Birth Month Reflections

A few weeks ago, I was listening to a podcast where the guest speaker brought up spiritual bypassing. The guest explained spiritual bypassing as a way some people use yoga and meditation to escape being vulnerable and feeling tough feelings.

As I was listening, I couldn’t help but resonate. Omg this is me. I’ve been using yoga and meditation to spiritual bypass for years!

As I approach my 28th birthday, coming up this month, I can’t help but reflect on the last year. And what a year it’s been. I’ve learned so much about myself in this year. I’ve grown so much, and I think I’m much healthier overall than I was a year ago in mind, body, and spirit. And you know what? I’m EXHAUSTED. From putting so much pressure on myself to grow. Even before COVID I did this–I’ve identified myself so much as someone who actively grows that I’ve hardly been able to enjoy my life for what it is. I just want to be done growing for a while and embrace me as I am right now.

And while I do want to embrace myself as I am now, I’m also so, so grateful for how far I’ve come in the last year.

Two chief realizations I’ve taken away from this year are that I’m really bad at being vulnerable, and that I have embraced a spiritual bypassing, toxic positivity attitude for much of the last few years. And both really go hand in hand–what better way to cover up being vulnerable than with toxic positivity?

This year has taught me to be kinder to myself–and that kindness to myself translates into kindness to others. This year has taught me about boundaries. This year has taught me that the way I show up in relationships matters, but that I can also choose who I show up for.

Continue reading “Birth Month Reflections”

Reflections on the Love Year

Every year, I pick a word of the year to reflect what I hope to focus on on a broad scale during the course of that year. I choose it at the close of the previous year after careful reflection about the direction I internally feel my life is going, and how I believe I can best lean into that direction.

Late last year, I picked love as my 2020 word of the year. Looking back, I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

— — —

2020 seems like multiple years and like it just started. I feel like I’ve aged lifetimes, yet I can hardly believe that my 27th year is nearly over, that it was spent almost exclusively at my house. The days at home blend into each other. Time has seemed to stop, and I find that my internal clock is confused that it’s already almost 2021. What? Wasn’t it just summer? We just pressed pause in March, right?

Yet, even though September feels like a lifetime ago now, I know that, despite the monotony this strange year has brought to my daily life, time is marching forward; furthermore, even though my body has been all too sedentary these last 9 months, my mind and soul are moving forward with time.

— — —

When I chose love as my 2020 word of the year in late 2019, I was focused on obtaining external sources of love. In fact, that is what I thought 2020 would bring: external sources of love. In some ways, it has brought that. Yet, what I didn’t realize, and what I have been slowly discovering throughout the course of this year, is that 2020 has all about learning to love myself. Furthermore, those external sources that 2020 has brought were only obtained through a serious dedication to learning to love myself.

I didn’t love myself prior to this year. Not in the way I thought I did at the start of this year, at least.

On January 1, if you would have asked me if I loved myself, I would have said, “duh, of course I do”. I would have given you a laundry list of all the reasons I love myself–I do yoga every day, I meditate, I say no when I don’t want to do things, I eat healthy, home-cooked meals regularly, I try to get 7-8 hours a sleep each night.

That list would have shown that I’ve developed an impeccable self-care routine in the past few years. While self-care is, arguably, a form of love, it also doesn’t encompass love. Self-care says nothing of self-worth. Of having healthy boundaries. Of having joyful interactions on a daily basis. Of feeling secure in oneself. Furthermore, self-care on it’s own is a bit meaningless–as true self-care is meant to reset and rejuvenate oneself in order to show up at one’s best to all other forms of love.

While I had an impeccable self-care routine, I can’t say it supported me in any of those other forms of love until I really started working on myself in 2020.

Continue reading “Reflections on the Love Year”

[Osage, Iowa]

I always liked summer best.

It meant week-long stays at

Grandma’s

with trips to the

old fashioned soda fountain

and never ending

bike rides among

Iowa cornfields

and endless indulgence

in homemade baked goods

and Spring Park

and The Barney Park

and rides in Grandpa’s Plane

__

watching Andy Griffith

and Leave it to Beaver on TV Land

wandering the small town streets

so different from my suburban backyard

feeling so at home in

my childhood home away from home.

