The Long Game: Teaching as a Career, Not Just A Job

So, here’s an honest confession:  I’m feeling really burnt out this school year. I’m tired. I’m so tired that it’s 9 o’clock on a Tuesday, I’m having a drink, and I honestly cannot come up with some pretty introduction to this post. After staring at the white screen of my computer for a few minutes, the only thought running through my mind is that I’m really freakin’ tired right now.

There’s a whole host of reasons why this is true. I’ve completely changed my workout schedule, and the hours I put in at the gym have admittedly made it difficult for me to do, well, anything at the end of the day.

Still, I think I’m finally starting to understand what it means to teach as a career, not just as a job.

For the first time, I’m in my third consecutive year (fifth year overall) in the classroom and, frankly, at any job I’ve ever had. This is the first time I’ve stayed at a position this long. I’m a little like the bachelor who has jumped from relationship to relationship and finally decided to stick with someone past the honeymoon phase.

Honestly, that’s what the past two years have felt like– the honeymoon phase. I loved every minute of my job. I was always thinking of ways to try something different and new. Just like in the first few months of a relationship, I was eager to spend all my time focused on impressing my partner(s) and giving them the best.

Don’t get me wrong, I am still eager to give my students my best, and I still love my job. But after two years it’s much easier to become complacent with the routine of your classroom. You’re able to read the room better. You run into similar problems and pitfalls from the years before. Yes, the kids are different and wonderful and marvelous in their own way, but it’s easy to rest on your laurels and continue on your merry way down the path you forged for two years.

Just like any relationship, though, I am fighting stagnancy and complacency as much as I can. I don’t want to end up getting so burnt out and bored doing this work that I forget all the reasons I returned to the classroom in the first place.

Here are a couple of things I am trying to do in order to make sure I stay sharp.

  • I am reflecting on my work as often as I can. My school allows teachers to conduct academic research as part of our workload. This year, I am researching how narrative writing affects identity development, and taking a critical eye to my practice will help me improve it in the future. Caveat: you have to ensure that you actually make time for this. I failed to set aside time at the beginning of the quarter and am having to play catch up now.
  • I am extending my work as much as I am capable. This sounds crazy (and frankly, is a little bit) since teachers are busy enough as it is,  but it also allows me to connect with other educators and, again, consider my own practice.  Beyond writing for EdWeek, I’m still a Hope Street Group Fellow and now working as a community manager for Sevenzo, awesome education incubator. Does this mean less quiet, sitting-around time? Sure, but by putting myself in spaces with innovative and inspired teachers, it helps me make sure I feel that way myself.
  • I am spending less time online. Now, I had mixed feelings about sharing this one, because I think the time I spent in online spaces like EduColor is what helped me return to the classroom and helps me be a better teacher to begin with. That said, I have spent the large majority of my life operating in mostly digital spaces. This is the first year I’ve really felt involved at a more face-to-face level as an educator, and I’ve been trying to be a better friend/partner in the physical world. A lot of my life last year, if I’m honest, revolved around doing a thing for the photo op. Now I’m just… doing it. It is new and, frankly, exhilarating. I still want to return and engage more in the digital space (I miss my people!), but this has been a new avenue of my life to learn to balance in.
  • I am trying to make space for and be kind to myself. This is the hardest one. When you first enter into a relationship, you end up losing yourself in it. You want to spend all your time with it; you every waking moment feels devoted to it. That’s how I felt about teaching when I re-entered the classroom. That’s no way to have a healthy relationship with anyone (or anything), though. I am trying to make sure I still am a person outside my classroom with the fitness and making space for human relationships and the acting. The next one should say, “with the writing,” but I’ve been horribly slow on that front.


It admittedly hasn’t been an easy road. Yet as I sit here finishing up this post on a Wednesday morning while my 7th graders do their own freewriting, I am reminded just how blessed I am to be around these kids who consistently make me feel hopeful.

In a world that has been increasingly more frustrating, my students have been the anchor that makes me feel sane. They are a reminder that I am playing the long game– it’s not just about surviving this day but building a relationship with them that hopefully helps them make the world a little less frustrating in the future.



