Making the World a Better Place

Howard Gardener, Harvard Professor (June 2020)

What motivates me to get up every morning? After years of chasing money and prestige, I quietly figured out my purpose, and the tagline of my Peace and Quiet blog succinctly conveys it: “Making the world a better place for my children.” 

My mother never wanted kids; she never wanted me. When she was 17, she had me. My Vietnamese name, Tu Nhi, means “firstborn.” I was also a girl, not a boy. I do not begrudge my mother’s honesty. She was too young to have a child; in a way, I took her youth from her. As a mother myself, I understand. I get it.

I vowed not to be like my mother, who was always too busy, too preoccupied, too tired. When I was pregnant with my firstborn child, I desperately wanted to be a good mother. I read manuals on parenting, talked to more experienced mothers, joined support groups, yet I felt insecure about becoming a mother. I have no fear of bungee jumping or speaking in front of thousands of people, but my deepest, darkest fear is that I would turn out like my mother. 

Sometimes, I would sit alone in my car and cry, crippled with fear and anxiety. Afraid that my husband and children will see that I am a fraud and a failure. When they were babies, I was afraid that I would drop them, especially when bathing them in a slippery bathtub. At night, I checked on them, afraid that they may succumb to SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). When they were toddlers, I was afraid that they may fall into the pool and drown. I never was able to relax when they were around water. As teenagers, I was afraid that they would hang out with the wrong crowd and end up on drugs, vaping, or doing drugs. These fears were irrational and all-consuming, but I did not want to be a ‘bad’ mother. 

Nineteen years later, I am happy to say that I did not turn out like my mother. Just like my plants, I cared for and nurtured my three children — twins, Adam and Adrian, and Diana — who are now 16 and 19! They are just fine. I did not drop them. They did not drown in a body of water. They do not smoke nor vape. 

Since my children are older now, I have a little more flexibility regarding my path in life. I am exploring all the possibilities. I am not sure if I want to continue with teaching or pivot in a different direction. I do know that my career pivot will involve making this world a better place for my children (and all children). Therefore, I chose Professor Howard Gardener’s quotation to represent my values. No matter what I do or my children do, it has to benefit society. I gently remind my children that their mother was a Vietnamese boat person who emigrated to the United States in 1979, after the fall of Saigon. I was given the greatest opportunity to live in the United States. With that opportunity comes great responsibility.

I am excited for the next chapter in my life.

Bad Moms, The Movie, Gify (June 2020)

Day 3: Confessions for Inner Peace

Meditation and Inner Peace | Tracy Hutchinson, PhD | Fort Myers Therapy

I never considered myself a reflective writer but I admit I write as if I’m transported throughout my mind. I am the only person in my audience. It’s hard to consider other people sometimes, especially when they’re reading or forming a connection to my words. I think my focus is more on either convincing or trying to understand myself. In a way, it’s almost an aggressive approach. Through this retreat I’m recognizing or realizing so many things. It is easier for me to ignore or bully myself rather than taking the opportunity or making quality time to care and love or at least like myself.

This morning during the shout outs, I listened and appreciated the thoughts that went into peer-retreater’s blogs. It actually made me feel good to know that there isn’t a perfect path to take not should I focus on the road not taken (thanks to the good ole Robert Frost). Last night I really went to town creating a roadmap to my ideas and it was great. Is it motivation, inspiration or dedication? All the ‘tions’ are giving me a headache but a good headache. Is it possible to have a good headache? Maybe anything is possible. I don’t feel sad, anxious or too much in my head. I don’t want to. I met with my group today and they all ROCK. Just in our short time, I felt ready to plug in my internal writer’s motivational chord.

As I sit here and look out my window, I somewhat go into a daydream trance. Mindfulness is a powerful tool, if you haven’t realized it. Have you ever sat still and really look at the sky? Notice the how the shade of blue changes according to direction. Or how puffy the clouds look and the way they remind you of shaving cream, whipped cream or cotton balls. The wind blows similar to a gentle whisper while the leaves frolick. If you sit long enough it tends to feel like a postcard forming before your eyes. This may all seem a bit much or out of the usual but I challenge you to just sit and look  for 5 minutes.  You do get caught up in the view and it feels like everything behind you fades away. I guess the things behind you, you leave behind. What you leave behind is in the past. Therefore look ahead for what’s to come and leave the past behind you. Well, I got swept up in the moment.

Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble  or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be

Not sure where to go from here so I’ll let go and let it flow. Stay tuned for tomorrow’s update. Day 4: Inhale, Exhale and Retreat

Until next time,

Meagan

Writer’s Retreat Day 3

As I sit to write today, I feel like I have nothing to say, but I have a billion thoughts, a million maybe, sporadic ideas going through my mind. So today, I’ll do more of a freewrite and write down everything that comes to mind.

Thought 1: Day three, is it me, or is everything moving very quickly? I vote to have writer’s retreat all summer, everyone that agrees, tweet “I!”

Thought 2: As I go through each stage of graduate school, I am becoming more confident and sure of myself. Growing up, I assumed confidence was a character trait. As I go through this process, I am learning confidence is not something you have; it is something you create. Today I am feeling very confident, and I’m a little startled because trust me; it’s not always like this. But it is a good feeling.

Thought 3: Although I feel confident, I am a little flustered. I’m still trying to figure out how I am going to glue the two pieces of my project together. I spent the morning looking for the book of short stories I wrote with my father back in the day. I knew it was somewhere because I am usually one to save everything just in case I need it in the future. Eventually, around 11 am, I found it. I began flipping through each page; it was a nostalgic journey to the past, and through each page, I was reliving my youth. I totally used up all my writing time going down memory lane.

