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End of watch

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Every four years or so, I go through a change. This isn’t only career changes. (The 3.5 year itch) It also has to do with the creative communities in which I participate.  The longer I am with an activity or community, the more familiar I become with it. The stars fall out of my eyes.  Familiarity allows me to see the reality of the people around me and whether or not the activity or community is contributing to my growth.

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I used to be on a TV show.  The first year I was in star-in-my-eyes newbie. I thought it was the greatest thing I had done.  I was happy to meet new people, to have a new social network, and to have a new creative outlet.  It was fun, positive, even with the complicated and tedious logistics of being on TV. My second year went well as I expanded my social network. I had gotten my bearings as I knew what was going on.  But I began to experience interpersonal drama. As with any close-knit community that spends lots of time working together, conflicts arose. Within the social circle, hierarchies and cliques formed. People expressed their affinities towards one group over another. The group became divided into factions along various lines. So being on the show began to go sour. By the end of my time on the show, I had cut back on the time I gave. I no longer made an extra effort to appear on the show. I had severed ties with several people with whom I had socialized. I moved on at a point when being on the show was still fun. I knew its time had ended.

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Years before that experience, I was a club kid for years. I hung with the same group of fellow dancers and followed the same DJs for nearly a decade. Of course, my life went through many changes, both personal and professional. While there were moments of drama, we were able to move past those. I have been friends with some of those people for over twenty years. Whenever we reunite, we recreate the best of those times. Our bonds are still intact. The love that was fostered has transcended time.  As I compare both these experiences, it could be that my time on the TV show wasn’t about fostering love.

As I grow within a community, my thinking begins to shift after the second year and definitely during the third year.  I see this as positive as it allows me to reflect. I evaluate whether my participation is worthwhile. When I’m no longer being the best version of myself within that social circle or if I feel that my creativity is being stifled by my own lack of effort, by social circumstances, or due to the leadership, it is time for me to move on. I understand when I have completed my growth cycle through a community and outlet.

Creative communities are called to foster love. Where there is genuine respect and love, problems can be resolved. But it’s important for me to recognize when an activity or community has served its purpose. I have grown and accomplished some goals. I am ready to move on to the next project or experience.

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Me moving on to new opportunities 

Killing the Girl

Game of Thrones is now informing my take on leadership. In the past, The Exorcist was a touchstone to which I always returned.  Game of Thrones provides food for thought in every episode. All kinds of leaders are in action, some evil, some righteous. Different decisions are made and some thoughtful, some poor, some made with the help of advisors while others are made by the leader on her or his own.  While it is a fictional fantasy and therefore full of extreme examples, the show does provide lessons to be learned.

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In Season 5, Episode 5, “Kill the Boy,” bae Jon Snow has become the new Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. Jon consults the Maester because Jon trusts him as one of the few people of integrity to whom he can turn. The Maester is over 100 years old, blind, and frail. He is not vying for power and has been loyal to Jon.  Jon appreciates his wisdom. The Maester knows a lot about the world. He’s an actual Targaryen but he renounced being part of the noble family to join the Night’s Watch.  So Jon seeks his counsel on a decision he has to make. As a new leader, Jon has already been questioned about his strength in leadership. Even when he was still a steward, Jon was mistreated for several reasons. As a bastard, he is on the lower end of the social ladder. However, because he grew up in a noble family, he is perceived as a spoiled rich kid. Though the Maester points out that Jon did not need to consult him, he offers this observation, “You will find little joy in your command, but with luck, you’ll find the strength to do what needs to be done. Kill the boy…and let the man be born.”  I liked these words so much I scribbled them on a notepad and I now carry with me to work.

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Another part of the conversation between Jon and the Maester involves the response to a decision. Jon feels half the men will disagree.  The Maester reminds him that half the men already do. In leadership and in life, there are always people who are difficult or divisive, those who breed drama or foster negativity. People will doubt me or want to get in the way of change; they woke up that way (and not looking like Beyoncé either!) I will have to deal with those situations in a way that will sit right with my values and with who I am.