Being a Woman in Trump’s America

This piece originally ran in Education Week.

I was going to start this piece off detailing some story of my own sexual assault(s) and harassment(s). I was going to start launch in, like I often do, with what it felt like: the way the pit in your stomach forms into a hard, cold stone. Your blood turns icy with fear. Everything stops moving for a second– it’s the adrenaline flooding your system. It courses through you in an instant as your brain very quickly registers that something jarring is happening to your body, and you become hyper aware in a way that you never want to.

Then, I realized two very sad facts.

First, I would have to choose an incident. Like most women, I face some kind of harassment or provocation on a near-daily basis. From what some mistakenly refer to as “minor” incidents like being catcalled when I walk somewhere to the multiple times where I have been physically grabbed or touched in ways I did not want.

To be a woman in America (and far too often, worldwide) is to understand that you exist in a space where your body not yours at all. It is a thing to be coveted, ogled, commented on. It is appraised. At best, my body is protected as “someone else’s goods,” instead of having an agency and will all its own. As such, there have been multiple times where that mindset has manifested itself into acts of harassment or violation against me.

Second, as I was crafting this piece in my head, a voice popped up saying, “That’s too cliché. Everyone is responding to this by sharing the details of their assault. It’s already overplayed.”

And isn’t that sad?

I had never planned to delve into politics with my writing. Of course, education lends itself to understanding and discussing points of policy and implementation. With the exception of acknowledging the election and giving my students space to voice their opinions, however, I rarely make clear political stances in my classroom. I try my best to remain neutral.

Recently, however, that has been increasingly difficult. Not because I inherently disagree with a political stance taken by one candidate, or the tax plan of another doesn’t make sense. It’s because, as a nation, we are witnessing the source, symptoms, and consequences of a culture in America that normalizes assault. We are seeing what happens when generations of men are taught that their masculinity is best portrayed in the toxic guise of “locker room talk” machismo that glorifies ownership of women. We are reaping the ramifications of women who have allowed that talk as “boys being boys.”

Here’s the thing: many of us have been saying that we don’t want to live in a “Trump’s America,” or “Trump World.” When it comes to rape culture, however, we are not seeing something created by a single man, we are seeing a political candidate embody a mindset that has permeated our culture for decades. To be a woman in “Trump’s America,” is actually realizing that a culture that has commodified your body now has a megaphone headed towards the throne.

I do not believe it is my place as an educator to sway my students politically towards a particular candidate. I adamantly believe in teaching my students to think critically, help them see injustice, and then allow them to make their own decisions.

Still, as a woman who stands in front of young people– women or men– every day, I cannot keep allowing these beliefs to perpetuate without teaching our students to question the source, symptoms, and consequences of that culture. If it is important to teach our students to critically question the world we live in, that includes not just the politics of our candidates, but the cultures they seek to create as well.

To be a female teacher, or any teacher, in America means teaching that this kind of message–one where our men are taught violence is power and our women accept that as the status quo– must not continue. We must teach our students to hear, understand, and ultimately dismantle those beliefs before another generation of women has to worry that their assaults is a cliché to begin with.

So educators, now is the time.

Start simply, “What do you think of the current scandal around Donald Trump?” Listen to your students. Critically question why they think what they do. Give them space to be angry if they feel that way.

Talk with your students not just about the horrible anti-Islam, anti-immigrant rhetoric spewed (Teaching Tolerance has a number of excellent resources). Teach your students about rape culture and why it’s wrong.

In a world where it is easy for hatred and ignorance to spew and grow and gain an audience, I cannot think of a more important time to be an educator. To be an educator today is to allow and invigorate the tough conversations that won’t just make for interesting classroom discussion, but could help ensure positive change for generations to come.


Everything Ends: Bold Moves at 29

9/28, 11:30 P.M.

So, over the past few weeks the intensity of which I live my life has ramped up quite a bit. And that’s normal for September, I suppose. I’ve written before that I often enter my birthday season feeling spent, and this year seems to be no exception.

