Intimidating

in·tim·i·date

inˈtiməˌdāt/
verb
gerund or present participle: intimidating
frighten or overawe (someone), especially in order to make them do what one wants.
“he tries to intimidate his rivals”
synonyms: frighten, menace, terrify, scare, terrorize, cow, dragoon, subdue;

informallean on, push around, bulldoze, railroad,twist someone’s arm, strong-arm
“he sent his goons to intimidate the local merchants”

intimidate

I’m two days away from my birthday, and I’m feeling some kind of way about it. In an effort to understand where I am, I will try to un-mush some of my thoughts using the mush separator I learned in an MBA course on Emotional Intelligence at Seattle U, taught by Bill Weiss (a class which everyone can consider taking if you are in grad school).

Facts: I left my job at Seattle U just shy of the 3 year mark. I will forever be grateful for my time at Seattle U – both as a grad student, and professional staff. I’ve learned a lot about myself and others through this work.

Feel: I feel very sad and scared because of this transition.

Story: The story I make up about myself is that I am worthless and unable to make a difference in the world. I have given up on my calling. I am not tough enough to make it in the field.

Want: What I want is to gain some confidence and be kind to myself. I want to like myself and know that my existence in this world is worthwhile.

Super vulnerable, right? (be nice to me, please)

I want to tell you that this is a one-off, that the facts of what happened spurred the following three things. But the 3 things following these facts are very similar to almost every situation that I find challenge in. It’s an exhausting feat to constantly find yourself as the biggest hater in your life.

When I entered the field of Student Development I knew that a lot of it would be confronting of my sense of self. I didn’t anticipate that this field in academia would really accentuate this part of me, let’s call it “the jerk”, into heightened capacity and appearance. It’s as though there was this piece of mold growing – very small, and then it just kept growing and growing and no one was cleaning it up. There was no bleach to be found! Anyway – back to my realization about working in the college setting.

There’s a strange dichotomy of giving and receiving feedback that happens in the academy. There are so many layers of power at play: students feel powerless, and administration and faculty feel they (the students) have the most power; faculty feel upper administration have the most power, and the former feel the latter has more power. There is so much confusion about everything, it’s hard to know how to bring about change. Who do you go to with your grievance? How do you know that your feedback is being heard?

Lots of people misuse the avenues in which people who SHOULD be reported and investigated go through, and many who SHOULD use the proper reporting avenues, don’t want to ruin other people’s lives in such a formal way. Power, privilege, opportunity… not to mention where the money comes from.

And when we ask for feedback from folks who report to us, or students who evaluate their professors at the end of every quarter, it’s hard to decide what feedback should be listened to. Who are the ones who SHOULD be taken seriously? Who are the ones whose voices can be dimmed so that the individual being evaluated can move past and be better? Some evaluations are just mean and it’s hard to determine what is worth paying attention to. This is information that I have experienced and other stories I’ve heard from faculty and staff. Sometimes, wisdom fails you… often!

Which brings me to the title of this blog: Intimidating.

This is the adjective that has been used to describe me. And I’m not going to lie to you, it hurts. I have some re-framing to do, and I know I have reframed this before, but every time it gets brought up I still feel like I get punched in the gut. What does that mean to be intimidating? The definition above suggests that I try to use my power to get what I want from someone. What confuses me is this idea of keeping people accountable – this is scary, but is it intimidating?  I also want to remember here that I am not a perfect manager, and I want to be better at it. I want to be someone who inspires others forward to do their best. A lot of this is because I throw myself into my work and I try to be my best. I also understand that intimidation isn’t just a physical aspect. It is a mental and emotional one as well. I have felt afraid of someone before because of the way something is getting communicated to me, but as I’ve grown older I realize that some of that/most of that, is not personal to me. I make meaning of it, and that’s why it effects me. That doesn’t relieve the person of responsibility who is being direct – however the sting may be coming within.

I also wonder what intimidation really means when comes to identities. I am an Asian American woman, but I am not the stereotype. I am not small and thin. I am not a wallflower that needs drawing out. I am not timid and agreeable. I am not nurturing in the way that people believe women should be. I have fire inside me. I weigh more than what people would assume on paper, and I have opinions and will fight for things that matter. Is that intimidation?  Is it because I have expectations of those who work with me – expectations that even if are spelled out clearly and written on paper, are still confusing when people are held accountable? I don’t know. The hardest part of receiving feedback is not getting the feedback personally. It’s always through a mode and medium that is not enough to know how to make change. In the northwest, this is the passive aggressive tendency – so how does one get better when you need to use assumptions?

Do I scare people because I have moments of confidence? Moments that probably mask the reality of my deep self loathing. I do and am confident in many aspects, but that “jerk” inside me is very big and strong now, and when I get this feedback, this germy moldy thing spreads its ugliness everywhere and I am paralyzed. So how does one get past this? I know that, like most things in life, this is a “yes AND…” answer -but the sting is still there and sometimes it wreaks of betrayal.  (Full disclosure here: I suffer from depression and anxiety – this stuff gets at me really bad. So this is my effort to be vulnerable and share it so that it has somewhere to go.)

