Out there.

You know that feeling when all your life’s purpose is out there? You have contributed some small something to this moment that’s necessary, infinite yet ephemeral at the same time.

Like singing with hundreds of other singers. I know I’m one of many. I’m not heard in the crowd by myself- I blend with all the other voices to make one sound. Some moments I may be singing with a smaller group of singers, and you might hear a little more closely my contribution, but for the most part we are an amalgamation.

And that moment of music making, when you’re at your best? It lasts a moment. It can’t be recorded as audio or video- it doesn’t sound the same. You can’t replicate that moment ever again, because groups of people may have a cold the next day, or another day your voice might sound better than ever, or another day….

That precise moment will never be yours again. But in that moment you know you made something that’s yours- and ours.

I’ve been looking for ages for that something, and I think most of us in this world have. I’ve felt it a number of times in my lifetime. In those so-many-small-and-big moments in the classroom where my kids just GET IT. When I’ve synergized with a teacher or paraprofessional and don’t need to verbalize what needs to get done because it gets done. When friends and family intuit a need and make it happen without anyone asking. When I’ve organized with fellow teachers and with the Chicago Teachers Union on special education and fighting for fair funding. When I’ve written something that brings folk to tears or laughter.

Fun fact, for those of you who have my email- the number behind my name signifies the day I told my first boyfriend I liked him. (We’ve long since broken up.) When making my email, I wasn’t thinking of my union with this boy, an anniversary, anything like that. That number signified a day I put myself out there. made myself vulnerable to his world, and where that vulnerability was rewarded. In a small gesture to this day, it is a number that pushes me to keep going, putting myself out there, because it’s worth it at the end of the day.

And now, I’ve begun finding the people that I’ll continue to build with. I’m working right now on creating spaces for Asian American women to feel empowered. Continuing to build my students’ voices. Pushing labor to do right by the workers and the people. Continuing to humanize this space and all our spaces. And forgiving myself, because I’m human, too.

I’ve been feeling this momentum, this space where we can all really make a difference together. It is exciting and requires my vulnerability. It requires me to be out there.

I am trying. Some days are harder than others. This week was particularly hard for some reason that I’m still trying to figure out. But I’m working hard to be one of the sea of many who’s going to change the world. Will you be out there with me?

My sign for the #WomensMarch Saturday.

All this week I was trying to figure out what sign I’d bring with me to DC for the Women’s March on Saturday. There were just so much to write about. If the rally were about education, I’d make a sign about my teaching. If it were about racial justice, then that. But literally there’s too much to say. And I made a joke while asking others for ideas- “There’s so much wrong with Trump it literally won’t all fit on a sign.”

“Ooh, Go with that,” folk said.

Oh!

Great slogan- “There’s so much wrong with Trump that I won’t fit it all on this sign.” But how to make my sign more clever, more visual? Hmm… why not literally write down everything wrong with Trump? I asked folk what was wrong with Trump- they obliged. So below are all the issues I recorded within my sign-

  • “Build a wall,” “deport them”, ban Muslims and immigrants rhetoric
  • Jeffrey Sessions as attorney general
  • Betsy DaVos as Secretary of Education, no experience
  • Rex Tillerson
  • Pence and anti-LGBTQ rhetoric
  • Administration does not believe in climate change
  • likely fight against Standing Rock and #NoDAPL
  • Militarization of marginalized groups
  • Normalization of Islamophobia
  • “Grab them by the pussy,” “I can kiss whoever I want because I’m a celebrity” talk
  • Billionaire class that profits from his presidency
  • Trump University and the settlement
  • Killing health insurance for millions with no ACA replacement
  • Twitter troll
  • Relationship with Russia and Putin, including alleged “golden showers” blackmail
  • Relationship with Breitbart (and Bannon, not included in sign)
  • Media distractions, including silencing free press
  • Narcissistic orange man who prioritizes his image and not the USA
  • Nepotism and first lady issues including the rise of Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner
  • Tokenization of people of color, including Kanye, Omarosa, and Steve Harvey
  • “Mexico will pay for the wall” which the Mexican president has labeled “libel”
  • The starting of the birther movement against Obama
  • Divide and conquer strategy through trolling us
  • Me- “What is your plan”?
  • Promotion of fascism, racism, and xenophobia
  • No thought leaders
  • Normalizing of sexual assault
  • Policing of women’s bodies
  • No abortions and no birth control (ironically written within a lowercase t like a funeral cross)
  • Privatization of public education
  • Defunding of Planned Parenthood
  • Me- “stay away from my uterus, government”
  • Sexist pig
  • (Allegedly) raped women and children
  • Con artist
  • Mocks people with disabilities
  • Paranoid
  • Group think person
  • Not included- anti-Union and labor, hypocrisy of keeping jobs within country when his clothing line makes clothes in Mexico and China, obsession with the young and pretty, silencing of anyone who disagrees with him, clear lack of knowledge about national and international politics, alienation of the American people. Need I say more?