The main different, however, is that I’m a bit more of a writer-for-hire this year (I really want to say, “hired gun,” but I googled the actual history of the term and realize that, no, I am not doing anything illegal for anyone). Before, anything that floated across my mind ended up here or in previous tumblrs, completely for myself. Now, much of my time is spent writing for other people– which I love. I am immensely grateful that EdWeek or Sevenzo, among others, care about my words. 

Still, it means that the majority of my written-self ends up focused on other topics or other people. So, I’m trying to implement a little space to myself tonight. Yes, it means putting another piece on hold, but I think it’s important. 


I’m turning 29 in about a week. Normally, I spend my birthday trying to think about what I want to accomplish in the next year, how I can grow and change as a human, I reflect on what I need to do better.

This year, I’m sitting looking at the blank screen, and I got nothing.

Not that I don’t think I have things I need to do better in, just that the fact that I made it here in one piece is still so baffling that moving beyond that hasn’t even crossed my mind. When I try to divine what’s in the future, it’s a misty haze of exhaustion, a to-do list, and the ever-present wondering if I’ve eaten today or not.

Last year around my birthday, I clicked a link on Faceboook to read my horoscope. I don’t particularly follow horoscopes– I find them amusing as the next girl and do feel like I embody the general qualities of a Libra. For 2016, it talked about “major life changes.”

Excellent! I thought. I was so sure I knew exactly what that meant. While I was trying to “read the waves” and “go with the flow” last year, I had a clear trajectory for what my life would look like for at least the next few years. I didn’t just have an idea, I knew it. I saw the life I would live over the next few years, and all the salient details– the who and where, the things we would build and create– were there.

And now, I got nothing.

No, I jest for the sake of narrative rhythm. What I mean is that, instead of the life plan, a few months later, I walked away. I looked at the map I had made for myself and realized it wasn’t going where I wanted it to. So, I set it down and started to make a new one.

And now I’m entering 29 and I no longer have that same life plan. While there are elements of stability in my life, I don’t have clear cut answers to questions like, “Are you staying in Hawaii forever?” or “So, what’s next for you?”

I. have. no idea.

And, frankly, I’m so caught up jumping from one project to the next that I haven’t even had time to be upset about that, which is probably okay.

Here’s the thing I realized while running the Kauai marathon earlier this month: everything ends. The hill you are struggling to climb over eventually ends. The pain you feel when we grieve for what was lost eventually ends.

That said, even most good things come to an end. My high school English teacher once reminded us (with a cynical but loving gleam in his eye– he loved antagonizing my ‘Pollyana-esque’ optimism) that even every relationship you are ever in but one (theoretically) will eventually end. We will have to leave jobs we love. We lose people.

In some ways, that used to freak me out. It wasn’t simply the fact that every ended, but the fact that I didn’t know when it would end. The end would hit me like a ton of bricks, and I wouldn’t be ready. I tried to course-correct by doing everything I could do figure out my end, to try and tell the story myself so that I could craft the exact correct ending at exactly the right time.

That’s not how the world works, though. We don’t get executive producer credits or final edits on our life’s script. All we can do is handle each page we’re given with grace and work through it the best we can.

The thing is, there’s something beautiful about that. Once you surrender to the  fact that you cannot control the outcome, you are free to relish what you have now. The end will come, you know it will come, you know it might hurt– but what is there to do about it? You can either worry about the end or enjoy the present moment for what it is.

There is also something to be said about making space for new things. I wrote last year:

…My exhaustion, my emptiness, isn’t a sign of lacking. This year, and hopefully from now on, it is a sign of preparation for the new. We cannot fill a cup that is already full.

I come to a new year of life completely spent: I have tried to give my words, my voice, my work to my classroom and loved ones. I have tried to ensure that I don’t refuse new lessons because I am so full of old ones that may no longer serve me. Instead of  feeling full and satisfied, I quite like the idea of coming into a new year on earth empty and open: there is a hunger in my belly that is still not satisfied. I am excited to spend another year filling it again.

Things are no different this year. It’s a terrifying thought sometimes, but I now see that this concept may begin to apply to my life plans too.

