Meet the Keynote: Pádraig Ó Tuama

“Putting to work poetry and gospel, side by side with story and Celtic spirituality, Ó Tuama explores ideas of shelter along life’s journey, opening up gentle ways of living well in a troubled world. The reader can’t help but be drawn in, slip-sliding into the harbor of the author’s soulful words.” —Chicago Tribune

“Probably the best public speaker I know.” —William Crawley, BBC

The TLA Network is pleased to include noted Irish Poet Pádraig Ó Tuama as one of three keynotes at the upcoming TLA Network’s 2022 Power of Words Conference. The conference also features keynotes poet and writer Camille Dungy, and Kathleen Adams, founder of the Therapeutic Writing Institute and the Center for Journal Therapy. The conference will be online October 13-16 next fall, and the super early bird registration fee (20% off the regular price) is available now through December 31, 2021

Pádraig Ó Tuama is a theologian, conflict resolution mediator, and the author of four volumes of poetry, Daily Prayer with the Corrymeela Community (2017), In the Shelter (2015), Sorry for your Troubles (2013), and Readings from the Books of Exile (2012), which was longlisted for the 2013 Polari First Book Prize.

For Ó Tuama, religion, conflict, power, and poetry all circle around language, that original sacrament. Working fluently on the page and in public, Ó Tuama is a compelling poet, teacher, and group worker, and a profoundly engaging public speaker. He has worked with groups to explore story, conflict, their relationship with religion and argument, and violence. Using poetry, group discussion and lectures, his work is marked both by lyricism and pragmatism, and includes a practice of evoking stories and participation from attendees at his always-popular lectures, retreats, and events.

Ó Tuama has been a featured guest on On Being with Krista Tippett twice, and is a regular broadcaster on radio on topics such as Poetry, Religion in the public square, Loneliness, Conflict and Faith, LGBT inclusion, the dangers of so-called Reparative Therapy, and the value of the Arts in public life. In 2011, with Paul Doran, Pádraig co-founded the storytelling event Tenx9 where nine people have up to ten minutes each to tell a true story from their lives. From 2014-2019, Pádraig led the Corrymeela Community, Ireland’s oldest peace and reconciliation organization. Currently, Pádraig guides the weekly podcast Poetry Unbound through NPR’s On Being, which dives and immerses the listener into one poem every week

His poetry collection Daily Prayer with the Corrymeela Community draws on the spiritual practices of Ireland’s oldest peace and reconciliation community Corrymela—of which Ó Tuama was a leader from 2014-2019. Described by Canterbury’s Poetry Laureate Patience Agbabi as “compassionate, contemporary and formally innovative,” this prayer book was structured over 31 days, offering a daily Bible reading with accompanying prayer. His book In the Shelter interweaves everyday stories with narrative theology, gospel reflections with mindfulness and Celtic spirituality with poetry, ultimately revealing the transformational power of welcome. Network Magazine praised it as being remindful of Augustine’s Confessions and Newman’s Apologia: “It comes from the heart, it recognizes the hurts and the triumphs, and it encourages us to say ‘hello’ to new things.” Sorry for Your Troubles, arose out of a decade of O’Tuama’s experiences hearing stories of people who have lived through personal and political conflict in Nothern Ireland, the Middle East, and other places of conflict. One poem, ‘Shaking hands’ was written when Padraig witnessed the historic handshake between Queen Elizabeth II and Martin McGuinness, who has since used the poem publicly. His first book Readings from the Books of Exile interweaves parable, poetry, art, activism and philosophy into an original and striking expression of faith.

His poems have been published at Poetry Ireland Review, Academy of American Poets, Post Road, Cream City Review, Holden Village Voice, Proximity Magazine, On Being, Gutter, America, and Seminary Ridge Review.

Pádraig Ó Tuama holds a BA Div validated by the Pontifical College of Maynooth, an MTh from Queen’s University Belfast and is currently engaged in a PhD in Theology through Creative Practice at the University of Glasgow exploring poetry, Irishness and religion.