Phew, that was a lot. What’d I miss?

The fight- falling in love again.

You are sick of the world. You start, cynical, that there’s no one who quite understands you, that there’ll never be, because this society is nuts. You’ve been burned enough, and you’re not having it anymore. 

You treat new people and new coworkers as perpetual strangers, that they can’t penetrate your world because they’re bound to leave or hate you and your politics anyway. Some don’t believe in your intersectionality, and you don’t feel fully human in their presence. You’re alone.

You think one day that nothing can shock you anymore, that you’ll never be surprised at this point, and then some crazy awful thing happens, and an orange man is suddenly going to be leading, and a sea of red threatens to take rights to your body away, and that knocks you off your feet and changes your whole world view. 

You’re more cynical now, wondering how this environment can be like this, thinking about retreating for a while, because you can’t stand to see the world like this. Wondering whether people are innately awful or if it’s a select few ruining the world for the rest.

This world isn’t what you thought it was going to be. You stop the snarky diatribes on Facebook because you’ve pissed off enough of your friends in your attempt to be sarcastic and avoid the whole situation altogether. You stop the angry texting. You have dinners with friends and try to connect in person. But you also get away from the organizing you’ve been doing. 

You try reading everything you can get your hands on to understand, finding podcasts that might explain what just happened, only for your world to get more complex. You wonder if your brain can hold onto all this new knowledge.

From the time you were six, you were going to be a teacher. You were going to change lives, push your students to fight hard, too. And you were going to find the people around you to fight with. You still push for that.

And yet you see the suffering around you and you think to the future, wondering how you’re going to continue to not only wade through this life but make your difference happen. The older people around you tell you it’s gonna be fine, that they don’t have things figured out, either. But then they legitimize that you, a young person, got a raw deal.

You wonder how this is all going to change. How can it change?

You work on yourself first, because everyone says you need to get your life together before you work on anything else. So you start exercising regularly for the first time in a long time. (It helps that it’s January so lots around you are following their New Year’s Resolutions- for this month, anyway.) You write, write more than you have in a while. You hang with long-time friends who give you perspective. You mend things with family, because, like it or not, they’re your fam for the rest of your life. 

Nothing in your world is perfect, but nothing’s going to collapse, either. You move with regular motion after a while. You’re feeling connected again.

And then you dip your feet back into what you’ve been avoiding. You’re putting yourself back in the world.

You’re not scared of getting burned again. Well, you keep telling yourself that. You most likely WILL get burned again, but the love before? The fullness of being? Knowing you were fulfilling all that life’s purpose and you had your people, your group, backing you, fighting with you, together? It was all worth it before, even if it was only for a short time, and it’s worth it now. You just needed time to remember that. 

You meet a guy at the bar who’s cynical yet optimistic and raring to change his world. You meet others at a party who’s been wanting to bring you into an org for a while. Your former swagger that existed- while fighting for Bernie Sanders and when canvassing for state reps and alderwomen and when fighting for education funding and special education rights for your students- is showing again. 

You re-realize you DO have allies everywhere. You talk to the people you’ve been wanting to talk to for years, wanting to build movements together. You have coquito with a fellow movement builder and his family to regain that sense of urgency.

