And Where Are You Now?

Well, 2017, we’re certainly in the full swing if you, aren’t we?

It’s been more than a month since I’ve written. That’s the longest hiatus I’ve gone on since I started this thing a few years ago.

Recently, someone (hi, Jenae!) asked me what my writing goals were when I began this blog. Honestly– I didn’t have any. The only thing I wanted to do was have a space to write and to try and get myself to write at least once a week. As someone who had been blogging off-and-on for years, I honestly just wanted to document what happened in my life as a way to look back.

Eventually, this site has become so many things. It’s been a place to share my educational practice, my critical analyses of the world, and even to heal. It’s been where I’ve expressed joy and sorrow. It led me to new writing and job opportunities.

I’ve written nearly weekly for a few years until the most recent election. For the past few months I have felt, honestly, just quiet. I haven’t wanted to write anyway. I’ve been living either in the real world or in my head, and I just want to keep my head above water at this point.

In that spirit (and in the spirit of writing in general), here’s some stuff going on in my life, just to, ya know, document:

  • I finally started Brazillian Jiu Jitsu. And I love it. A lot. Like going a few times a week and I finally bought my own Gi a lot.
  • I haven’t been running as much. The longest run I’ve done since January has been a five-miler. I’ve been doing a lot of Crossfit, Yoga, and BJJ. I’m, oddly, smaller than I’ve been in months. I think I’m just burnt out on running.
  • Speaking of  Yoga, I have started teaching Yoga at The Mango Tree Fitness Center twice a week, which has been awesome and life-changing. I also help teach at Crossfit Kaneohe, which is the melding of two loves.
  • Speaking of teaching, I am still teaching the babies and hope to be doing that for a bit longer at least.
  • I am still trying to figure out who I am and what I want with my life. It is very tiring. I’m tired all the time.

 

Anyway. That’s life right now. Hopefully I’ll have something better for the world soon.

What I Will Teach On Inauguration Day (and Every Day After)

Originally in EdWeek


For some, the morning will seem like any other.
They will bounce and bound to school,
filled with childlike ignorance at what the
grown ups are doing thousands of miles away.

They, of whooping joys and laughter that dances,
even though they are frightened,
even when they are confused,
even when they are filled with righteous indignation,
that, someday, things will be okay.
They, in their childhood, still possess
the magic of hope.

And this is where I will begin.

I will teach them to bound and bounce
unapologetically in a world that wants to
tie them to chairs. In a world that seeks to confine
them to the white-black of dotted answers, I will show
them how to set down the paper, and step—no, leap—
back to see shades of grey.

I will teach them to measure their value in
joy, in passion, in the white-hot eureka of discovery.
When they are given the zero-sum answer, I will
remind them they have the power to say, “No.”
I will show them they can, they must, demand
their worth not be ignored.

When their strengths go unnoticed because
they are showing them to a world that has never
sought to understand them, I will teach them not
to see the pointing fingers as spotlights of shame
but as beacons of innovation.

When what they bring to the table is stamped “unacceptable,”
I will tell them to use the red ink to write
their immeasurable selves into doctrine and declaration,
into manifesto, into the scripture of their sacred minds.

I will show them megaphones and tell them their voices
were not made to be silenced, but savored as the
saviors of the next generation.

When the homelands of their forefathers are named
with spit and distaste on the tongue,
I will remind them that they are
born from people who looked at the stars
and saw uncharted pathways, who took
earth and made their own manna, who
learned to read currents and ride sunsets.

In the end, the only thing I will give them
is a mirror. When they stare at me, wide-eyed
in wonder, in terror, in fear, in joy—when they
ask me what the answer is or how to fix
the problems. I will simply hold up the
mirror and tell them the power to rise up
is already inside. It is in their whooping
joy and laughter that dances. It is in their
bounding and bouncing and in the magic,
unbridled and burning in them, called hope.

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The Year I Burned It All Down: 2016 In Review

I had plans for this post, I did. I have been slowly crafting it in my head. It was going to be about goals, about big things, about my body and trying to do new things. I knew I was late with a New Year’s Wrap-Up/Resolution post (which I normally love doing: see 2015), and I felt like I had to bring in something good to make up for that.

See, I had set out a semi-private goal for myself in mid-October. After hitting my PR of 280 for a deadlift, I wanted to hit 300 lbs by the end of the year. It would be a few weeks after the Honolulu marathon, and I’d have some time to get back to lifting before making my attempt. I thought that’s what I’d end up writing about.

Yesterday morning, I went for it. A little delayed, sure– I’d jumped back into CrossFit with a vengeance at my fave non-CFO box, CrossFit Kona while I was home for the holidays. This resulted in lots of gains, but also a back pull in the middle of the week. Then, a friend of ours has been helping my boyfriend and I try some new gymnastics stuff, so I wanted to let my core rest before lifting something heavy.

Monday morning, on a whim, I decided to go for my attempt. Was I tired and still monumentally hungover from celebrating 2017? Yes, yes I was. Did I eat before like a smart person? Nope.

But I went for it. I had my whole plan set out. I got up to 235lbs easy. I tacked on 20 more, rested for a moment, then pulled.

