Last night, I went to hear a lecture by immigration rights activist and writer Harsha Walia on my campus. She talked mostly about immigration and the ways that state structural violence creates refugees, but toward the end of the Q&A, someone asked her for advice on how to be a college student and a woman of color, a child of immigrants, someone experiencing the violence of the state and other systems of oppression. Walia's answer in part focused on the competition of academic environments -- for students, for staff, for faculty -- and she encouraged the student to find people who want to create abundance, rather than fixating on scarcity. "I don't need self-care, I need community care."
I am thinking about creating abundance in my personal and professional life in a few different ways right now. I had the alienating experience recently of getting the exciting announcement that the books I co-edited won a major award, and in the same week, being abruptly left by my partner, who had fallen in love with someone else.* How is that for work/life balance? So, I have found myself getting congratulations while also trying to keep from sobbing in the office. This is not what it feels like to, as they say, have it all.
A few years ago, I heard a talk by Daniel Martinez HoSang focused on dismantling major narratives around diversity, equality, and equity in education. He shared a classic image demonstrating the difference between equality and equity, where equality is giving everyone the same boost, while equity means giving folks the boost they need to get to the same place. HoSang asked, but what if we don't want to achieve success as it is established, defined, and policed by white supremacy? What does success look like as created and defined by communities of color, trans and queer folks, or other marginalized communities? Connecting this to Walia's vision of co-created abundance and communities of care, I find myself wondering about how I got here to this particular schism of heartbreak and success. What is the abundance I actually want, compared to the success I've been socialized to aspire towards?
I'm gonna be on a panel with some rad folks at the Identity, Agency, and Culture in Academic Libraries conference talking about vocational awe, white supremacy culture, and I guess I'm thinking about how all these things come together with heteropatriarchy and heartbreak. When what is normal is set up within a system of oppression, it can become almost impossible to propose alternatives, even for yourself. This is part of why community care is so crucial, and co-created abundance.
A good part of a breakup, and perhaps a good part of a big achievement, is the pointed opportunity to ask yourself about what comes next. For me? More learning, more loving, more writing. But also, some new intention about how I am creating abundance, and who to create it with.
*He left me for one of his coworkers -- perhaps he has his own work/life balance issues, eh?