Momentum

An old piece with new meaning. Enjoy.

I felt it in my lungs,
the stirring of liberation.
Full-moon face presses
the breath of lavender
an unwinding of a venn diagram
awakens a life yet realized.
In an unfurnished studio apartment,
only toilet paper and a six pack
of beer. Giving up grapefruit
crystal nights would be a waste
of precious sky. I almost forgot
how to dance in glass sleeves.
Do you recall moving with
persimmon skin & honeycomb
kisses? To let the ocean
rise into this body is to begin
anew. At this week’s market
buy two dozen tulips the shade
of long-awaited spring.
And don’t apologize for the rain.
Return to the bend between
cheeks, the light of a three-wick
sunrise. Winter-weighed eyes
at four in the morning,
I have always dreamt enough for two.
The stomach is a sensitive spot
as nothing often pierces there.
The four of wands is a celebration.
The air is finally pure.

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The Cycle of Why

Sometimes, the irony in being an educator is that you are still learning the lessons that you work so hard to teach.

When I was an undergraduate, I taught a first-year seminar for two quarters for new students starting their first year at the University of Washington. It was one of my favorite experiences from college, where I had autonomy over designing the curriculum and structuring how I wanted my class to be. I got to have heartfelt conversations with students about their fears and excitement, provide support as students start to map their own trajectories, and ultimately, help students start to make-meaning out of their college years. It was an influential part of why I am where I am right now, sitting on a couch in Massachusetts and working on my capstone project for my master’s degree in higher education.

On the last day of class, I like to part my students with a copy of the following reading: https://markmanson.net/life-purpose I first got this reading from a former supervisor, and it has stuck with me since. I find myself sharing this reading from time-to-time, and I even find myself returning to it during moments of uncertainty. It’s ridiculous, humorous, and poignant – it has made me think and continue to reflect.

I gave it to my students because college can feel like being put into a pressure-cooker, constantly swimming through questions like: Am I choosing the “right” major? Will I be able to a get a job after graduation? Am I making the most out of my experience? How do I keep my grade up so that I can get that internship? How do I keep up with my peers? Why does it seem like everyone knows what they’re doing and I don’t? What is it that I’m meant or supposed to be doing? Does any of this matter?

The list goes on and on and on.

I felt the pressures myself, especially my own first year when I thought that I wanted to be a doctor. It was a career choice that made allowed me to serve others and seemed rewarding. At this time, I had a very limited scope of the possibilities out there. The desires soon dissipated when the realities of what being premed meant started to sink in and I realized that I had no motivations to actually pursue this path. Towards the end of my freshman year where I was left in a puddle of confusion and self-doubt. I have always known that I wanted to do something that would a) change the world and b) serve others. Talk about adding more pressure to myself than necessary. But what does that mean? What does that look like? And my 19-year old self asked: how do I find the answers by the time graduation comes around? I am beyond grateful to ultimately find my way in education and for the experiences that have led me to where I am right now.

Yet, still. I find myself returning to this article again today. Once I feel like I have things figured out, I find myself still wondering about where I am and where I am heading. As I help others and the students I work with find and make meaning from their experiences, I realize that I still am as well. It’s a humbling experience but something that brings people together as we all traverse our own unique journeys.

As the article emphasizes, I think that it’s important to continue to ask ourselves the question “What can I do with my time that is important?

Discovering one’s “purpose” in life essentially boils down to finding those one or two things that are bigger than yourself, and bigger than those around you. It’s not about some great achievement, but merely finding a way to spend your limited amount of time well. And to do that you must get off your couch and act, and take the time to think beyond yourself, to think greater than yourself, and paradoxically, to imagine a world without yourself.

I will spend a lifetime creating and finding meaning, and there is comfort in knowing that complacency is not an option for me. I feel rooted in my values and guided by the purpose that I have created for myself. Reading this article again, I find myself with new thoughts circling my head. While intentionally being vague about what I’m processing and why I feel the need to return to this article, I appreciate having this space to do so. Know that I, too, am still trying to figure it out and that it’s okay. I have trust and confidence in this process, and I hope you do too.