I swear, I see a strained muscle before I fully feel it. Suddenly, I see white for a second, then I feel the electricity shoot through my body. It burst right along my lower back, down my right hip and quad. I immediately dropped the weight and sat back, my entire lower body screaming.

And just like that, I knew I was done for the day. I was tempted to try and rest and go again, but I knew that would only make it worse. So, despite my romantic notions about how I was going to start 2017, I slowly started to put my weights back and knew I’d have to give it a go another day.


And, somewhere in there, is the allegory. Or, at least, the metaphor.

Let me explain: I’ve been struggling with what to say about this year because I feel like I’ve grieved it and rebuilt it multiple times already. I did it in March, in May, in August. As a writer, Lord knows I love romantic notions. I have been working towards them since childhood; I have been trying to write the narrative of my life from the beginning.

Then, something happened. I looked at the story I had been writing, this epic ship I had been building to sail off into the sunset. I had put blood, sweat, and tears into it. I had babied it from the beginning.

And then I looked at the life I had built and I burned it all down. 

Let’s be honest, that’s what I did. I did some pretty crazy shit this year, which included the systematic destruction of a life and routine I had been planning for years. I set it aflame and walked away. And I don’t regret any of it. Not for a moment.

The thing is, the whole, clichéd, rebuilding-from-ashes theme is probably a cliché because we all have to go through it sometimes. We can move down the path of our lives and try and course correct along the way, but sometimes it takes a complete destruction to actually forge something much stronger.

I know– you’ve read that somewhere before. I have too, and to be fair, I believed it (hell, it’s kind of what I did when I moved to Hawai‘i).

Here’s the thing I realized this year, though: the process of rebuilding isn’t always romantic. It won’t always fit your timeline. It won’t always happen with fanfare and confetti. Sometimes it’s the quiet acknowledgment that you have to set down your barbell and try again another day.

There’s something strangely beautiful about that, though. What would it mean if I stopped assuming that success was this shiny, noisy thing and accepted the joy already in my life? What would it look like to stop seeing success as some, forever-moving finish line and see the moments of hard work, of coming back to the mat, of thankless and private hours of sweat and tears– what if that was success instead?


 

With that, here are 5 things I’m happy about, despite the burning-it-all-down:

  1. I diversified my writing to include things about running and religion. I still love writing about education and race, though!
  2. I kept running (and got my first first-place!), started CrossFit, started Muay Thai, and started teaching Yoga again (and scored my first consistent gig!)
  3. I was in three back-to-back shows.
  4. I like to think I got offline more, got outside, and spent more time with the people I love face-to-face.
  5. I wrote. A lot. Never as much as I want to– but I put more words to paper this year than I have in a long time.

And, of course, some things for 2017:

  1. Keep writing. Stop procrastinating on the writing I have.
  2. Turn-Off Autopilot. (more on what that means here)
  3. Get a strict pull-up and start Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu.
  4. Rest/Active Recovery 2 days a week. Working out multiple times a day 6 days a week is not a thing I should keep doing.
  5. Get rid of all the clutter/books I don’t read/clothes I don’t wear. Adulting. Let’s do this.

 

Alright, 2017. Let’s do this.

 

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This Is What You’ve Worked For: Honolulu Marathon 2016

It has been, in truth, far too long since I last wrote. 

I have a whole list of posts on the docket– things I have started writing, things that explain my absence, things that have been on my mind.

I hope to get to them, I do. For now, here are a few thoughts on this year’s Honolulu Marathon.



Pre-Race Thoughts

The Honolulu Marathon always feels like a homecoming of sorts.

This is my third year running the marathon, and since most of my races involve a plane ride to new and sometimes different climes (last year’s CIM was a brisk 39 degrees for much of the race! Quite different from Honolulu’s consistent 70-85 degree weather), it’s nice to have a course that I’ve trained on all year and a race that I can run from my apartment as my warm-up.

This year, I admittedly felt a strange bit of pressure about the race. After 6 years of marathon racing, I’m pretty quiet about my races now. I might share a post or two the day before a race, but I’ll generally keep runs to myself, lest I set myself up for epic failure.

That wasn’t so much an option this year. After sharing my running journey with KITV, plenty of folks knew I was running. I’m not fancy or anything, and I made it a point to say that I didn’t have a time goal this year, but I wanted to have a good showing at the very least.

I’ve been running pretty consistently at a 8:15-9:00 pace this year, and I secretly had hopes of hitting another sub-4 time at Honolulu (my previous being CIM last year). I had come so close at the Kauai marathon, and Honolulu’s course is far less hilly. Still, I didn’t want to throw my hat into a ring I hadn’t trained for, so with the exception of my boyfriend Chase, I kept those hopes to myself.

I had a hard time fitting in my twenty-miler over the weekend. Cheesy, but I rarely get to sleep in with my guy since we both work early morning jobs, so my willingness to, say, wake up at 4:45 AM to run twenty miles when I could just snuggle with him, has waned. So, I did another mid-week long run, fitting in my twenty-miler after work on a Tuesday, 10 days before the race.