Recently, my father made an exciting new life decision. When he was on the fence about it, he mused, “You know, it was a bold move for your grandparents to move from the Philippines and Mexico to here. It was a bold move for them to come to LA, and a bold move when we brought you guys to Orange County.” He smiled, “It was a bold move when you came to Hawai‘i.” He was thoughtful for a moment, before saying, “We’re a family of bold moves. Maybe it’s time for another one.

I smiled, because I was so proud of my dad for having the bravery and strength to change his plans and adapt. I was inspired, too. Yes, it’s great to plan for life goals, and I never want to stop doing that. But I never want to be so married to the plan that I don’t make space for bold, exciting moves in my life. I don’t want to lose sight of the fact that it is never too late to scrap the map and do it better than you ever dreamed.

So, as 29 looms near (which I’m sure I’ll write more about), I’m excited to watch as my twenties come to an end. Is it a little scary? Sure. But it’s exhilarating that accept that the end will come no matter what, so my only job is to enjoy it while I can before making the next big, bold move.



The Sweetness of Surrender: Kauai Marathon 2016

It’s been far too long (over two weeks!) since I ran the Kauai Marathon. Life has been a hectic roller-coaster since then– one that I feel very lucky that I get to ride, and included things like a jaunt to Chicago a few days after.

I’m just getting back into the swing of my life. So, what happened a few weeks ago?


If I had to sum up my marathon experience for Kauai 2016, it would be one word: trust.

Okay, maybe two. I’d also add, “surrender” to this list.

Today, a post popped up on Facebook that reminded me that, two years ago today, I ran the Maui Marathon.

It was a big deal for me, Maui 2014, because it was my first marathon back after a 1-year hiatus from racing. After being hit by a car a few years before, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to run a marathon ever again, much less at the same speed I had before.

Somehow, miraculously, I PR’d that race. I don’t think that it was any particular special training (though I had begun doing more yoga and was generally in better shape). I think that, once I decided to return to running and rebuild my running capabilities, I had no choice but to trust that my body could do this. There was no goal or time I was trying to hit, I showed up to that race with one goal: show that my body could still surprise me.

It’s fitting that I write this post today, then, because Kauai was a similar study in letting go. After years of marathon running, I am sometimes quick to get caught up in the nitty-gritty details (that I sort of nerd out on).

At the end of the day, though, being a runner and athlete are about so much more than the race or the game. We put so many hours into building these bodies to perform. At the end, all we can do is try and honor the work we have put in. We have to trust that we have the tools we need to do well already built into us. Continue reading


The (Un)Value of Loyalty

Recently, my kids and I have been talking a lot about Colin Kaepernick, patriotism, and what it means to be “loyal” to something.

Tomorrow, I am planning on asking them if they think loyalty is an important value. I have no doubt many of them will say yes– we’ve been raised to see “loyalty” as one of the essential “good-human” values. Gryffindors are loyal. Good people are loyal.

And I can appreciate it. I also plan to surprise them with my own belief: I don’t know that I’m sold on the value of “loyalty,” at least not as we so often see it portrayed. That may not be a popular opinion (and, in fact, I imagine I have some of my higher-ups shaking), but let me explain.

While loyalty is defined as a feeling of “allegiance,” I have often found that people assume that loyalty means putting an organization or person above all other things– including personal values.

Sure, loyalty can mean standing with someone in their hour of need, showing forgiveness or the benefit of the doubt, or helping someone out when they ask. Sometimes, though, we use “loyalty” as a tool to manipulate. We are asked to put “loyalty to the party/group/job” over one’s own beliefs. We are called on to do things because we need to show “loyalty.”

And that’s where I draw the lineThere is no organization I would lie for or to. There is no institution that I am so devoted to that I will not call it like I see it.


Here’s the thing: I am a firm believer that the way you show love and care is being honest and willing to critically analyze things. A misused culture of “loyalty” doesn’t necessarily lead to a supportive, collaborative environment. Instead, using loyalty as a tool to deflect criticism leads to complacency, power struggle, and a general sense of mistrust: Who is loyal to whom? Who is putting their loyalty to something above honesty? It’s not a very healthy environment to be in. It will quickly isolate people, or make people unwilling to share thoughts and opinions that could make the entire organization better;

So, I personally refuse to operate in a space where I am unable to voice my reasoned dissent. Frankly, I understand that the ability to willingly dissent based on my morals is tied to my privilege. I know that I have the socioeconomic and educational privilege to call out problems and handle myself financially if there were unfortunate or unjust ramifications from that.

