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.

Blessed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

A New Routine

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

This morning, I woke up early.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I am attending to this joy.

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

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

Soon I will return to my daily life.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Embracing My Humanity: Close Up & At a Distance

Selfie of me, in front of a rising sun on the Garonne River in Bordeaux, France

I have a confession to make.

As much as I have always been an advocate for humanizing pedagogies, humanizing education, humanizing practices in the world, I have deeply failed to embrace my own humanity.

I have done too much for too many people without acknowledging or doing anything about the ways the choices I’ve made for others have (in their totality) harmed me.

It is nobody’s responsibility but my own. I honor the parts of me that have not wanted to disappoint anyone, those that have found doing t0 be a form of survival, those that have craved connection that hasn’t always been available to me. I do not regret the choices I’ve made.

But now, I am choosing me.

I am in the latter third of a two week research trip that has been transformative in so many ways, personal and professional.

It has changed the way I see myself and what is possible for me in my personal and professional life in ways that are so profound I have not yet grasped them.

I have cried so many tears, deep heaving sobs of release for the pressure that I have put upon myself.

I have felt the weight of the trauma I’ve carried for myself and generations before me, the strength that came from putting the needs of everyone ahead of my own.

I have faced myself honestly and realized that I have spent so long running from my truth.

I have read and written and engaged deeply with ideas and people who have renewed me in ways big and small and reminded me of my deep commitments in this world and in this work.

I have realized that I cannot embrace my humanity if I continue to move in ways that dishonor my time, energy, and presence.

So, I am making some changes. And I am writing them here for accountability:

  1. I am going to be less on social media in general and more intentional about what I post when I am publicly sharing
  2. I am going to be less available to everyone and more available to the people I am building with and the people I love most in this world and this work.
  3. I am going to structure my time in ways that allow me to focus on my heart work
  4. I am going to prioritize presence
  5. I am going to choose myself from time to time, and in honoring myself, I will honor and uplift community
  6. I am going to rest. When frantic energy seizes me, I am going to pause, stop, and breathe. I am going to remember who I am and whose I am. I will gather myself.
  7. I am going to choose my battles. I cannot fight all the time. Sometimes, I need to lean into (internal) peace as my greatest power, to restore before moving forward.
  8. I am going to do all of this with kindness and grace towards myself and others, holding space for myself and those I love most with gentleness and openness. (Thanks to @wildwalkerwoman on Twitter for this suggestion)

I will likely blog more and tweet/ post less. I will read less about working less and actually work less (thanks, Jung, for that sage advice). I am going to trust more, take in the beauty around me, be present to the love that surrounds me. I am going to touch gratitude daily.

I am so grateful for this time, which is all that I have needed and more than I expected.

I will see you when I see you.

Space

Me holding a sign that says "Go _____. Our number one runner" to cheer for my daughter's race Photograph of two grave markers with 4 bouquets of flowers in front of them

May is a beautiful month for me.

May is also a hard month for me.

This year, as it has been for the last eight years, my daughter’s birthday and Mothers Day are within the same week, with the end of the academic year the following week. I am tired. I often wonder if there will be another Mothers Day that does not feel exhausting, as my heart and mind are divided between wanting to celebrate my daughter and the extraordinary gift of her life, deeply missing my mother, particularly as I get closer and closer to the age she was when she died, and the bustle of the end of an academic year.

May is a time of internal and external conflict. Outsourcing birthday parties, while easier, is pricey, and seems to add on to my perpetual discourse of inadequate mothering, even in this busy professional time, full of events and celebrations, for students, staff, and faculty in my college. This year, as department chair, it is particularly busy, as there is more to support and coordinate with less of the heart work and interaction with students that brings so much light to my academic work. This year, I’m also in the midst of final preparations for a grant-funded conference that is the work of my heart, and while I am confident everything will work out, it is a stressful time in terms of coordination according to the timeline that works best for my head and heart. And our college graduation coincides with two awards ceremonies for my son (school-sponsored and countywide) which I will have to miss as a member of the platform party.