I felt good going into the race, but I’m always one for cautious optimism, so I got my bib and just hoped for the best.

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The photographer made me giggle hard. It worked.


Race Report

Admittedly, I haven’t had a race go this smoothly mentally in quite a while. After a nice two-mile warm up from my apartment to the course, I shook out my pre-race jitters and felt ready to go.

The highlight of my morning was having one of my former students find me before the race! She was running her first marathon on her own, so we talked story before the race started. That was exactly the kind of mental boost I needed pre-race: a reminder of the excitement and joy encapsulated in this sport, and the kids who help me feel this way off the course.

Some Key Takeaways From This Year’s Race

  • The Honolulu Marathon is just a really fun race. You see families running together, folks who have flown in in ridiculous outfits, locals just going out there to try something new. It really felt like there were more spectators on the course this year, and Honolulu does an excellent job of having great volunteers the entire way. For me, this is incredibly helpful as a runner. It makes a race fun and spirited, which helps me keep a positive mindset throughout the race. The Honolulu
  • I wish Honolulu had pace corrals and that folks self-monitored where they start. It’s probably my only small issue with the race. I always have to fight through folks who are walking and taking photos in the first few miles. Don’t get me wrong– if that’s why you race, that’s great! But please, don’t start towards the front of the pack! Move towards the back/sides so those folks who are trying to make good time have a clear path.
  • Still, the course is gorgeous and well-managed. Really, I don’t know if Honolulu gets credit for being such a well-timed and mapped race. Not too hilly, great weather (Hawai‘i is always unpredictable, but December is probably the best bet), fuel and medical stations well-manned and consistent throughout. I always feel like I’m in good hands with this race.
  •  This is me being an old race curmudgeon at this point, but knowing the really course pays off. For me, this being a hometown race really gave me an advantage as far as mentally preparing for what was to come. It was also a reminder that I have to study the course before I race! I used to be all fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants, but I’m seeing now how useful it is to know what’s to come. Study!
  •  Train and plan for the toughest circumstances as far as fuel and hydration go. I had 5 or 6 friends talk about hitting the wall this year, and some folks blame watery Gatorade and humid temperatures. I was fortunate to miss this, and I think it’s for three reasons:
    •  I pretty much always train and plan for the apocalypse for Hawai‘i races– I don’t train with water or fuel so that on race day I run better than I train.
    •  The day of the race I follow a tip from my old SRLA race director: drink water and electrolytes at every aid station until at least the halfway point. This allows me to get ahead of any cramping issues before they happen. At the half point, I start assessing at every aid station what I think I need.
    • I’m very careful about eating and drinking in the week before the race. I start upping my water and sodium levels early on. The night before the race, I chugged some of boyfriend’s leftover Pho broth after my customary vermicelli bowl (thanks PHO’hana!), and I think the extra salt came in handy!
  • Racing without music is still the best option when I can. It sounds impossible to so many runners, and definitely was (and at times still is– I used it at Kauai when I struggled mentally) to me when I started, but I really think being super mindful as I ran helped me avoid cramping too.

I kept a solid 8:30-9:00 pace throughout. I was clocking right around 8:45 for the first 6 miles and decided if I could stay in that area throughout the race, I’d finish feeling good. Admittedly, the course generally flew by. My mental game felt strong, I smiled looking for folks I knew on the course, and just enjoyed the race. I was able to wave to and talk to some friends who were spectating, and see a few friends as I came back around from the halfway point. That’s the kind of stuff that makes racing really fun.

I finished at 3:53, 19th in my category, just shy of my PR and an 11-minute course PR! I think I could’ve hit a new PR, but since it wasn’t my plan, I didn’t push some of those early miles outside my general comfort zone. Plus, Honolulu is a hillier and much warmer course than CIM. So, I’m happy I finished with a smile on my face instead.

At the end, some former students were handing out medals. They clapped when they saw me. Needless to say, I lost it.

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Thanks Honolulu Marathon for the great photo!!


Reflections

At the end of the day, a marathon isn’t just a race, it’s the culmination of the months, weeks, hours of training you’ve put in to get to this point. Every mile you’ve run is a step toward the eventual finish line of the marathon.

For me, this third Honolulu marathon truly felt like a reward for all the hours of training. Every step of that race was built on other training runs I had put into that course. Every mile that I felt good at was a reminder: this is what you’ve built your body to do. This is what you’ve worked forEnjoy it.

As much as I’ve been trying new sports, I think one of the reasons I come back to distance running isn’t just about the space I make for myself or the meditative calm I find, but it’s also because there a few sports that so completely test whether you’ve trained and prepped for this moment. Running for that long is incredibly humbling. There is very little room for plain luck in a marathon. You need to put the hours in to be successful. No matter how gifted you are as a runner to begin with, trying to take down 26.2 is a test even when you do put in the work, much less without.

Is that, at times, difficult? Of course. But it also makes crossing that finish line only that much sweeter. screen-shot-2016-12-26-at-8-44-37-pm

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The Prayer – Conversations While Running Twenty Miles

One of my favorite assignments that my mentor teacher, Bill, gives his seniors is to write about a piece of music and weave it into a story or memory. Here’s a little reflection on prayer, running, and trying to hold onto faith.


