A girl grabs her backpack out of the car and realizes she doesn’t have her umbrella. The rain comes down sideways with the wind, so she fumbles to pull up her rain jacket’s snap-on hood. Her hair, getting soaked, whips in front of her face, making it hard to see. She pulls the hood down closer around her face, only to hear the dreading snapping sound, indicating her snap-on rain resistance hood is snapping off, leaving more of her face and hair unprotected. If only she hadn’t accidentally left her wallet at home…. She could have parked in the metered spot near her building rather than in furthest corner of the deployable parking lot in the middle of freaking no-where campus. Her key, balanced precariously in her hand that clamps down on the rain jacket hood, slips through her fingers. Taking this as a symbol of her day so far, she loses it, and screams “can a bus just hit me now and take me out of my misery” to no one in particular. The rain continues to fall sideways, but she’s already drenched in her own self-induced misery.
 
-End Scene-
 
(Sound dramatic? Welcome to my inner monologue)
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Welcome to the Family

Yesterday, I was one of half a million humans who attended the #WomensMarch On Washington in the D.C. area. I wish I had words to describe the experience as a whole and what it means to me, and yet, even 24 hours later, words escape me.

The words I do have can tell you that the crowd was uplifting, optimistic, proud, loud, and driven for change. I can also tell you that the people beside and around me were incredibly diverse. Women, men, and those who are gender non-conforming and/or transgender from all walks of life, from all ages and all races, religions and ethnicities walked alongside one another, unified by two basic principles 1) their belief in human equity and 2) their belief that the current government regime threatened human rights. I can recall the sounds of the march as we chanted insulting rhymes about Trump, but we also sang “lean on me” across hundreds (maybe even thousands) of people at a time.

Yesterday, individuals became a movement and strangers became family.

Out of all the things that happened yesterday, out of all the things it could mean and should mean for us and the way our government listens to the voice of the people, I wish to tell one story… A story about my new family.

I started off the day with my husband, younger sister and best friend. We woke up early and sang happy birthday to a girl named Ann on the metro as we rode into the heart of the city. We walked passed the capital and stood a block away from the main stage, on the corner of 4th and Independence (fitting, right?). However, at one point, the crowd around us became too tightly packed and I could feel the panic and anxiety rising in my throat. I begged us to relocate to the side of the street. It ended up being the best decision we made all day, for as we squeezed our way from the center to the side, we emerged in front of a jovial group.

Dina–a warm happy woman with a loving smile and a compassionate energy–welcomed us to their section of the crowd, calling them her family. She introduced us to her 10 sisters, cousins, momma and auntie. This “family” welcomed us, calling us cousins and Eric their “nephew.” I was instantly struck by 1) their willingness to accept us amongst the packed crowds and pushing people and 2) the diversity of the women in our family.

Our race, religion, sexuality, nationality, ability, age, and local homes all differed, but our spirits were collective. This alone was beautiful… but what was more incredible than the blend of identities and lived experiences in our family was the revelation that we came from all of the corners of the United States, from different lives and stories all moving at different places and at different times to collide together for this one moment in this one section of this massive half a million woman march in the nation’s capital

We laughed together.

We ranted together.

We problem-solved our nation’s future together.

We gave advice to each other

We shared our few snacks around to re-energize each other.

We took selfies together.

We held onto each other.

We told each other our stories.

We cheered on and supported each other when one of us got tired or grumpy or needed to smoke but wanted to quit.

We stood in awe of each other.

I truly believe that in those moments, standing together in this one moment in history, we symbolized a unified American family

In those three hours of waiting for the march to begin down Independence Avenue and towards The White House, this family solidified my belief in that people can come together and love one another, no matter what our differences may be, no matter which shackles hold us down, no matter what monsters resided within us, no matter what path our lives have led us down. We loved each other because of these differences, because Black Lives Matter, because immigrants are welcome here, because love is love, because Muslims are a people of peace, because age is just a number, and because women’s rights are human rights.

