But overall, the past four days have affirmed what I had hypothesized previously: that I spend a lot of time on social media, and on my phone in general. And as a result, during this break, I find myself misplacing my phone often. And in all of this, I've enjoyed my holiday time with my family more because I am both figuratively and literally more present. I didn't think it'd be that much of a difference, but it has been. Admittedly, I also feel somewhat disconnected, which I had also hypothesized— it's part of why I was scared to delete these apps because it's so much of how I stay in touch with friends. Thankfully, people have texted me more, which has been lovely, and I'm glad that on the 31st, I posted that I was going on break for the month.
In that, I totally missed the news about the boycott for the Golden Globes. I already had a slew of criticisms for them, which have been aligned with the critiques about the lack of diversity from the Hollywood Foreign Press Assocation and corruption (all of which can be read here and here), But my critique has also been deeply personal in the ways that the Golden Globes categorized Minari under the "foreign" category, despite the narrative being about Korean Americans, written by a Korean American, and a cast that is largely Korean American. While I grew up not in Oklahoma, where the movie takes places, I felt like the stories and snippets, the small details in that film were taken verbatim from my childhood memories. Memories, according to Hollywood Foreign Press and the Golden Globes, that are foreign.
Scholars have written at length about this: about Asian Americans being perpectual foriegners, of how Asians are reduced to the model minority myth, and the ways the model minority myth further perpetuates anti-Blackness. So even as the Golden Globes awarded Bong Joon Ho and Parasite many deserved awards (which I write about here) and I, like many others, was excited about Lee Jung Jae of Squid Game receiving a nomination for Best Actors, I also know that this representation isn't enough. Representation won't bring us transformation: at most, it is what Dr. Sarah Ahmed describes as a function of the diversity check-list.
Over the past several years, I've justified my hours of scrolling, posting, engaging because it is tied to my work with gatekeeping (see my research here) and how part of the ways I challenge toxic academic socialization is by sharing resources (see explanation here and here). I share and learn about call for proposals, new articles to read from Twitter. The Facebook Groups I have joined often serve as mutual aid groups in my identity as a pre-tenure scholar. And Instagram is where I keep in touch with friends and all the Kpop and Korean drama funsies. I love so many aspects of social media. And, as equally important, I dislike so much of social media. Or, more accurately. how I have been seeing myself morph and engage with these platforms. I spend hours endlessly scrolling, being less present, hyerscrutinize the photos I take or the captions I'm trying to write, and spend time feeling like something is missing because the comparison feels real, even though I know and have read articles like this one from Psychology Today that breaks down how this phenomenon is a facade.
So starting tomorrow, I'll be taking a break and try logging off. I know I should because of how much stress it's already causing me to even think about not using it. I want to use it even more today just to "make up" for the lost time I know I'll be incurring later by not being able to access it. Hilarious, and a reaffirmation I need to pause, take a break, and see what happens. At the very least, I imagine I'll have regained some time back.
It's that time again! Me sharing what are the things I've been consuming, watching, enjoying, while procrastinating from my actual to do list, AND also taking some much needed time away and resting. Much like the rest of the world, I binged and enjoyed Squid Game - I had it marked months prior because I'm still always a little dazed that Korean content is showcased and readily produced with streaming sites. And in that, I went down a bit of a rabbit hole of a TON of Korean shows and movies.
I feel like Squid Game needs no explanation. The only thing I'll reference is what others (especially on Twitter) have discussed about what gets lost in translation from Korean to English, which is something not just to Squid Game but a lot of the Korean dramas and movies. In that, it feels -- odd -- to understand the nuances and realize that it's not carrying over in English. Even the use of my word "odd" is an (ironic?) translation of the word I actually want to say in Korean...
What I've realized with the majority of the movies and shows I've recently binged is the critique of the system and a comment towards corruption. Squid Game, classically focuses on capitalism; Hellbound critiques cults and the ways people too easily weaponize religion into fanacitism; The King about political machinations to create the history that is celebrated. Likewise, I've realized I tend to gravitate towards the vigilante, rag-tag type of "fight the man" team, much in the ways One, the Woman is challenging corporate conglomerates (with a dash of murder/ disappearance/ mistaken identity); or Veteran as the team is trying to take down an entitled, violent, person (that represents a much larger system). And to be clear, most of these are incredibly violent (Squid Game and Hellbound, especially so), but also with a dash of humor (sometimes a romance line too). Extreme Job overlays efforts of trying to uncover a drug ring with getting waylaid by their too-effective undercover operation as a fried chicken place and Don't Date That Guy infuses an espionage tale with a sarcastic refrigerator (yes, you read that right).
And as a random observation, I didn't realize how many zombie shows and movies I've been enjoying. It's not a trend I thought I'd like (and I completely skipped over the vampires and werewolves excitement), but in thinking about Kingdom, Train to Busan, and most recently Happiness, I apparently really like zombie things, or at the very least, the way Korean directors are showcasing zombie storylines and tying it back to... yep, you guessed it, corruption, greed, and the human condition.