Thank You, 2018.

i welcomed the new year with fireworks
in the night of the city
not a sunset, but a sunrise
reflection of clouds over lakes
saying goodbye has become a ritual
now sending applications
for the promise of change
love is an intentional act
i really missed my family today
i felt myself bubbling
i said my final goodbye
for you, i’ll forever water this garden
i felt myself overflowing
recalibrate
yes to st. louis
what do i do with these feelings?
i danced empty in boston
the sixth month of winter
a workshop, i feel like a poet again
singing into the night
presentations in new hampshire
bike rides by the water in montreal
smiling with a full heart in the streets
halfway done
packing up another apartment
i cried in the home depot parking lot
temporary goodbyes
hello to st. louis
a little slice of home
an unforgettable summer
endless nights, new friendships
mr. bill brings me kindness in a cupcake
remember to take a deep breath
the best staff and students
more goodbyes
i will miss this
i am ready to return
in chicago, i found healing
my dreaming will get me into trouble
a new space with ghosts
i make it my own
first day, new job
rollerskating, i feel like a teenager again
i bring you my heart
talking points
vulnerability is
for you, the stars
brunch party celebrations
late night ice cream
late night ice cream
late night ice cream
a new semester,
i’m grateful
our little tent
times stands still by the sea
the first sunrise
pancakes & hammock naps
the smell of the ocean, am i home?
a foggy veil, we’ll be back
i can see it so clearly
productive days
making breakfast together
an act of hatred shakes me
and another one, and another one
am i strong enough?
love is a verb
the leaves are changing
stories on the drive to Albany
i am now twenty four
birthdays in brattleboro
deeper and deeper
beauty in the mundane
reunions in hoboken
stop saying sorry
i am moving forward
every step is movement
towards my becoming
talks about hopes & dreams
thirteen point one
late night ice cream
late night ice cream
presenting in rhode island
there are forces larger than me
the perfect exchange
julie, please be patient
home for the first time in ten months
returning to roots
i miss you
reunions & homecomings
the best has yet to come

Thank you, 2018 — for always bringing me what I needed, even though unclear in the moment. For a year of looking inward and uncovering what was always there, I am looking forward to continuing to move towards the direction of my own becoming. For the lessons of letting go, letting in, and letting be: these have shaped me in ways yet realized. To another year of living fiercely and loving boldly, let the endless love and light continue to shine.

For those interested: Thank you, 2017.

There’s No Place Like Hope: A Year in Reflection, 2018

This time last year, I predicted 2018 to be a year of building.

A year later, and I promise you, the buds and sprouts that have emerged are so beautiful.

This year has been marked by unyielding changes and building on the foundations of last year: From the challenges of a cross-country move, I’ve made Massachusetts my home. From the restlessness of routine, I spent the entire summer in a new city in a different area of the country. From the darkness of losing my grandma, I found strength in what she has left behind in me. From the drive for self-growth, I’ve had job changes and new apartment moves. From the spirit for adventure and hunger for seeing the beauty of this world, I’ve had incredible trips to many new and wondrous places. From turbulence, fear, and uncertainty, I’ve found unconditional support, courage, and confidence.

While change has been a major theme of 2018, another theme radiates: hope.

I have found that hope is the precursor to change. For me, hope has never been about a defined set of expectations or desire for something specific to happen. It’s not about wanting a certain outcome or wishing something to fruition. It’s not naive optimism or ad nauseam positivity.

Hope is a feeling of trust.

If there is something that I have learned this year, it’s to have trust. It’s trust in those around me and trust in what this life will bring me, but most importantly, trust in myself. It’s trust in that I have what it takes and that I am the creator of this experience – trust in my strength and that everyday brings opportunities for growth and learning. It’s having trust in all these changes.

There were many moments this year where hope shines through: the thought in my grandparent’s reunion in whatever life comes after this one, standing on a balcony outside of Emerson watching the rain together in the spring, saying yes to a summer in a new and unfamiliar city, packing up yet another home for a new one, sending conference proposals and article submissions, or being prepared with talking points.

I’ve learned and grown in ways unimaginable. I’ve had setbacks. I wasn’t always the best version of myself but I’ve used those moments to improve. Change and growth is continuous and non-linear. I hope to continue learning and growing into the new year. I am not alone in this. I am so lucky to have so many around me that I know I can lean on. And a lot of this, I’ve learned because I did not have the courage to have trust. The thread of this vast universe weaves in a way that has always brought me to where I needed to be, and I am continually grateful.

To that, I wholeheartedly thank you, 2018. For bringing me to this very moment, I am so grateful. I can’t wait for all next year brings, for I lean with my heart, hope, and trust into 2019.

