Letting go but not leaving (forever, at least) – Diary of a Baba
Posted on June 7, 2019
Yesterday was my last day at the Chinese Progressive Association in San Francisco. After 15 years on staff and 10 years as the ED, it is a bit surreal. When I became the ED I was already thinking about my succession plan in 10 years. I wanted to spend time in Asia (broadly) and next month our family will begin our 6 month journey to Vietnam! This is almost exactly what I wanted, which is even more surreal.
I often wonder if I was too rigid to my plan. What was this all for? Was I just trying to prove I could do meaningful work for 15 years in an organization? (or anywhere for that matter) How did I know that I would want to live in Asia with my family 10 years ago? This blog is definitely not answering these questions but I’m sitting on them for sure.
What I DO know is that none of this came easy. I was constantly asking myself, listening, making mistakes, coming back to my purpose and setting my intentions along the way. Here are few reflections through the years. I’ll be writing more in Vietnam, so more to come 😀
Learning to “let go” is hard. This has become a common phrase but it is very hard and complicated to do. Many of us actually know how to let go, intentionally or not. Sometimes we are lucky and things work out or sometimes things go to shit, just to keep it real.
More importantly, I learned there are a bunch of pre-requisites to really “letting go.” I needed to understand my real purpose and this took awhile.
At first, I thought my purpose was to be a martyr for the revolution (seriously). I wasn’t all that fun to be around (feedback received) and then my body broke down, literally. So no that wasn’t it but why was grinding so hard the only time I felt like I was doing something important and purposeful? In the end it was often about me (and my health was deteriorating) and yeah we were not building a movement or power, really. I don’t regret any of this. I had to go through it to know the feeling in my bones. Now I have the muscle memory to really know what I didn’t know — my real limits and needs.
Within my first few years of CPA, I realized quickly that my purpose was to help create the conditions in the movement for more people to have access to our often small, insular (and judgmental) “movement”. We don’t need more martyrs to prove how down they are, we need powerful and inspiring movements of movements that everyone can be a part of. When we measure what is at stake and what it will take, it doesn’t take a math whiz to figure out we need way more people towards a common and liberatory purpose.
We don’t need more martyrs to prove how down they are, we need powerful and inspiring movements of movements that everyone can be a part of.
Fast forwarding to a few years ago, when we found out that Collin was an autistic (the month that Trump was elected), this brought up a lot of feels. On the one hand, I felt like I needed to quit my job and double down for our family and on the other hand I wanted to join the emerging resistance against Trump. It was neither; it was more about understanding my best role and contribution in supporting Collin and the movement overall. My purpose was to be a bold, present, baba in all parts of my life, at home and in the movement. Now, as I’m going on a 6 month sabbatical and transitioning to a new project, my purpose is to love and trust myself connected to our collective liberation. Even as I’m “letting go” of CPA and leaving the country (soon), I know I’m still connected.
Learning to listen and trust (yourself and others). Bruce Lee talks about listening to your mistakes. That’s deep. It is also about listening to the good people around you, the people who want you to be your best self and vice versa.
Through the years, I’ve been told that I’m too idealistic and try too hard to make things work. My leadership style was often seen as too slow, intentional, patient and indecisive for an ED. Some of it was true but mostly it was because “leadership” and truth be told non-profit management was new for me. Through courageous and loving struggle with others, I found the truth in between by centering on my purpose. I learned to listen to transform my leadership and be my best self.
Through courageous and loving struggle with others, I found the truth in between. I learned to listen to transform my leadership.
I learned to trust myself and others, even when I didn’t agree. With clarity and purpose, I know that I did my best at CPA and damn proud of it. The organization will evolve and grow in amazing ways but what is most exciting is how we are learning to grow leadership and take turns leading.
Making time for self-reflection (and share). This one probably gets the most push back because everyone is busy and doesn’t have time. But essentially what it comes down to is making more time for yourself to listen, reflect and change, even if it is 15 minutes a day. And yes make time and space to share with your homies. How many semi-meaningless non-urgent emails/texts chains/grant reports do we read or write? (no offense) It is not purely about time but a question about priorities or avoidance. Another way to think about this is that tech capitalism has managed to capture any and all free moments left in our lives making us believe we are too busy. We need to learn to say YES to OURSELVES! Self-reflection will help you and all of us, collectively. (end of rant)
How many semi-meaningless non-urgent emails/texts chains/grant reports do we read or write? It is not purely about time but a question about priorities or avoidance.
This is a good segway to close on. As you can see I have more to say and will continue writing in Vietnam. Already, yesterday felt different. I came home early, felt more present and spaciousness with Collin and my partner, Mychi. I’m well aware that many and most people in the US or world are not able to take a 6 month sabbatical and that is why I’m so grateful for this time and will use it to rest, relax and reflect until it is my turn to lead again.
If you are interested / curious in following our journey, please go to the website and sign up for updates. Diary of a Baba will be quickly be turning into a traveling blog, as well 😀 Thank you for reading and being part of this journey!