wanted to take space to speak to the pain of this year through an Asian American lens.

As an Asian American of Chinese descent (although I most often identify as Taiwanese American), watching the painful racist and xenophobic rhetoric fueling a rise in discrimination and hate crimes against Asian Americans has been heartbreaking and painful. It is a reminder of how easily Asian Americans go from being the “model minority” to the “perpetual foreigner” and “yellow peril.” It is a reminder of how precarious safety and acceptance are for Asian Americans.

On top of this, having multiple Asian American-focused panels and presentations, that were first accepted by NCTE, fail to make the second round of cuts when the conference transitioned to a virtual platform, was painful. While as a caucus, it was wonderful to see many incredible panels still go forward in the program, the pain of having these presentations cut without a real understanding of why was hard.

But it was not surprising.

In co-writing our book on Asian American teachers, as Jung and I look at the stories of our participating teachers, we see time and again what was missing from their experiences: lack of Asian American teachers, lack of Asian American curriculum, lack of critical racial identity development in educational spaces.

In so many spaces this year, I have realized the ways in which Asian American voices are left out. This is not a new realization, but this year, with so much racial uprising in response to so much pain inflicted by the continued extrajudicial killing of Black people at the hands of the police, disproportionate deaths of Indigenous people and people of color at the hands of COVID, and dehumanizing detainment of immigrant people, the gap between the solidarity we are enacting and that which we need is particularly striking.

The Asian American political movement was grounded in critical and transformational solidarity with other people of color and Indigenous communities in the Third World Liberation Front which constitutes the global majority.

Yet, so often, in conversations about racial justice and equity, Asian American voices are forgotten.

We are told not to center ourselves when the struggles of others are so much greater. We are told that we must unlearn our anti-Blackness (of course we must) as if we do not recognize the painfulness of the anti-Blackness in our communities, as if we cannot focus both on anti-Blackness and on the painful realities of being unable to even talk within our communities because of linguistic, generational, and political barriers. As if we don’t also struggle with self-hatred and anger at our communities for the trauma we’ve experienced and the way we’ve been positioned against one another. We come to hate ourselves because we are not presented with an understanding of the ways in which systems were designed to divide us. We come to find ourselves constantly ashamed because we are never affirmed. Many of us have to find our own ways to develop language to talk about this, and when we do, we feel deeply betrayed that we were never invited into the conversation in the first place.

We lose our voices advocating for representation, fighting for Asian American inclusion in people of color spaces, fighting for the inclusion of counterstories of solidarity, fighting for an understanding of the dire need to support critical racial identity development for Asian Americans, from youth to adulthood.

Sometimes we are met with simple indifference.

Sometimes we are met with empathy but not with action.

We are too often dismissed.




Sometimes, by our friends and colleagues, people we love deeply.

It hurts so much.

It is exhausting.

Reminders of Hope in Community

But, there can be healing in resistance, particularly when it comes in community.

When we find joy in the embrace of one another; when we find solidarity and strength.

When people hear and hold our hurt, not as more or less, but real, because pain is not a competition.

We have much to contribute and continue to push forward, seek coalition, do the work in love.

Community is a powerful place to dwell.

I hope for ever more of it as we continue to move forward in a journey towards justice.

Being Seen, Being Recognized

The author and her son standing back-to-back facing the camera

When I was in elementary school, I always wanted to be the class representative, but I don’t remember ever being chosen for student council.

I thought that if I continued working hard at my studies, helping my classmates, and helping my teachers, my peers and adults around me would see my “leadership potential.” I worked as hard as I could to be seen as a leader.

At the 6th grade graduation ceremony, there was one student who would be recommended from our school to be the delegate to the 7th grade Associated Student Body. I was so hopeful that it would be me. I really wanted to start off junior high contributing to my school and knowing people, and what better way than a summer where I would get to work with other leaders?! (Did I mention I was a little nerdy?) I had represented my school in various district competitions as an elementary school student (from spelling bee to Math Counts) and I had been one of the first students in my elementary school to be placed in the highest level math AND English classes.

I waited with baited breath for the student leadership award to be announced.

It wasn’t me.

It was Amy G, the elementary school student body president.

Looking back on this moment now, this probably should have been a given. Student body leaders in elementary school are destined to be student body leaders in middle school and high school…and maybe in life.

Throughout middle school and high school, I tried to run for or show interest in leadership in a variety of ways.

But I was never elected, never chosen.

I excelled academically. I got good grades, tons of academic awards, even scholarships. I was even voted most likely to succeed.

But I wasn’t seen as a leader.