I walk away from this experience reaffirming the belief that a light shines within us that unifies us, that propels us forward into goodness instead of backwards into hate. And my family yesterday defined again for me that feminism that isn’t intersectional is simply white supremacy, and confirmed to me that the patriarchy could indeed be smashed but only in the face of community and love and resolution.

I started off the day with my husband, younger sister and best friend, but I ended it with a new family. And as evening fell last night, I wished that everyone could have joined our family, could have seen the comradely and felt the love…

But then I remembered, that everyone is a part of our family, and they could feel this love too.Indeed, the love I felt during the march is not just reserved for me, it belongs to all of us because…

We are one family.

And as a family, we can overcome what divides us, celebrate what individualizes us, and love strangers as we love our mothers, fathers, sisters and partners.

I will hold this lesson close over the next four years and beyond and I hope you too, dear reader, can take this lesson too. I truly believe that this family–our family–was the greater reason for my participation yesterday.

Thank you, Women’s March, for teaching me the value of family.

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And for those of you who read this far, enjoy this photo of our family, taken by a friendly man watching the rally from atop a tree. 🙂

Conquer From Within

“Conquer from within;” a guiding philosophy for 2017.

As a proudly liberal, loudly feminist, believer in all things equity, supporter of people from all walks of life, the election of Donald Trump to the highest office in the country symbolized the rise of power of the antithesis of everything I believed in. This misogynist, racist, elitist, dangerous man was to shape the next four years of American life!?!? It lit a fire within me. This fire, fueled mostly by anger and disbelief, engulfed me for several weeks, and as 2016 came to a close, that flame burned bright as the conversation of new years resolutions circled on the social media stratosphere. And I don’t mean to be rude, but personally it seemed superficial to try to “get fit” or “get more organized” in the wake of what our nation was going through…. However, having recently been overcome by a wave of anxiety that I haven’t faced in several years, I also understood the importance of taking care of oneself in order to be a service to others. You can’t water a garden as an empty bucket.

I’m also a strong believer in new beginnings and resolutions in general, I knew that I would have to reconcile the need for healing, health and strength with my desire to be a warrior for positive change in 2017. This is when I stumbled upon the phrase “conquer from within.” I fell in love with the idea. The word conquer–strong and with a bite–reminded me of my commitment to the values of equity, community, and social justice. When I see the word conquer, I feel committed to be a fighter for liberal values. I see myself as a conquerer for the good in the world.

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But the phrase adds the idea of the inner work that needs to be done–the need to take care of ones mental state, physical  being, and relationships. To conquer from within, therefore, means to reflect, love, and inspire oneself in order to put yourself on the front lines every day for change.

To me, conquering from within in 2017 is…

Building inner strength to be the foundation for the long-term fight

Finding a place for self love in my life that can be transformed into love for all

Strengthening my inner resilience to provide fuel for the persistent resistance.

While reflecting on this philosophy for 2017, I realized that these concepts are only pretty words if they are not transformed into meaningful action. Unfortunately, both my self-care regimen and social justice activism has been mostly pretty words up until now–a concept without a plan. This needed to change. In order to see through my guiding philosophy, I therefore created steps and goals in congruence with the concepts of inner-growth and outward-resistance. These goals and strategies are manageable and they excite me. I’ve delineated them below.