Continue reading “[Osage, Iowa]”

A Native Daughter Grieves

I am grieving for my home state. I feel no anger or fear. Just grief.

I have two thoughts:

1. People who think one person can’t make a difference haven’t seen the image of Derek Chauvin kneeling on a panicked George Floyd’s neck. One person can make a difference…for better or for worse. This is why I’m a teacher, because the next generations needs to understand that the way they move through the world as individuals matters so incredibly much.

2. To the rioters of Minneapolis: fighting fire with fire is never constructive. Why are you decimating the city? Such a beautiful, artsy, unique, lake filled city? There is no other Minneapolis out there. You are destroying a place that is uniquely Minnesota, and I grieve for that.

— — —

Unfortunately, George Floyd’s story isn’t new. It hits close to home, because it’s happening in my home state. I think the fact that the incident was recorded, that there is physical evidence of it happening, brings the incident to life, makes it seem more real. I also find the nature of the crime itself very unsettling: how can one human kneel on another human’s neck for a number of minutes, knowing full well that the other person is in pain? This is behavior that is sadistic in nature, and I find it hard to swallow that such behavior happened in a city I know and love. Yet, I know well enough that this isn’t an isolated incident. At the end of the day, whether a black man is shot or choked to death by American law enforcement, it’s all wrong, and it shouldn’t be happening. We need more faith and trust in our black men in America. Part of me fears for the black boys I’ve taught–that I’ve had the pleasure of teaching and knowing. This is the society we’re going to spit them out into?

They deserve better. We all deserve better. Senseless violence helps no one.

Change needs to happen. Why isn’t it happening? I’ve been thinking about the race riots of 1968 and wonder–is this 1968 all over again? We need to turn our collective anger and grief into something constructive, because how we’re responding now isn’t constructive. I wonder, is the Coronavirus making us lose our wits? In the words of a good friend, after over two months of staying at home and sheltering in place, “George Floyd is the straw that broke the camel’s back.” The mayor of Washington, DC, a city 1,100 miles away from Minneapolis, Minnesota, issued a city-wide curfew last night due to a growing concern about violent protests. Many other states and cities have issued similar curfews and/or states of emergency. We are a nation that is broken. Coronavirus or not, systemic racism is destroying this country, chipping away at any dignity it holds. This is not okay.

— — —

Minneapolis,

I know that you are angry and grieving. I know that the whole nation is angry and grieving, but George Floyd died at the hands of a police officer in your backyard–it’s so devastatingly close to home. Know that I’m thinking of you, and that I hope you can heal in time. Don’t forget all that you are made of, all the reasons you are a city to love and believe in. This too shall pass. We cannot change what happened to George Floyd, but I do hope we as a nation can move into a better future where black men aren’t murdered on the streets in cold blood by the police officers who are supposed to ensure the safety of all citizens.

Much love,

A Native Daughter from Afar

Lake Harriet with Downtown Minneapolis visible in the background

Mask Anxiety Is Real. Let’s Talk About It.

When I was a baby, I hated pacifiers. My parents say that the moment they put one in my mouth, I’d spit it across the room. My mom claims I could make those pacifiers fly far. Olympic gold medal far (or maybe my head is getting a bit big in considering my supposed infant capabilities). My parents gave up trying with the pacifier eventually. There was no way I was keeping one in my mouth.

Little Britta circa her pacifier spitting out days

I’ve been thinking about infant-Britta’s dislike of pacifiers a lot lately. It’s a useful comparison to the present. Why? Because upon donning a mask in these pandemic days, I usually find myself angrily desiring to tear it off my face and scream out my disgust as I fling it across the room in a way that is only socially acceptable in young children throwing temper tantrums. To put it bluntly, I hate masks. I don’t say that in a playful, “this is a mildly uncomfortable hatred but I’ll take one for the team” kind of way. Nope. This is full blown, anger fueled hatred. I despise masks. I loathe masks. In the days of COVID-19, I want to f-ing burn all the masks. Even the cute homemade ones. #sorrynotsorry cute homemade mask makers. I don’t discriminate in my hatred.