Recently, I was reflecting with a friend who is new to educational leadership. I had previously shared with him my ideal of leadership with integrity. I know the reality is going to be difficult. I know I will struggle to be assertive and confrontational. I want to strive for my ideal. I want to lead in a way that when I get home to my family, I will feel good about a decision I made. Feeling good doesn’t mean jumping for joy. It doesn’t mean I won’t hurt feelings or compromise my “popularity.” I’m not leading to be liked. I’m not leading because it’s easy. I’m leading for a greater purpose and that is to serve young people.  Whatever decision I make has to be one my students deserve.

Like Jon Snow, I’m entering a new phase in my life. I’m excited about being the Lord Commander and feel ready to kill the girl.

Declining the invite

invite.pngA week ago, I received an invite to the Red Wedding. I’m still feeling some kind of way about it.  I am a recent convert to Game of Thrones. We are nearly done with Season 4.  I watched the infamous Red Wedding episode over two weeks ago and I’m still recovering from the trauma of the experience. I cried so much, more than I remember doing in a long time.  Anyway, I was sent a message that on the surface seems like a goodwill gesture. If I didn’t know any better, I might think it’s a peace offering. I know good and well it’s not an olive branch unless it’s one with a pointy end for stabbing me.

RooseBoltonChainmail_zps363b2108The Red Wedding represents the ultimate betrayal of trust. If you are invited to the Red Wedding, you’re being bamboozled into a trap.

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I’m not going to accept this invitation. I’ve looked at it. I’ve read it. I thought to myself this is some Game of Thrones ish. This message was strategic. The sender has a history of saying one thing and doing another. This individual has given me good reason to not trust their words, whether spoken or written.  I may be cynical but I read the message as an attempt to get me to trust again.  Nope not today.  I don’t want to hear “The Rains of Castamere.” If you hear this song playing, you best get out and quickly.

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I will admit I felt somewhat vindicated by the message. There was some attempt at making peace. I have already reflected on my history with rattlesnake in pocket syndrome(The plague on all our houses), on channeling my inner mongoose (A fearless favorite,) and giving myself permission to go into Ivan Drago mode. I won’t be duped again. I’m a person of patience and compassion but my eyes are open. I will pray for those who have hurt me. Jesus is going to be the strongest fence that ever was. I will smile and be polite. I know who you are. No Red Wedding for me, no gracias.

Goal met

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Over the years, I have been successful in attaining my professional goals.  I have been thoughtful about finding opportunities that match my skill set, my vision, and my goals. Then I pursue those opportunities. I have continued to succeed.

I began this piece nearly a month ago when I received a phone call following a series of job interviews. During my reflection, I spoke to the power of believing in myself. I used to doubt everything I did, said, and thought. I felt like a victim. Then I had enough.  I made sure my life would be different. It took many tears, moments of anger,  lots of soul-searching but I made it happen and will continue to do so.  I am committed to becoming the best version of myself each and every day. I owe that to my God, my family, and myself. I won’t ever go back to the way things were.

I know I will struggle. I will continue to experience doubt, anxiety, and fear. I’m not weak and I will not lose any fight. I will succeed.  So I am proud to say I got the job.  Now I can truly say I’m a leader.

Royal anniversary

 

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I made an exception to my morning soundtrack this Friday. I listened to a different sort of gospel music. I listened to the testimony of a man named Prince Rogers Nelson.  A year ago, we lost a beautiful man , a revolutionary voice, a musical genius.  A year later, many of us are still in shock and experiencing grief. We continue to celebrate life and joy in his honor.

I first saw Prince in his “Controversy” video on MTV.  Who was this handsome man playing that song with the funky beat? From 8th grade on,  I was best friends with a Prince freak. Though I don’t consider myself a super fan like some of my friends, I loved his music, style, and political boldness.

The day Prince died, I was in a state of shock. My brother had sent me a text. I said it was a hoax or a joke. I was aware Prince had been hospitalized due to exhaustion. It never occurred to me that there might be any other reason for an emergency. I did not cry that day. I reached out immediately to my best friend and one of my dance sisters who is a devoted Prince fan. I wanted to be sure they were all right and I sent them virtual love and hugs.