Casting Crowns – Just Be Held

Hold it all together / Everybody needs you strong / But life hits you out of nowhere/ And barely leaves you holding on.

I was so prepared to write about this run. When I went out a week ago, I was already crafting titles in my  head. “The Gauntlet,” I’d thought at first because I was so sure it was my last pre-marathon test.  I did it out of the blue– went to bed on a Monday thinking, “Screw it, I’m gonna run tomorrow.”

So, when I went out that Tuesday afternoon, I was ready. I sprinted off-campus as soon as my students left the classroom, knowing I had 3+ hours of work ahead of me. I had my earbuds in, some good music, and I was ready to zone out.

But that didn’t happen. 

And when you’re tired of fighting/ Chained by your control/ There’s freedom in surrender/ Lay it down and let it go.

As my feet began to hit the pavement, my mind immediately starts racing.

I have about a million things running through my head at the moment, and if I’m being honest, I’ve been in a mood lately. Between the election, feeling burnt out about my work, facing a never-ending pile of student loans, and general uncertainty about my future, being an adult has been a bit tumultuous lately. Like I’ve said, I’m very happy, but I’ve perhaps been repressing some stuff with my usual strategy:

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Ok, I kid. The world is clearly not on fire, but I don’t think I’ve been honest with myself about how I’m doing.

The thing about running for 3-4 hours is that it doesn’t leave you with a lot of space to hide. You end up spending so much time with yourself, that you have no choice to but explore all the nooks and crannies of your psyche that you’ve been casually ignoring until now.

After a few minutes of trying to focus on the music, I gave up the ruse. I turned my music off, tucked them away, and decided it was time to let it go and finally start facing my self.

So when you’re on your knees and answers seem so far away….

For those first few miles, I flew. I was so preoccupied with myself that I was pounding the pavement with questions. ‘But what about…?’ ‘Or what if…?’ ‘How will I…?’ They’re the kinds of questions that don’t have any real answers– they burn in the belly, churning and steaming inside precisely because they are unanswerable and out of your control.

And that’s terrifying. It’s infuriating. In a world that is so desperate to ensure that I am well-planned– for my students, for my finances, for my career, for my love life, for my retirement– being unable to answer, ‘So, what’s next?’ makes my stomach hurt.

I know, I should be finding some kind of joy in it. I’m 29, have a good job and a nice boyfriend and live in Hawai‘i. The rest of my life will be plans and bills, why rush that? Why am I sitting here wallowing in a little puddle of misery and anxiety?

Still, the questions beat through my blood stream and I methodically place one foot in front of the other.

…You’re not alone, stop holding on and just be held.

It’s not until I reach the top of Diamond Head that it hits me.

“What are you holding on to all this for?”

I scrunch up my face. I haven’t been to mass in a few weeks, with no one to blame but myself. I tell myself I will find space in my life to pray on my own, and I try, but I know that I haven’t been putting the work into my faith as much as I wish I were.

So, I shrug. It’s not God, it’s me. I’ve been busy and stressed. I know that going to church will likely make me feel better, but I just haven’t been able to and I don’t really feel like the lecture. So, I shrug.

“All I’m asking if why you’re holding onto all this. You know you don’t have to.”

I raise my eyebrows. I had expected the quiet, loving lecture. The reminder to take care of myself, the call that asks me to put the work into myself the way I know I need to, the way that I deserve to. I had expected the mirror to be held up and show me all the ways I can do the work that I know makes me happy.

Instead, God smiles slightly, mostly with the eyes. “You seem pretty tired. Why don’t you let me hold onto all this stuff for a while?”

Before I know it, I’ve hit the five-mile mark, much faster than I had planned. I close my eyes and take a deep breath as I round the corner.

Your world’s not falling apart, it’s falling into place/ I’m on the throne, stop holding on and just be held.

I would be lying to you if I said the the run was perfect, or that at the end of it I had some beatific smile that meant that everything had blissfully fallen into place. The thing is my faith, my relationship with God is far from a perfect story. I prayed and debated and was frustrated the entire twenty miles. I was, and am, admittedly, still preoccupied with questions I know I cannot always answer.

Still, I am learning that the mistake is not in asking questions; there is no problem being frustrated or upset. The problem is when we believe the lie that we are abandoned through any of that.

If your eyes are on the storm/ You’ll wonder if I love you still/ But if your eyes are on the cross/ You’ll know I always have and I always will.

Concerns about our own abandonment and unworthiness, fears that haunt many of us in our darkest nights, are not only a lie but  one that uses its power to further isolate us from the truth: God never abandons. We are never abandoned. That love, at its most unconditional, exists with complete purity. It is in every moment we breathe and every time we experience love. I once had a priest remind us that the Savior who chose to be with us even after we beat Him, spat on Him, and ultimately murdered Him isn’t likely to be sent away by our questions and doubts.

So, let’s be honest again: it is not simply my own life questions I’ve been grappling with, but my own faith as well. Not of His existence– my certainty of that has stayed true for the past few years in a way that is, honestly, really satisfying– but at His general plan for the world. “Um, hello?!” I called out, wildly waving my hands, “What’s going on here? Why am I feeling like this? What do I do next? Where do I go?!”