Movement

like so –

the inner chaos we weather within weary hearts and

the promise of change that stirs in the depths of tomorrow and

the weaving of memories that aren’t ours tangled tightly still

breathe in us the choice in peace

i do not apologize for the moon tonight

the shortest distance between two points is a straight line

but in pursuit of a life on fire 

i look back fondly on the twists and detours and bends and turns

and the return – 

excuse me, my dear, for I have paused to breathe in the salt air –

forget blue skies

tongues out in hope of rain and in turn, a waterfall

reminding us: don’t mistake a dance for a battle

in healing ourselves in this present moment

we are connected to the those healed in the past 

and those to be healed in the future 

what a gift to slow down

take a step back 

to let go is to unburden yourself

to forgive yourself unheavy 

to detach from the the illusory and unrefined

the love that you send from that body

out is a movement to  the stars

and even when the world stands still

under the yawn of the hibiscus tea-hued sunset

only when i feel your heartbeat against my hand

do i remember the ease in exhaling 

vulnerability

vulnerability is —

leaning into the uncertainty
admitting you don’t understand
traveling somewhere new
lonesome meals in public spaces
crying in front of others
a wring in the chest
the heart in motion
a first-time bedroom tour
my poetry shared
falling into the hands of the midnight sky
whispering your name into the ears of tomorrow
love notes scribbled on cafe napkins
eyeglasses left behind on kitchen tables
sharing last night’s dreams
dancing in a well-lit room
songs, on repeat, until morning light
first dates
second dates
wearing bold lipstick
high heels during low times
watching the moon together
the moment before a kiss
tulips from youth’s garden
your look into my bare face
accepting fear
allowing grace
waiting
saying yes
saying no
saying i miss you
letting go
letting in
letting in
letting in

And it’s the upswing.

I was in search of a reset or a restart button for a while, and thought that summer would be the answer to what I was looking for. I thought that if I wake up one morning in a new city and welcome a new day looking full-heartedly ahead — then nothing can bring me down, right?

But in the midst of moving to a new city and starting a new job, life was also intertwined with all the things that still needed tending back in MA. From unfinished research papers to forgotten book reviews to summer projects to all the other things on a long to-do list, I couldn’t really let everything go and start anew like I had so longingly romanticized.

As the demands of work started to ramp up and I found myself working long overtime hours and weekends, I found little-to-no time for myself. Even though I love my work and where I’m at — both in the physical location-sense and metaphorical-sense, it didn’t make things any easier. And it was especially difficult as the emotional fatigue started to set in, tending to the concerns of my staff and students. No long did it feel like I was simply climbing mountains, rather I felt as if I was carrying a mountain until I could feel myself sinking from the weight. I was perpetually tired and running on fumes.

I found my resiliency tested. Every roadblock no longer felt like something I could handle on my own, rather it felt crushing. It was a lesson that I had to (re)learn: burn out is real.

Nearly every single human in my life was telling me to be sure to take care of myself, to say no to obligations that I couldn’t add to my plate, or find some down time. Though I know it’s coming from a place of good intention and love for me, I actually hated hearing this. I would actually feel my stomach churn as I think “I’m trying!! Don’t you think I know this already?!” I would then proceed to feel even worse than I did before about “failing at taking care of myself” especially when it’s something that I pay careful attention to.

My thinking was completely irrational. My anger was misplaced. But I think that the past few weeks of stress has muddled my brain a bit (a lot). And they were right: I needed to to care for myself.

As summer is settling in, I’m learning to tend to my heart and tend to this mighty body of mine. I’m learning that caring for yourself is not a grandiose gesture or an overindulgent weekend dedicated to “treating yourself” (though, it doesn’t hurt). It’s allowing myself to take an hour nap for the first time in weeks. It’s making time to schedule phone calls or a FaceTime conversation. It’s remembering to take my multivitamins every morning. It’s an evening face mask for the joy of it or an afternoon cold brew because well, we all know how much I love coffee. It’s unraveling each knot in this twisted brain of mine, one string at a time.

It’s also giving myself some grace and being patient with myself. It’s being okay with asking for patience from others as I work through this mental roadblock. It’s being okay with not being okay for a little bit. It’s being okay with sitting in discontent and uncertainty. It’s breathing out the negativity, and breathing in the sweet summer air. It’s finding time to be thankful for all that I have. It’s finding time to tell the people in my life “I love you” and “thank you for being there”. It’s caring for myself so that I can care for others.