Registration is now open for the 2022 Power of Words conference, which will be held online from October 13-16, 2022.
On sale now through December 31, save 20% off the 2022 conference fee!
 

New Scholarship Fund Supports Access to Conferences and Classes.

The Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg Fund was established in the fall of 2021 to honor the founder of the transformative language arts and the TLA Network. The Fund provides Power of Words Conference and TLA Network classes support for both BIPOC people and people who are living with serious illness and/or disabilities.

The following remarks by Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg were made at the TLA Network’s online Power of Words Conference, on October 30, 2021.

I am so honored by this fund in my name, which will provide scholarships for people of color, people living with serious illness, and people with disabilities.

Why these communities, all of whom are negatively impacted in our problematic world:

As a survivor of both a very common cancer and a very rare cancer, and as someone who’s had the joy and education of facilitating writing workshops for 18 years for people living with serious illness – patients, survivors, caregivers, and community members, I know first-hand how essential is to to have supported spaces for big writing and witnessing.

I’ve also been involved with disabilities rights and communities through my husband’s work for 30 years as an occupational therapist and activist working with people living with disabilities.

Both people living with serious illness and disabilities, which sometimes go hand-in-hand, are so often limited in accessing workshops and conferences like what TLAN offers, and not just by a lack of wheelchair ramps. The isolation and pain, overwhelm and fear we face in such situations can make us feel so alone with our pain, dread, anxiety, difference. 

We are missing such important voices at the table, ones that have so much to teach us about resilience in real-time, what it means to age and change, and how to grapple more directly with being humans who are mortal. Scholarships can help us bring life-giving creativity and community into people’s homes through their laptops. 

Black, brown Latinx, Indigenous, Asian, and other marginalized people of color have too often and so extensively, to the detriment of all of us, been silenced or had their voices abused. My more personal connection is that I live in the home of Haskell Indian Nations University and the ghosts land burial ground where so many children died when it was a boarding school. I’ve also witnessed many people’s stories through teaching at Haskell and facilitating workshops for many years with Indigenous women.

When we started the POW conference, we began with a commitment to continually work on undoing racism and inviting many more voices to the table, or even forgetting the old table and making a new one. From our first conference, we had scholarships for POC, a determination to bring in keynoters from unrepresented communities, and outreach to communities of color. Most arts-based organizations like ours are primarily white and although we’ve come a long way, we have so so so long to go. 

Removing financial barriers where and when needed is part of this work, and it also helps foster new leadership and a more attuned vision to how TLA can bring voices previously ignored or debased into our civic conversations. 

In 2014, we were able to bring close to a dozen people living with serious illness and disabilities to the POW conference to share their stories and truths. A year later, we brought 15 young people of color, all in the foster care system, to the conference. How wonderful it would be to have scholarship funds available for people who want to attend Angie Ebba’s superb upcoming TLAN class, “Not Enough Spoons: Writing About Disabilities and Chronic Illness” and to next year, have even more black and brown faces, people undergoing heavy cancer treatment or navigating disabilities in an ableist world at this conference.

Please consider giving what you can give to make our offerings more accessible to others. Please help create this new table where we can all come and speak our lives and visions.

Contribute to the Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg Fund here.

All funds will be processed through the TLA Network’s fiscal sponsor, The Foundation for Delaware County. When contributing via FDC, make sure to note your donation is made “in honor of Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg.”

Spotlight on the Keynote: Javier Zamora

Javier Zamora was born in El Salvador and immigrated to the United States in 1999 when he was nine—traveling unaccompanied 4,000 miles, across multiple borders, from El Salvador to the US to be reunited with his parents. Unaccompanied (Copper Canyon Press, 2017), his first poetry collection, explores how immigration and civil war have impacted his life and family. This collection won the 2018 North California Book Award, the 2018 Firecracker Award, and was a finalist for the 2019 Kate Tufts Discovery Award. He is also the author of the chapbook Nueve Años Inmigrantes/Nine Immigrant Years, which won the 2011 Organic Weapon Arts contest. 