You grind your retainers at night, wondering how you’re gonna get screwed again. Being an Asian women from a working class background means people have tried to tokenize you, hypersexualize you. Because you’re young, people don’t think you understand the world enough, that you’re naive.

And you remember the people who build with you and who want to broaden the world, too. Think all you bring is an asset. 

You become optimistic again. Hardened, but optimistic. There are people willing to see you in your full humanity, but your hardened self, as much as it wants to see the full humanity in others, has been burned one too many times. And your instinct is to retreat.

You remember your first love then. That you opened up in a way you never had before. You shared everything, and being vulnerable was the source of all strength. You didn’t have that hardness when you were nineteen when you started dating, or 24 when you joined your first political organization. You were so ready to share all of you, because you wanted the listener to be empowered to open up, too. And then you built together.

None of that lasted. It was good while it lasted. And then you became bitter and casual like never before. Each time the relationship ended you became more distant from what you initially were fighting for.

That hurt will always be there, you say. But there’s only so much of life that I’m allowed to live while also holding this hurt, and I better take it on.

And so you dive in again in unknown, alien, harsh territory, and you’re not sure who’s there to grow with you. You’ve got the fam, friends, folk in your life in the background holding you down, though. 

And you’ve been in love enough times to know it’s worth fighting for.

You dive in, hoping to fall in love again with whatever comes.

Those kids.

You know those kids? Whose smiles you know are 100% genuine when you see them? Whose only worry seems to be what’s for lunch that day?

The ones who are trying their best so sincerely, who sometimes get it, sometimes don’t, but are doing everything in earnest?

The ones who help out without being asked to? The ones who just seem to lunge to action when they see something wrong happening?

The ones who are quick to crack a (bad) joke when they see someone who’s sad? The ones who’ll draw you a drawing as a holiday present of one of your favorite things (tea) because they wanted to share their soul and interests with you, knowing it’s not the material things that matter?

The ones who spend their precious money on other people? (I wouldn’t have thought ever to do that in elementary school)

Those kids who hug you and other classmates without you asking and the ones you have to teach, “Hey, not everyone wants a hug all the time. You have to ask them if they want to be hugged”?

Those kids.

Those kids are the ones who give me hope, that make me come into school every day. Those are the ones who push me to be a better person, to see the world through their eyes.

Those kids are the ones who I wish we could all be, because school and life beat us down.

We used to be that hopeful, creative, generous. I feel it beat out of me. Those kids? They remind me I had it all along, and that it’s worth fighting for.

Annie Tan, where can I find your writing?

A little over a week ago I went to the third annual convention of the Caucus of Working Educators (WE Caucus) to figure out how to get plugged into the social justice teacher unionism fight in the East Coast. A new acquaintance, who is the president of a NJ local, asked me what I did in this fight, and I told her, amongst other things, that I wrote. She asked me where she could find my writing, and I couldn’t tell her, because it’s not all in a central location.

So here’s my writing attributed to me that’s available on the internet- I didn’t start writing publicly until a few years ago, and I’d like to keep on. I’m also proud to say that I wrote all of this while also being a full-time teacher and that I’ve written more in the past year than ever before. I’ll keep this list going as I continue to write and be published in other places. Hopefully this keeps me writing, and maybe, in a few years, you’ll see a lot more on this list. Maybe even a book one of these days.

Twitter at @angryteachr

6/27/14: RACE, CLASS, AND JUSTICE IN EDUCATION- IT ALL COMES DOWN TO TRUST on Viva Teachers

9/4/14: “I felt Strange and Guilty”: Annie Tan @TeachForAmerica alum speaks” on Julian Vasquez Heilig’s blog Cloaking Inequity

Fall 2015: “Dr. Julian Vasquez Heilig and Annie Tan: Uncloaking Inequity” in Diversity in Education Magazine

2/6/16: “I don’t want to be pushed out” on Fred Klonsky’s blog

2/22/16: “Peter Liang Was Justly Convicted- He’s Not A Victim, Says This Niece of Vincent Chin” on Medium (and 2/23/16: “Peter Liang Was Justly Convicted. He’s Not a Victim” on Huffington Post)

4/1/16: “School Shutdown in Chicago Underscores Attacks on Public Education Nationwide” on Truthout  (technically not written by me, but is my oral interview)

10/31/16: “Why I’ll Keep Teaching, Despite the Hardships” on Edutopia

My parents. Citizens.