Thought 4: I eventually did get started later in the afternoon, I’m going to continue to work throughout the evening.

Day 3 Reflections..

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First I would like to start by saying how much I have enjoyed reading all your blog posts! I can already hear all your beautiful and distinct voices in your writing. Music to my ears! In my very first writing studies graduate class: Writing Theory & Practice last fall we discussed the importance of voice in writing and what that really means to us, not only as writers, but also as human beings. I can say for myself the lesson I learned was that my voice as a writer is ever evolving and manifesting itself in different ways each and every day. There is no wrong or right way, no linear way to do it. This realization gave me a huge sense of relief and I felt empowered. Forget the rules! Just write! When I began to let go my writing got stronger, more poignant and powerful. I wrote with more intention. I hope Dr. Zamora can share the link to the website our Writing & Theory class created as our final project for the fall semester. It was our very own website dedicated to VOICES IN WRITING. Each of us contributed to the site and it was a wonderful compilation of all of our hard work. So diverse and unique, each of us are so different yet so much alike. I encourage the new students in this program to check out our class website! We are all really proud of our work and the finished product. We poured our hearts into it. It can also serve as some inspiration for any future projects you may all encounter in your writing studies journey!

Another quick note and some comments about the tool of the day. I love https://web.hypothes.is/ please look into using it! Dr. Zamora introduced us to this tool during fall semester and we used it to annotate a powerful and poignant article written by a Syrian woman who was a journalist. She was right in the midst of the horrors of the war and wrote about her work as a translator and detailed all the personal losses she suffered. Through this awesome tool we were able to annotate the work right along with students from as far as Egypt! It was so inspiring! In particular because the article was about the Muslim/Arabic experience in a war torn country like Syria. We were able to read and respond to other college students from a country were they were touched and impacted by these events way more deeply than us. We never faced those horrors but they have. It was intimidating at first, what would they think of my comments? What did I know? I was just some privileged American girl watching the chaos from my television or computer screen, far removed from the sad realities of it all. But what I found in reading their annotations and having some of them personally respond back to mine, was that again as I’ve said before, here we were, living half way across the world, different ethnicity, different culture and from different religious beliefs, yet we were all saying the same things: WAR IS EVIL and despite our differences we all prayed for the same things: PEACE, LOVE AND FOR A BETTER TOMORROW.

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For the closing part of my blog I will share my writing reflections from the write into the day assignment. Some of the interesting discoveries I made were more of just self discovery while writing and laying the foundation for my memoir. At thirty eight years old I didn’t think there was much more for me to learn or discover about myself but I was mistaken. Throughout this process of writing both the short and now long memoir I’ve learned how resilient I am and even though I felt uncomfortable and my anxiety spiked at times while writing this, I still overcame it all.  I’m really excited to discover what my memoir will turn into and how it will end. I have a feeling it will end on an uplifting positive note. I want my audience to realize that there is always sunshine after the rain, there is in fact HOPE AND WE JUST NEED A LITTEL FAITH. I need to show my perseverance and my will to survive, to live, to thrive in this world. There are many new discoveries still to be made and I’m excited and looking forward to the surprises that lay ahead for me on my memoir journey. The most challenging moments for me personally were having to relive a lot of my troubled past and battles with my anxiety/OCD diagnosis. Some of my most powerful learning moments have been pushing through and tackling the sad memories that I was flooded with. I was able to feel the discomfort and pain all over again but I was also able to push past it and continue on my journey into writing a powerful, authentic memoir, regardless of how painful it was. I want my memoir to touch others and resonate with them so I knew I had to be resilient. Another challenge is to decide what to include in my memoir. I’m not sure how to judge what was relevant and necessary to include or exclude. Ah the writing process! So many questions to ponder!

So I had this tug of war within myself and had to take some time to really reflect and choose very carefully what to add or subtract from my memoir but again this is a work in progress and I have to remind myself of that daily. That’s really the point I’m at now and I hope with all your awesome feedback, from both my new group and Dr. Zamora I’ll be able to take it from there and maybe it will make the process of deciding what to include or exclude for the final thesis draft a bit easier for me. Overall I’m excited to see what “The Seashell” will become. I hope it will be inspiring and bring hope to anyone who reads it. I think what I learned the most on a personal level through the writing process in graduate school so far is that I’m a lot stronger than I give myself credit for. I also learned that I have to be gentler on myself and to be more forgiving. I tend to beat myself up over mistakes or poor decisions that I made in the past. I carry a lot of guilt which I find hard to release. It’s such a senseless emotion with no real purpose, but does such real damage to the soul. But I know that I’m only human and I need to start forgiving myself more easily. Writing this memoir gave me the chance to be more self reflective and looking back I was proud of myself for all I have overcome. It was a long hard journey to get to where I am today. Even though I haven’t reached my pinnacle just yet, and will suffer from OCD for the rest of my life, I’m able now to pat myself on the back and give myself credit for the resilience and strength I’ve shown throughout the years. I’m also able to live and accept the fact that I will continue to stumble and fall at times, but I get back up much quicker than before. I guess this is a step in the right direction. Me slowly learning to forgive myself more easily and to appreciate and love the woman I now see staring back at me. I still see my flaws but I’m proud of my battle wounds. I earned them and I’m learning to live with them, as less of a burden now and as more of motivation to let go, and just live my life, day by day. It’s amazing what writing can do to a person! So these are my slow, fragile steps in the right direction, in the direction of continuing success both personally and professionally. The sky’s the limit and I’m hopeful for the future and what it holds for me. Lastly I’m so excited to be part of Group 3! Such a dynamic group of amazing women who I hope to continue to work with and learn from! Thanks for another great day everyone! See you all tomorrow! Take care. Xo.

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