  1. Unplug from Facebook and Instagram other than 30 mins a day. This keeps me from making constant comparisons with other’s lifestyles.
  2. Listen to more podcasts, subscribe to more news listservs, rejoin Twitter and follow only necessary accounts that will keep me educated on political and national events. This will provide me with the tools I need to resist political actions I don’t agree with and overall be a more well-informed citizen.
  3. Read for pleasure 30 minutes before bed 3 times a week.
  4. Donate to at least one non-profit organization once a month. We don’t have much extra money, but giving what I can where I can make a difference. Planned Parenthood’s got my $30 this month…
  5. Monitor and manage my anxiety.
  6. Focus my academic scholarship on movements and rhetoric that I find can benefit the civil action I believe in.
  7. Join, attend, listen and act (when and where directed) in the local #BlackLivesMatter DC chapter.
  8. Pour love and gratitude to the humans who make my world worth fighting for–my husband, my family, my friends (no matter how many miles away. for these folks, expect more letter writing, face-timing, visiting, etc.)
  9. Partake in weekly reflection on Sunday afternoons. This may take place in the form of blogging, doodling, having a conversation with my husband, etc…
  10. Prioritize action rather than re-posting articles on social media. Keep an eye on movements, organizations, leaders who need my support, action. Step up when needed.
  11. Find a hobby that promotes positive habits–meditation, journaling, SOMETHING.
  12. Find a community of friends in the Washington DC area so that my husband and I have a support network in #MarriedLand

Rather than being a New Years Resolution, I hope these actions transform into habits that I carry with me over my life. The philosophy and goals above will allow me to live in congruence and in balance while also holding me accountable for real actions that benefit a more equitable society. Overall, I hope 2017 allows the opportunity to heal, grow, and conquer both within and throughout society. 

Want to join me? Have suggestions for any of the goals above? Feel free to comment here or message me privately!

Fearless

I know it’s only been a week and a half, and I’m sure I’ll look back and want to retract this statement for its naivety ((especially in the future in those early mornings of comprehensive exam studying and dissertation writing)), but I finally feel like I’ve found my intellectual home. I’ve finally put my feet on a path that leads me where I want to go.

On the eve of my undergraduate graduation, I felt a cold panic—”what if I never find something I love as much as being a college student?” “what if I never find a career that fulfills me? What if I am never this happy again?”… And my nightmares were realized once I moved to Nashville and I muddled my way through a gripping depression and responsibilities with Teach for America and life outside of academia and outside of my comfort-zone. Even once I made it to Vanderbilt, I still felt consistently dissatisfied with my path; it was a path I couldn’t see myself on even a few years down the line.

It took a lot of soul searching and sleepless nights. It took panicked phone calls to advisors and short-notice office hours to mull things over. It took sudden sharp left turns, u-turns and re-routing. It took a hell of a lot of discomfort and dissatisfaction and re-assessing. I had to be critical. I didn’t let myself get comfortable in what was easy. I didn’t let myself become a mechanical copy of what was expected of me. I couldn’t let my biggest fear from the end of undergrad turn into my forever reality.

It was hard.
It was SO hard
This pursuit of my calling has been one of the scariest aspects of my adult life.

But last night, I whispered “I’m home” on my walk through campus.

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Starting on August 22, I’ve now embarked on a new adventure to become an academic in the field of communication. And I pray and hope that I will be allowed to pursue this forever, because if I am, then I’ve become the luckiest girl in the world.

I get to study the historic discipline of rhetoric. This semester alone I’m researching feminist standpoint theory, analyzing Obama’s performance of gender in his Sandy Hook speech, workshopping a paper on John Adam’s inaugural address and teaching 38 amazing undergraduate students. My job right now is to read and write and research and teach and be a professional nerd. For about 65 hours a week, my responsibility is to take in new information and then to see what I personally can contribute to the realm of knowledge in return. How amazing is that?!

There are obvious glaring drawbacks to this life I’ve chosen—I’ve already been busy as hell; I’ve already cried and sought guidance from those around me—but through those glares, I still have a hopeful and realistic idea of what’s to come. And that future seems so bright.

So bright, I might just argue that it’s on fire.

Thanks, UMD Department of Communication, for setting me aflame. I’m looking forward to the hard-work and exploration for years to come.

In solidarity,

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Dear Future COMM 107 Students,

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Dear Future COMM 107 Students,

As you are moving into your freshman dorms, filled with a myriad of emotions, I’m sitting here realizing that I am not much different than you right now. I, too, am new to the area. I, too, have just left behind everything I used to know–friends, family, hometown–to embark on the next step of my life. I, too, am both excited and nervous and unsure of what to expect of the next four or five years.