And not a tear is wasted/ In time, you’ll understand/ I’m painting beauty with the ashes/ Your life is in My hands.

And as I’ve sat with a knot in my throat and a pit in my stomach, moments of grace and signs of my blessed existence have been waiting there the entire time I’ve battled the darkness. Long, unexpected conversations; people reaching out, just because; important lessons clicking in the most unexpected of places; and the constant care of my loved ones.

All of these moments have reminded me that I do not need to carry the weight of my own heart alone. We are surrounded by God’s love, manifested in those who are willing to love and hold us when we do not know if we can keep going.

When we are so sure our legs will not carry us up the mountain, we are reminded of the moments others have been there to help us move forward. These moments have been there, like buoys as I try and keep my head above water. Even when I am not listening, these little bits of joy whisper, ‘Remember, above all, you are loved.’

So, when you’re on your knees and answers seem so far away
You’re not alone, stop holding on and just be held
Your world is not falling apart, it’s falling into place
I’m on the throne, stop holding on and just be held.

 

We All Have a Problem With Race. Let’s Talk About It.

After a very divisive election, it seems that the maelstrom of online debates has only grown more violent on our social media feeds. From subtweets to twenty-plus long comment threads on Facebook, we are a clearly a nation devoted to righteously tapping our thumbs and clacking our keys.

Obviously, I’m not necessarily against that– I’m doing it now as I write this post. I only mean to say that many of us are becoming more engaged in discussion around recent topics in America, and are navigating situations that are often sticky and emotional. In a lot of ways, I think that’s a good thing. We can’t move forward until we discuss those topics.

As I’ve skimmed these conversations, though, I’ve noticed the resurgence (or perhaps it’s always been there and I’ve been blocking it out) of a popular phrase, “I’m not racist, but…”. It’s cousin, the defensive retort of “I’m not racist, how dare you?!”, pops up as well.

Here’s an important fact that, if you already read the blog (or perused the header), you may not need to hear, but bears repeating: we are all struggling with race. We are all operating in a racist society. Perhaps, one could quote a famous Broadway song and hum that “everyone’s a little bit racist.”

There are always a few interesting reactions to hearing that statement. Some folks read it, take a breath, nod and say, “Yup. So, now what do we do?” That’s good. That conversation starts leading us towards work and, I hope, equity.

Some, however, clutch their pearls as they gasp in horror. They insist that they can’t be racist, and how dare anyone make such an accusation? Others, such as the aforementioned song above, assert that this is true and so we need to accept it and move on. Neither of these moves conversation forward. The former stops the discussion in its tracks; the latter complacently shrugs it shoulders and lets the status quo roll merrily along.

The issue, I think, may folks have with the belief that we are all struggling with race is that we have attached moral absolutes to the term. Jay Smooth discusses this in his excellent TEDxTalk, “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Discussing Race” (transcript).

As he points out:

We deal with race and prejudice with this all or nothing, good person/bad person binary in which either you are racist or you are not racist. As if everyone is either batting a thousand or striking out every at bat. And this puts us in a situation where we’re striving to meet an impossible standard. It means any suggestion that you’ve made a mistake, any suggestion that you’ve been less than perfect, is a suggestion that you’re a bad person.

So we become averse to any suggestion that we should consider our thoughts and actions, and this makes it harder for us to work on our imperfections. When you believe that you must be perfect in order to be good, it makes you averse to recognizing your own inevitable imperfections and that lets them stagnate and grow.

When we see the term “racism” as a moral absolute, we add emotional baggage that gets in the way of having conversations that are really important. Instead, it’s essential to understand that we all operate in a racist society, and doing so has made us all have problems with race. From Jay Smooth’s talk:

…we all have unconscious thought processes and psycho-social mechanisms that pop up. There are many things in our day-to-day lives that lead us toward developing little pockets of prejudice, that lead us toward acting unkind to others, without having any intent to do so.

These are things that will just naturally develop in our day-to-day lives, so the problem with that all or nothing binary is it causes us to look at racism and prejudice as if they are akin to having tonsils. Like you either have tonsils, or you don’t, and if you’ve had your prejudice removed, you never need to consider it again… But that’s not how these things work; when you go through your day to day lives there are all of these mass media and social stimuli as well as processes that we all have inside our brains that we’re not aware of, that cause us to build up little pockets of prejudice every day, just like plaque develops on our teeth.

Dr. Beverly Tatum points this out as well. In multiple writings and interviews (including Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria: And Other Conversations About

Books, computer games, the Web, television – there are so many places that we can be exposed to stereotypes, that we can be exposed to distorted information. And there is a whole universe of information that we’re not getting. Think about these stereotypes, these omissions, these distortions as a kind of environment that surrounds us, like smog in the air. We don’t breathe it because we like it. We don’t breathe it because we think it’s good for us. We breathe it because it’s the only air that’s available.

And in the same way, we’re taking in misinformation not because we want it… And it’s so pervasive that you don’t even notice it sometimes. In fact, a lot of the time you don’t notice it.