In a 2014 interview for the National Endowment for the Arts Works Blog, Zamora states, “I think in the United States we forget that writing and carrying that banner of ‘being a poet’ is tied into a long history of people that have literally risked [their lives] and died to write those words.” 

After selecting Javier as winner of the 2017 Narrative Prize, co-founder and editor Tom Jenks said: “In sinuous plainsong that evokes the combined strengths, the bright celebrations, and the dark sorrows of two Americas sharing and transcending borders, Javier Zamora’s verse affirms human commonality and aspiration.”

Zamora holds a BA from the University of California, Berkeley, where he studied and taught in June Jordan’s Poetry for the People program and earned an MFA from New York University. His poems have been featured in Granta, The Kenyon Review, Poetry, The New York Times, and many others. Zamora has received many honors, including a 2015 NEA fellowship, the 2016 Ruth Lilly Fellowship, a 2016-2018 Wallace Stegner Fellowship, the 2017 Lannan Literary Fellowship, and the 2017 Narrative Prize. In 2016, Barnes & Noble granted the Undocupoets, of which he’s a founding member, the Writer for Writers Award for working to promote undocumented or previously undocumented writers. Most recently he was a 2018-2019 Radcliffe Fellow at Harvard University, where he was working on his memoir and second collection of poems. He lives in Harlem, NY.

Along with U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo, spoken word artist Lyla June, and poet Caits MeissnerJavier Zamora will keynote the TLA Network’s Power of Words Conference, to be held online October 28-31, 2021. 

In Gratitude for Martin Swinger’s Life and Music, by Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg

Martin Swinger, singer-songwriter

Martin Swinger, a virtuoso singer and songwriter, died suddenly in early July, leaving behind his husband (and partner of 35 years) Brian and many broken hearts in his Asbury Park, N.J. home community, and prior to that, central Maine, where he was a mainstay of the music scene for years.

But when I think of Martin, I see him at my kitchen table, serenading the then-coordinator of the TLAN, Deb Hensley, volunteers Nancy Hubble and Laura Ramberg, and me as we stuffed folders for the 2014 Power of Words conference.

He was like this: always bringing joy, humor, and the power of music to wherever he landed. He was gifted at helping in multiple other ways too: for the conference, he coordinator participant transportation, helped Deb with many pieces of the conference coordination, and generally brought a sense of peace and homecoming to all of us.

Martin Swinger keeping the TLA Network volunteers company as they prepared for the 2014 Power of Words Conference.

Then again, Martin knew how vital hospitality and art are to this world. He grew up gay in the South, falling in love with music and books of all kinds. In recent years, he went on to be quite decorated as a songwriter, winning many notable big-time contests and performing across the country, even to the delight of the late Pete Seeger and very-much alive Vance Gilbert and John Waters. His seven CDs won lots of well-deserved awards, including from American Song Competition, SolarFest, Rosegarden Coffeehouse and more. Audiences have adored him for decades for his warm and vibrant voice and eclectic blend of Americana, swing and jazz, traditional music, show tune, Klezmer music, and improvisation. Deb and Martin sang together like angels from an enchanted land.

Deb says of Martin: Martin was a true prince, a friend to me and to so many others who knew and loved him. He had a heart the size of Mars and talent to match. Frost says, “Nothing gold can stay.” But Martin’s songs will stay. Oh yes they will. And so will his love. 

His generosity extended in other ways: when one of our keynote performers for the conference didn’t show up, Martin graciously volunteered to perform on the spot and for free (although we did extend to him a small stipend anyway). When he performed, he lifted a full house of conference goers, who had been waiting a while for the keynote, to their feet with original songs such as “Betty Boop and Buddha,” “Consider the Oyster,” and my favorite, “Little Plastic Part.” That song, about how breaking a tiny part of a vacuum that “makes the whole thing work” speaks to having a little part of our heart broken so that it doesn’t work anymore.

I can’t help thinking about how Martin himself was a little vital part with a big impact himself. 