I wrote this very quickly, sixteen days ago, the day my parents became citizens. Of course, I typed furiously with tears in my eyes and before I went home to celebrate with them.

———————-

After thirty years of living in America, and never having learned English, my parents became citizens today.

What does that mean to me?

That my parents no longer are “aliens”
Their “Alien Registration Cards” are moot

Those eyes that stare
When they hear my parents’ Toisan accents
Their non-English?
Moot.
Because they’re not aliens
Not anymore.

If China attacks
If our view of China changes
If our view of Chinese capitalism intensifies
If, all of a sudden, people do realize we’re people of color
And when people realize we’re people of color
They decide to deport “them” all
And to send “them” back
Where “they” came from

My parents?
They’re here.
Got the papers to prove it.

Or so we think
They might pull a Wong Chin Foo move
Keep us out when we try to come back
Who knows what they’ll try next?

All I know
Is that they finally did it.
I thought they’d never.

The beauty of it all?
They never assimilated.
They kept on with their culture
They continued being exactly who they were.
They didn’t bend down to the racism
The idea that they had to be anything other than who they were
They kept their language
They kept their culture alive
As best they could

I wish I knew how to do that
Whilst straddling two.

They tried their best with their children
Sending them off to Chinese school when they could afford it
Temple that one time
To grandparents
Never learning English
Too tired to help with homework
Because of the overbearing jobs they had
Trying to win games at the casinos
Left the kids to their own devices.
We figured it all out.
Eventually.
And so proud when we all
Went off to college
On full scholarships.
Began our lives
Travels
Work
Buying homes
Moving back homes.

They’d done it, they supposed.
Sent us all away
To fulfill our dreams and lives
And so what next for them?

Might as well, they probably thought.
Take the test
Get the papers
It won’t change anything
But might as well.

I wish I could articulate all this to them
How much this means to me
Their American citizen daughter
Lucky from the day she was born
That she was born here.

I wish I could tell them how hard I fought
For their existence here
To be validated.
Their decision to move here
To be the right one.
How I could never understand their struggle
I’ve never lifted anything for a living.
I’ve never built structures
Cooked bread
Made clothes
While also knowing no English.

I wish I could verbalize how it was
How hard it was to try to be
both Chinese and American
that I could be Chinese American
all at once
hugging
whole.

I wish this poem could be written
In my parents’ native dialect
Which, of course,
Has no written counterpart.
I wish I could articulate this
in the culture of my people
With the intricacies of history
But I never learned it.

I wish I could show my love
in the Chinese way
But I grew up here
And they there.

But they’re here now.

And they got the papers to prove it.

Why I’ll Keep Teaching, Despite the Hardships.

“In many ways, teaching is a never-ending defense of ourselves as teachers.”

Before leaving Chicago, I considered my teaching career and my five years in Chicago. I took a few days while packing to write about my time in Chicago, what drew me to teaching in the first place, and why I’ll keep teaching. It was published on Edutopia earlier this week. Hope you enjoy!

https://www.edutopia.org/blog/i-will-keep-teaching-despite-hardships-annie-tan

“My” writing process.

This year I will be teaching writing for basically the first time. (If I’ve taught writing in the past, it was within the 30 minutes I “pushed in” to service special education students in Chicago, which meant little more than conferencing with a student or two about their writing.) Frankly speaking, I just don’t know how to teach writing. I don’t know how to help students feel interested in telling their stories and generating ideas. I don’t know how to help students craft their stories in different ways. I don’t know how to make student writing theirs.

When I was a kid, I hated writing in class. I would typically be the last one to hand in a writing piece because I didn’t know what to write. I hated when teachers pushed different ways of writing, like creating a hook, making a plot twist in a story, and writing an interesting ending. I hated having to write in different ways and forms, and I hated the mechanical aspect of revising and editing my writing. While my writing was often good, I hated the writing process that was pushed on me- I just wanted to write and have it done with. Oftentimes even now, I’ll type and publish my first drafts of writing.