I do know that for the upcoming semester, I will be your instructor. For almost all of you, I will be the FIRST instructor you ever have at the University of Maryland, as we are spending the bright and early morning hours (8 am and 9 am) together three times a week, including this upcoming Monday–your first day of school. So that’s a pretty big role to fulfill, being your first professor. I don’t want to be a bad first impression; or worse, I don’t want to let you down.

You are my first group of students since my failed attempt in the classroom with Teach for America. Although I loved my students, I gave up on my role as a 6th grade teacher after just a year with them. I couldn’t take the pressure of the K-12 system and the responsibility of educating 100 tiny humans anymore; especially since I felt underprepared and like I was a disservice to them. Because of this glaring failure in my past, as my first day back in front of a class draws nearer, I can’t help but feel more and more of the imposter syndrome sneaking up on me. For those of you who haven’t heard that term yet, imposter syndrome is suffered by individuals who have an inability to internalize their accomplishments and holds a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud.” In real life, imposter syndrome feels like a wave of nausea inducing anxiety that washes over you at random intervals. Imposter syndrome sounds like the voice in my head that says, “what have I signed up for,” “did they make a mistake, letting me into this program and into this role?” And over and over I hear…”you failed last time, what makes you think you can be successful now?”

I try to silence this voice in my head because you deserve better. You deserve more than the broken version of myself that I was in the classroom three years ago. You deserve more than the nervous, self-conscious wreck I have been even this past week as I prepare to meet you. What you all deserve is a confident, authentic, happy, hardworking instructor who shows you that faculty in a large state university CAN care for you as a whole person.You deserve the unique mixture I am as a spokesperson in my academic field and as a professional in student development and affairs. You deserve an empathetic teacher like me who will create a safe, inclusive classroom setting where you can grown into your new college identity. You deserve my best version of me.

I’ve been reflecting a lot about this best version of me…how to unlock it, how to set her free. And I’ve realized, my dear future students, that in order to get the best version of me–in order for me to overcome the ghosts of my failures–there are a couple things I need to get off my chest. There are some things about me you need to know…

  1. I’m not cool. I’ve realize that I spend about half my time trying to convince everyone that I’m much cooler than I am, and then I send the other half of the time messing up that illusion. So I figured I would save us all a bunch of time and admit this right now. So yeah… I’m sorry kiddos, but I’m not cool, mostly awkward; nerdy as hell, actually. I’m not a smooth talker, I can’t deliver the punchline of jokes correctly. I overshare and I laugh at awkward silence. I unabashedly love Harry Potter and Hamilton and Gilmore Girls; I will reference them constantly if I feel comfortable enough around you. So if you were looking for a professor who was impressive and put together, you’re out of luck. But let me tell you the perks of having a totally uncool prof… I’ll give you the space to be yourself too.
  2. I’m (hella) not perfect. I’m definitely a recovering perfectionist who has to remind herself that it’s okay to struggle and ask for help. I wish someone had told me this as I struggled as first year teacher in Nashville. Looking back, I think a lot of my failure to sign up for my second year of the TFA commitment was my need to be perfect–the need to be the perfect 6th grade teacher with the perfect classroom and perfect test scores, and, oh yeah, I had to do that while making it appear effortless for others. But the truth was, I was drowning in despair, I was overwhelmed, and I was too proud of a perfectionist to open my mouth and ask for help.  Instead, my perfectionism backfired horrendously and I buckled under the pressure I had put on myself. Reflecting back on all of this,  I have promised myself that as I venture back into teaching again this year, that I won’t place those same unrealistic expectations on myself. Allow this letter than to be, in part, an apology in advance for all the times I will mess up this semester. I can’t pretend any longer that I’ve got it all together; that I’m always right; that I can do it all. I’m only human. But lucky you, because I understand that y’all aren’t perfect either and if you accept me for my flaws, that I will return the favor and treat you fairly and with empathy.
  3. I’m not “the” expert. I didn’t invent communication. I didn’t write the textbook. I’m a student just like you (although trust me, I know more about a lot of things than you…One of those things happens to be communication theory, patterns, and content). Let’s be realistic, I don’t know everything. This means that you may ask a question I don’t know the answer to. A couple years ago, when my 6th graders asked me a question I didn’t know the answer to, I would burn bright red, I’d cover my ass and make myself look correct instead of offering the correct answer. My former students deserved better than me trying to prove myself as the expert at all times instead of showing them humility and honesty. Future students, I promise to never bullshit you and make up an answer just so I can seem smarter than you. Instead, I might have to look stuff up with you, or turn your question back to the class to answer. We will look for the answer together, and trust me, at the end of the semester, we’ll all be smarter for it. My goal is to end the semester with all of us having learned a lot and grown even more.