To be frank, the idea for this article had never crossed my mind. Instead, what happened was a conversation with Dr. Criss Salinas that included a tangential mention about the resources on this site. And organically, I wound up sharing a bit about the evolution, (which I've written about here— also on this site), emphasizing how many many iterations its gone through and hopefully can be an encouragement for folx who might be interested in creating something similar. And from that conversation came the encouragement and push for an article like this: to describe its purpose, history, lessons learned, and recommendations. And now it's here. The article is actually here.
I'm dazed with the article being here, because of my other longstanding conversation with myself and my relationship to writing. I've penned some of my struggles with writing here and the difficulties of transitioning in the faculty position here. So it feels especially wild for me to have an article published within this "pit" in where I'm still feeling stuck. Thankfully, collaborations and writing groups have been helpful as I still struggle and continue to struggle with writing. And much in the ways I've shared here (in a podcast episode), writing is hard to do in the middle of a pandemic, with ongoing racial violence, because writing, dreaming, thinking, drafting— all of it— requires stillness, time, and quiet. The world is rather noisy.
Coupled with all of these feelings, has been the fear: the fear of being a "one hit wonder." My last published manuscript was in 2018 and with all my writing woes, I have kept wondering if I'd ever write something else. (Granted, I wrote a dissertation, but for some reason, it doesn't feel the same). Earlier last week, I listened to a fantastic podcast episode from 88 Cups of Tea (highly recommend) with author Tochi Onyebuchi who talked about that exact fear. He outlined how this fear manifests particularly when going from the first book to the second and the ways our expectations increase, both internal and external. It was a well-timed moment, and a nice reification that the fear of it doesn't necessarily go away with more books, more publications, more accolades. This is because our fears are rooted in a slightly different question: "is this it for me?" And what Onyebuchi describes is how to overcome this feeling, or maybe not even overcome but to be alongside it, is to continue to try.
And so I have. I still write. I am still writing, both here and in draft manuscripts. I am trying. And for me, the article, all the feelings, represents, in part, a wonderment of trying. I feel a bit bare saying it like this, but I imagine that some of you are in similar places, spaces, of trying.
My students have come to roast me during class because I apparently introduce every book, author, and article in class as "my favorite." Which is true; they really are all my favorites. At the beginning of classes, I like to introduce a "quote for thought." They'll range from a quote within a science fiction book, or an excerpt from a random article I read, or an Instagram post or tweet I liked. Last week, I brought N.K. Jemisin's "Broken Earth Trilogy" because I had used the following quote (which I screenshot from my slides):
It was the perfect way to start our week of "Research Foundations in Higher Education" with our adventures with phenomenology, narrative inquiry (and speculative storytelling), and portraiture. And the Broken Earth Trilogy really is one of my favorites— as my class has very lovingly pointed out. And I find this absolutely hilarious because I had no idea I did this for a while. And now I keep qualifying every book and author with, "I know I say everything is my favorite, but y'all, this one is really a favorite." And I stand by it. These are many of my favorite things 💖
The first week of October is done, and with that, the 7th week of the semester in year 2 as faculty. I'm not sure where the summer went, nor where the beginning of fall went, but here we are. And here I am, in a very different stage and place in my life.
The first year of faculty life was a lot, as my reflection about the first-year dossier indicated. The best way I can describe last year, within the larger context of the (ongoing) global pandemic and continued racial violence, is that I spent most of the first year thinking I was bad at my job and deeply convinced that I wasn't cut out for faculty— that I was in the wrong profession. How did I come to this conclusion? I'm too sure, but by the first set of course evaluations (which were brutal, as all the literature has confirmed), I knew that this was not it. And so I spent the rest of the year feeling as though I was continuing to fail, was being set up to fail (as I did indeed fall into many of the traps Women of Color faculty experience at predominantly white institutions), and that no matter what I did, I couldn't improve the conditions, my position, and so I felt like I kept failing.
The summer was important. I spent time away from what became a personal and professional sinkhole: my home. During that first year, I spent the entire time in my apartment, taking every meeting at home, every crushing moment of writer's block at home, crying after reading my course evaluations at home, all of it... at home. Home was no longer sacred; home was no longer restful; home was the painful reminder I was bad at my job. I bought plants to distract, invested in hobbies to try other things, and redecorated often. Spending a summer away was exactly what I needed to regroup and reframe who I was going to be moving forward.
The second year is different. I did not realize how much I had missed the physical classroom (while still recognizing the inaccessibility it forces). I have an office, which I very much enjoyed decorating. Yes, I put plants in it. And I have distance— literal, with my hour commute each way that gives me time to enjoy a podcast, listen to some songs, catch up with a friend. But the biggest reason why the second year feels different, is because I know I want to remain a faculty member. To be clear, I am not magically a better professor this year; I am more or less the same (although, like I told my students, I am WAY more funny and charming in person). However, I've reframed last year as growth and also changed my stance with the job. I do want to be and enjoy being faculty—perceived failures and actual failures in all. I didn't make the wrong choice, and that even if, hypothetically I did, I'll have learned a ton to better prepare me for whatever is next. And, I do think I am marginally better at the job this year (which make sense), and that maybe I actually can do this job in the ways I had always hoped.
