Our Perspectives: Ann Nguyen, Senior Facilitator
On Joy. On Me
Two years of a global pandemic.
Two years of honestly wondering, but not wanting to say out loud, “Am I sick? Wait…what do I have? I hope it’s not…”
Two years of making encouraging and “just a few more weeks” playlists. (I know I’m not the only one.)
Two years of masks and making sure I smile extra big at strangers so they knew I was smiling at them whenever we made eye contact, even though they couldn’t see my smile behind my mask. So much to think about. (Anyone else?)
Two years of working from inside my room on Zoom, “seeing” people, but not actually meeting them. In tiny squares with fake backgrounds, most of the time, with a red line striking across the microphone icon. Visual filter all the way up, please. And of course, Waiting Room enabled, even when I’m expecting you. How strange, right? No offense, Zoom. I get it, we need you. But if anything has been confirmed for me throughout this virtual work-life dynamic and global context, I’m more certain now than ever before that none of us were ever meant to fit inside a box.
This doesn’t even account for what seems like endless displays, videos and posts of obscene violence and hatred and ongoing policy and decision making that, more and more, moves us away from what we need as a people. Not to mention the countless days of isolation, catching COVID and then calculating quarantine days, canceled concerts!!! (ugh I cannot) and postponed, then canceled holidays and get togethers with the people that mean the most.
It’s been TWO YEARS. Two years of seeming like nothing can be counted on. Like nothing is certain.
Thinking about the last two years has me reflecting a lot on the parts of life that mean the most to me, and if I’m honest, I can sometimes lose track of that list much quicker than I’d like to admit. There are so many moments I find myself not being present because I’m thinking of all that needs to get done next, worrying or becoming anxious about things that have never (and probably will never) happen, and sometimes, just feeling less and less like myself. Feeling as if joy is elusive. And I’m waiting and hoping everyday for it to magically come back.
Even as I share these things, I am fully confident that especially in the context of the past two years, I have been incredibly fortunate and blessed. And for this, I am SO grateful. And yet, I’d be lying if I said that this context didn’t have an impact on my ways of thinking, seeing, and being.
As a Racial Equity Facilitator, what we work with clients to do is to reframe exactly this. Reframe their ways of thinking, seeing, and being in order to transform the spaces they work and live in into spaces where BIPOC thrive. This requires, of course, transforming who they become.
What often starts as skepticism, frustration & hopelessness because the fight against racism is indeed a LONG one, over time, begins to shift. It begins to shift and sound more like, “I can contribute to this community by…,” “My personal agency lies in…” and “I am responsible for my healing and for my joy because…”
It’s an extraordinary thing.
Being part of the CEI Community and doing this work has taught me so much.
It’s taught me that commitment over time is when isolation can transform into a sense of community.
It’s taught me that in community, division and separation can transform into a sense of connection, even across racial difference.
And it’s taught me that it is in prioritizing this sense of connection, relationships and people where hopelessness transforms into possibility.
What’s required for this is a reframe.
I’ve experienced that when I show up to this work in my fullness, this reframe builds and builds in real-time and is felt in such an authentic and meaningful way.
Doing this work has transformed me. Everyday, it’s taught me the art and power of a reframe.
If I were to reframe, and that is, more accurately describe the last two years of my life, I would sum it up as this:
Over the past two years, I’ve become an auntie to the most beautiful babies in the WORLD. (You know who you are…Auntie loves you!) Let’s be honest, there couldn’t be a more beautiful reminder of all that is good in the world than baby toes and those giggles from heaven.
Two years ago I also ran my first full marathon with one of my best friends. 26.2 miles without stopping is pretty crazy! (If you’re curious as to why, honestly, me too!! I was working out one day, and a voice in my head said, “Just try it once. What are you afraid of?” So naturally, I had to. My competitive nature always wins…see what I did there?) From this, I’ll always remember that I’m capable of more than I can even imagine.
Over the past two years, I’ve gained some friendships that I can say confidently are friendships for life. And ironically, in many ways, I can see how those friendships may have never developed the way that they did (or at all) had we not been in this crazy global pandemic situation.
