Falso.

Ooooh hiiiii it’s been a minute! Ok. How y’all doing? Making it? Can we have a vacation yet?

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Photo by Jessica Ruscello on Unsplash

I’m going to share why I haven’t been writing for a bit because I think many folx will identify with this feeling. I haven’t written for a few reasons, one of which is the academic machine got to me and I needed to sleep and take care of my body. Related to that is experiencing some depression related to anxiety and what people commonly call “imposter syndrome.” I’m practicing self-care and delving into my sitting practice.

A friend told me the other day that she feels like at her job, she’s not really a teacher, but she goes to work and pretends all day. She feels like everyone else is legit. I completely get that feeling. Over the past month or so, it has left me frozen, on the floor in tears, unable to answer a single email in my inbox for days. I write this because I believe many will nod and recognize this.

Imposter syndrome affects many of us- most especially womxn of color, indigenous people, and folx with accessibility needs. The feelings stem from an internalization of fraudulent occupation of a space. That’s exactly how I have been feeling- like I am taking up a space that I shouldn’t because I am not smart enough. Some instances have heightened this feeling. I have been doing some deep reflecting.

One central part of my feeling like an outsider is that, admittedly, academia isn’t my whole life. I really enjoy watching baseball, baking cakes, recycled and vintage fashion, and learning new makeup tricks. I feel a sense of guilt that I spend time on these hobbies. I watch baseball almost every night and play in a fantasy league. I bake something every week. I really like dressing up and do that pretty much every day, along with my makeup. I also really enjoy talking with my friends from college about all sports, going to old car shows with my uncle, and preaching.

In reflecting on these things I like to do, I realized two things. One is that I’m actually pretty good at most of them (not to brag, just sayin’!). This didn’t happen overnight. And I enjoy the process enough that I have improved over time, and will continue to get better. My Fantasy team IS in first place this week. Again, just sayin’. Beyond skill level, each of these hobbies connects me to a person or group of people. I began to see that baseball has always connected me to my dad, who took me to my first game when I was five. I started really baking when I worked in Boston, and my students would stop in my office in between classes to say hello. It felt really nice to offer them a cupcake. My mom introduced me to fashion when I was little- and through my own journey with (a)sexuality, it has made me feel human in many spaces where sexuality is often assumed and projected. And I got into makeup because so many of the badass womxn I follow on social media or in my own life are such beautiful artists, and I wanted to learn from them. I work at the church on campus because I have the skills to hold someone in grief while staffing an event, to give directions while listening to a student, and take inventory of a storage closet while putting a Sunday bulletin together.

Through recognizing this piece of imposter syndrome, I also need to name that there have been times when others enforced this guilt. I’ve been told that baking is enforcing a gender box, and that if I didn’t spend so much time on my makeup I could be more productive. Actions speak even louder than words, and I’ll be real- there are some folx in my community that do not respect me, my identity, and want to exclude me. I don’t write this to call anyone out, but to make myself question when I have made someone feel unwelcome or insufficient. Because if nothing else, I want to be a fire that sparks others’ belief in themselves, not the sand that smothers.

While I’m at it, I’ll mention that the things I like to do also give me a different perspective. Whether it is welcome or not, I engage it because it is genuine to me. I’m learning that gratitude is really meaningful during this rocky time. I made a list of people in my life that are great. It’s a pretty big list! Which must mean something. Not to say I am great- but I recognize who gives me a feeling of gratitude for their continued presence. I am grateful to celebrate marriages and children and new jobs, and everyday wonder. I remind myself that I am enough, and that I want to help others remember that too.

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Saying Thanks to My Parents

It’s been a jetset weekend. On Thursday, I flew to Philly to watch my sister graduate from Drexel School of Medicine (THAT WENT FAST). On Saturday My parents and I jetted all the way back to LA to attend the Honoree Mass at my elementary school, Mayfield Junior School in Pasadena. I was very humbled to receive an award along with two of my favorite teachers- both women that played a significant role in making me stop messing around, and start taking school seriously. Honestly, they don’t look a year older than I remember. 
The mass began at 4 pm on Sunday in the gymnasium- the same gym where we won the 7th grade basketball finals, played tag and graduated. What an experience coming back after 15 years. As the mass closed, the headmaster called me up and offered me a beautiful bouquet of flowers. I knew what I wanted to say. Below is a version of my very brief remarks, and is especially dedicated to my parents. They’ve been the real jet setters and deserve a vacation. 

