constellational thinker. critical educator.


Where my love, my activism, my musings, my labor, my career, my identities, and my life all meet.

Reflections from the 28th Rotation

With this post, it is official: doing a reflection on my birthday is now a tradition. Truly, it takes two to do the tradition(al) tango. It has been an incredible year, full of moves and movements, endings and beginnings. This time last year, I was starting to learn about PhD program possibilities and reflecting about who I wanted to be as a scholar. I was enjoying my longest vacation since starting my job and energized for what would ultimately become my last stretch of full-time work. I had just learned this time last year that an article was accepted to a journal and that it would be a year of blossoming for my academic labor. 

This year, I published in a journal and had the opportunity to write chapters in two books. I got to spend generative time with friends and family far and near. I started a PhD program at the University of Iowa and haven't looked back since, especially alongside the #Phab5. I ended on high notes in a full-time job. I stayed connected with the oldest and youngest people in my life (the ones I consider the wisest of all).  I read.  I danced.  I had a good time. 

As I've said previously, it is truly a gift to have a birthday the day before the end of the Gregorian calendar. For me, it is such a great time to think, to be reflective, and to think about the year ahead. So today, I offer 10 learnings, reflections, questions, and lessons I am taking with me into the next year. By no means exhaustive, this list represents those things I just can't let go of, those I've let go too soon and need to reclaim, and things I just need to let go. Also, if you scroll all the way down, I share some of my favorite mediums with which I engaged this year (e.g., books, podcasts, etc.). 

  1. A transition is hard and grace through it all is important. This year was the fourth major move of my life and I learned that grace for myself through transition is the most important part of all. Giving myself (physical, mental, spiritual) time to make new friends, say goodbye to old friends, begin new habits while not enforcing old ones are all critical. It continues to be important to be kind to myself and give myself time to adjust rather than rush in and have everything be concrete. 
  2. The PhD journey is humbling. Speaks for itself. 
  3. Counseling continues to be critical for me. Those who follow me on social media know the importance I place on my mental and spiritual health. I openly talk about finding a counselor, how counseling is going, and why it is so critical to attempt to de-mystify it. For marginalized bodies, there is a great history of abuse and dis-/mis-trust in the counseling profession. There have even been counselors who blame my being queer as the root of all my problems. As I left Michigan, I left an incredible counseling relationship and have not found a new one since, mainly due to lack of trying. I feel myself slipping back into old habits of "I don't need this" or "this can wait."  I do need it. I have the resources to find a counselor and looking forward to a new counseling relationship in 2018 in Iowa. 
  4. How much difference counts?  After the 2016 presidential election, I continued to hear calls for "we must listen now more than ever" and "we have to truly be engaged with those who are different than us." I continue to come back to this question because I continue to wonder how much different must one be? This isn't meant to be sardonic; it is sincere. Is this just code for our "political opposites"? Is this about finding people with completely different identities as us? As we enter a new year, I continue to think about my own profession's calls to "engage with difference" and how much counts as difference in both a qualitative and quantitative sense.
  5. Research is always political and critical research can be dangerous to do. It still must be done. 
  6. You don't get to "arrive" in life habits; they are ever-changing. One thing I continue to share with folks about the humbling of the PhD journey is just how much my habits and my day-to-day life are just so fluid. As someone who likes a mix of stability and fluidity, it astounds me how much more fluid I have had to be in this new phase of life.  Everything has to be on the table when considering where I invest my time and energy and where I don't.  One of the hardest things about this has been keeping in touch with family and friends. This has been difficult to renegotiate. As someone who highly values knowing what is happening in others lives and staying connected, for the first time in a long time I feel out of the loop in many peoples' lives, including those in my most inner of circles. As I enter a new year, it becomes critical for me to think about ways to anchor myself in connection while also letting go that I can be as connected to others as I was before.
  7. Most recently, I have come ahead with a question I think I know the answer to but want to marinate on more: How do I know I have been heard absent someone agreeing with me? Recently, someone gave me feedback that my definition of being heard sounds like someone must agree with what I am saying. At first I was shocked and horrified at that characterization and then, rather than shirking away from it, sat with it. Ultimately, I think there are ways in which I feel heard when people do not agree with me but I have yet to articulate those in a meaningful way to others. This is one of my tasks as I enter the 29th rotation.  
  8. Love, accountability, and anger are not opposites from one another. In fact, they need one another in order to be possible.  
  9. I can't rely on "pushing through" anymore. Ever since posting about it, people have asked me what I have learned and what, if anything, has changed. I have learned to put better boundaries around my time, about balancing yes versus no to things, and about how sometimes I still need to push through.  My relationship to time has changed and how I view as something finite in which to try and cram many things in versus now thinking about it as something to be cared for just as other aspects of my wellness should be cared for. More on this in a later post. 
  10. My gratitude for good friends and colleagues on this journey called life never waivers. I have learned from people far and near, who have been friends with me for many years and those I have just met. It continues to be critical to speak and enact my gratitude for those folks in life-giving, generous ways to attempt to fill them up just as they have filled me up. 

And as with last year, here are some of my favorite things from the year:

  • Seven Brief Lessons on Physics by Carlo Rovelli
  • The 1A Podcast (link)
  • Now Is the Time for 'Nobodies': Dean Spade on Mutual Aid and Resistance in the Trump Era by Sarah Lazare (link)
  • Racing to Justice: Transforming Out Conceptions of Self and Other to Build an Inclusive Society by john a. powell
  • Nancy podcast (link)
  • The Book of Joy by the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu
  • "The Heart is the Last Frontier" w/ Isabel Wilkerson via OnBeing (link)
  • The NPR Politics Podcast (link)
  • Coates and West in Jackson by Robin D. G. Kelley (link)
  • StoryCorps podcast (link)
  • Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities by Rebecca Solnit
  • "Radical Hope is Our Best Weapon" w/ Junot Díaz via OnBeing (link)
  • How to Reach Out to Someone Who is Struggling by Omid Safi (link)
Alex Lange