With these above confessions, I hope to be honest and up-front with you. I am offering my vulnerable, whole self as your instructor for the next four months. I trust that you won’t take advantage of that. I trust you will not see my authenticity for weakness. I trust that you will not see me as a pushover; rather, you will see me as an instructor who challenges you to think beyond your regular paradigm. I will be a professor who invests if you. I will be the person on campus you can come to when you face a challenge (whether that be in my course or in life outside the classroom).

While I might not be cool, or perfect, or the expert… I will be there for you. Every. Damn. Day. I only pray and hope and dream that it is enough.

As you move into your new rooms, I move into this role as your instructor. I can’t wait to meet you. I can’t wait to invest in you. Until then…

In solidarity,

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MarriedLand; Some Musings

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As some of you may know, my new husband and I made the trek up to Maryland a couple weeks ago. We warmly nicknamed it MarriedLand. In a whirl of boxes, dust and laughter, we have since (mostly) put together our home and explored some of the surrounding area.

He has started work this week and I don’t until Monday, so with that down time, I’ve been thinking about the landslide of changes we’ve both gracefully fallen into and also horrendously slid down. Some changes are comical, others are concerning; mostly, I’m just trying to make sense of some musing as I’m sure it’s just the beginning…

  • Maryland drivers are THE worst; Maryland roads are THE worst. I’m just waiting for one of three things to happen 1) I get towed; 2) I get in an accident; 3) I get a ticket from those damn red-light cameras AND speeding cameras (dear God..).
    • Oh wait, I already got towed. We got towed the FIRST night we were here, but that’s another story for another time. In conclusion, anything involving driving on Maryland roads, parking in Maryland streets, etc. is a nightmare.
  • Moving with your partner makes the gut-wrenching element of change much less profound. When I moved to Nashville three years ago, where the closest person I loved was 3 hours away and my family was even further, I was awash with emotions of fear and loneliness and pain. I cried for the first 8 months (at least), as I am not the adaptable human the rest of y’all are. In short, I grieved for the life I had left behind. Moving to Maryland has been much more joyous with my partner/best friend/husband by my side. Am I homesick? You bet. Do I miss my humans back in the South? Hell yes. But Eric is my home–my heart–so it didn’t feel like I left a whole life behind when we moved. He was next to me the whole time. I’m thankful for his ever-constant presence in my life; it calms me. It heals me of the extreme emotions that typically accompany a life event for me.
  • I’m living in working class neighborhood for the first time in my life. And I know I’m going to love it because it’s real and it’s diverse. But coming from pristine, trendy Nashville, I definitely felt the juxtaposition. I find that perhaps I did appreciate the aesthetics of Nashville, which has been jarring since I never thought of myself as a person who likes something based on looks. So now I’m just considering why I keep looking for the the cute/trendy neighborhoods, restaurants and shops when I’m surrounded by perfectly wonderful ones around me.
  • My perceived racial identity has shifted. With some exceptions, for as long as I can remember, I have been in predominantly white spaces. And as a bi-racial woman (white and middle eastern), I feel my Persian ethnicity as more visible in white spaces, as my racialized physical features stand out; my lived experiences differ; my history speaks. I found that I spoke up more against the white narrative and I tried to take up more space as a bi-racial woman in white dominated places. For the first time, I am now a bi-racial woman in a richly diverse community where white people are the minority. Now, in contrast to those around me, I feel like I am perceived as white while about in public. I have noticed that since moving here, I notice my