A photo my science teacher handed me (of me)

Thank you, what an incredible honor to return to MJS after quite a while!. It seems like yesterday I was in Mrs. D’Argenio’s second grade class making my first communion, or Mrs. Hermanson’s fourth grade class building my California mission project. As an avid baker, I built Mission Santa Cruz out of sugar cubes, but didn’t have the foresight to not leave it outside overnight. The next morning, it was clear that raccoons had promptly feasted upon the structure. I remember finishing the eighth grade with Mrs Holtsneider, studying what has come to be the work I love and will devote my life to- bringing people of all and no faiths together to know each other, learn from one another, and most importantly, to find common values and ways to work together. 
I need to address my parents because Mayfield is a school rooted in faith and family as the foundation to education, and they have been my and my sister Mallory’s foundation from the very beginning. Mallory just graduated from medical school, so if anyone needs surgery, she starts her surgical residency at Huntington hospital in less than a month. My parents, Liz and Dennis, taught me two things in the last 29 years, one of which I believe created a monster. You see even when Mallory and I experienced failure or roadblocks which we all do, they wouldn’t stand for it- they never told us “you’re not smart enough, you’re tall enough, you’re not fast enough…you can’t do that.” They asked what we needed, and how they could help. From this, we learned that in our work we should always be asking what we can provide and how we can help. 
My parents believed education would better us and help us achieve our goals, but that if we didn’t acknowledge our deep privilege in receiving an education and attempt to give others the same opportunities, that life would not be full of meaning and thus not worth living. When Mallory wanted to be an actress, my mom drove her to auditions. When I wanted to be a professional basketball player, my dad came to every game with me- all five foot four of me- to watch me play. When we both wanted to live in our education, to attend boarding schools, they found a way. They have read admissions essays and scholarship applications and listened to practice interviews, and helped us pick what to wear- all because they believed in us even if we felt unsure. 
They chose Mayfield because as we know, education is perhaps the greatest gift and right we have as human beings, and they wanted it to intersect with the other values in our family. I’m so honored for this award, and it is dedicated both to the steadfast teachers here at mayfield and everywhere, and to my parents for saying yes to any sentence that began with, “what if I tried…”
Thank you mom and dad. I love you.

Is Gratitude a Privilege?

…the short answer to the above question is yes, insofar as it concerns me and the following response.

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PC: Ian Schneider

I have been feeling a need to express more gratitude lately. Perhaps this is natural, given the climate, or the weather, or just exhaustion beyond explanation. Endorphins? Maybe the fact that Thanksgiving is this week? I’m not sure, but at the same time have been feeling a sense of frozenness, an inability to make decisions or take action. For the longest time, it felt like my perfectionism was acting up and I kept telling myself I would finish certain tasks (including emailing important people back, ehem) once I had drafted a thorough, complete response read over several times. The problem is, what does complete look like? What happens when we are never “ready?”

I was thinking about this question particularly in regard to learning allyship. At my university, we’ve been talking about best practices and how we can support students who are threatened and afraid. Do we wear the safety pins? Do we make public statements? How do we show up for each other in meaningful ways? So many uncertainties and yet, there is no time to seek the answer before something needs to be done. The time is NOW. Attempting perfection inhibits change and has encumbered me from supporting those who need to be held the most. So, as a white woman, I’m going to throw perfection out the window and trying to learn as I go. Is this dangerous? Yes. My “learning opportunities” can certainly be harmful. The damage is real. Taking action can, however, take the pressure off those I’d like to support, because waiting for complete knowledge around the “how” means the oppressed are tasked with figuring it out, and I sit and wait. We, human beings, are not perfect. We are inchoate. We are unfinished. And yet, we love and are loved.

This rambling comes in thinking about gratitude, to return full circle. One of my students challenged me about a month ago to do something every night: name one thing I appreciate about someone who otherwise gives me trouble, and name three things I love about myself. Can you guess which one is harder? In reality, it depends on the day. Every night, she has consistently reminded me to report my 1 and 3 to her, and in turn I ask her back. At first this practice seemed impossible. “He just makes me SO mad!” I thought, “How can I appreciate anything?” Moreover, putting aside self-loathing sounds simple but, of course the loathing is complicated. Slowly but surely, we have made progress together. Sure, some days still seem untenable- you know the ones. This past Friday, this student was in my office and we had a lengthy conversation about gratitude and what it really means.

As I understand now, gratitude requires faith in the imperfect. It means feeling thankful despite the suffering present in the world, in my life. It also requires mindfulness: a sense of feeling genuine in the present. When I feel grateful, I am not taking a backseat and determining that everything “will work itself out.” I am acknowledging that there are in fact slivers of hope, pieces of love to hold as we march into the darkness. I am grateful for the challenges, even if on certain days, they feel insurmountable to address. Gratitude is a call to action, not complacency- this is the difference between ignoring privilege and acknowledging it.