We’re all breathing in misinformation. We’re all being exposed to stereotypes, and we all have to think about how we have been impacted by that. You sometimes hear people say there is not a prejudiced bone in my body. But I think when somebody makes that statement, we might gently say to them check again. That if we have all been breathing in smog, we can’t help but have have our thinking shaped by it somehow. As a consequence, we all have work to do. Whether you identify as a person of color, whether you identify as a white person, it doesn’t matter. We all have been exposed to misinformation that we have to think critically about.

Dr. Tatum also points out that, our actions can be racist without intending to (as an educator, this example spoke particularly to things I have done in my own classroom):

…there is a lot of behavior that also supports a system of advantage that we might describe as passively racist. For example, in education – if I am teaching a course in which I exclude the contributions of people of color, only talk about white people’s contributions and only talk about white literature. And I never introduce my students to the work of African Americans, Latinos or Native Americans. I may not be doing that with the intention of promoting a sense of cultural superiority, but in fact the outcome of leaving those contributions out is to reinforce the idea that only white people have made positive cultural contributions.

I know a young woman who went to her English professor and asked, “Why is it that there are only white writers on our list? This is a 20th Century American Literature course. How come there aren’t any writers of color?” Her professor, to his credit, was quite honest and said I’m teaching the authors I studied in graduate school. It wasn’t malice on his part. He didn’t wake up one day and say, “Over my dead body will there be writers of color on my syllabus.” He was simply teaching the authors with whom he was most familiar.

The thing is, neither of these reactions is acceptable as educators. We are living in a time when race is an issue that is too important to ignore. Gene Demby writes in NPR’s Codeswitch:

We’ve developed a whole grab bag of tortured terminology for contentious racial subject matterter —racially insensitive, racially charged or just plain racial — to avoid committing to calling anything racist. The dangers here are obvious. Because active racial discrimination and inequality remain defining features of American life — in housing, in our schools, in our criminal justice system, in employment — avoiding the word racist misrepresents the truth. The result is that racial issues have no meaningful distinctions, and racist in our mainstream discourse is defined only as something as extreme as the lynching of Emmett Till, or as an idea up for debate (Is THIS racist?), or as a phenomenon with no contemporary human vectors.

We see this, too, in our education system. As school climate worsens, we can’t afford to stay silent on topics that are clearly affecting our students. As Jonathon Gold wrote for Teaching Tolerance, “Neutrality won’t work in the face of bigotry, xenophobia and fearmongering…” We are clearly in a place where issues around race and power are playing out in the lives of our students. If we don’t accept both this fact and our role in those issues, we cannot begin to move forward to fix the problem.

So, now what?

Besides the resources I’ve linked above, Stacey A. Gibson recently wrote a wonderful piece for ASCD about disrupting inequity and the silence about race. She provides a number of ideas and tangible sources (such as Teaching ToleranceEDUCOLOR, and Radical Teacher) to help us all self-educate and begin having the conversation.

The first step, though, is actually two-fold. First, we have to shrug off either our complacency or un-clutch our pearls and lower our defense mechanisms. If we’re so caught up in the idea of being “good people” that we can’t see the forest for the trees about systemic issues, we won’t be able to do the internal work to combat them. Then, we must be brave. Neither this realization nor this conversation is easy. But the consequences of ignoring it far outweigh the discomfort having it will bring.

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The Audience

I’ve been looking through old writing, and I found this. In a desperate attempt to stay fresh, I did some editing, because writing is rewriting and repurposing, yes?


It starts by willing yourself out of bed.

I’m not trying to trivialize that. It took what seems like years to get here. You have spent hours wrapped in sheets, unable to get up from the crushing weight of yourself. When you flip onto your back– the first movement you’ve made that hints that, just maybe, you will sit up this time– a rolling pain starts behind your eyes and down your back. It hurts. It paralyzes you for a moment, as you try and breathe past what, rationally, you know is not there.

The expanding of your rib cage hurts. The balloon of your stomach hurts. Blinking hurts. Everything hurts. It hurts enough for you to consider rolling back into the fetal position. You are tempted to throw an arm over your face like a boxer in a losing match– please, please, just stop hitting me— closing your eyes and trying to make the world disappear.

The thing is, depression is the quieter cousin of anxiety, and you’ve been dealing with this pair for years. They have been slipping into your bedsheets and sliding next to you in bus seats since you were an adolescent. They have wrapped your hand around razors and your body in blankets. They have convinced you that the world outside the life raft of your bed has waters far too dangerous to explore and watched as you did not eat, nor sleep, nor talk to anyone for days in fear of it. They have made you think that sitting with them in the darkness while they silently hold your hands is your only option.

And, years later, you have learned that this is a lie. You know, deep down, that staying with them only begets nights much darker than the one you are in right now. Wisdom teaches you that you have to get up. The rational part of yourself– a minority voice in the chorus of your aching mind– grasps desperately at that wisdom: You have to get up now. You have to get up.

You take a deep inhale, and sit up, a body rising from the grave.