I’ve been blindsided a couple of times this academic year. And as I have transitioned to another position, in another field that I have left and returned to, I am hoping to regain my equilibrium. I want to be reminded of the person I am… who God created me to be, and be nice to myself (this is really hard for me!). I want to grow and mourn and be joyful and dance and sing and laugh until my stomach hurts. And most of all, I want to recognize the “jerk” inside me, and make friends with it. I don’t think defeating it will make it go away. And even more simply – I want to recognize that we are all human, and forgiveness can be possible – because I know that I this kind of feedback, mostly not given personally, has made me a sad and angry person. And that’s not who I want to be as I grow another year older.

I’m going to need some help with this one… I’m a work in progress and need to be reminded personally and have others remember that too when I fuck up and sheepishly ask for grace. It’s hard to realize that we will never be perfect and even harder to grow into this realization. I’m grateful for a community of people who surround me and support me. I can live a brighter life because of them/you. Thank you. Bring on another year!

 

OUR DEEPEST FEAR
By Marianne Williamson

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness
That most frightens us.

We ask ourselves
Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.

Your playing small
Does not serve the world.
There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking
So that other people won’t feel insecure around you.

We are all meant to shine,
As children do.
We were born to make manifest
The glory of God that is within us.

It’s not just in some of us;
It’s in everyone.

And as we let our own light shine,
We unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we’re liberated from our own fear,
Our presence automatically liberates others.

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When “no” becomes a huge, miraculous “YES”

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Waiting for transplant surgery with a nervous smile

Seven months ago I was in Santa Barbara, prepping for a grueling 2 week interview at the Westmont, where I was serving as Interim Coordinator of Intercultural Programs. This is my dream job. It was the exact kind of work I wanted to do when I envisioned myself in this field during graduate school. This job was the kind that I wanted to give myself to and it was at the kind of institution that I wanted to do the work in. I had the opportunity to teach students about social justice, helping them understand their intersections of their identities and what that means for who they are as they engage as a global citizen in the world, and theologically as they continued to engage their relationship with God. It was a dream come true. I also worked the hardest I ever had without community and trusted relationships to replenish me as I weeded through the murky waters of institutional politics and engaged in dialogue about issues of race and inequity. But I loved it. I felt purposed, and happy. Not to mention the fact that I got so much sun, I was as dark as I was when I lived in the Philippines. I was able to forge a wonderful relationship with my co-worker Amy, and found some kindred spirits in a couple from Indiana who I had a lot in common with. I lived next to campus, so my commute was 3 minutes, and I had some amazing students. I was living out a lot of things I had been reading and studying about in graduate school.

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O Canada

I know I usually write when I’m distressed, but during this Christmas day (or soon before it ends) I hope you will allow this last entry of heartache.

I went to Canada today. I left the country this evening taking the wrong turn after being grilled by my unfriendly U.S. border patrolman because I saw a sign that read, “return to Canada”. I quickly turned the other direction only to be stopped by another border patrolman (much nicer this time). I told him what happened and how I freaked out and said, “hell no, I’m not going back there!” He chuckled, greeted my dogs, and pointed to the sign underneath “return to Canada” that said something to the effect of “Freedom!” (not really). My car crossed the border, and my spirit was just a little bit lighter. I was never happier to be a citizen of the U.S.A. Continue reading

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Magical Wet Hair

You know that look – when you get out of the shower, and your hair is fresh and clean? Or when you get out of the ocean and that salty wet hair molds into this amazing ‘do that won’t stop. That’s what I’m talking about! (Is this a California thing?)

I’ve been in-between hair dressers for about a year now. I had the worst hair cut for about 4 months, and got it fixed – but the fix cost me about one pair of Gap blue jeans. Now I’m letting my hair grow out again, and I’m hoping that I can get a decent trim that won’t cost me a ton of money. One problem: I have that straight, very thick “Asian” hair. It’s a pain, and if you don’t cut it right, it can be a bad situation and say bad things about yourself (similar to a mullet).

So I got thinking about what it takes to look your best – or what it communicates about you to other people. I listened to an episode of This American Life (on podcast) awhile ago, and there was a story about this couple who were in just the beginnings of their relationship (the puppy dog stage). She wore these horrendous pants that she thought made her look hot. But every time this guy would see her, he would wonder why she was wearing those ugly pants. She would plan on wearing the pants whenever she’d see him, and she even wore them on her first date. perception
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Doubt

addis-doubt-church-cartoonI am unsettled tonight. I came home from a long day in Vancouver to testify in my brother’s court case in regards to visitation rights of his four children, and it nearly took the life out of me. I am tired – but sleep will not come.

I think often about faith during these times. All I know to be true about God – a lover of justice, giver of peace, sustainer of my soul… come into question with this schism in our family.

I have referred to this tumultuous time on this blog and in conversations with my close friends – this turmoil that was once my brother’s to bear, is now our entire family’s. Continue reading

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Fruit

fruit-cut-orig.png

I love fruit.

Just the fact that they grow on trees and bushes, and are so easily accessible makes me happy. It truly is a gift from God. Just being able to reach out and pick some fruit and be able to eat it right away! What a delight!

I went blackberry picking over the summer with my friend Karin, and she knows how to choose them! Even though they grow like weeds in the northwest, they’re the tastiest weeds I’ve ever had.  I love apples, and figs, and oranges, and lemons… I just love fruit you can just take and have.  Love it! My favorite are nectarines, but I’ve never picked them before, but if I did, it might be the closest thing to heaven… next to visiting a puppy farm.

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