Oh, I'm also happier in this second year because I also stopped working 7 days a week. I know, I know: neoliberal capitalism and grind culture at its worst and I very much folded into it, but I also strugged in teaching two classes on Mondays so Sundays became work days, and Saturdays had already been writing days. Thus, I quickly evolved into a system where I was working every day. I no longer do that. As I tell my students often— in part, as a way to manifest it for myself— I have a robust life outside of academia; we all should.
I will speak this into existence for this summer, which truthfully doesn't quite feel like a summer. My goal: to go on vacation, and not bring my laptop.
Whew. I am starting to get anxious just thinking about not bringing my laptop. I have a tablet, with a keyboard, which I know I'll bring with me. But even so, the idea of NOT BRINGING my laptop, feels so very much different.
My friend Debbie, who I met while at UCLA, used to complain about me (in a loving, joking way) because no matter where we went to explore on the weekends, I'd always bring my laptop. Cute cafes, amazing locations, delicious brunch spaces (all pre-pandemic), always included my metaphorical but actually quite literal, physical baggage that is my laptop. For many of those times, I actually never wound up opening it. (And Debbie would, like a true friend, tease me about why I hauled it around LA in the first place). Even during multi-day vacations, I'd really not spend a lot of time using it— usually just answering emails which (1) I shouldn't have been doing anyways, but also (2) could easily do on my phone.
And yet, the idea of not taking my laptop, feels like a commitment I'm not quite ready to make: a commitment to not be so tied to my work. To be clear, I am certainly not making the argument that people who bring their laptops everywhere have bad work-life harmony; (thank you Dr. Fred Bonner II for that reframe from work-life balance). Instead, as I'm slowly starting to travel (i.e., see my family for the first time), I'm wondering what my life might be like where I just... don't take my laptop. I'll still be able to do work off my tablet of course, and my parents have computers for me to use too in case I really need it. So I am thinking, and wondering about this idea, this vision, this tantilizing dream of not bringing my laptop... that feels like something that maybe I can actually try for this summer and commit to taking some time off.
And through it, I've come to meet some of my most favorite worlds, learned about authors who have now become some of my faves, and picked up new anthologies and books because I wanted to read more. Here are some of the episodes I've especially enjoyed (links and descriptions from Stitcher and in no particular order):
"Valedictorian" by N.K. Jemisin
A smart, stubborn high school student sets her own rules in a near-future dystopia. This story appears in N.K. Jemisin's collection HOW LONG 'TIL BLACK FUTURE MONTH? Content advisory: language.
"What It Means When a Man Falls From the Sky" by Lesley Nneka Arimah
A mathematician has discovered a formula that explains the universe and makes it possible to manipulate human bodies and emotions. "What It Means When a Man Falls From the Sky" is the title story of Lesley Nneka Arimah's collection from Riverhead Books.
"The Paper Menagerie" by Ken LiU
An immigrant mother tries to bond with her American-born son by creating a magical paper menagerie. This story appears in Ken Liu's collection THE PAPER MENAGERIE AND OTHER STORIES, available now from Saga Press.
"Childfinder" by Octavia Butler
A telepath uses her skills to mentor children with psionic ability. "Childfinder" is available in e-book format in the collection UNEXPECTED STORIES, published by Open Road Media. The story is copyright Ernestine Walker-Zadnick.
"Pockets" by Amal El-Mohtar
"Cuisine des Mémoires" by N.K. Jemisin
The first story I listened to was Lesley Nneka Arimah's "What it means when a man falls from the sky." And when I finished listening, I couldn't believe that it ended there, so I went out and bought the book immediately. I did the same after listening to N.K. Jemisin's "Cuisine des mémoires." And I cried during and after Ken Liu's "The Paper Menagerie"-- it was a little to close to home for me.
Part of why I like the podcast is because of how Burton adds in special effects with his incredible reading, so it really feels like a transportation to another realm. It's why I feel jarred when stories end "too soon" for me, or when things feel too close to emotions I've pent up. But, part of why I wanted to share about podcasts for this random round-up is because of the two stories I had wanted to include, but won't.
If folx have been following the news over the past couple of years, we've seen several cases of how scholars, researchers, and organizers have pretended to be a race that they are not and reaped the benefits of doing so-- which is especially damaging, horrible, and frustrating given the already scare resources for minoritized groups. The most recent in 2021 is Andrea Smith and I recomment reading Sarah Viren's incredible article about it. Viren's article unpacks the multilayered complexities of claiming ancestry with Native American tribes. I can't really do it justice so please just read it :)
I included it because of how, after listening to "Takeback Tango" on the podcast, I was enthralled and decided to look up Rebecca Roanhorse. And in doing so, came across this article: Acee Agoyo 's (Ohkay Owingeh/Cochiti/Kewa) article, entitled, "'The Elizabeth Warren of the sci-fi set': Author faces criticism for repeated use of tribal traditions." Whew. What a title right? But in it, included several troubling conclusions that felt similar to what I had been reading with Viren's (yet, also very different). I was of course, shocked and disappointed in reading the article, and now I don't know quite what to do-- I really do love Roanhorse's work. And yet...