I haven’t been able to stop writing in second person lately. It’s a bad habit of style, I have no doubt. We always teach against the second person; the constant use of “you” can come across as preachy or pedantic, and no audience likes to be told what they feel. It is difficult to do well, and I am no Junot Diaz.

I’ve been desperately trying to break out of the pattern. I start pieces with “I,” feverishly forcing myself to read down a mental list of the feelings I could tell you about, the dynamic verbs my body could be doing, or the thesaurus-long list of words that better describe how I could “say” any of this (‘I mutter,’ ‘I gasp,’ ‘I scream’).

Then, I realize that I have no idea how I feel. I have no idea what I’ve been doing. I am secretly in crisis mode, my brain the burnt out rubble of a war zone at the end of a long battle. I am glassy-eyed and shaken, triaging each moment like a trauma nurse on the field. I am figuring out what needs to happen so I can take the next breath. Sometimes it is stumbling through the motions because it feels like there is nothing else left to do.

And I see myself doing that. I see myself wander through the wreckage of my own being, unsure how to rebuild. At times, I can convince myself that the destruction will warrant whatever new creation I put together.

Sometimes, though, I am so paralyzed with fear that I can’t think through what comes next. Trying to figure it out hurts. Instead, I see myself go glassy-eyed and back away.

So, sure, I am partially writing like this in a desperate attempt to help you understand what I’m feeling. I am trying to unstitch and open myself, let you slip into this world for a moment by narrating what it feels like.

I understand now, though, that my audience isn’t just the reader anymore. My audience is myself, wandering that wreckage shaken and unsure. I am watching this version of myself try and figure her way out of the rubble. I see her sit down and bury her head in her hands, wondering what she should do next. I slam my hands against the screen, desperately trying to get her to hear me. I am writing her letters and stories, telling her that I understand, that it’s okay, that it won’t be this way forever. I want to jump in next to her, throw my arms around her, and then shake her by the shoulders.

You have to get up now. You have to get up

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Fleeting Peace

I am sitting laying curled up in bed, trying to overcome a massive food coma.

It has been nearly a month since I’ve written. I don’t know what to tell you, except that I’ve just been… tired. Don’t get me wrong, I still write over at EdWeek, which has much of my focus. Still, I know my entire fall has been colored by my own emotional and physical fatigue. I open the page and I don’t know what to tell you. I don’t even know who “you” is anymore. Myself in

I don’t even know who “you” is anymore. Myself in ten years? The ether? I shouldn’t write for an audience, but I haven’t had much of a desire to wax poetic on my inner sleepiness to myself.

So, what’s been going on?

I’m… happy. That’s really it. The ellipses isn’t a bad pause, it’s just an admittance that there’s nothing to analyze beyond the simple statement of fact. My life hasn’t been particularly tumultuous. A few weeks ago Chase and I traveled to San Francisco and it was gorgeous. We had an excellent time eating all the Mexican food, drinking, and seeing families and friends. We even caught The Lion King, which was a joy as always. We had an excellent time and are hoping to head to Chicago to catch Hamilton sometime in the Spring.

Besides that, things are generally steady. I run and teach. I want more sleep. I have a wonderful family who I miss, friends who cry and laugh with me (especially during the election season), a relationship that feels steady and happy. I am taking things day by day, which is all anyone can ask, I suppose. There’s not much drama or turmoil to spur any kind of writing. When I lamented this to Chase, he joked that he could act like a jerk for a few weeks, but even then I actually feel like even if he were a jerk, I’m finally at a place where I’d either make him talk through it or leave.

I think, right now, my biggest internal enemy is my own complacency. Things just feel so steady, it is easy to shut myself off from the things that used to make me angry and spurred me to lean into difficult work. I see now that some of the passion I funneled into other aspects of my work– teaching, returning to acting– were an attempt to escape aspects of my personal life that were less-than-pleasant. Of course, they were also from a deep, internal desire to do what I believe to be right, but working against oppressive structures is, obviously, tiring. When that sense of fatigue and stress was mirrored in my personal life, it felt easier to rage at it all since I was embedded with a deep sense of discontent.

Now, if I’m honest, my personal bubble feels warm and safe and happy. I finally feel supported in a way that I can actually relax into it– and I think it’s becoming a little dangerous. I am trying to find the thing that forces me to come out from behind the battlements of my stability, but I have been so tired the past few years, it’s been a little hard to get off the mat.

So, I’m hoping the find the spark again soon. I see glimpses of it here and there– clearly, the election was a big kick in the ass– but I’m also trying to remind myself that these things come in waves and that at some point I will sorely miss the sense of quiet joy I have each day now.

For the moment, I’m going to call it a day. I’m going to thank the universe that, despite the shenanigans of 2016, I still find a deep sense of gratitude for all the joy in my life. As my boyfriend plays video games and I curl up to The Gilmore Girls revival, I know that while this sense of peace is fleeting, it is still quiet enjoyable.

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Perpetually Broken, Perpetually Healing

First, you have to acknowledge the lies.

Panic is good at lying to you. It’s a tricky bitch. It will wait till your defenses are already down– you are already tired from long nights of insomnia, exhausted from trying to parse through the millions of thoughts that won’t stop racing through your head. Then, Panic will slip under your covers like the tenderest bedfellow. It will wrap its arms around your stomach and chest and hold you close and validate everything bad you’re feeling. Then, it will begin whispering lies to you.