white body trying to take up less space; talk less, smile more (yes, that’s a Hamilton reference). And it’s because I respect this community of many people of color and I don’t want to be imposing my whiteness/privilege onto them. It’s ironic because at the Social Justice Training Institute, I took the time to work on my identity as a woman of color with experiences as a bi-racial Persian woman specifically. Now, it looks like I could have used some reflection on what it means to be white in a community of minorities. Anyone (especially multi-racial folks) who would like to reach out and talk to me about this phenomenon of feeling more one race than the other based on the community around you, I would welcome it.
  • Making new friends is daunting; reconnecting with old friends seems almost as challenging. Luckily, Eric and I have some previous friends in the area, but we haven’t done our due diligence in reaching out to everyone. I don’t know what I’m hesitating for; it’s lonely moving to a new city and my husband being at work is only exacerbating the issue. But my social anxiety is kicking in and instead of reaching out, I’m pulling inwards. Yikes.
  • There’s so much more to learn here. We’ve been here less than three weeks out of a five year commitment, and I’m so ready to grow into this next stage of my life. I can’t wait to start my program and write like I need it to survive (yes, Hamilton), to learn about the community we have rooted ourself in here in Maryland, to strengthen our marriage into the healthy, happy, thriving life-partnership it is becoming. And to live. Boy, do I just want to live and laugh and BE here in Maryland. And I’m so optimistic that that’s exactly what’s going to happen.

Cheers,

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Sunsets

Although the sun was low in the sky, sitting just above the horizon, it was still warm enough to bring a tingle upon her skin and bright enough to make her large eyes squint as she pushed the miniature sized grocery cart through the parking lot.

The day was as beautiful as she was annoyed. The gorgeous sun drawing reds and oranges into the sky did little to improve her mood, as it simply reminded her of her life partner who, only an hour ago, said goodbye for another week. He was her beloved, her husband to-be in a mere five weeks; but he lived 201 miles away for the time being. Just close enough to see each other every weekend, but far enough away to make every goodbye a heart-wrenching affair.  The “drive safe”s, the “I had a great weekend with you”s, and the “see you in five days”s had grown old over the past three years of long-distance love and the beautiful sunset today simply reminded her of him and she wished more than anything that he wasn’t westward bound. The world just wasn’t as beautiful without his smile.

Her mood was made worse as she completed her least favorite chore–grocery shopping–by a man who had harassed her at the store. To be fair, she accidentally brought the attention on to herself as she tore apart the milk display. The expiration date was only one day different than their wedding date, and she wanted to see if there was a gallon that printed out the date she so longed for. To a passer-by, she looked absurd rummaging through the milk, and this prompted her heckler to make a passing comment… Which would have been fine if he had left it there and hadn’t followed her to the next isle asking, “Who are you?”

She peevishly peered at her chipped toenail polish, the heat rising quickly to her cheeks. If her partner had been here, she wouldn’t to deal with the unwanted attention of strange men. If only she could be like the other young couples in the store, walking side by side down the fluorescently lit aisles.

“I’m just trying to do my grocery shopping,” she quipped and carried on. The man chose at this point to leave her be.

Driving home in the glorious sunset lit sky, she blushed again, recalling his direct address and her feeble comment. She rolled her eyes as she casted away the thought and threw her hand out of the open window. Instantly, the sun’s rays caught on the diamond placed on her finger and flashed in a stunning performance of light and love. Her breath caught in her throat as she suppressed a dry sob.