Okay, so grown up me sees model minority stereotype & bamboo ceiling written all over all of this, but little (or at least younger) me didn’t know any of that.

Little me just thought that no one would ever think that I was a leader.

Little me thought that I would never be able to contribute the way I wanted to.

Big me thinks this “not a leader” thing is somewhat hilarious since most of my adult/professional life has been dedicated to servant leadership and now, there are some days where I wish people would recognize my leadership capacity a little less (okay, not really, actually, I just need to learn to set better boundaries). Something shifted somewhere along the line. Maybe it was being around others who, in small and large ways, began to see me. Maybe it was finding and developing my passion. Maybe it was finding and discovering more about my identity. But something shifted. Nowadays, I feel seen for who I’ve always deep down known I was. I feel recognized.

(There are also some days where big me still feels like I’ll never be able to contribute in the ways I want to, but for different reasons. That is less hilarious, but I digress.)

Anyways, fast forward 25+ years…

Last week, my 14 year old got an e-mail at his school account. Someone had nominated him for a youth leadership position, a group of youth who would do community work and speak about the impact of COVID on various communities.

When he showed me the e-mail, he said, “This seems really cool, but I’m not sure that I could do this. I don’t really like to speak to people I don’t know. And this seems like you’d have to be cool and have knowledge and be able to tell people what you believe.”

Trying not to pressure him, I responded, “Well, I think you’re cool, and I think you’re well spoken, and you have a lot of knowledge.”

He replied, “You’re my mom. You have to think I’m cool, and I’m not cool, and I can’t speak to other people, and I have knowledge, but I get nervous when I’m trying to explain it to people I don’t know.”

So then, I said, “Well, you can always apply and find out more about the commitment and then if you get chosen, and you don’t feel like you want to do it or you can, you can say no.”

He looked at me, and said, “You’re smart. I didn’t even think about that. Okay, well then, I’ll try.”

He began the application and on the first question got stuck, telling me he didn’t really have any experiences related to COVID. In talking, he felt that because we have relative privilege compared to so many others, he didn’t really see his experience as valuable or contributing. We talked through it. He wrote some things, a lot of things. Then he finished the application on his own and turned it in. At multiple times in the process, he expressed his own self-doubt as to what he could bring and why someone would nominate him.

He doesn’t see himself as a leader, at least not that he would admit to me, but he does know that he’s someone that has always wanted to contribute to something greater than himself.

I always have seen him as a leader, but perhaps, I’m his mom so I have to think he’s a leader (I don’t actually have to think that, but I do actually believe that). I have also always wanted him to have opportunities to contribute.

More importantly, in this moment, some other anonymous adult in his life, related to school (because no one else would have that address for him), sees him as a leader too, or a potential one, at least.

Mama me couldn’t be prouder.

Someone saw my son the way I’ve always seen him.

In the contrast of how I wished to be seen as a child and adolescent, and how I’ve seen my son recognized, in ways that surprise him, I feel healing and hope.

Every child deserves to be seen for their potential.

As a mother and an educator, I’ve realized this week that one of our greatest roles is standing for the greatness that people may or may not recognize for themselves, within themselves. Our task is to see that greatness and to recognize it, to nurture it and to grow it, to support it and to be with it, in moments of doubt.

Greatness is a gift.

It’s a gift we all have.

If it is unseen and unrecognized, it can take much longer for that greatness to manifest, if it is able to come to the surface at all.

But when it is seen and recognized, particularly by others as young people, it allows us to be our best selves and make our most authentic contribution to the world around us.

I had to do a lot of work to embrace my own greatness. My son will also have a journey towards embracing his greatness.

It did not look like I thought it would. I am imagining that his greatness won’t look exactly the way he pictured it either.

My hope is for more joy in his journey than mine, and that we will learn to see ourselves and recognize for ourselves that which those we love see around us each day.

A Post for Mother’s Day

My mother and me as a toddler wearing a birthday hat

This is a post for Mother’s Day.

But, really, it’s a post about intergenerational healing that has been a process for me, and that has brought me peace, for the first time in 25 years on Mother’s Day.

My mother died 25 years, 3 months and 1 week ago. I was 16 years old and a pretty normal second generation Asian American teenager. I say that now, because it has taken me a long time to realize this, because it took a long time to understand that the identity conflicts that I was experiencing internally, and the identity conflicts that my mother and I were experiencing between us, were actually normal.  Because of who I know my mom was and because of who I know I am, I know they would have been resolved eventually.  It was painful before she died.  It was traumatic after she died. But, as I’ve come to know her more through others, and as I’ve come to accept not only myself, but the complexities of my identities, I stand in the truth that we were alright, and we would have been great, and we are both whole.