Then, all of a sudden, when writing wasn’t a school assignment, I just…wrote. Growing up in Chinatown, Manhattan, I had so much to say but didn’t know who to say it to or how to say it. I would watch what to say to my new middle school friends because I had been teased in elementary school and, you know, girls can be mean in middle school. I couldn’t really articulate my thoughts and feelings to my parents, who spoke no English- my grasp of Cantonese was not good enough (and still not good enough) to convey the depth of my thoughts.

So writing became my way of communication. The first medium was my Xanga blog (how ancient are we?). I would give my username to my middle school friends who I wanted to read it, and at some point we were all “friends” on Xanga. I wrote sentences at first, silly ones, and enjoyed the fun comments and “eProps” my friends would give. Then I’d write a paragraph, then paragraphs. By the time I got to high school, I was writing in lengths that I enjoyed. It got easier to write essays in high school, and then at Columbia, where I’d have a paper due practically once a week. By the time I left college, I shared posts on Facebook and was ready to write my students’ individualized education plans (IEPs) in depths that expressed who my students were as people.

I found myself revisiting entries from years ago to reflect on how I’d grown as a person. How I enjoyed wandering the streets of SoHo as a kid, looking at the new fashions, and looking for sales to be as trendy as I could be. How I’d told someone I liked them for the first time, and, when rejected, knew I was just proud of being brave. How I was trying something new, and being bold, and loving my friends.

I also found that, after some point, I was writing very personally about myself. It helped me understand what I was going through, and it helped others know where I was. More so than that, people related to what I wrote and shared stories of their own heartbreaks and triumphs. They were inspired to write and share. We were empowered together, and not just about our lives- but about movements, around racism and classism, and about our students.

This February, after pushed to a breaking point of sorts, I wrote my most publicized piece yet- on the case of Peter Liang and Akai Gurley. I was angered at the comparison of Peter Liang and my uncle Vincent Chin- I didn’t think the comparison worked at all and was disrespectful to both my uncle’s legacy as well as Akai Gurley and the black community. I had to remind myself- I want to reach my community in a way that calls into the conversation and helps reflect. I wanted Chinese folk to understand Black Lives Matter and understand, most of all, why supporting Peter Liang was problematic.

I quickly realized that maybe a “first draft” was not enough for what I wanted to do. I called many friends whose writing and BLM commentary I respected. After a nonstop few hours, I finished a first draft- and realized I needed help on the legal lingo necessary to talk about manslaughter and the specifics of the Akai Gurley killing. My older brother told me my tone was off- it was too “sassy” and would turn off people in the community. I wrote and rewrote for a whole day, asking folks across the country for their edits, finally hitting the PUBLISH button on Medium after I got tired of rereading and rewriting.

There are some things I feel I’m qualified to write about, including my own experience, but writing about others’ experiences, and writing pieces that deign to represent a whole swath of people, is more dangerous. I know I have to be more thoughtful about it. I often don’t feel authority to write about others, but I know I have to in order to make change in education, and in the world around me.

Years after elementary school, I think I’ve learned the lessons my teachers were trying to teach me. Writing has helped me get to the point of what I want to say, and has improved my own teaching. In my second year teaching, a friend of mine asked me, “Wow, your words are so confusing. How are you a teacher?” Now, in my fifth year, and yesterday night, I offered advice to a teacher friend of mine to craft her words carefully and thoughtfully while teaching. I realized then I had bettered my writing process. I was thinking carefully about not just my writing but my choice of words, brevity, and making stories interesting.

I typically don’t write unless I am drawn upon to write, but I think I just need to keep writing. There’s so much to say, after all, and I think I know now how to do it in ways more sustainable than before. A number of my Chicago friends and I started a little writing group to help support each other in writing, sharing this frustration about writing.

I hadn’t realized how important writing had been in my life until I had to consider teaching writing. And I hope, in the next few weeks and months, that I can accurately convey that importance to my own fifth-graders. And, who knows, maybe that process will become theirs, too.

The move back home.