In reflection on the past two weeks (which is when all of this came to play), I've realized that while I try to do my due diligence to read about authors I cite and include in my academic work (because citations are very much political), I have been less discerning in my other areas of life. To be clear, this isn't about wholesale boycotts or cancel culture (which is a different thing to unpack in it of itself), but a reminder for me that my time, money, and interests should be spent carefully and deeply in consideration of how harm is reproduced and the ways I contribute to it.
I've appreciated African American Policy Forum's #TruthBeTold Campaign where they've been documenting the attacks on Critical Race Theory (CRT). And one of the things that they've clearly outlined and what Colleen and I also spoke about (and can be seen from other CRT scholars), is just how many misconceptions that exist about CRT. As mentioned in the article:
Cho said that two common misperceptions dominate discussions about racism in the U.S.: the “interactional,” as in, “As long as I am not doing racist things, then racism is false,” and the “comparative,” as in, “We're not as bad as we used to be.” And in keeping the discourse here, she said, “we miss the ways that racism may no longer be, for example, graffitiing terrible words in front of somebody's store, but can be much more covert."
One of the things that we're observing is the interpretation of CRT as "attacks" on specific groups such as white conservatives, who argue that they are being villiafied. But what I want to clearly emphasize here and what CRT explains (see Derrick Bell who helped found CRT in legal studies), is that racism isn't just about racist interactions but really about the embedded ways our policies, structures, and even organizations reify racism. (This is also why I appreciate Victor Ray's article about theorizing racialized orgs). This also points back to our education systems and what we are— and just as importantly are not— teaching. For that reason and more, programs and initiatives like Dr. Nikole Hannah-Jones's work with the 1619 Project are huge because part of these anti-CRT attacks reflect a lack of recognition (*cough* hypocrisy) about our history. Recent comments from Vice President Kamala Harris in Guatemala to "not come" to America very much overlook how the U.S. has contributed to the political instability and migration, particularly in Central America.
But what these attacks also reveal are the ways that C. W. Mills (1959) describes our lack of "sociological imagination." In short, we reduce systemic concerns and struggles to interpersonal conflict and personal behavioral changes. We see this in deficit-oriented language and programming— think of the rhetoric of parents not caring about their children's education because they are not showing up to parent-teacher conferences, but overlooking that these conferences are scheduled during the work day that many parents (especially low-income) cannot (literally) afford prioritize. In the same way, we fall into the trap of thinking of racism as interactional, individually focused behaviors that we can "fix" through diversity trainings and workshops, without considering the political structures (think housing and redlining or gerrymandering and voting).
All this to say, I'm grateful for the opportunity to have been able to share my thoughts and am also grateful for Dr. Abbie Bates and Dr. Nolan Cabrera who talked me through my initial concerns and reminded me not to ramble (as I usually do— exhibit A are these entries).
Graduation was on Saturday and it is complicated. I, like many of my peers as part of the class of 2020, have a complicated relationship with graduation because we cannot help but continue to mourn the loss of celebrations and be a bit salty about the cancelled graduations we experienced.
I think because of these feelings, I was especially sensitive to the class of 2021 and my students, who were really hoping to have a graduation of their own. And so I volunteered to spearhead graduation and plan it with a great group of students (some who were graduating, others who will be in future years). We worked together for six intense weeks to make our socially-distanced in-person graduation (with pods and markers for guest seating) with a joint (virtual) live-stream! We had speeches, programs, hoodings, gifts, goodies, websites, Polaroids, and more to celebrate the students in love and in style. It was a lot. But it was also everything.
As part of the ceremony, I got to hood my amazing incredible advisees who have GRADUATED 🎉🎓🎉🎓🎉🎓 #ClassOf2021. They are a special bunch, as I wrote to my message to them on the graduation website I created (through Notion, of course):
Congratulations Class of 2021! As the class that welcomed me to Miami when I came for my campus visit, you all were a formative reason for why I wanted to join the Miami SAHE program as a faculty member. The group advising times, meetings, 1on1s, ProDevo events, and observing you all transition from graduate students to Student Affairs Professionals— all of these things have been highlights for me this year. Thank you for the work you have done, continue to do, and will do in your next steps. I am excited to continue supporting you all in your respective journeys and eagerly anticipating the ways you will make our field and our campuses more liveable, authentic spaces. Cheers and congrats!!!! 🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉
I'm so proud of them and was so honored to hood them. (Admittedly, I was also incredibly nervous to hood them and practiced on quite a number of people just in case).