In a few hours, my daughter will celebrate her birthday with my husband’s family, our family, and my sister. It will be a beautiful time, and a hard one. It makes me remember how different our lives are. It makes me remember whole families and how mine still perpetually feels broken, even as I try to repair it in this generation. I am so very tired. And I am holding a lot of sadness. I am also holding so much joy in her having this time with her aunties and uncles and cousins and abuelos, swimming and playing, in her full joy.

In these last several years, I have been working on making space where there is none, and holding space for all of the complexities of life, particularly as someone who loves deeply and whole-heartedly.  I have been working on giving myself the grace I so freely give to others. I have been working on being with what is, while working towards what is better.

It is beautiful work, and it is hard.

I hope that if you’re reading this, you will also hold space for me today, for others who are balancing grief, joy, and the myriad other emotions that may come during this time of year. I also hope you’re holding space for yourself. I hope that you will feel the warm embrace of love surrounding you, that you will have moments where you’re able to laugh freely and cry loudly, as you want and need to. I hope you will hold on to better when the moment feels not good enough, and that you will find, make, and take space for yourself in the midst of all you are doing and all that you are for others.

I am, you are, we are beautiful, in this midst of these hard times.

How is Your Heart?

Photograph of a mural with bright orange and blue flowers that reads Everyone is Different, Everyone Belongs

Over the last month, our college’s Black Lives Matter at School book club has been reading the wonderful Gholdy Muhammad’s book Unearthing Joy. There are many, many things I love about this book and the way that it centers Black joy, culturally and historically responsive teaching and learning, and attending to children’s spirits as much as their minds. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

One of the questions Dr. Muhammad asks us to reflect on in the book is, “How is your heart?” From the moment I read this question, I had to pause and sit with this. I felt this question deep within me. Generally, people will ask, “How are you?” or “How are you doing?” or even “What have you been up to lately?” These questions (for me) are easy to answer on reflex, rather than with reflection and connection to our hearts and our breath. I typically answer these questions with, “Fine” or “Okay” or “It’s been pretty busy lately, but I’m sure it will get better eventually.” But am I fine or even okay? Will it get better eventually?

I don’t actually think, for myself, that “it will get better eventually,” without a lot of intentional attention, care, and unlearning. How am I doing? If I think about it, I actually don’t know, because I don’t know how I am doing half of the things I take on, things that require more energy and effort and time than I really have, if I am doing the work of attending to my heart.

So I return to Dr. Muhammad’s question, “How is your heart?”

I pause.

I inhale deeply and exhale slowly.

My heart is tired. My heart has been tired for a long time, tired from carrying around years of grief, and from running (metaphorically and actually) from one thing to the next. My heart has been tired from sustaining a body and mind that always keep going. My heart has been tired because it is attached to a mind that is unforgiving of itself when I have human moments, when I let someone down, when I am less than my best self, when unlearning is slow.

But today, my heart is also full. It is sustained by community, joy, laughter, good food, fellowship, music, my family, my children, my passion. It is uplifted by educators committed to children’s well-being and belonging, committed to justice and the work of learning and unlearning. It is uplifted by beauty in nature. Today, my heart is bolstered by fugitive spaces of resistance that have existed and exist still, around me, with those I love.

Today, I had the privilege of attending the second annual Teaching for Justice conference at the University of California, Irvine. The conference this year was focused on AAPI belonging and well-being. The first workshop I attended was led by Dr. Stacey Lee Gobir who is the Assistant Director of Pepperdine RISE (Resilience-Informed Skills Education). In her workshop on resilience, she reminded me of these things that I wrote in my notes:

  • You deserve to take your time.
  • Be gentle with yourself.
  • Resilience can also be honoring our capacity to say no.

It is a journey that I am on. There is always more to do. But I have to return to my heart. I have to return to who I want to be. I deserve to take my time on this journey, to be gentle with myself.

If I continue to get caught up in all there is to do, I will not be who I want to be. I know this. And when I let myself, I feel this. Resilience can be honoring my capacity to say no.

How is my heart? It is strong. It is beating. It is expanding its capacity for love, rest, and joy.

How is your heart?