Not everyone has that. Not everyone can afford to lose their job or take a pay cut or deal with what other consequences those in power like to dole out when it’s threatened. I am incredibly privileged in my ability to do so, so it would be a misuse of my privilege if I did not use it to stand with those who shared my values but could not speak up. If I don’t use my platform and the power to take a stand, then who else will?

So, if loyalty isn’t the answer, what is?

Personally, I’ve been thinking a lot about how to create cultures of belonging and trust. I attended a session on facilitating difficult conversations and building community with the amazing Ann Delehant. She shared the idea that trust is at the center of being both trustworthy and trusting. It means that not only must we be willing to be transparent and honest, but we also must be willing to trust that other people will do the same. 

While I’m not sold on the value of blind loyalty,am all for creating communities of belonging and trust. For me, that means being honest and upfront about intent, transparent about actions and mistakes, and willing to give and accept feedback to improve the overall group.

It also means coming to the table ready to listen and find solutions instead of pointing fingers and making accusations. Trust can’t be built when the person across the table already assumes that you’re lying. We can’t create

We can’t create collaborative, growing spaces if we all assume that anyone else  is against us. Trust can only happen if there’s a mutual agreement that we all want the same outcome, even if we might disagree on the “how.” If one side is being dishonest about intent or refuses to dialogue with the other, how can we move forward?

With all that, here are my cards (career wise, anyway) laid out on the table: At the end of the day, I am here to support my students. I am willing to show support, put work in, and rally behind things that I truly believe will help my kids, their communities, and the greater good of public education. If I’m asked to do something that helps those causes and doesn’t compromise my values, great! If not, then I’m not here for it and I’m not afraid to say so.

My students and the work we do in the classroom together are, ultimately at my center. To sell them or myself out would be to dishonor all the people in my life who worked hard to give me the opportunities that got me here. It would dishonor the students and families that trust me every day.

At the end of the day, all I can ask is that I did my best to be true to myself. If the answer is yes, I know I can look myself in the mirror the next day and try and teach my kids the same thing.

The Stories We Tell Ourselves

I am still trying to write a thing. I don’t know how it’s going.

Here’s the thing: I like telling stories.

That doesn’t make me special. I’m a sometimes-writer and full-time English teacher. I have spent years fitting events into narrative structures: dynamic characters, dramatic tension, nuanced relationships wind through conflict and still end with a neat resolution. My world, most days, is spent somehow trying to craft something that fits into a narrative.

I thought this was just craft, something I did on paper. Then, someone noted a small, white lie in my work, saying, “You like making things fit your story.” It wasn’t mean, they were just making an observation. At that moment, it clicked.

It wasn’t mean, they were just making an observation. At that moment, it clicked.

I have been telling myself stories for years.

Nearly every relationship I’ve had is subjected to hours in the tumble-dry cycle of day-dreams. I take the smallest tidbits, find the narrative and fill it with so much hot air it floats away with the rest of my imagination.

My narrative habit has been curling its way through my brain, around my heart, and into my actions since childhood. A gossamer string, my desire to adapt my perception of reality– then manipulate that reality to my perception– has been woven into my life since long before I could understand it.

It’s in adolescent journal entries describing, in excruciating detail, the real meaning behind my crush putting his hand briefly on the back of my chair as he talked to someone else. It’s being sure that, when his “ocean blue eyes, like a stormy sea” (a line, no doubt, purloined from some bad fanfic I had read on the internet) locked with mine, it was because he was seeing something deeper in me. It’s embedded into the fabric of time I’d spend skulking around corners at school, hoping to “accidentally” run into some guy.

When, somehow, I would convince that crush to actually date me– with obvious flirtation, with praises and pretty words– I was still creating storylines for them that would, eventually, end.