Find more about Martin here: https://martinswinger.com/

With great gratitude and appreciation for the life of Martin Swinger, singer-songwriter.

Volunteer Opening: Director of Social Media

Looking for the chance to share your skills and talents with a thriving group of thoughtful, engaged peers who care deeply about the transformative language arts?

Consider volunteering for the TLA Network! 

We are currently looking for a Director of Social Media.

This part-time volunteer position is the perfect opportunity for the right person to build leadership experience in the field while developing and implementing a robust social media strategy for the Network.

Click here for more information about the position – or reach out to us at director@tlanetwork.org.

Future Casting: an interview with Caits Meissner

Caits Meissner sat down with us before the pandemic to talk about teaching for the Network and to tell us about one of her online classes – the latest version of which launches next month. Future Casting: Writing Towards a Just World Vision, begins April 14, 2021. More here.

What do you see as the relationship of poetry to future casting, and future casting to social change?

I use future casting here in the loosest sense of the word, drawing on the simple idea that when we launch our wishes and hopes into the universe with earnest intention, they amplify. The object of devotion may be a higher power, but also may be nature, the universe, the commitment to reducing harm, a deeper sense of self love or humanity itself. 

The way I’m thinking about future casting in this course, as intentional wishing and visioning that extends beyond the self, is a different energy than protest, and railing against what is—a necessary strategy, but not the only one. 

I’m thinking of future casting as an impassioned call to forces beyond the human realm to support our collective betterment, to protect who is vulnerable, to uplift who is ignored, to create harmony and equity and peace and justice and environmental responsibility. To call in the gods or ancestors or universal light energy or natural intelligence to give us the strength and tools to help dream and build a better world. 

What motivated you to put together such a visionary class?

My own desperation for something different drove me forward. I have always been drawn to resistance art, and while I find that incredibly important, in this terrifying era we’ve entered, I also craved something more—hopeful may the wrong word—perhaps more fitting is visionary. The concept of emergence in social change began to stir me up. 

It was Adrienne Maree Brown’s book Emergent Strategy that really got my gears turning about a course that tied together inspiration from a wide array of sources to propel us into the possibilities for healing our society. Brown looks at biomimicry, speculative fiction, posts tarot cards on her social media—she is ideating new social justice practices from an amazing mix of movement work, divination, nature and art. 

I am certain that hidden in the natural intelligence of our bodies is a creative force more profound than what is easily accessible in the rigid and fast pace of modern society. I think it takes playing outside our go-to inspirations to draw up what has previously been untapped. I wanted to push myself, and others, to dream forward and innovate in our poetry practices, the way Brown is asking of those engaging justice work.

What can people expect to experience, learn, and write in this class?

There will not be much, if any soap-boxing or pontificating from me, as the facilitator. I am no expert, I am a fellow seeker. Rather than reading my thoughts and ideas on a subject, I see my role as cultivating process and possibility through curating readings. 

I want to encourage participants to listen to what their bodies reveal, and then act on their gut impulses, what pulls them towards creation in what I offer. I would also like to gently push participants past nerves or fear to try something new. Therefore, we’ll engage a large range of material in order to unlock new pathways in the brain. I encourage participants to arrive expecting to play, and to challenge themselves to write towards creating an image of a just world, rather than (always) against it.

Participants should come ready to journal in response to questions, write for 15 minutes based on sometimes strange or even silly-seeming prompts, to read about a 20 page packet each week of poems and essays, to write another poem (I suggest writing a draft in 15 minutes, but it’s up to the writer) and to post the work they’d like feedback on in the forum—1 or 2 short pieces weekly. 

How has future casting and social change spoken through your writing, and can you share an example?

I often use poetry as a space to work out questions and ideas about the world—as writers tend to. And though I write from a variety of perspectives, the lens I employ that most closely resembles future casting, for me, is gratitude. I’ve written tender praise poems for women in prison, and girls in jail (this one is a poem-comic). I am also at work on a series of more personal comic-based “pep talks” that explore what is good in daily life, not always connected to an anchored social justice issue, but for example, how I’ve pulled myself out of depression, or how to connect to a partner romantically when totally broke! 