She was tired of single-people mini grocery carts.

She was tired of chores alone.

She was tired of unwanted attention.

She was tired of sunsets alone.

She had found the person she wanted to share her days with and she had grown weary of waiting for those days to start. He was far away, for now, and she longed for the time in her life when she never had to watch the glory of the world’s sun setting along the horizon by her self again. To have a forever sunset watching, grocery-shopping, attention-giving partner was a blessing she could barely stand to wait for.

But as the sun dipped behind the line of vision and her car carried her to her empty apartment, she was reminded that time was passing without adieu and with that, only a matter of days before the “I-do’s.”

And how glorious that day’s sunset would be.

A Faceless Power

Recently I’ve been hoping for things to work out–for my partner to get the perfect job offer, to find a home we can afford within an expensive city, for my family to heal and get better. At time this hope feels almost like a prayer and I can catch myself saying, “please, just let me find a place to live with my husband that is safe and spacious and warm,” which off-handedly sounds like a prayer except for that my God does not have ears from which to hear.

God as a human-like figure has never been a part of my life–neither has his prophets Jesus, Muhammed or Moses. God was always something much larger than that–more encompassing and more powerful and all knowing. Like fate. Like the future. God is strength. God is larger than the sum of everything. And yet God is me. God isn’t a thing with which I have to build a relationship, it is the relationship I have with all things.

But how do you pray to that faceless power? 

In times of need or in times of uncertainty, I often come to this question and it’s easy for me to be jealous of the religious friends I have who find the answers to their questions in a deity who leads the way with direction and “signs.” But I’ve never had that God in my life; I’ve also never sought that and I don’t think I ever will. It’s not in my conception of spirituality. And yet, how badly do I, in my weakest times and my most tired state, want a human-like God who loves and watches over me to take my worries and sooth my fears.

For my devoutly religious friends, this post may just seem the sad meanderings of a girl who needs to find her relationship with God or Jesus or whomever. But I’m not unhappy. I’m not lost. I’m perfectly content in not having the same type of peace I see others find that is only brought upon through prayer. I’m simply remarking on the differences and the comparison of over where we find strength.

These are all just thoughts I have to sooth my impatience while I wait for things to work out.

The universe has a way of working itself out.

How I Feel about Leaving Nashville

It all just seems too rushed. In between the planning and the prepping for all things in the coming months, I forgot to make time for leaving. I forgot to make time for goodbyes. It was easy to overlook–everything coming up in the future is a good type of nerve-racking: buying a home, getting married, moving to a new city, going on a honeymoon. And Nashville hasn’t been my favorite place I’ve ever lived. So of course it was easy to forget to prepare for leaving.

This weekend is my last in Nashville. I asked my partner how he felt about it; I asked if he was going to miss anything.

“No because you’re coming with me.”

I feel similar. Of all Nashville has given me, it’s the fact that I’m a stronger more mature woman that I care about the most–and that can’t be left behind. I can do without the overwhelming construction accompanied by gentrification; I can make without the lonely nights. I won’t mind saying goodbye to the tears, to the anxiety of being no less than three hours away from those I love most. I can wash my hands of the trying to fit in, say adios to figuring out adulthood. I look forward to not feeling like an outcast in a city too preoccupied with looks and trends. I can even say goodbye to the happy things: the batman building, the parks, the festivals, the farmers market, and the bridge.

But I can’t say goodbye to my growth. 

In Nashville, I learned to be responsible for more than my own well-being. I started to clean myself of selfishness and instead replace it with empathy, hard work and self care.

In Nashville, I learned how to accept the consequences of adulthood. I paid the tickets, the fines for not registering my car. I learned how to save money, and now (because of that) afford a house.

In Nashville, I learned to be alone. I learned how to be independent. I learned how to wipe away tears of loneliness each morning for those first few months and still put on my brave face until it didn’t hurt anymore and the friends I so longed for became my Nashville family.