I’ve been trying to grapple with this anger in the past few weeks, because I know enough about psychology to know that anger is usually a mask–no pun intended–for deep pain. I’m not a licensed psychologist, mind you, so please don’t take my armchair psychology as gold. I am, however, a teacher, and I do think that gives me some brownie points in Basic Understanding of the Human Psyche 101.

So yes, I hate masks. And I’m angry about masks. And last weekend, as I donned my required mask before heading into the grocery store, my anger abruptly dissolved into full blown anxiety as I started hyperventilating…

Continue reading “Mask Anxiety Is Real. Let’s Talk About It.”

Why I Started Wearing a Bra: A COVID-19 Tale

It’s day 25 on the alien planet. I counted. 25 days since DC Public Schools announced their temporary closure. 25 Days since I stopped living in denial about the reality of COVID-19. As long as I had work to get up and go to everyday, I could keep telling myself that my world was still normal. Sure, COVID had put China on lock down over a month prior–as an online ESL teacher, I felt I was more aware of this than others, given that I was seeing first hand how the lock down was affecting my own students during each of our classes together. Sure, COVID was making its presence known on the West Coast of the United States, particularly in Washington State. Sure, there were a few confirmed cases of in DC and the surrounding area…but I was still getting up and going to work and going about my daily life as usual, and that made my life feel normal, unaffected by this illness that was ravaging the lives of so many. There were a few signs of concern here and there–the Sunday prior (my birthday of all days), I was refused a for-here cup at a coffee shop; due to concerns about the virus, the coffee shop in question was only giving its customers disposable cups. It had become more common place to see friends and acquaintances and hear, “Are you good to hug?” before embracing. The reminder to wash hands and be more vigilant about cleanliness was everywhere–on the Metro, at work, on the internet. Yet, until DC schools announced their closure on March 13, I was still happily living in denial.

Denial is easier than acceptance, of course. It’s why it’s so challenging for teachers to convince some parents that their child actually has a problem, whether it be a behavioral issue or a learning disorder. I thought I was too smart for denial, too aware of myself and the world around me. Yet, here I was, knee deep into my own denial about COVID.

The past few weeks, then, have been a journey towards acceptance. Accepting where I am in life–with COVID and with other aspects of myself as well. It’s been realizing that sometimes I focus so damn much on the positive that I fail to see the reality sitting right in front of me. It’s been learning to understand that as beneficial as positivity is in life–I’m an optimist for a reason, after all–sometimes it’s necessary to take a step back and take stock of the whole picture. To pay attention to the details, the facts spelling out the nature of our reality. I’ve learned in the past few weeks that positivity should be balanced and well-rounded. A healthy positivity comes from embracing and acknowledging the negative and still choosing to find the light in the world.

Continue reading “Why I Started Wearing a Bra: A COVID-19 Tale”

Hello from the Grad School Side…

Ah, hello blogosphere! It’s been a while.

Since my last post six months ago, I’ve moved to a bigger room in my house, gotten a[nother]new housemate (the fourth in the course of the year…hoping the current peeps stick around for a bit ’cause house mate searching is stressful), said goodbye to my first fourth grade class as an assistant teacher, spent a lot of summer time at the pool, wrote 8,000+ words in what I hope will become a novel (and logged many hours at local coffee shops in the process), said hello to my second group of fourth graders as an assistant teacher, and started grad school. I also got to celebrate my grandparent’s 60th anniversary over Labor Day weekend in September in Iowa with my mom’s side of the family. It was incredibly special, and I feel very fortunate to have been able to travel across the country to spend time with my family during such a momentous occasion. It’s all been very good, and I’m very happy where I’m at right now, but it’s also been a challenge. Learning to balance working full time with school and school work has been a learning curve. 

