3, 2, 1…2018, You’re Done!

Alright, 2018. As Nicole Byers would say, “ya done!” I think it’s difficult to say whether this year was “good” because there were some direly terrible, awful moments. And, I feel thankful for several people and communities that worked against all odds and supported one another. Despite the heartbreaking news we encounter every day, I do want to shout out the people that made good happen. Think about the activists, writers, teachers, artists, religious leaders, small business owners, athletes, entertainers, and others who took the time to teach and to listen. Especially people of color, women, queer and trans folx, disabled folx, immigrants, and folx whose native language is not English. To everyone who truly learned from their mistakes, that’s awesome.

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I saw so many awesome achievements and fearless actions, including a friend’s recent trip to the border to protest. Two close friends got engaged and another friend took a backpack to travel the world. Another friend finished a masters degree and got a sick job. And another started teaching Spanish and has been asked several times to be a model teacher for others just starting. My students improved their writing and one won a national championship. Scholars I admire wrote books that called out white supremacy, racism and sexism through their work and encouraged me to do the same. I witnessed pain, anger, frustration, loss, and the subsequent fight to find some joy despite it all.

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Before I offer my (partial) list of yays and face palms and resolutions, I want to reflect on one thing. I’ve seen many end of the year messages and posts that suggest we should cut people out of our lives who are toxic, that we must let go of those who are not ready to love us, and that those who cannot appreciate us for our flaws need to go home. I completely agree with these messages, and I wonder how, in this new year, we can hold more accountability for ourselves too. I struggled- I mean STRUGGLED- this year with balancing how to hold space for a friend or colleague or family member who needed to dump their emotions and saying no to holding that space because I didn’t have the capacity. How do we work through our own stuff while utilizing our support networks without emotionally dumping? This year I want to explore accountability of emotions. I think through my own work, I can be a better support and resource for my people.

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Yays:

-Met so many amazing people working to end the suffering of others

-Finished my first year in a PhD program when I said so many times I couldn’t

-Received three grants and launched Golden State Sacred, our project documenting the religious history of California

-Finished a tough mudder

-Presented for the first time at several conferences- and most importantly, lived into the nerves!

-Saw my body as strong and deserving, rather than overweight and lacking

-Got to be on an awesome podcast with one of my academic and activist heroes, and realized that I value a commitment to learning and listening perhaps more than anything

-Published a short story, an article, and a few contributions to publications I really believe in

-Learned so much about my home state through the graciousness of communities and individuals who helped me

-Helped create a public history project that brought scholars, artists and activists together

-Spent time with my family and my best friends, even if it meant I stayed up real late finishing my work to be at the Coliseum or Dodger Stadium

-Took student feedback seriously and improved my teaching (and got really lovely student reviews)

-Asked for help when I needed it (and definitely need to keep working on this one)

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Face Palms (not really. But I think being vulnerable and sharing mistakes is really helpful):

-Exhibited stubborn behavior when I should have listened and acknowledged that my actions were harmful, especially as a white woman

-Stayed silent when I needed to speak out

-Took my frustration out on baristas and other workers when it was entirely not their fault my day was not going the way I wanted

-Failed to tell my therapist a few things right away because I felt shame

-Missed opportunities to communicate with people I don’t get to see or talk to every day (forgetting to text back)

-Let guilt guide my actions instead of letting go and stating my needs

-Lived into the narrative that I am not smart enough or qualified for academia because my path is different

-Allowed the patriarchy to get me down

 

My Resolutions:

-Exhibit ally behavior for indigenous and disabled individuals and communities and appreciate when someone takes the time to teach me.

-Write fearlessly.

-Tell people when I don’t have emotional capacity to hold space (and, recognize my own issues in asking for space).

-Treat my body as a gift that deserves care- instead of working out as punishment, treating working out as a gift of time, stress relief and celebration.

-Communicate more directly (even if it seems mean).

-Put my body and words on the line for the communities that do not hold the privilege I do.

-Build relationships without using English as a medium.

-Keep baking.

-Tell my friends and family when they do something fantastic.

Happy New Year, y’all! May the internet continue to save us in humor and real talk.

 

 

2018

I’m going to start with failure.

At the Museum of Ice Cream

It’s so important to recognize and even cherish failure when it brings change. Admittedly, that is much easier said than done for me. I loathe admitting failure because of shame. But, sometimes looking at failure can put success in better perspective.

I wasn’t direct with people who upset me or made me feel excluded, even though I believe their intentions were not to make me feel this way. Much more importantly, I failed to call out racism, sexism, religious bigotry, and other forms of oppression that I witnessed.

I got rejected from two writing fellowships and received quite a few rejections for writing pieces that I submitted. Every single one felt like a punch in the face. Honestly, every single one made me want to throw my computer, quit this blog, and decide I’m simply not a writer and this pain could be avoided and forgotten.

I gained 15 pounds. This isn’t the failure, however- the failure was my ability to accept my body as it is and instead of focusing on health and wellness, I spent more than a night sobbing about my pants feeling too tight, my face looking more round, or my hips being too wide. I let myself feel unloved and not enough because of my body. At certain points it was excruciating and all I could do for comfort was bake or develop a guilt-ridden relationship with exercise.

I spent way too much money.

I wasn’t supportive when I needed to be, especially in a year that saw DACA ended and rights to healthcare and identity compromised.

I learned that my academic writing is…rusty, to say the least. I didn’t utilize all the office hours or meetings that I could have to improve my projects because honestly, I felt intimidated and overwhelmed.

That’s only a sampling. The good news is, after some of these failure I felt an urge to write “but” or “nevertheless…I persisted.”

I told someone directly that their actions harmed me by assuming ownership of my body and personal space. My heart pounded through the entire conversation. Afterward, I felt a mixture of guilt and pride. Currently, I feel much more pride for working on standing up for myself. In the same light, I learned who my friends are and how important it is for love to include both encouragement and honesty about times you screw up.

I actually did publish a few pieces online. I left my comfort zone and wrote fiction, which is still a work in progress but allowed me to see how creative (and downright weird) my mind can be. I got two academic papers accepted to conferences. My best accomplishment: I wrote a blog every single week, which means The Practivist has lived on through a year and a half.

Though my body looks and feels different, I asked it to do pretty strenuous things. I ran a half-marathon and a fill marathon, training in sometimes frigid temperatures. I met some amazing women at a writing retreat in New Mexico who helped me shape a new perspective about body and enough ness. At the same retreat, I called myself a writer and basked in the glory of an all-women space.

I left a job that I loved, saying goodbye much too hastily to students that taught me and inspired me. My chaplain colleagues held me through a time of incredible pain, and celebrated with me as I made an important transition.

My partner and I drove across the country and faced realities about our country that were difficult to accept, including a downright terrifying moment involving the police. When we settled back in Los Angeles, we spent the summer enjoying our city together. I watched him gently yet firmly climb out of mourning into thriving in his art, work, and teaching. While we know grief lasts a very long time, joy has found him again.

Recently, I got word that my application for a fellowship grant was accepted for a dream project. While I know this project would move forward even without the grant, I found myself crying at the kitchen table after I hung up the phone without full understanding of the origin of these tears. As I type this, I realize they represented success. Not just because someone else believed in me, but because I believed in a vision enough to make myself vulnerable for it.

No resolutions this year, except the Revolution. Happy 2018.