In Nashville, I learned how to love someone forever. I learned what it meant to accept all of a person and to want to grow with that person forever. I learned how to compromise with that person, to love from afar and relish in the closeness.

In Nashville, I learned how to become a forever learner, how to be a good student, and how to accept my label as nerd.

In Nashville, I grew up. I did “post grad” hard and learned the most from those experiences.

But here’s the the thing; I don’t need Nashville to carry those things with me.

In December, I vowed to create a bucket list of things I wanted to do and see before I left in May. I think it’s fitting that I became too busy to make or finish that non-existent list… Because the things I learned in Nashville can’t be summarized by places I’ve been or things I’ve seen: they’re in the person I am, the person I am bringing with me.

Am I sad to leave Nashville? Eh, not really. 

My partner and I get to start a life together in the coming months. The friends I am leaving here causes me sadness; but not grief, for they’re the types of soul-enriching friends that I know will remain in my life for years to come. If a city could have values, I don’t think they’d align much with mine and so the disconnect I’ve felt the past several years living in a city consumed primarily by consumerism and pleasure is coming to an end. I don’t have to smile nicely when I tell people I live in Nashville and they say “oh my gosh, the best city ever!” and I have to lie and say how great it is to be in Music City. Because it hasn’t been “the best ever”… it’s been good. It’s been enriching. It’s been happy and maddening and way beyond description. It’s been life. And life isn’t always the best thing ever. But it’s been beautiful. And it’s been me.

I do, still, want to say goodbye. I’ll do so this weekend with my partner. We’ll meet up with friends. We’ll re-visit the places that hold memories. And we’ll say adieu in lieu of a shining future ahead.

Yeah, I forgot to say goodbye to Nashville, but that’s okay because it’s never really going to leave me, in the end.

To Take the Dream Known or the Road Less Traveled?

The past couple days have been a constant state of list-making, what-if saying and sleep delaying. The choice of where to attend for my doctorate is complicated enough, then exacerbate that with the fact that it’s the first place my future husband and I will live as a married couple, and add the fact that we’re signing on for the next five years of our lives.

Maryland, the land of the unknown–both exciting and fear-inducing. We’d live in the nation’s Capital city and I would study in arguably the best rhetoric program in the nation. I’d be surrounded by like-minded students in an institution that prioritizes effectively teaching undergraduate students and would give me the freedom to experiment with service-learning pedagogy. It’s my academic vision. But it’s wrought with unknown factors and new neighborhoods. Friends yet to be made, but loneliness also pending. We wouldn’t be bored between the exploration, the newness; but we wouldn’t know anyone either. It’d be a fresh start, but a happy story we’d have to work for. It’s a new city for newlyweds that we would get to adventure in together, where we could grow together in our commitment to each other and our future as a unit. It is the road less traveled, which I worry over, but it could lead us to paradise.

Georgia is everything warm, fuzzy and lovely. My alma mater. My family. My team. My comm program. My mentor. But it’s also a program that isn’t offering as much money (wasn’t offering ANY money for a while) and whose academic focus isn’t on my heart. For as amazing as it would be to be back in the quaint, quirky college town, I’m worried of feeling stifled here, or not growing here. It feels like going back to undergrad and I’ve done this already. I want something new, but Georgia offers dreams of the craft brew, adventures, and faces that I know and love so well. To be an hour from my sweet sisters, my loving parents. To be near dear friends in the Atlanta area. To frolic in the city that had me grow up so much as a young adult is what dreams are made of. I just worry that it’s too soon to be going back… I worry Athens was my near past and I would be a fool to make it near future again.

So what do I do? How do I decide? How to consider my family, my future-husband and my dream all at once?

To the dream known or the road less traveled? I sit at a crossroads and I’m having the worst time taking the first step.

I have to make the decision this week. My mental health depends on it. But this is quite when I wish I could live two simultaneous lives so I wouldn’t have to miss out on the opportunity I forgo in order to live another.