Being back in New York, after having lived and worked in Chicago for the past five years, has been much more emotional and confusing than I thought. I feel complicated about being here, yet I know people dream and kill to be in New York City. I’m here because my family is here and I wanted to be closer. But, I’ve also been using this time as a refresh. To recharge after all that’s happened in Chicago, take stock of what I have done and want to do, and keep tight to my vision. And, to gain perspective on the girl I was before I moved away from NYC and the woman I want to be moving forward.

The whole past month I have been looking for physical and emotional space to decompress all of this- it’s been a lot. I’ve been handling things like a champ, but I also get really anxious about whether I made the right choice and how I’m going to build my life here. It also has been bewildering trying to figure out my support networks here, my places and people to go to for imbibing and talking through teaching and singing. Finding a space for all my stuff, too, also made it hard to feel adjusted.

I have been back in New York City for over a month now. In that period of time I:

  • served as an Illinois Bernie Sanders delegate at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia
  • got my certification as a New York State Grades 1-6 Students with Disabilities teacher
  • went through 8 interviews, and accepted a job offer as a fifth-grade special education ICT co-teacher
  • moved back home with my parents and purged a lifetime of belongings, finding a space for the lucky possessions I decided to keep #KonMari
  • continually caught up with old friends
  • walked almost every day around NYC
  • joined a choir
  • started my first days of school with students.

Again, a lot.

In terms of teaching, I wanted to find a place where I could prioritize building my relationship with my parents and support in a way that’s healthy for all of us, while also teaching kids in an integrated environment AND kids who look like me. I wanted to find a space where I could keep learning. My school is pretty nice- there is definitely more funding than what I had in Chicago Public Schools, which makes a difference. And I get to teach Latino and Chinese students, meaning I can practice my Spanish, Cantonese, and Mandarin. Phew! Lots of veteran teachers, too, and the community here feels tight.

Living with the parents has certainly been an adjustment. Dad still wants me to get home at a certain time, and I’m not about it. Dating? I’m basically a monk until I move out- how does a person date when they live with their parents? And the questions- so many questions! But I will say that being home has been somewhat nice- I have my own space here, and I’m kept in relative quiet while I try to get reading or writing or work done in my room. We share materials so I don’t have to buy more stuff. I’m more content with having less. Thinking forward, I don’t have a set timeline on moving out- financially, I could move out really whenever I wanted, but I have things to accomplish at home, and it’s so nice co-sharing everything. I also am in between about saving money to buy a place- I don’t know if I ever want to buy anything, but I know saving money works best if I live at home.

I have a lot of rebuilding in terms of support networks, too. I know a lot of people in NYC by virtue of growing up here, but friends who you’ve seen sporadically over five years is very different from friends who you were used to seeing at least once a month, if not more. I’m going to have to work proactively on rebuilding those relationships while seeking out plenty of new relationships.

Overall my head has been swirling since I got back. I keep referencing Chicago in my understanding of teaching and politicking, and maybe that’s okay- it’s my experience, after all. It will take time to get into the groove and the acronyms and the culture here in NYC public schools. For the most part, all of my stuff has a space- and now I have a teaching space- now I need to feel like I fit within it all.

Goodbye, Chicago.

Two years ago today I started my WordPress account. I could not have ever written publicly under my name without having lived in Chicago for five years. 

Yes, I wept on this flight. Yes, I am human.

I write this on my flight back to New York City and my hometown after living in Chicago the past five years. When I got to Chicago I felt like that Britney Spears song- “I’m not a girl, not yet a woman. All I need is time, a moment that is mine, while I’m there you’ll see…” I had a lot to prove to myself and, in a large part, to my family. I wanted to show myself that I could make it on my own and that I could handle what came. I wanted to show that to my parents, too. I wanted adventures and to make my own life choices, What followed, I could not foresee. 