The following day, radio stations devoted time to playing Prince’s hits. I was driving on a rainy morning to work when “Purple Rain” was played. I broke down and wept. That morning, I decided I wasn’t going to dwell on the reasons for Prince’s death.  He lived fully.  Prince was committed to veganism, animal rights, his faith in God, his craft; he pursued his passions to the fullest.  I would remember his life and legacy.

Many of my friends fell into deep depression when Prince died. Still, the loss brought us closer together.  His death reminded us not only to continue loving his music but to love one another. I was blessed to take part in a Prince Tribute dance with Bay Area Flash Mob. I committed to weeknight classes during the busy beginning of the school year because I wanted to show my love, respect, and admiration for Prince through dance.  We were lucky to be able to reprise that dance for my friends who are Prince super fans. It was an honor to share that experience with them and the warm and loving Prince fan community.

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Prince blessed us with so many gifts. We still feel the loss and will likely always feel it. I take comfort in knowing Prince is with God. #wemissyouPrince #Princeforever

Holiday

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Alleluia! It is Easter Sunday 2017. I am very happy to have experienced the Triduum and Lent. I had a wonderful journey, full of challenges that ultimately helped me grow as an individual and better understand my mission in being a servant to others. Today’s Gospel from John describes the different reactions of the disciples to Jesus being gone from the tomb.  Jesus’s rising teaches us how to live our lives. His rising helps us understand that hope prevails through the losses and challenges. God does not abandon us.  He will strengthen us.

My secretary and my mother in law both wanted to know if M had an Easter basket. I got some strange looks when I admitted I didn’t make her an Easter basket.(I haven’t done so since she was in diapers.)  In bringing up M, I want her to understand how important my faith is in my life.  We are the only Catholics in our small household so we share our faith. We are in Mass weekly.  We take part in Reconciliation.  We took part in the Triduum. We’re not holiday-only Catholics who only go to church on Easter, Christmas, Ash Wednesday, and Mother’s Day. We are there every week; I like to attend daily Mass when time permits. I take part in rosaries, the Liturgy of the Hours, Adoration when I can. Church is important to me and therefore the focus of Easter.  I asked M about the meaning of Easter. She said it celebrates Jesus’s rising. She doesn’t ask to color eggs or request candy but it’s not a priority.  I liken Easter to New Year’s.  At midnight, as we came home from the Carnaval royalty competition, M announced Alleluia. I want her to know Easter is the big holiday in the church.

I don’t mind being questioned about my faith. Why do I believe?   Do I live what I believe? Am I truly upholding those principles and values? What do I gain from the readings and from church experiences? My faith has helped me in my mental health journey.  My faith helps me be disciplined. I am a flawed person.  My being in church consistently doesn’t make me better than others; I am open about my struggles with pettiness, resentment, and self-righteousness.  My faith has helped me move forward. Following Christ is not easy but I will continue to do so because He has given me so many gifts. He loves me. He is risen!  Alleluia!

A very Good Friday

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I had the privilege of serving as a Eucharistic minister at Holy Thursday Mass. Ministry has been a gift. I have difficulty forgiving myself for the sinful choices I make and I wonder if I will collapse on the altar someday. It is a blessing to be able to offer Eucharist to my fellow parishioners. Those intimate moments when we look at one another and sometimes share smiles are beautiful. I feel small and humble. I am reminded of my call to service.

All the Eucharistic ministers were asked to take part in a procession during the transfer of the Eucharist. It was a simple procession around the church. We walked in lines of two. I was so proud to show reverence. As we approached the Blessed Sacrament, I sensed my loved ones who have died: Brett, Don, Charlene, David, both of my grandfathers. They were there as all the candles were gathered around the Blessed Sacrament. As we knelt, I felt the love of everyone around me including those who have crossed over. It was a perfect way to end Lent.

I am truly grateful for these last 40 days. Despite my struggles, I gained so much. I recognize the blessing of being M’s mother and to model love the way God loves me. Listening to music that promotes spiritual reflection and speaking and speaking daily about my faith and experiences has been transformative. Writing for 40 days has changed me. I will soon be announcing a major change in my life. That would not have been possible if I hadn’t been in the middle of my Lenten journey. I’m more aware of who I am and of who God intends me to be. I am grateful to God.  This is a very Good Friday.

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