My last monthly reflection was in October 2020. At that time I was overwhelmed with work, the pandemic, the George Floyd murder, racism against Asians, and the presidentia election. I just could not find even a moment for myself. And yet, in that last report I wrote: I have been oddly energized this last month despite the pandemic reaching close to home, the elections and uncensored debates on social media about anything and everything. I am channelling my anxieties into work and community. I am not as sharp or visionary as I used to be but I can still work hard and long hours. Sure I am tired, yet I believe I still have something to contribute to the world. More than ever, I notice that my heart is leading me in almost everything I do now. It has been hard to not show vulnerability - to cry, to be angry and also to show kindness.
These words I read in the book Pleasure Activism by Adrieene Maree Brown have been ringing in my ears: “This is the time where everyone needs to bring their best selves. We are actively making a case for our species to exist on this beautiful planet. Can we be just? Can we practice freedom together? Can we rediscover the right relations with each other, including between humans and the earth? Can we remember what it is to be alive with each other, beyond suffering and survival?”
The longer this pandemic lasts and the more hate our leaders spew, the harder it will be to remember what it is to be alive with each other, beyond suffering and survival.
Soon after I submitted that reflection I decided to take a pause from my Bush Fellowship. I didn’t want to waste the opportunity because I knew that I would be consumed by work and with the state of our global community I had no choice but to prioritize work and staying healthy while sheltering at home. I did not want to take any chances when infections and death rates were rapidly increasing during those winter months. Living in an intergenerational household with family members who had underlying vulnerabilities meant that my central goal was to protect my family and my community. There was no time for me.
It was the right decision. I poured all of my energy into work and staying put. I prepared my team for the 2020 legislative session by leading on three bills, supported my colleagues to address the increasing racism against Asians locally and nationally and showed up to almost every virtual meeting and gathering to ensure that our systems included Asian Minnesotans in education equity, pandemic relief in the health and business sectors. While this demanded that I assert my leadership, it did not provide time for personal reflection because it was just literally nonstop. I began to feel my body and mind deteriorate.
At the beginning of 2021, I knew that I had to make drastic changes in my life. Even though my daughter and I were both at home, she was in distance learning upstairs and I was working downstairs, we did not see each other. By 7:00 pm she would come down and ask me if I was done with my zoom meetings. Most of the time I told her ‘just one more to go’. Because I love my work and consider it critical and essential advocacy during times like this, it was hard to step away. I took for granted that being at home meant having more quality time with my family. Instead, it just gave me more excuses to commit to more meetings and events for work and community because it was as simple as logging into a link. Also, we were requesting invitations to join every event because institutions wanted to have representation.
Admittedly, even though the last year has been extremely stressful, I have been using some of the mindfulness skills I learned during the first part of my Fellowship. In fact, my organization hired the same somatic coach that I use to lead a weekly organization practice in the long months of painful racism, violence, and systemic gridlock reverberating throughout our state and country. My understanding of the importance of being still and grounded helped me and my team through those challenging times. In fact, in my last report I wrote: I have been embracing the small steps that took me one year to learn. It dawned on me recently that I have finally learned to practice self-love (not necessarily self-care). Perhaps it’s not so much ‘learning’ but I have given myself permission to practice self-love. I never knew how to celebrate my life or celebrate in general because no one showed me. I always heard that self-love is just plain selfish. The little practices that I have learned to do -- to breathe, take 5 minute meditations, make time for a walk, or do nothing for the sake of it are important. Processing this with my somatic coach lifted a very heavy burden that I didn’t even know I had.
Knowing that I have a commitment to myself through the Bush Fellowship, I made a second serious decision. I decided to resign from my job in May 2021. This month I am restarting my Fellowship, which is an extraordinary gift that provided me the additional confidence to quit the job that I love and find so much passion and reward in doing. Now I can fully focus on continuing my Fellowship plan and to grow deeper the skills that I had learned at the beginning of my journey as well as explore other leadership experiences.
Quitting my job during a global pandemic (I’m not convinced it’s over yet) and racial justice reckoning is not ideal. I am fortunate because having this Fellowship gives me a little bit of time to regroup and plan for the future. The last couple of weeks I have received congratulatory messages. It is a bit astounding because I don’t have a job waiting for me. And at my age, I am worried about my financial security. However, I want to believe that people are celebrating my courage to take a break because it is also a demonstration of self-love, something that is most challenging for me. My heart is full to have the support of my community during major life shifts. I credit my new mindset to my Fellowship. It is giving me permission to be bolder when it comes to taking personal challenges and risks. I like learning about self-care and want to do more of it. I feel lighter and when I’m intellectually or spiritually stuck, I know that there are ways to free my mind and my soul. If nothing else, I trust that my community has my back. I learned greatly from leaders in the racial justice movement and I want to spend more time with them. For these reasons, I’m excited about the next part of my journey.
On my last day of work, a small group of friends surprised me with a party. One of them gave me a set of fun tarot cards in the form of oracle guides. That evening, the first card I selected was Divine Timing which reads -- “Life is always unfolding in the perfect time - space sequence. So, angel wisdom is encouraging you to move into a state of trust, knowing that good things are always unfolding for you…. This card is a sign that your hopes and dreams are unfolding. You may not think so, but you need to remember that you may be working to ‘human time,’ whereas God is always working on ‘soul time,’ which can never be measured or rushed.” This card has appeared a couple more times since that night.