My life in Chicago has certainly been a whirlwind- many rough moments and many triumphant ones. I loved my students, but didn’t know how to teach them. I was forgiving and didn’t know where that barrier lied. I gave of myself and didn’t know my limits. I found myself and continue to find myself overly self-critical, which has served me in some cases but not in others. And, I was at multiple schools. I taught so many different students, and lived so many places in Chicago. I tried so many new things. I loved and was loved back many times. My heart has broken romantically, professionally, personally, and with family, multiple times, and my heart has burst to the seams in other occasions. “Love lost is better than never having loved at all.” I’m glad I have lived by that.

More so than anything, I found my voice in Chicago and, in many ways, I affirmed my life’s mission- to make children’s living as humane as possible. I’ve seen awful practices and systems that stem from our treatment of children as lesser than, especially black and brown kids, and I feel the internalized and overt racism that comes from that. I am a decent teacher now, although I have a ways to go. I’m in a point in my career where I can reject job offers when I don’t feel schools are doing developmentally appropriate things for children and where I am unsure my mental health will be okay. I love my students and know many ways to reach them now, academically and emotionally. I build relationships with folk not because I want anything out of them but because I want to know them. And I write- two years ago today I started my wordpress account and have written publicly under my name in multiple places. I plan to keep writing publicly.

As I spoke of with my therapist, I have healthy ways of coping now that I didn’t have before. I do humane things for myself, like singing- I need to sing and make art to be well. I create affinity groups with Asian folk, Asian women, teachers, teachers of color, Asian teachers, POC political folk, Asian political folk, Asian activists, Chinese folk, Chinese American folk, singers, artists, because they build me up and help me break down what is happening in my brain and in the world around me. I see my friends, my oldest friends and newest friends, and they give me perspective on where we’ve come from, where we are, and where we’re going. I break things down, know what’s in my control and what’s not, and I move forward with everything I can change and what I can’t. 

And, hopefully now I can breathe a little bit. My parents have been a big part of checking my wellness in the past, and making sure I’m not doing too much, and I’m so looking forward to living at home again. I’m worried in ways about the adjustment to moving back home, but I’m also so excited to speak Cantonese again. I’m so excited to eat my own food, to have my mom’s cooking. To see people who look like me everywhere in my Chinatown. To feel like I don’t have to fight to be Chinese or justify my language or educate others around my food and culture and customs. No, I get to just BE Chinese. That’s something very unique not to just Chinatowns but New York City in particular. And, I’m glad I have a space to call home. I know many folks with different intersections of identity, including Hapa folk and queer folks of color, don’t often have that space to breathe. I get to breathe. 

I could not have done any of these things without having lived in Chicago. Living away from your home city is something I would recommend to everyone. It’s made me think bigger, larger, and in such new perspective. It’s made me broaden my vision and my dreams. I’ve completed all the dreams I had for myself right after graduating college five years ago- teach, and teach well. Get involved in teacher Union activism, and fight for a more equitable system for our students. Meet Karen Lewis. (I’m proud to call her my friend today alongside all my rank-and-file teachers in the Chicago a Teachers Union). Honor my uncle Vincent Chin’s legacy. Sing and sing well. And, make change happen. Now I have the distinct privilege to broaden those dreams and dream bigger. 

Part of that dream, really, is to have my parents and family by my side as I fight this fight the rest of my life. When family, a core part of me, doesn’t understand who I am and what my vision is for life, I know I have to fix that. I know I have to fill that gaping hole in my heart.
Now I get to broaden those dreams and do exactly what I did in Chicago in NYC. I’ll keep writing. I’ll keep live-tweeting in an attempt to get real news out there. I’ll keep finding new allies. I’ll keep making change. I’ll keep building our movement. I’ll keep learning and growing the rest of my life. I’ll continue to fight in solidarity with others, listen, step up and step back, and fight this larger fight. And, deeply, I will continue to believe people can change, because if I truly believe I can change the world with little ole us, then I have to believe we can all change for the better. We will do this, together.

Thank you, Chicago. I will miss the food, the great street grid that is so easy to understand. I will miss the progressive spirit and activism that you have- I don’t know if any other city has that same spirit, but I could be wrong. And, most of all, I will miss the people. I wept on this flight because I’m so proud of everything we did together, and, while I know that work is not done, I’m so sad I won’t be there with you all in person doing the work on the ground. Thank you, thank you. I love you all.