And over the past two years, I’ve had so many honest, hard, and close to the heart moments and conversations with the people that mean the most to me. We’ve talked about our struggles and our pain, we’ve shared some real hopes and dreams, and we’ve prayed prayers that are so, so hard to share- even with those closest to you. Those prayers that seem impossible to articulate and, no doubt, are etched so deeply into your soul that you’d never thought you’d have the courage to say out loud. I wouldn’t trade these moments for anything.
All this from a reframe. A reframe is a powerful thing.
And all of this is true AND YET. I know what you’re thinking. You’ve been there, too. Maybe like me, you’ve worked to shift your perspective again and again. And again. All the reframing possible. And yet still, it can feel as if the heaviness won’t leave. And the anxiousness still comes. And the longing is all the same. The longing for something, anything to be certain of.
Well, same, fam. Same! (Wouldn’t it be funny if I just ended here? Like YUP. Same. Good luck!….jk)
I remember having a conversation with some folks about all the ways they were working to get their co-workers, families, and, sometimes, even friends to “get” the importance of this work. Waiting on them to be accountable to their communities and spheres of influence and MOVE. Often times, racial equity work can feel like it’s filled with endless meetings, heart-wrenching conversations, and an ongoing task of trying to prove that racial equity is not “someone else’s job,” but that it’s actually mission critical. It’s actually us as humanity living into who we were always meant to be.
And then there was a moment where one person said, “I’m going to be committed no matter what. It’s just who I am. If people want to join, great. If not, I’m not waiting!!!”
In that moment, it resonated with me so much as a woman of color and as a consultant and facilitator. I thought about how when we’ve had enough, it can help us to arrive at an honest and clear conviction. It was a powerful moment. She was so certain.
Then I thought about my responsibility to NOT to wait for white people to “get” it, and instead, what could be possible for the world if people of color lived into their fullness.
What could be possible if we were certain about not waiting for “things” to change “one day,” but instead, that we would make changes by leading the way.
What could be possible if we were certain about not waiting on someone else’s accountability, and certain about taking ownership of our own healing and peace instead.
All of this means that we can be certain about not waiting for racism to disappear, but that we, as people of color, can find ways to choose to thrive in any way we can while fighting for it to end.
It resonated with me during that conversation, and it’s hit different over time. It hits deeper. There is just something certain about not waiting. About choosing not to wait.
It’s never been more clear to me that this is the case for joy. I’ve realized that joy is not, and has never been, elusive to me. It is not based on circumstance. It is not something that disappears and then magically reappears. It is woven into who I am. Into who I choose to be.
And I’ve realized that I don’t need to wait to live into joy.
I’m certain that I don’t need for the world to “get better.” Because me experiencing joy in all its fullness actually makes the world more beautiful.
I don’t need to do more or achieve more in order to “earn” joy. And the truth is, I never had to earn it in the first place. It was always for me.
I don’t need to fight more, resist more, or give more and more of myself.
Certainly, I don’t need more money, more things, more degrees, more opportunities to “arrive” at joy. As a proud daughter of Vietnamese and Indian immigrants, I can confidently say that as far as I’m concerned, my grandmother, my parents, and my aunts did ALL of the “arriving” necessary for us, our children, grandchildren (and then some!) a long time ago- and that JOY has always been my mother’s dream and mandate for me, for my brother, for my cousins. I’ve always had full access.
Because joy has never depended on any of these things. My joy is on me. It always has been.
If you’re reading this and hoping for “it all” to shift or change for you sooner than later, I’m confident that it will….if you choose not to wait.
And in the meantime, here are some truths that I definitely did not come up with, but that some people that I love have gifted me with along the way:
- Heavy moments can feel like you’re back at “square one” because you forgot how far you’ve come. Remind yourself that you’ve made some real progress.
- Life doesn’t happen to you. It happens for you.
- You can do hard things.
- Practice, everyday, living into who you want to be.
- You are impossible not to love.
- You’re doing great!
I hope you’re reminded today that your joy ignites the world with goodness. Joy is yours. It always has been. Of this, I am certain.
My dream is, too, to ignite the world with goodness, so I’ll just be here, focusing on my joy. Because it’s on me. Of this, I am certain.