Storyline: A young Mormon missionary falls in love with a Catholic girl. He proposes. She says yes. He goes on his mission and when he returns, they find a way to work through their religious issues and have a happy life.

In reality, six months after he left, the heady high of my first kiss and first love had worn off. I was sixteen when he gave me a ring. I was seventeen when I sent my missionary a Dear-John-email (we weren’t allowed to call or see them in person, or I swear I would have). He begged me to accept his God into my heart. I ignored his messages. I returned his ring. 

He’s married now, I think. He blocked me on Facebook.

I did this a few more times in high school:

Storyline: The midwestern track star who tutored me in math dates the unathletic drama kid after they meet in orchestra. Very High School Musical, before that was a thing.

He broke up with me when he realized our time was up. I threw a fit and sobbed some dramatics, though deep down I agreed.

Storyline: The fellow thespian, who I badgered to go out with me my senior year. We went to the same church, sang in choir together. It made sense.

In reality, we were both biding our time, play-acting what we thought love looked like. we fought, we made peace and we parted ways. 

This, of course, is natural for many high schoolers. As a teacher now, I see myself in so many sixteen-year-olds skulking around corners, hoping to bump into someone. 

What is more difficult to realize is that I didn’t leave the practice behind in my school like I thought I did. I see now that I have been weaving webs of stories and heartaches long past my graduation.


It is a weird, almost-archeological act to look back on old writing.  Yes, many of us find and keep memorabilia from past lovers (photo booth strips, ticket stubs, a napkin they wiped their mouth with after a first kiss and other moony tangibles of the like).

Words are different. Journals, emails, and even now text messages create archives that speak not just to the existence of a relationship, but our mindset while we were in the relationship. Much like past love letters my parents have, first-person stories of just how besotted (or frustrated) we have been with someone exist for years to come.

Unlike the previous generation, however, artifacts of my relationships are not hidden in a Tupperware box in my closet. They are strains of my old-self buried in my email account. They are left-over rice grains in the drafts folder of old blogs—just when I think I’ve cleaned them all up, one sticks to the bottom of my foot months later. Try as I might to delete someone (and trust me, I try), bits and pieces of past relationships are consistently available at my fingertips.

I look over old emails and the words still feel strangely foreign. The person in them doesn’t sound like me at all. Who was this “us” we created? It appears so strongly here—casual banter and mutual knowledge, names appearing as always-conjoined or pronouns notating the “we” and “us”. Don’t worry about us! We’ll meet you there.

It is strangely dissociative, and I’m filled with a sudden urge to figure out the mystery of the woman I have been these past few months who feels so distant now.

After a stable three-year relationship, I had a moving-too-fast fling. Maybe I was desperately seeking to fill the space left by my break up. Maybe I was overly romantic and allowed myself to get swept into someone else’s fantasy. Maybe I just went temporarily insane.

Some texts remain. Like the emails, I feel so removed from the woman in those words. She is more like a character in a story I have written than any semblance of my actual self.

I read the texts in her voice:

Meet you @ home in 20 min. Who was this girl who gave allowed a near-stranger to call her apartment “home”?

That’s ok, I just wanted to make sure you got home ok🙂 Who let hours-long absences go because of a breezy “I love you.”

Who was this woman, and how was she ultimately betrayed?

He once joked that at least he would be an interesting story for me to write, but he ultimately failed there too. Our relationship ended with so much banality: he cheated on me. A tale as old as time that any good writer could have seen coming from a mile away, but I was so willing to accept his stories that I completely lost myself in them.

I read the messages, and then I realize that I was also telling myself stories the entire time: that I was okay with this “relationship,” that I had been okay with the break up before it, that the two weren’t connected. Even the past emails were, in some ways, stories: I was a girl planning a to meet somewhere with a man who didn’t particularly like travel; we were breezily headed somewhere that, in fact, we were not.

These past words feel foreign because they are merely images of the character I was in that part of my story. They are no mystery at all; they are merely chapters in my life now closed. 

The question is not, though, how to move onto the next chapter. The question is how long I will be able to keep weaving stories for myself, or if I will ever pause, look around at myself and my reality, and see and accept things as they are.