My first two children found me 16 years ago.  My oldest twin daughters were students at the middle school where I taught.  Just a few months after I married my husband, they approached me, and asked if we would adopt them from foster care.  They had lost both their parents, parents they loved deeply. They had experienced, as children, the pain of structural racism and systemic inequality. They were ready to rest their feet.  When they asked me to become their mother, I remembered the pain of being their age without a mother.  I tried my best to provide a place for them to rest their feet.  I tried and try my best to be a mother who listens, advocates, loves, and empowers. It is complicated, but my love for them is deep and constant.  I know that it will forever be complicated because all mother-daughter relationships are complicated, even ones entered into with hearts that truly desire to love one another, and because trauma caused by structural racism and anti-Blackness can’t be erased by a happy adoption story.  But, as I’ve come to love and accept my daughters for exactly who they are, and I’ve come to accept myself for exactly the mother I am and can be in any given moment, I have come to stand in the truth that we are all doing the best we can and that, as best we can, we love each other in our own, uniquely human ways.

My oldest daughters were born in November.  My mom’s birthday is also in November, near Thanksgiving.

My son was born 14 years and almost 3 months ago, on a cold February day. I had not planned to have a biological child when I found out I was pregnant with my son, partly because we had barely had time to adjust to life as a married couple before our daughters came to us, and I was concerned that a new baby (and a biological child) would be even more complicated for them than for me.  But frankly, I hadn’t planned for my girls either (or my mom’s sudden death, to be honest). When my son was born, things did become infinitely more complicated in my family, and I began to completely lose myself.  I was so sick when my son was young. I wanted to disappear because I felt so unable to heal myself, support my daughters and parent my son.  It was, without a doubt, the hardest time of my entire life.  But my son was born with the wisdom of his mother and a deep love for her, for me.  His love gave me a reason to live when I wasn’t sure that I wanted to, and for years, I worried that he absorbed the trauma of my physical presence and my spiritual absence. But, as I’ve healed, he has too. He will always have an old soul. He and I will always be connected in ways that are perhaps “beyond our years,” but he is also a super goofy kid who knows he is deeply loved, and who tells me when he thinks I’m wrong (sometimes more loudly than I want to hear).  He is resilient. I am resilient. He is my heart, and the heart of my healing.

My mom died in February. My son was born in February, on the day after Valentine’s Day.

My youngest daughter was born 5 years ago yesterday, on the Friday before Mother’s Day. She is my mini-me, without a doubt.  I have often told people that she is who I would have been if I had been raised by me.  She is powerful and assertive with those she loves, yet reserved and unsure with strangers. She is brilliant and bright, but sometimes lives in the shadow of her differently gifted older brother. She has big emotions and isn’t afraid to show them.  She is strong-willed beyond belief. And that girl loves her mama with her whole heart.  All she wants is for her mom to take a break to play with her.  She does not recognize my trauma. She brings me tissues when I cry and then goes to play. She asks questions that I would have been worried or afraid to ask. She asks questions about the grandma and grandpa that she doesn’t know (my parents) while being wholly loved and adored by the Abuela & Abuelo that she does know.  She is light and life.  I know that, because of who she is, and because of who I am, because we are unafraid of one another, and because we love one another fiercely, that we will have conflicts.  But, I will stand in my love for her, and leave many words for her, so that she knows how deeply she has been loved and will always be loved.

It is Mother’s Day.  My daughter’s birthday was yesterday. Her life will always be tied to future Mother’s Days.

This is a post for Mother’s Day.

It is my gift to myself, the gift of recognition and love. The gift of peace in the process of healing. The gift of acknowledging all the complexities and reverberations of trauma across families and generations, and standing in love today and the possibility of beauty.  It is a gift of redemption and a belief that the ties of my children to my mother are not by accident.  We are gifts to heal our ancestors. They are gifts to strengthen who we become, even through moments of pain and loss.

Happy Mother’s Day, with love.


Making space for a familiar friend

Today has been strangely hard.

Until about 5 minutes ago, I really didn’t understand why I’ve been feeling really bleh today.  I made an excellent first-timer Eggs Benedict for my son this morning.  I had back-to-back phone calls with colleague-friends who are amazing. I got to have lunch with my sister-friend whom I love dearly. I got a decent amount of work done. I even watched the end of Toy Story with my little girl before tucking her into bed.

It was a good day.

So why was I feeling so bad? And why was I doing the things that I know I do when I’m trying to avoid being with something.

Then I realized that tomorrow is February 1st which means Monday is February 3rd.

My mother died on February 3rd.

Today is a Friday that my son has off from school.  He hurt his ankle yesterday and was limping around the house today.