I also have a silly personal example that illustrates the kind of, wait, huh, what just happened? Did I write that into existence? As a young poet in my early twenties I was depressed. On the train home after seeing my favorite poet at the time, Pulitzer Prize-winning Yusef Komunyakaa, I wrote a poem asking him where his gift of writing derives from, and calling out for the experience of pain in order to write like him. Of course, Yusef’s life story is incomparably more intense than my own has ever touched close to, but still. A few months later and I experienced a romantic break up that kicked the light out of me—that really awful, gutting kind of ending. And then I got a letter. I was going across the world to a writing conference, on a full scholarship, completely free. To study under Yusef Komunyakaa for two weeks.

Magic? Future casting? I don’t know. I am sparked by the ideas presented in quantum physics, and what are thoughts but energy? Maybe there is something here to be harnessed intentionally in our writing towards a better world. 

Anything else participants should know?

Yes! When you take a class with me, you invest materials that can be used to make poems for years. I am not exaggerating. Each week’s packet comes with approximately 10-15 optional prompts that can be revisited again and again (you’ll only write 1-2 poem drafts each week during the course). Erika Jeffers, who took this class with me live at Poets House over the summer wrote me a wonderful email about how she used the curriculum again to produce more work. With permission, I’ll share what she told me:

“On the last day of class, I think I mentioned to you that I was planning on taking a week off from New York and staying at a cozy house in CT to write and revisit this class syllabus and I did it in just one week! In the mornings, I tackled one week and in the afternoons, I worked through another week and I had the entire 6-week workshop experience all over again, but condensed in a week. The workshop was truly a magical experience for me; and I’m not just saying that, I wasn’t writing for a year before the class. I wouldn’t say I was stuck (maybe I was), but I wasn’t really inspired and I had convinced myself that I wasn’t good about writing specific topics, but the workshop showed me that yes, I can branch out; yes, I can be experimental; and yes, I can be a witness and write about what’s going in the world around me. Overall, I left the workshop with a new confidence! Now that I’m back, I’m working on finishing up my chapbook!… Thank you soooo much! It was such a pleasure to work with you and this amazing, life-changing class syllabus.”

  I’d say, like most experiences,  you get out of it what you put into it.

More on “Future Casting: Writing Towards a Just World Vision” here.

An Invitation from The TLA Network

Dear TLA Community,

As part of our effort to grow the TLA Network, we are always on the lookout for new instructors to teach classes for our community. Over time, we have developed a strong reputation for offering classes that speak to deep and meaningful human experiences, and, we are always eager to encourage fresh voices to join in the mix. 

We invite you to consider teaching for the Network. If you are that person who has often thought, I would love to teach what I know to this community, consider joining us in learning the fine art of teaching a well-crafted, strong online class.

Curious about what it would take? Interested in learning how to market a good class? This month we launch a new series, Tools for Teachers, geared towards training people to teach for the Network – we hope you will join us in honing your craft.

We encourage you to be bold: speak your truth, share your vision, and join us in creating a learning environment that builds connection, provides replenishment, and supports our community to go out to do the important work of healing our world.

To the power of words, 
Hanne Weedon, Managing Director

Hanne Weedon comes to TLAN with 20 years of leadership and program development experience in not-for-profit and government-funded organizations. A longtime community, arts and social justice advocate, she resonates with the goals and values of the TLA Network. Hanne’s appreciation for, understanding of and dedication to building representative, inclusive and diverse communities is a core aspect in all her work. 

My Journey With The Transformative Language Arts, by Wendy Thompson

Writing poems, journaling, storytelling, monologues, singing along with Janis Ian – I have been a TLA “practitioner” since I was a teen. The written, spoken, and sung word brought me through many a dark night into transformative light. 

Officially, my journey with Transformative Language Arts began in 2006. I was teaching creative writing at a public arts school in Vancouver, WA; students often submitted highly emotive, personal narratives to which I did not feel equipped to respond. I needed professional development. 

