The start of another #31DaysIBPOC series brings with it an opportunity to reflect—and after the year that has been, there’s certainly a lot to reflect back on.
There’s a lot I could say about this last year of pandemic living and teaching—how so much and too many have been lost. Part of me feels compelled to write about that loss, the grief, and yes, the rage—to give it voice so that it can’t be ignored.
And while that rage—and grief and loss—can become overwhelming, it’s also been clarifying. If crises reveal character, then the last year has been illuminating. After the Atlanta shootings, I found myself crying—a lot—at random times and sometimes uncontrollably. Hurt that I’d tucked away or ignored for years began to knock quietly in my chest again, whispering, remember me? On more than one day, I shut my laptop, buried my head in my hands, and sobbed quietly behind closed doors. Sorrow and guilt moved inside my chest and settled into any empty space they could find.
With continuing violence against Black communities and surges in anti-Asian hatred, it’s been hard to bear witness to the ways that people have been harmed, including many I care about and love. To watch how others stand by in silence. How systems and structures everywhere insist on clinging to practices that serve a status quo that is violently indifferent to the harm inflicted on too many kids, and especially kids of color. More than once this last year, I texted a friend, “It’s too much.”
It’s too much.
Sitting next to all that is too much are also other things, things like truth, community, kinship, and love.
As painful as it can be sometimes, the truth is powerful and empowering. It’s been frustrating to see current “culture wars” wrongly focus on “indoctrination.” Long overdue conversations about whose stories and voices are heard are ultimately about truth-telling—and what happens when that truth challenges and changes us. If the truth shall set us free, we first have to tell it all—and tell it plain.
OVER AND OVER again this past year, through every frustration and every joy, my friends have saved me, one group chat and one text message at a time. Physically distancing has only deepened my relationships with friends and loved ones. Community, kinship has saved me.
My I love yous are no longer reserved for family.
Life is too short to be stingy with I love yous.
That’s a truth I know, deeply in my bones, because of the way others have loved me, held me together whenever I felt myself coming apart.
So many of us—especially women of color—give so relentlessly to others at the expense of ourselves. How are you taking care of yourself today? is a question that I’ve gotten into the habit of asking my friends regularly. For me, taking care means claiming joy and laughter and love every chance I get, like when I cup my youngest son’s soft cheek in my hand before hugging him close and kissing the top of his head goodnight. Taking care means movie night in our house, something I know I’ll miss when my oldest leaves for college in a few years. And taking care also means seeing the joy on my (post-vaccination) parents’ faces as they spend time with their grandkids.
At the beginning of the pandemic, some experts hoped that this might be the start of a “great reset” — a course correction away from the soul-crushing grind of work. I don’t want to go back to that normal.
I want a world where taking care of ourselves and each other, where truth and community and I love yous are part of a new normal that can set us all free.
This blog post is part of the #31DaysIBPOC Blog Series, a month-long movement to feature the voices of Indigenous and teachers of color as writers and scholars.
Please CLICK HERE to read this year’s and previous years’ contributions.