I'm not quite done with my first year as a professor. I still have what feels like a mountain of grading to do and a graduation to help execute. But today felt like one of those days of "almost" so here are small snippets with no connection except that they all happened today. No big "moral" or takeaway at the end, just small bits of prose.
Snippet 1: With Covid-19 vaccinations and improvements with weather, some of my students and I have been able to see each other outside-- distanced, of course. Today was one of those days and it was lovely to 1. see people's heights which is always hilarious given the different angles my head will now turn; and 2. just being in shared (non-virtual) space. It felt like an apt wrap-up with the student group I've been advising and a wonderful celebration of the year. We also took some polaroids; my selfie polaroid game has not improved in the slightest.
Snippet 2: With graduation around the corner, the students and I who have been the graduation committee did a run-thru, which also included my practicing hooding my advisees. (The experience was both incredibly sentimental and something I'll explore later, given that with physical graduation being cancelled for me last year, I have yet to be hooded by my own advisor. Luckily, I watched a lot of videos to practice). The run-thru has been a culmination of 8 weeks of very intense planning with a team worthy of their own event staff company as we grappled with outdoor venues, livestreaming options, decorations, programming, and a hundred other details I am forgetting. Thank goodness they're running the show. I'm looking forward to celebrating the class of 2021.
Snippet 3: I went to my office. I don't go often given that it's relatively empty and I'm still hoarding my books at my home workspace, but going made me realize that once the semester is over, I'll make the transition from home space to my office space. I saw and dreamt a bit of how the end of the semester will quickly mean the preparation for the next. The wheels keep turning., especially as I look at the goals of my summer planning. Do I even want to cross the finish line? (Yes, obviously and I will celebrate plenty when I/we do).
I feel like all I'm doing is writing statements. And I mean that in two ways: (1) the tragedies and cruelty have been unrelenting so I feel like I am writing again and again and again— it's what I feel like I am doing all the time. But also (2) in doing this, I am exhausted, tired, angry, frustrated, in continuing to experience and observe structural systemic oppression manifest again and again and again and again. And in it, I feel defeated because in writing these statements, is this all that we can do? (The answer is obviously no; we can, need, and will do more). But in all of this, I wrote, again, to my students this past week. But wrote something a little different if you want to read it here.
The following are portions and updates of the statement I wrote for the program in which I am a faculty member. I pasted it here for folx who might want resources, learn more, need a base for how you might write something, or because maybe you own institution didn't write one and this can be affirmation. The one I sent to my students was a bit longer, including some brilliance that was generously shared from Dr. Dian Squire, whose own example was instrument in how I crafted mine.
Some of you might be following closely to the news, while others of you will be learning about this for the first time. Last night (March 16), a white, 21-year-old shot and killed 8 individuals in Atlanta, Georgia— six of whom were Asian and Asian American and seven of whom were women. In the reports detailed by Korean newspaper, Chosun, some of these individuals include elders and grandmothers.
A year ago, many of you received an email from me regarding anti-Asian rhetoric and hate regarding the discourse around Covid-19. In that email, I described how the reporting and rise of Anti-Asian (and especially anti-Chinese) violence was both related to the now-former president's harmful rhetoric but also related to a much longer history of stereotyping and associating disease with Asians as well as the construction and history of Yellow Peril. Since then, the organization Stop AAPI Hate has documented over 3,795 incidences from March 19, 2020 to February 28,2021 and includes the following disturbing and concerning conclusions [read full report here]:
Even further, we can take another step back to think about how Asians came to the U.S. and the larger global economies of imperialism and war (see Dr. Catherine Ceniza Choy's Empire of Care: Nursing and Migration in Filipino American History) which even then trickles down into how we are socialized to think about food (see Dr. Mark Padoongpatt's Flavors of Empire: Food and the Making of Thai America). This same week, the U.S. deported 33 Vietnamese refugees; all of this is deeply intertwined. To learn more, in addition to the books and articles I've recommended, consider watching PBS's "Asian Americans" series, reading and looking at organizations like AAPI Women Lead and Asian Americans Advancing Justice.
What this means for us, especially as student affairs professionals and faculty, are three things:
Writing this statement is especially difficult for me as an Asian American woman, and frankly, felt almost impossible for me to write as I am still processing and still grieving. Your Asian and Asian American friends, classmates, and colleagues may be feeling similar, and additionally feeling invisible considering the (general) lack of news coverage about Asians and Asian Americans and the geopolitical history of invisibilizing Asians in the midwest (see Dr. Jason Chan's dissertation). Consider reaching out to them and check-in. And as this statement might have shared new information to you, consider reading and learning more of the history that was not taught to us— read about Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) people; learn their histories; and hear their stories. And in doing so, consider how we might be more intersectional in our analyses and the ways we are challenging for student affairs, higher education, both as a field and in our respective positions, to do and be better.
Dr. Katherine S. Cho
[A/N: March 18, 2021]
In a previous version of this statement, I did not include the Page Act of 1875, which is earlier than the more well-known Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. In including it, I have been reflecting on how for the little I learned about Asian American history, I was only taught the latter and not the former, which (again) reifies the relatioship between race, gender, and immigration.