I’m in a two year elementary education and licensure program, and this year is what I like to think of as my “chill” year.  I have six credits across two classes each semester. Each class Continue reading “Hello from the Grad School Side…”

A Few Quick Updates: Spring 2019

Well, howdy there, it’s been a while.

Since I posted my 2018 recap, a lot has happened. I traveled to Germany, France, and the Czech Republic over the Christmas holiday, a much needed two week break. It was the first time I’d taken more than a week off from VIPKid since I started working at VIPKid and oh lordy was it lovely. With VIPKid, it’s so easy to get into the mindset that I should always be working, because I can work anywhere as long as I have computer and internet. I’m so glad I chose to take time off…something I wish I would have done last month while on spring break. Unfortunately, the bug to keep working got me then. In Europe, I enjoyed spending a lot of time with my family, I got to see my German friend for an afternoon coffee break (she took a break from working on her master’s thesis, which was due days after we met, to see me), and I got to cross two new countries, France and the Czech Republic, off my list. I’m officially in love with Prague, which is on my list of places to return to to explore more. Continue reading “A Few Quick Updates: Spring 2019”

2018, In Review

At the beginning of the year, I christened 2018 The Adventurous Year. 

I didn’t exactly know what that meant at the time, but I knew it would be good.

There were a couple major wins in 2018, mainly moving out of  a challenging and uncomfortable living situation to a place I actually like love, and getting a full-time job in line with my career goals. I also went above and beyond my reading goals for this year. After multiple years in a row of lackluster reading, I vowed to read 30 books in 2018. When I realized that I would complete this goal by mid-summer, I increased my goal to 45 books.

While the trip my German friend and I were talking about going on to South Africa fell through early on in the year (when I woke up from my day dreaming slumber and actually looked at my bank account to realize how NOT FEASIBLE THAT WAS on a substitute teacher who isn’t called in everyday’s pay grade), I was able to plan a trip closer to home with her. I finally got to see New York City, a place I’d been wanting to go to for years, and I also got to show her around my adopted city.

IMG_20180513_105926694
Liberty Island, Manhattan, May

My parents visited DC a couple of times this year and my brother was in town for multiple weeks near the beginning of the year for work–we were able to spend some time together, and he took me out to dinner for my birthday. Aside from my German friend spending a week with me in DC, I also got to host one of my closest high school Continue reading “2018, In Review”

Embracing Change, Savoring the Present

August has been a month of change.

We had a new housemate move in on August 1 (after an exhausting search), and I’ve been slowly adjusting to the new dynamic. While it’s nice to no longer be the house newbie (not that anybody in my house is paying attention), adjusting to change is always a slow process for me. I had just gotten used to our dynamic after my May 1st move in when one of my housemates announced he was moving for grad school. Ah, but we must go with the flow of things. We snagged a fellow Midwesterner to fill the room, and it’s been good thus far.

Professionally, I started a full-time job last week. It’s been a bit jarring, since I haven’t worked full time in over a year, but I’m excited…and I’m also grateful for the steady income that will soon be coming in. Subbing, while fruitful, was not always a financially dependable endeavor! I’ve joined the staff at a school I subbed at frequently last year. It’s been great, because I already feel comfortable at the school, I know a lot of the staff, and I know a lot of the students. Staff PD was last week, which meant a lot of sitting and listening to presenters and PAPERWORK. I’ll be the teacher’s assistant in fourth grade English Language Arts. So far, I really like my fourth grade team, and I think the lead ELA teacher and I will work well together. I’m so excited to learn and grow as an educator. I wanted to spend at least one year in a classroom (as opposed to moving around to multiple different classrooms as a sub) before heading to grad school, so I’m right where I want to be. School starts today, and I’ve been mentally preparing myself for the swarm of excited fourth graders that I’ll have to maneuver come 8:00 am.

August has been change, but it’s been good. I’m so grateful to be where I am right now. Life feels good. The last couple years have been incredibly challenging, and while I believe all those challenges were needed for my personal growth, I finally feel like I’m in a really good place. A place where I want to be, as opposed to a place where I’m Continue reading “Embracing Change, Savoring the Present”