PC: Niels Weiss

HAPPY 2017!!!

Another day turns into another year. Here we are! Today I checked my social media channels frequently to see what friends and family were feeling as the new year approached. I’m so proud of y’all! You achieved an incredible amount this year, despite some serious tragedies amidst every day strife and violence. If we are honest, changing the last two numbers of the date today to 17 don’t wipe any of this away, and surely, as we have already seen in Istanbul, tragedy looms over and over.

I really loved my friend/co-worker/colleague/tea buddy Kaitlin Ho’s reflection questions that she posted a few days ago. They certainly helped me put my own experience in context and focus on the present time. Though so much could be written for my responses to each question, here are my reflections and preflections as we begin a new year:

Where did I see glimmers of hope/light?

My students and co-workers. This past semester was exhausting for everyone, I have never seen so many young people physically show signs of fatigue and anxiety. Yet- the people around me, students and co-workers alike, delved deep and found unrelenting compassion for each other. The day after the election, 45 of our university’s community members gathered to dialogue and share, and I witnessed active listening, people making space for each other, and even strangers hugging. A week after that, a group of students attended a workshop I facilitated for the Global Citizenship Project around storytelling for social change- republicans, democrats, and international students included. Though I felt nervous, the students made themselves vulnerable to each other and shared some heartwarming and heart-wrenching stories about living with depression, experiencing their parents’ divorce, and other touching experiences. For a moment it felt like we had created community across an unbridgeable divide.

Where did I experience darkness?

I witnessed the ugliness of bureaucracy and large corporate institutions. I felt dehumanized and witnessed through my own lens of privilege how deep-seeded oppression is around me.

What did I see in my character that I’m proud of/want to see more of?

I ran 3 half marathons and started training for my first full marathon this past year. I’m gearing up for Boston in April. What I’ve learned in my running journey so far is that health cannot be achieved through only physical well-being, it’s so much more about the mind. I found that attempting to be gentle but encouraging of my body and mental state got me so much farther than beating up myself up for missing a day, or running too slow, or not stretching enough. I felt more motivated to take care of myself when I was merciful. As I start the serious training, I want to see more appreciation of the immense task it is to live, love and breathe on this earth day in and day out- appreciation of my own body, and of others’.

What do I want to change?

I want to engage in more honest, uncomfortable conversations that will continue to educate me in the fight for equity. I learned this year that I can’t expect people to call me out unless I create that norm and culture, demonstrating that holding each other accountable is an act of revolutionary love. I don’t want to feel frozen in my humble social justice work, and staying in motion means finding opportunities to educate myself at every turn.

Who are people I’m grateful for?

I literally start to cry when I think about how many people rooted for me this year, and how I could never repay the kindness and generosity they have shown. People I love donated to the charity I will run for in the Boston Marathon, listened to me complain and express frustration and still stuck by me, read my blog and other writings, gave me meaningful projects to work on, and met with me to give advice or just be in good company. I’m grateful for the interfaith movement, for the Revolutionary Love Fellows, for my students, for my new writing partners, for my family, for my partner, and for the people who were not afraid to ask for favors.

Who are friends with whom I need to reconcile?

I struggled with forgiveness, mercy and reconciliation this year. It took almost all year for me to realize that forgiveness and mercy are truly divine, but cannot be hurried. Rather than thinking about specific individuals, I’m going to continue challenging myself to hash out these concepts as they relate to healing and how I can be a better friend and family member to others.

What are my greatest desires and needs in my relationships, my faith, my work, my health?

This is such a good and difficult question. I like being needed and feeling important, but I think what I actually need is the opposite- a chance to be in communities where I don’t play a leadership role and simply exist among others. I need to continue struggling in my faith and what I believe about ambition and justice. I need to keep writing, focusing on meaningful writing rather than quantity. I need to be my own best advocate for my health and in doing so, learn to be a fierce advocate for others.

And finally…here’s to reading 100 books this year 😀 mostly for pleasure.

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