In Korean, there's a phrase folx use with "Latte" (라떼; just the way it's pronouned in English), as a play on words with "Natte" (나때; rhymes with latte), which essentially translates to "back in my day." People use it to tease the older generation to stop referring back to their "good ole days" or how they had it much worse, etc.
The number of times I've already used "back in my day" as a faculty member is hilarious. And even more hilarious because the "back in my day" was literally 6 months ago. That's all for today - just a coffee-time story with a splash of my ridiculousness.
What I didn't expect the dossier to be, as I worked on mine, was a rollercoaster of emotions in two ways. First, despite me consistently reminding my students to give ourselves grace for the Covid-19 pandemic and the ongoing racism; adjusting requirements for classes; and supporting students in modifying their expectations for themselves, I did not do the same for myself. Instead, I quickly spiraled into the "Well, I should have been doing" and "I can't believe I didn't do" self-talk that helps no one. I know many of you can relate and have done the same. Second, the process was emotional because I actually did do a lot. And you'd think that the second point would counteract the first point, but it didn't. I did a lot in things... I hadn't been counting. I didn't count them because I didn't count me. At some point during the semester, I stopped thinking I mattered. I cannot overstate how hard this transition has been, while recognizing that I have not written about it much either (in part, because I'm not quite ready to). I spent the past semester, my first ever semester as a faculty member in a new city, new institution, feeling like I failed at every aspect of my job. I know and know and know that I didn't fail. And yet, I still felt that feeling of failure to my core.
Yesterday, I learned that the term "imposter syndrome" was originally coined as "imposter phenomenon." I'll be sure to use the latter from now on, in the continuous reminder that my feelings of failure, a reflection and manifestation of imposter phenomenon, is a construction.
Of course it is.
As so many brilliant scholars have stated, higher education wasn't built for me, for people of color, for women, disabled folx, for trans folx, for so many many identities. Writing the dossier was grappling with how far I had convinced myself that I didn't belong. Despite my best efforts and even ironic ways I study and critique and analyze dysfunction, the dysfunctional socialization of academia, and even via the communication I have with students reminding them how much they belong here (because they do!), I had wrapped my identity in this 20-page document. What a ride. I obviously finished the document. Because I had to (ha!). AND because of a tremendous community that refuses to let me be less than, even when self-determined. Today, marks the halfway of week 2 in the second semester (still in the first year). In some weird way, I'm thankful in how the year 1 dossier gave me a solid moment of reflection, despite the rollercoaster. I'll carry these lessons a little closer to my heart as I finish out my first year and start working on the year 2 version.
P.S. As a pro-tip from Dr. Kakali Bhattacharya, make sure when writing a dossier, to have a conceptual framework that guides the narrative of who you are as a scholar.
It's December and almost 3 months since I wrote here. And this timing makes sense because my ability to write has been difficult at best, impossible at worst. Friends, femtors, mentors, colleagues, have all told me that the post-dissertation slump is real. And naturally, I heard it, nodded my head, and immediately thought that it would not apply to me or even if it did, I could just, "get over it."
I did not. And have not. I expected the transition to be difficult. But what I didn't realize was that the ways I finished and then immediately moved to faculty (both physically across the country and positionally with a new college/department) has led me to love writing less. I have not recovered from this heartache. Writing and my writing goals (which admittedly I did not adjust enough in light of everything), have been a containerized pressure cooker— all the more pressurized with all the language of "being on the clock" with tenure and impact factors and publications and and and. And I've spent most weeks feeling like a failure, despite appearing to "produce"... and feeling worse knowing that each week is another week I am further behind. An endless, horrible cycle.
I am also teaching a yearlong class on dissertations right now. And oddly enough, despite the constant feeling of never "doing/being enough" for that class and for my students either, it has offered a precious, consistent reminder of the beauty in writing. We spent class time reframing introductions as world-building, borrowing from science-fiction and fantasy to nerd out about how quickly a world can be constructed and inviting for us to join. I spent weeks reading incredible drafts, being inspired by my students, and also rereading some of my own favorite authors to provide extra resources and examples of beautiful writing. And... I do the exact same things my students and I have discussed as what harm our writings: the endless negative self talk about our own ability; calling our writing bad or not "academic enough;" chasing after perfection; writing a sentence and then rewriting it (over and over again); feeling like we did nothing because we were "just reading"... an ever-present spiraling cycle...
A week ago, I wrote a sentence that made me giddy— you know, the sentence you read aloud to your friends with the pride of knowing, "damn, this is a great sentence." And yet, I have not written another like that since.
I am slowly understanding that is okay. I am still healing. Elizabeth Acevedo was on the podcast, 88 Cups of Tea (highly recommend) and talked the necessity to relearn who you are during this pandemic. Back in September when I listened to the episode, I again, nodded and let that advice flow in one ear and out the other. But now, in reflecting on how I am trying to fall back in love with writing (and in some ways, back in love with myself), I realize I need to relearn who I am: who is this post-dissertation me and enjoy this journey of self and healing, amidst of and in resistance against the spirals and cycles that actually point to the much larger issue of academic production, neoliberalism, capitalism, and white supremacy— a post for another time.