Here’s the problem: I’ve been weaving stories for so long, I can’t help but wonder what that even means. Even now, as I look at what I’ve written, it’s difficult to figure out what is “truth” and what is “story-truth.” I read the words and wonder how many of the choices I’ve made in my life happened because it was what I wanted, or because that’s what I thought, as the writer, should happen next. How many plot-line roller coasters have I strapped myself into, thinking I saw denouement at the end?

Storyline: A woman sits in her apartment trying to write. She is trying to figure out how the story should end. She sits, looks at the screen, sees the blinking cursor. She knows there is no one to ask for help writing the end. She also knows that, as much as she wants to, she does not know how to end the story.

She looks at the screen. She sees the blinking cursor. She waits.

Ocean Hearted: A Poem For My Mother on Her Birthday

I’ve been thinking a lot about what “home” means
these days. When I’m stranded between oceans in
the middle of an always-changing land mass, it’s
hard to ever feel like I’m on steady ground.

Then, I remember that perhaps I have always felt
most at home when out at sea because swimming
in the ocean of your body was my first taste of
unconditional love. You are a constellation always
in movement. From rural-island rice paddies to
smog filled metropolises across countless countries
to find home at the top of a Los Angeles hill. I know
the old house isn’t there anymore but you made sure
that we learned the secrets of hidden honeysuckle taste,
the magic of turning tiny kalamansis to sweet nectar
and the joy of turning hard rock-filled dirt into magic gardens
that stayed in our skin and under our fingernails long after
any physical foundation. You showed us that places have
magic, and knowledge, and stories. We never forgot them.

And I know, you don’t really know how to swim, but
I don’t know if you see that you are still my ocean-hearted mother.
Your love is boundless and sweeping, the
tide of your mind forever following the moon of some new
adventure, the way you will spread your waves to hold
up whatever crazy dreams we have been floating on your current.

Now, you are beginning to run and you tell people that
you are trying to become a version of me and I don’t
have a word that tells you the mix of pride, honor, joy,
love that it makes me feel, but what I’ve never
been able to tell you that the miles I have pounded
under my feet were only because I was trying to teach
my body the persistence your mind and spirit always showed us.
I am trying to be a small manifestation of your strength.
Like the roses forever in bloom around our front door, the
flowers of my triumphs are measured in your tending and work.

You are never satisfied. Not in the stereotyped tiger-mom
way, but in your unquenchable search for
joy. You are the nectarines from a tree flowering in dirt
we were told could never bear fruit. Your smile is round
and full like moon when everything is bright, glowing, and touched
with magic. You are the giggling splashes against Diamond Head beach,
you are the roaring sea sprays as you accept new lava at the
heart of a volcano, you are the calm healing of Waimanalo bay
as the wind moves through pine trees. See, as I have used the water
of this island to heal myself, I see now all I was doing was taking this place
and learning to love myself the way you love me. You love the way the ocean loves
the creatures in it: it is so encompassing that it becomes as certain as the air I breathe each day.

While we are often separated by the Pacific, I see now that, like a turtle in the sea,
I could swim anywhere and home will always been the ocean of your love.

So now, as you begin another revolution around the sun all I can do is watch
are your horizons manifest and shine light like the sea at sunrise. All I
want to do is bask in the way your make everything brighter as you
reflect the sun’s first kiss of the sky. All I can do is try and reflect the kind of
love you showed me: one that is as certain as the sunrise and that is
as big as entire ocean itself.

Beasts and Badasses

This week, Teaching Tolerance featured something I wrote about the words we use for women:

For nearly a decade, I had sought approval under different names, ones much less badass than “beast.” I reveled in being called “cute,” “small” or “too pretty” to do something. When that same coach had, earlier that month, described me as a “110-pound girl,” I basked in the glory of that diminutive for days. I would see myself in the mirror and secretly smile at having been mistaken for someone so much smaller than I actually was.

And isn’t that a problem?

If you’ve followed this blog at all (Hi, Mom!), you know that body image is something I grapple with a lot. The balance between concepts of femininity, masculinity, and what all of that means for me has always been tough. It’s difficult to not swing to either extreme.