And already I feel so much better. Especially as I start to check the things off on my to-do list (it’s still long…but not quite as long!), I feel the grip of my tendency to overcommit loosen quite a bit. I’m able to get a taste of the fruits of my labor, and it’s exciting. The research project that I have worked all year on is *finally* completed and hopefully it will lead to a published research article in an academic journal as well as an article in a well-respected higher education publication! This conference proposal is also *finally* submitted and I’m optimistic about hearing good news in August (fingers crossed). I’m hopefully going to finish this book review this week, and fingers crossed about that being published as well. I’m speaking some things into existence, because, well, I can use a little extra bit of support from the universe.

It’s the upswing, y’all.

I’m already past the midway point of my summer internship in St. Louis (how?!), and can feel the routine easing in. I love the work that I do with my students, and my staff reminds me every day how lucky I get to work with such a talented group of students full of dedication and such heart for what they do. The second half of my internship means we’re entering the time of celebrations and finishing strong together. And only six weeks left in St. Louis, I’m working through my bucket list even more rapidly — making sure to visit all the places and eat all the foods. I’m thinking about weekend trips to Chicago. I’m thinking of days I’ll spend climbing and exploring the Ozarks. I’m thinking of all the memories I’ve already made in this Midwestern city that I’ve grown quite attached to.

I’m already preparing to buy my flight back to Massachusetts. I’m Skyping with my adviser this week to talk about classes and plans in the fall. I’m thinking about my new job that starts pretty much the minute I head back east. I’m thinking of what’s coming ahead, but I’m not letting that overwhelm me.

I’m focusing on the right now.

I’m easing myself into all that I do. I’m forgiving myself for the times in which I could have been more patient, more understanding, more rational, more anything. I’m forgiving myself for not being kind enough to myself. I’m giving myself grace for trying and for having heart. I’m finding myself really thankful for the right now, and for today. And I’ll remain thankful for every today I get.

Fourth Room

As I’m packing up my fourth room in just one year, I am in disbelief.

This time last year, I was still living in the blue house with the red door in the lovely Ravenna neighborhood of Seattle with seven of my best gals. With graduation around the corner, I was brazen in my happiness and unabashedly living my best life.

Here I am swimming in boxes (again) to simultaneously prepare for my departure to St. Louis in <57 hours and for my move into my new apartment when I return in August. Though my excitement palpable, there’s also a consistent thread of turbulence that was unfelt this time last year. From Seattle to North Carolina back to Tacoma to Massachusetts, it’s both easy and hard to articulate how transitional this past year has been.

Packing for me is generally is a process that I leave until the last possible moment (ahem, like right now) and usually manifests itself in one of two ways: (1) I shove anything and everything into random boxes, squish the box flaps until everything “fits”, and then cross my fingers that unpacking won’t be too much of a headache later. (This was me moving out of my house in Seattle, where my parents pulled up in a truck expecting to readily load everything but I was still frantically running around shoving rain jackets into boxes full of books. Insert shrug emoji here.) OR (2) I meticulously go through every photo, every ticket stub, every receipt to make sure that each item has an appropriate home in an neatly labeled box. Melodramatic to the core and to a fault, I hold on to everything.

(2) is me right now.

It is remarkable to see how much I have accumulated in merely nine months. I downsized when I moved to Massachusetts, bringing with me only a couple of suitcase and some boxes shipped. And here I am likely having to go to Home Depot for the third time to get more boxes. Nine months ago, I barely knew anyone and had all these wild ideas about what my life was going to look like.

Though I still have wild ideas, much has changed since then. I am so thankful for all that the past nine months have given me. In particular, I am thankful for the people. For those who take reckless road trips with me, who offer to drive me to the airport countless times, who write me encouraging messages on days I have interviews, who drop me off care packages during rough times, who let me cry in their car and offer to buy me cheese ravioli to make me feel better, who will sing duets with me at karaoke, who support me and my writing, who allow me the honor of sharing in their stories and their lives, and more. And of course, I’m forever thankful for my loved ones back home. For all the three hour FaceTime calls to handwritten letters to random text messages to surprise packages — how lucky am I.

Amherst has sometimes been a difficult place for me love. I’ve struggled more times than I would care to admit this past year. Rebuilding a life in a new place isn’t easy.

But I’m happy to be here. I know that I’m here for a reason, and I know that the people are a part of that. I have many reflections and emotions at the moment to share, but I think the most important one is the gratitude in my heart.