I tried making bath bombs the other day. The adventure is part of my longer exploration in trying new hobbies outside of academia. While these figurines (a penguin, an ice cream cone, a cloud bubble saying yay, a dolphin, and sphere), look pretty, don't let that fool you. After sitting out for two days, they have still not fully dried out (versus the directions which say five hours). Also, the scent of kiwi-strawberry (an ode to my youth) still lingers quite strongly in my home. And the whole process reminds me again, why I'm a terrible baker, chemist, and not-so-great cook.
In Korean, there's a word called 손맛 (pronounced "sohn maht"). 손 translates to hand and 맛 translates to taste. Essentially, the word signifies the ability to measure without measuring— your hand can "taste" the measurements. After decades of honing the craft of cooking, we see elders wield this and be able to whip up dishes with a "pinch of this" and a "dash of that." Well... I have long desired 손맛 but have not invested the time nor acquired the skills to have it. Also, I don't have measuring cups or spoons. As a result, I "eyeballed" and "approximated" every measurement in the bath bomb process. Naturally, the end results are fizzling out. HA! (yes puns, no apologies).
I'm about a month into my faculty job. And with the transition, I've debated quite a bit about how to move with this blog (which in part, explains my absence in posting outside of the Random Roundup). With the new role, a new degree, a new place, and everything else that comes with these things, I feel like a lot of things have changed (and materially, of course they have).
And yet, I also feel remarkably the same. One of my friends and I talked about the Ph.D. a while back and about its anti-climactic nature: one day you are a graduate student, the next day you are a doctor. Nothing has changed fundamentally in who we are, what we believe, what we can do, and yet to the world, everything seems to be different with those three letters. This anti-climactic-ness is similar to how I'm feeling in the present, and where I struggle with the purpose of my blog.
When I was a graduate student, writing about my experience was something I wanted to do as a form of reflection and as a way to normalize the struggles of graduate school. It felt low-stakes because who was actually reading these posts? But now as a faculty member, I think about if I should be writing with the same intentionality, although again, who is actually reading this?
As a form of procrastination, I tend to read lots of books when stressed and/or in a time of transition. Thus, in the months of May, June, and July, I've devoured over 30 books and counting (as the other Random Round Ups have also shown). I also watch a lot of the same shows over and over. Yet, for this round-up, here are three new things I got to do~
A dear friend recommended the "Brooklyn Brujas" series multiple times. And finally, during a random night when I was going for a "light read" before sleep, I picked up Zoraida Córdova's Labyrinth Lost, and promptly stayed up all night reading it. I loved the book for the incredible world-building that happened, and the unapologetic use of language without translation. There are other gems to gush over, but it's definitely one not to be missed and even better: there are two more to read after you finish this one!
Friends know I'm an avid fan of Korean dramas but I've realized that over the years, my tastes have shifted. One of the areas I've grown to love are "slice of life"-type dramas— no dramatic plot line, no horrible villain— just people living their every day life. Hospital Playlist is exactly one of these types and one I've so very much enjoyed. As an added bonus, my shifting tastes have matched my mom so we got to binge this together. And, for folx who want to know where to watch this, they're on Netflix!
Minor Feelings. Whew. I have been eagerly anticipating Cathy Park Hong's Minor Feelings since reading Jia Tolentino's book review. I cannot talk about this book enough. I adore this book; I adore Cathy Park Hong; I adore all of it. And I think, beyond just feeling seen, while reading, I love the writing: the sentence construction, the evocative words, the sharp commentary, the ways the words on the page pierce my very heart and soul. I feel like my life changed while reading this book and is changing still, as I continued to reflect. Can you tell I'm a fan? ;)
I've done a couple of other things too, during this month of a new job and transitioning to faculty life, but for now, I'll highlight these things as my random roundup. Stay tuned for later updates~
It is official. I have completed the requirements of the doctoral degree. I am still having a hard time describing how I'm feeling. Crossing the "Ph(inishe)D" line and being "Ph(inally)D(one)" feels both elating and somewhat of a shock— perhaps I am still expecting for someone to jump out and say "gotcha!" and revoke my degree. I might also be in shock given that the school year is starting in two weeks and I am knee-deep in lesson planning and that transition as well.
But to go back to the dissertation, whenever I read my old posts or look through my Instagram regarding the doctoral journey, I realize I must sound like a broken record because my posts all talk about how important my community has been. And yet to stay a broken record, I can't help but think how true this is. I would not have made it here without the friends, colleagues, femtors/mentors, and family in my life. Several of my committee members laughed and remarked how my acknowledgments might have been the longest they ever read. ... which makes sense, give that they were 19 pages— longer than some of my of my actual chapters. (For background, I wrote them over two years whenever I had writer's block with the other sections of the dissertation). The pages were warranted because this dissertation is truly a labor of love and such an incredible testament and reflection of the relationships that carried me.