So, I appreciate the space to keep figuring this out. Not just on my blog, but as a teacher. I guess all I hope is that my female students don’t have nearly as difficult time to balance this narrow edge.





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Lay Down Your Sword

In a series of letters to myself.


How long do you plan to keep fighting?

I see you, shoulders hunched and brow knitted. You of the ever-muddy shoes and never-polished sword. You are a study in unnecessary persistence.

You scrutinize a face in the mirror that doesn’t always feel like your own because you’ve been running away from it for too long. You claim to have a distaste for confrontation, but you spend every day looking at your reflection to pick out which battle you will fight today. Will it be the head or the heart? Which part of your persona will you proclaim as in need of a fix? For all your cries of non-violence, you have been the most aggressive pursuer of your own perceived inner-demons.

You see yourself piecemeal, picking apart all the stories you’ve written onto your body– the shiny patches left from the times you let yourself be burnt, the scars from when you were convinced that bloodletting was the only way to heal. Like some kind of forensic gravedigger, you see the past written into your skin and try and resurrect these stories so you can carefully dissect them and look for all the clues you think led to your failure.

In each story, you are sure you are reading some kind of a map, where “x” marks some ethereal, better version of yourself. You take up your sword and try and carve out the parts of yourself you are convinced no longer serve you: the naivete, the romantic, the poet. You write and publish praise about being big-hearted only to find yourself consistently trying to scrape that heart off your sleeve, to hide it under an iron suit. You are so sure that it is so overbearing and ridiculous, no one wants to see it but you.

So instead you try and cut away the parts you are so sure no one else wants to deal with, to make space for something you hope someone else will give you. The problem is that if you keep splitting yourself into only the pieces you deem “lovable” or “acceptable” you will soon find that there is nothing left at all. 

Stop fighting, love.

We all have demons. We all want to be better. But to try and rip away the parts of yourself that someone else taught you were weak only weakens you as a whole.

Put down the sword. Take off the armor. Feel the new lightness in your body once you stopped carrying a cross only you have built and only you obliged yourself to. See the scars and let them heal back to the complete version of yourself.

Now is the time to set down the old stories; they were never maps to begin with. They are just memories. History is an important lesson, but it is no match for the beauty of the unseen horizon.

So stop fighting now. Unknit your brow. Raise your chin and look now towards that skyline. See yourself there, just as you do in the mirror: completely whole and perfect in the imperfections.

As I was editing this, this album came on. Perfect music and discussion to accompany this piece. 


Running Back To Myself

This last week, On Being (one of my favorite programs) featured a piece I recorded with “Creating Our Own Lives.” I’m incredibly honored. The episode is below.

This past week, as I prepare for my 10th marathon, Kauai, this being shared feels especially sweet.

I’ve been thinking a lot about strength and vulnerability this week. It’s a frequent theme in my writing.

And re-listening to this made me realize something important: the road can be a brutal place.

If my race reports have shown me anything, it’s that racing doesn’t always feel like sunshine and butterflies. Sometimes it’s hard. It’s bloody. It can make you cry. Hell, it will make you cry.

What running also taught me was the value of getting back up when we fall.

It’s something I’ve noticed before, but it was a reminder I needed this week.

Here’s the thing: the road is going to be there, regard of how we feel. Riddled with ankle-breaking potholes and unforeseen dangers, the road is always going to be there in its imperfect splendor. The only way to escape the journey is to wallow on the sidelines and give up, but I’ve never been the sitting-still kind.

So, even on the days that are hot and horrid, where I drip sweat everywhere; or the days I am running from monsters who eventually catch me, and find me sobbing on street corners; or days where the run feels like fire, and I am made of sunlight streaming the sky, the fact remains: the road needs to be run.

The only thing I control is whether I keep going or not.

I decide: do I stay down on the sidelines, or do I get up and begin the process of running back to my self? The self that is powerful, has a soul forged by the beating of sole-to-pavement, the one who has broken every barrier she placed down on herself. Do I become her again?

Then, I look down at the road, riddled with potholes but heading towards the horizon. I get up, smile, and begin the journey once more.