A letter to 4days&3nights of an amazing experience.

2011 July 25 § Leave a comment

Dear Summer Summit 2011,

I never knew that I could change so much in so little time. The last time I felt this floored, I was choking up during staff transition as I stepped down from MASA presidency and passing the torch to a bright, outstanding staff that I’d watched grow for one and two years and that I knew would continue to grow, and take MASA with them in a new direction.

I learned from you. Not just about the concepts that you calmly taught to me, through personal experiences and charts and words on a chalkboard, but also about myself. The meaning of beauty and how it is a social construction that’s a bunch of bullshit. (Growing up is hard enough without magazines, television, and commercials telling us that we’re not good enough or beautiful enough as we are. Like hell we aren’t perfect the way we are.) Identity and identities, and how they intersect and intertwine. Social justice, and what it means to understand our world and seek to change the challenges that we all face as human beings.

I learned from the young friends whom you brought to meet me. Bright, uplifting students who I never expected to learn from: who taught me more compassion, that care does not have to be from helping someone by giving advice and counsel. Strength is not a man’s prerogative, but it is also not an adult’s or college student’s prerogative. I saw so much strength in my students (fishies!) and in all of the other students participating in the program. The diversity and creativity was so beautiful to watch; the trust entrusted to me, so absolutely humbling that I was brought to my knees by its power.

There is so much respect in my heart for the staff and coordinators who were there, creating and shaping you into something beautiful and welcoming and stimulating and challenging. They asked me how I was doing in passing. When my heart was troubled and I tried to wrap it up in gauze bandages and an inadequate band-aid of keeping busy, they reached out and embraced me like they had known me for years, rather than just days. I have always had such a difficult time getting to know people because I don’t want to open myself, exposed and vulnerable for others to see. And yet I cried and heard myself describing my past, and the challenges I had overcome, because I could feel that warmth extended to me unconditionally despite my newness. They taught me, too, about womyn-with-a-y and social justice, and you listened to my frustrations about inadequacy between ancient literature and books about genocide after the midnight hour. I wish now that I had expressed to them in words how grateful I felt for their support and their inspiring words and their attentiveness, for every hug and encouraging smile.

And I could hardly forget my fellow RAs, who went through this experience with me. Sometimes I felt so lost and so confused about what I was doing, but their support (and sometimes, mutual confusion) comforted me a lot more than they could know. They were inspiring in their conviction and their dedication to the cause of education… and in turn, have inspired me to reflect more on myself, on my passions, and on my ideals. As individuals, each person was incredible, talented, beautiful, and uplifting. As a group, they were incredible. I feel so incredibly blessed to number as one of them, even though many times before, during, and now (even after) I felt and feel so grossly inadequate and underdeveloped. All of the jokes and running around for scissorsmarkersbluetape; the floor sweeps up and down stairs and calling up to balconies from outside; the nightly debriefs where we shared of ourselves; the private, intimate talks between meetings and workshops and here and there, about relationships and concerns and fears; singing together and eating together, and randomly calling out “WIND ME UP!”. Those wonderful moments as we bade farewell to all of the students, and chilling and rocking it out together to music and song.

I know that I didn’t expect to gain so much from getting to know you in such a short time, that’s for sure. I went in thinking it might be a good way to figure out my future and a fun way to spend my weekend. I felt alone and out of place during post-planning meetings and workparties, and I wondered many times if I had made a mistake in thinking that I was qualified at all.

My fears have not been assuaged, and my insecurities have not disappeared. I can’t regain the lost hours of sleep, and it will be some time before I fully recuperate from the stress of needing to stretch my attention for both my students (and the program) as well as my ever-important academics. (In all honesty, I probably slept less than 10-12 hours between all three nights. I don’t even know how my mind and body functioned.) But I know it in my heart that I don’t regret having done this. I feel like I have made a change in my students, and have helped them to find questions and answers through this experience. I feel like I have found answers for my questions about my future. I feel so humbled by all of the brilliant individuals I had the opportunity to meet in four days and three nights.

There is still so much that I need to process from our time together, Summer Summit. But I just wanted to let you know that you gave me something invaluable and precious and beautiful. I hope that someday I can tell you in person how I feel, but for now, these are the words in my heart that I still can’t fully articulate.

Please stay in touch. I hope that one day I will have the courage to look you in the eyes and say these words in my heart, and hold your hands and show you how much you have changed me and my perspective on this world.

With all my love and gratitude,
Yvonne

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