I will never go away.

You look around, shake your head and readjust yourself body, ignoring the voice because you know everything must end and you’re sure this will too.

But Panic knows your weak spots. It knows how to make a bad thing worse.

I will never go away. And no one is ever going to put up with that.

Panic feels your stomach clench under its hands and smiles.

Yeah, you know it’s true. You’re so fucking annoying when you’re like this. You don’t even like yourself. Why would anyone put up with you?


Normally, when I storm and rage through an anxiety attack, it’s a solo adventure.

It hits me in cars or on runs. Sometimes in the quiet of my room. I’ve normally sensed an attack coming from miles away, and when the time comes, there’s nothing to do but wait for it to pass.

This time, however, was different. I thought I was fine. I thought I had gotten it out of my system a few days ago. I had a crying jag on the bathroom floor while my boyfriend was asleep, wiped my eyes, nodded my head and shook out my shoulders. Yeah, okay. I’m good now.

This night, though, I should’ve seen it coming. The inability to sleep. The desire to drink (nothing crazy, but when I go from drinking once a week to having a drink a day with dinner, I can tell something is up). The fatigue. It hadn’t really gone away. I was moody and tired and picking unnecessary fights, but I was so caught up in my own head that Panic blindsided me, that bitch.

Here’s the thing I don’t talk a lot about: While I have acknowledged my own struggles with anxiety, the shame hasn’t fully gone away. Even years later, I still feel incredibly judgmental of myself about my anxiety sometimes. Poor spoiled you, my brain snarls at me, What gives you the right to cry about anything? Why are you being such a whiny bitch? Who would ever put up with this? You’re pathetic.

So, I sit there, sniveling and helpless and hating myself. I sit there until it passes. But normally I sit there alone so that I can wallow in my own self-loathing without witnesses. When Panic rips you down the back and makes you crumple to your lowest self, you’re not looking for spectators.

This night, however, it wasn’t an option. My boyfriend and I got into bed (after above-written moodiness), and within minutes I knew what was happening. ‘Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck.’ I thought. ‘I have to get out. I have to go.’ I turned over my shoulder, hoping that somehow Chase had magically fallen asleep in a few minutes. He had not.

I will never go away.

I stalled. I got water and tried to get it out of my system in the kitchen without raising suspicions (how long can I spend in a kitchen at 11PM and not be binge eating cookies?!). I tried to think of some way I could justify getting my car and driving away that wouldn’t read as massively shady (note: I did not find this justification. Please let me know if you figure one out). Nothing was working.

I will never go away. And no one is ever going to put up with that.

Finally, I had no choice but to get back into bed. My boyfriend took one look at me and asked every upset-person’s Kryptonite: “Are you okay?”

I covered my face, like maybe I could hide from Panic itself (note: you can’t), and said, “I’m just having really bad anxiety right now,” and as soon as I named the Monster in the room, it was over.

And… it wasn’t great. It was embarrassing. I kept apologizing. It’s one thing to hear my own judgments rage at me internally when I’m having an attack, it’s another to know that someone has to sit there, helpless while you sort of just have a meltdown for no other reason then, “my brain chemistry likes to fuck with me sometimes.”

You’re so fucking annoying when you’re like this. You don’t even like yourself. 

To his credit, Chase handled it like a champ. He rubbed my back. He said not to be embarrassed and that I didn’t have to keep apologizing. He didn’t try and fix it. He just let it happen.

And, like all things, it eventually ended. The knots in my spine unstitched and my shoulders sagged. I came back to myself. The fog cleared and it was like I stopped seeing white and could breathe again.

But the shame didn’t go away.

Why would anyone put up with you?


Like I said, I’ve been dealing with Panic for a large portion of my life. I’m not scared of naming. I can identify the signs. I know I will live through an attack.

I guess I’m starting to see where the work begins now. I won’t always be alone when I have an attack. I can’t always get in my car and try and drive away from the problem. Sometimes, Panic will show up and I won’t be able to throw myself down the dark well where no one can see me.

The thing is, shame is a choiceGuilt is a choice. While the initial feelings can’t be controlled, whether or not we wallow in those emotions is inherently up to us.

We can listen to Panic’s lies that we are unlovable and unworthy. We can see our struggles as all the ways that we are “broken” and hide those flaws, ashamed that we are not as “strong” or “complete” as we think we need to be.

Or, we can realize that broken and healing are two sides of the same coin. They are different perspectives on the same state of being, really. What matters is which side we want to focus on. We can focus on the frustration that we are perpetually broken, or see the grace that comes with knowing we are perpetually healing, stronger than we were before.


After you acknowledge the lies, you have to beat Panic at its own game.

When it slips next to you, wrap its arms around your chest and neck, take a breath. Remind yourself that you can’t make it go away, but you can reframe the way you see its presence in your life.

And when it whispers, gently, into your ear, I will never go away.

Turn around, look it right in the eye, and say, “I know. And I don’t really care. I’m stronger than you, anyway.”