My mother died on the Friday between semesters, a student in-service day. She had hurt her ankle earlier that year, twisting it in a hole as she ran to see me start a race.

There have been so many sudden deaths recently, of young parents, before their time.

My mother was 56 when she died.  I was 16. She was healthy (still recovering from her major ankle sprain, but otherwise fine) and a fighter.  She was everything to me, the person who knew me best and the person who I always seemed upset with.

Until she was gone.

So, I took a deep breath and said to my grief, “Welcome home. I’ve been expecting you. You’re a little early this year.”

My mother died in a car accident on February 3, 1995.

It will be 25 years since she died on Monday.

Some days, it still literally feels like yesterday.  Or today, even.

Some days, it feels like it’s been 25 years.

Today, it feels heavy, but calm. Sad and present, familiar.

Today, it feels collective, as my local community still grieves a very public, very sudden loss less than a week ago.  And yet, it feels private, this version of grief that I have been carrying for 25 years.

Right now, I am breathing.  I am taking this moment in.  I am sitting.  My grief is sitting alongside me. I am waiting for more words to come or for me to know that it is time to end this post.

Be gentle. Make space for my friend, my grief, my survival. Make space for me.

There are battles we don’t see.  And there are those we see but don’t know.

I’ve learned to make space for it all.

Unapologetically Showing Up for Myself: Reflections on NCTE 19

Thanks to the #DisruptTexts crew for having these shirts made

“To make a revolution, people must not only struggle against existing institutions. In order to change and transform the world, they must change and transform themselves.”

Honestly, I wasn’t looking forward to NCTE this year.  In the past, NCTE has been a complicated space for me, one that is as exhausting as it can be exhilarating, and one that is always overwhelming. I came in with a lot of things that I had to get done: on the plane, during the conference, on the way home.  Always all the things, right?

In the weeks approaching this NCTE, I have had a lot going on, and my mom’s birthday (she would have been 81 this year) came on Saturday, my busiest conference day.  There is always a tension in complicated grief on birthdays and anniversaries, so I wasn’t sure how it would all go.

But, it was probably the most beautiful and affirming conference experiences that I’ve had in a long time, maybe ever.

And it was because I showed up for myself.

I have spent my entire life showing up for others: my mother, friends, colleagues, my children, students.  I love these people, don’t get me wrong.  It is an HONOR to show up in love, solidarity, affirmation, coalition, for others.

But in showing up for others, I often forget to listen to myself and what I want or need, relegating those thoughts to the shameful realm of selfishness.

This NCTE something strange happened.

I just focused on being present. I focused on what I needed in any given moment.  I focused on healing parts of me that I’ve been working towards embracing and understanding for the last couple of years: my identity as an Asian American woman.

I went to Asian American (and women of color) author sessions; I facilitated an Asian American teacher panel; I co-presented with my friend Jung about our research on Asian American teachers; we co-facilitated the Asian American caucus open forum and first ever networking event, and I met a lot of amazing authors.

I didn’t push myself to hang out with all of the amazing people I love at NCTE.  If I saw them, we hugged and talked. If I didn’t, I wasn’t running around frantically to make things happen (well, except for when I was running frantically after the teacher panel to Debbi Michiko Florence’s signing that was already over, insert sad emoji here).  I connected with people I didn’t know, but now consider friends.  I met people who I’d only ever seen on Twitter. I spent quality time with people I deeply cherish.

I was present.

I showed up.

I showed up for myself.

I showed up for the little girl who loved to read, who loved the windows into the worlds of others.

I showed up for the teenager who had just lost her mom, and who desperately needed to be seen and understood.

I showed up for the young mother who felt so overwhelmed that she just wanted to become invisible.

I showed up for the Asian American associate professor who is trying to embrace all of who she is, so she can show up stronger for herself and others.

I showed up for the author inside of me, who sees the calling and knows she has a voice and a story to tell.

And you know? Even though there are still all the things to do, I am letting go of some of them, to make room for the best people and the best things, the affirming things, the enriching things, the nourishing things.

So, I am not bummed if I missed you at NCTE. I am not sorry.

When our paths cross next, I will be more present with you because I am transforming.  When I show up for you next, I will show up with more of myself because showing up will be borne of love and choice and not obligation and inadequacy.  I will know what I am bringing to you through knowing who I am.

Much love to all of you who I did connect with at NCTE, whether for a super brief selfie of appreciation and love or a 5-minute conversation or over food, in sessions — however it was, thank you.  I am grateful for your contribution to me, for the restoration of being fully present.

I’ll see you all when I see you all next. In love and with gratitude.