Tomorrow, some of the best friends I’ve made in my program are graduating. I worry about not having them here with me next year. It’s my last day of my job where my coworkers have truly made the experience what it is. I’ll miss them, the role, and all the laughs in the “grad pad”. But things are changing — and they’ll continue to change. I can only look forward, and I’m happy to do so knowing that I have such love right by my side.

Blue Skies

I’m looking up.

The sun reaches across the sky to meet the equator once again to bring us a day when day and night are at equal length. Soon, we’ll find ourselves sun kissed and ocean held. Hold on to longer days for the sun ready for her return. Are you ready?

This morning’s light, blinding. My dear, I know this winter has sunk into your skin. You’ve protected yourself heavy. But trust the sliver of radiance that comes your way. How can I trust it? It’s been so cold tonight. But do not run away from it. Be thankful for that life that has always been marked by rosebuds and water and mountains and dirt underneath your fingernails. Day seems to stretch itself just for you.

Through the barren and chill, I’m wearing spring on my face. I am ready. Fresh tulips sit on the dining room table. Shed away the layers until I feel the lightness of being. It’s time to leave those feelings behind. Open the windows of my heart. Let the air in. Blue skies are coming.

For you, a garden.

When my grandpa passed away four years ago, I clearly remember the soft tenderness with which my grandma looked into the face of my grandpa and said that it won’t be long until she’ll be reunited with him again one day.

As overwhelming and painful it has been to process, yesterday I found out that she and my grandfather were finally together again.

Grief is not systematic. Yet, I desperately try to treat it as such. I’ve tried to reason my way through my emotions to maintain some semblance of control. I am learning to sink into these emotions. I am learning let go of the shield that I carry over me at all times in the name of self-preservation. I am allowing myself to not have to justify how I feel. I am allowing the complexities of everyday life bleed into grief.

The knots that I feel deep in my stomach is something that I have not been able to shake today. The numbness that has distracted me so far is wearing off. The anger that I feel for being across the country away comes in waves. The longing to be with my family, persistent.

I am unable to adequately articulate just how much my grandma, and my grandparents mean to me — how they have shaped my life in the most foundational ways. I feel their love to my very core.

One of the most vivid stories that I constantly return to was when I learned that my grandfather was a political prisoner for thirteen years during the Vietnam War, enduring lost years and suffering for standing up for his beliefs. And as a result, my grandma spent all those years without her partner and left to raise a family by herself as a war tears apart the place she called home. I always think about the strength, courage, and compassion that guided their lives even in the face of unknown and uncertainty.

My grandparents carried with them a love that transcended surviving lost years from a war, crossed an ocean in order to build a new life in a new country, manifested itself in four children (+ four children-in laws) and nine grandchildren. It has been made palpable in memories and laughter and birthday celebrations and Sunday family lunches. I choose to believe that it has transcended all the suffering and hardships of a lifetime, where they find each other again in whatever the afterlife brings.

For both grandparents, in their last few months, their dementia overcame them where they could no longer remember who I was. And even though they couldn’t say anything back, I always held their hands and looked into their eyes to say I love you. And I always knew that they love me too, even when it isn’t verbalized.

Because their love has manifested in the summers spent at their house in the backyard garden soaking up sunshine. In the times when grandpa would take us cherry-picking around the neighborhood. In the comfort of grandma’s home-cooked meals. In the way grandpa picked me up from preschool and we would ride the city bus together. In my grandma’s bold laughter and presence. In the way grandpa sat at his favorite spot on the couch near the door to greet us when we entered, with the wired-rimmed glasses hugging his face and a book in his hand. In the way grandma watched us as we rode bikes in the front yard in their neighborhood. In the way grandma would allow us to lay in her bed when we were kids to watch early morning cartoons before school. When I stopped by my grandparents’ house before my high school graduation ceremony, and even though my grandpa couldn’t speak and too weak to attend —  he cried as he hugged me. In every time they told they were proud of me, whether it was a 100% on a worksheet in the 1st grade or being the first one in the family to go to college.

And I’ll hold so tightly to that love and how much they believed in me. My grandparents truly believed that I could move the stars and the skies, that I can one day change this world. So much so, that sometimes I am wild enough to believe it myself.

Today in Massachusetts, it is storming. The streets are flooding with rain and the winds relentless. And as I cry for her today, the earth does the same.

And the garden that promises to grow from rain, I dedicate that to you.