Admittedly, dissertating often felt lonely and lonelier still as the pandemic necessitated distance and caution. My community rallied around me with texts, virtual cafes, encouragements, phone calls, and "kat"ch-ups as a way to remain connected. Maybe that's also why this feels... not quite. I crossed the finish line during a (seemingly never-ending) pandemic which means we aren't a crowd of mass communal celebration. But today, with texts and celebrations, and a video round of libations with family, I am slowly getting used to the fact that I have indeed Ph(inishe)D.
I am almost always tuned into noise. I listen to music while I write; I listen to a podcast when I get ready in the morning. I'll likely listen to an audiobook when I'm back driving to places. My life is full of noise and commentary and sounds. I have always liked noise, from ambient white noise to kpop to classical music to coffee house backgrounds to discordant cacaphony.
But over the past couple of months, I found myself having a hard time: writing, thinking, being, all of it. I mean, I've had writer's block on and off for quite some time (as this site can attest). But it's been especially difficult now (... which of course makes sense given the double pandemic of covid and the world continuing to reject that Black Lives Matter). And so I've found myself gravitating to silence as a way to slow down, decompress, and quiet everything around me to be by myself: with my thoughts, my dreams, my ideas that are drifting that I slowly put on paper. It's nice... in a way that is unfamiliar.
So for this post, in addition to talking about some of the things I've enjoyed since my last "Random Round Up," I'm also going to weave in a couple of related articles for some food for thought as well. I am a huge fan of romance books, so I have been counting down the days for Talia Hibbert's "Take a Hint, Dani Brown" to be released. It's the sequel to "Get a Life, Chloe Brown" which was incredible. (Sidebar: I really appreciate the finesse of how Hibbert writes about chronic pain and disability). Also Dani Brown is a PhD student and it was so refreshing to read the struggles of writing and academia. Jasmine Guillory's "Party of Two" also came out on the same day this week (!!!!), and is the fifth book in her series. I've adored every single one of them, including this one where I've especially appreciated how the book described nuances about decision-making. Hibbert, Guillory, (and also Mia Sosa and Courtney Milan) are some of most favorite romance authors (not that you asked, ha!). Yes, I read both books in 24 hours.
As I've been continuing to read (mostly) Women / Womxn of Color, I'm constantly reminded how especially the romance industry is dominated by white authors. Vox's Aja Romano's and Constance Grady's piece masterfully examines the problematic, racist under (and over) tones within the romance industry of publishing and specifically about the Romance Writers of America (RWA). I also highly recommend reading McKenzie Jean-Philippe's piece from Oprah's Magazine, which includes interviews with Jasmine Guillory, Beverly Jenkins, Kwana Jackson, and Alyssa Cole. And within romance, the regency/historical genre is also egregiously white (white authors, white characters) and I've loved Talia Hibbert's blog post critiquing the embedded and assumed whiteness as well as subtle and not so subtle ways authors are anti-Black. All of this feels more apt than ever, along with Twitter threads like #PublishingPaidMe that highlight the gross difference in pay (and book advances) between authors of color and white authors.
While I haven't finished, I'm about halfway through Souvankham Thammavongsa's "How to Pronounce Knife" (here's an excerpt for a sneak peak). I was drawn to it because of this review by Electric Lit's Angela So— especially this part:
...in Thammavongsa’s work, refugees don’t have to be just tragic or sad but can be imbued with humor, complexity, and the unexpected. Most importantly, Thammavongsa doesn’t write for a white audience.
Oof. The review pierced my heart in ways that I knew I needed to read this book. And again, speaks to the ongoing critiques and problems of the publishing industry. I loved Kat Cho's tweets about point-of-view writing (the author, not me). And lastly, to round out this "Round Up" (which I just realized is ALL books), I just started Leah Johnson's "You Should See Me in a Crown," and it has been so great. Poignant, funny, relatable, and overall, such a wonderful read. I'm sorely tempted to blaze through the book, but am trying to pace myself since I am finishing up projects and writing on deadlines.
Let me know what you think about the books and/or if you have any recommendations, and if you're buying any of these books, check out one of these Black-owned bookstores! Oh and for a random non-book thing I've enjoyed, I just finished the last four seasons of Bob's Burgers (tv show). And as the last sidebar: the Random Round Ups have no scheduled posts; I just create one when I have four or five things I want to share.
In a year, I read somewhere around 100-200 books. I don't have a TV and I use reading as a form of escape, and I especially like reading outside of academia. It also helps with improving my writing :)
When I'm trying to concentrate, I like having background music that's super dramatic. For some reason, instrumental music is instrumental (pun!) in helping me concentrate. Most of the songs are Korean-drama OSTs (original sound tracks), w/ a few classical music scores in the mix!
I don't categorize anything other than my "random round-ups" because it takes too much work (insert laughing emoji).