Although I personally understood the therapeutic value of journaling and poetry, I had not heard of poetry/biblio-therapy. My introduction to the field was “Writing as a Healing Ministry” with Sharon Bry. She told me about the TLA program at Goddard. I applied, was accepted and met Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg. Although I only attended one semester at Goddard, I was clear that this was the professional development I was looking for. 

I continued to study independently with Alma Rolfs in Seattle, WA and Kay Adams at The Center for Journal Therapy in Denver, CO. I attended several TLA Network Power of Words conferences, Miriam-Goldberg’s Brave Voice songwriting workshop in Kansas, and the National Association for Poetry Therapy Conference in Portland, OR. In 2015, I experienced a period of unemployment that afforded me the time to pursue the TLAN Certification program, which I completed in 2017.

I am certain that the pandemic is already affecting deep systemic change in public education – beyond reform to transformation.

Wendy Thompson, elementary school teacher & TLA Practitioner

My first foray into TLA facilitation was with a group of 5th graders, 40% of whom were directly affected by an immigration ICE raid in Portland, OR. The six sessions resulted in an anthology of student poetry From Here, There & Everywhere: Poems of Origin & Hope (available at lulu.com). This project motivated me to integrate my TLA theory and practice into standard Language Arts curriculum. I designed a unit titled Civil Writes, through which students had an opportunity to explore social justice issues through poetry and prose as well as respond with their own writing.

I have been an arts educator in multiple settings and content areas for over 30 years. This past year has been the most challenging ever. With the social and emotional health of students my first priority, I am relying on TLA experiences, methods, and processes (like Hynes & Hynes Berry 4-step method of recognition, examination, juxtaposition, and application) to guide me. I am certain that the pandemic is already affecting deep systemic change in public education – beyond reform to transformation.

Grateful for all I have gained in my journey with Transformative Language Arts, I am glad for the opportunity to give back in service to the TLAN Board. I am curious to see what we all will co-create, where this seachange will carry us!

TLA Network board member Wendy Thompson holds an MFA from the University of Utah in Modern Dance. She is an Movement & Integrated Arts Specialist at Lake Shore Elementary, in Vancouver, WA. Currently, Wendy serves as Co-chair of the TLAN Education Team, and is a Certified TLA Facilitator. She has been a member of TLAN since 2015

Your Right Livelihood, by Caryn Miriam-Goldberg

As you might know, Your Right Livelihood started as a project of the TLA Network. As the founder of Transformative Language Arts and co-founder of the TLA Network (TLAN), I have long believed transformative language artists and practitioners needed a holistic training to unearth and integrate our real work into our lives. When the time was right, I enlisted a partner in crime, Laura Packer, who brought complimentary gifts and skills.

That was four years ago, and since then we’ve offered annual trainings that brought together people who are retooling their day jobs, leaping to new work, creating livelihoods, re-inventing their art or service, and re-envisioning their post-retirement life’s work. We’ve witnessed life-changing courage, compassion, and wisdom in all our graduates. This becomes even more vital as our lives have changed so much during the pandemic. 

In the last year, Your Right Livelihood graduated from TLAN to become an independent project, while simultaneously remaining in partnership with TLAN. All TLAN members receive a $50 discount on the YRL training, plus graduates of our training receive a $50 discount on the Power of Words conference and a one-time $20 discount on a TLAN class. 

Our next Right Livelihood training launches February 19, 2021 with a weekend retreat (via Zoom and other bells, whistles, and charms) followed by a 10-week online class that includes weekly Zoom sessions, guest teachers, one-on-one coaching, and guidance in putting together a portfolio of all that’s needed for your emerging work. We conclude with a weekend retreat April 30-May 1, 2021.

Laura and I would love to talk with you about Your Right Livelihood. Please contact us to set up a discovery call by emailing info@yourrightlivelihood.com. You can also sign up for our January 7th Life & Livelihood Small Group Coaching. Together, we can discover, develop, and grow our life’s work for our souls and communities. See more here:

Laura Packer and Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, PhD is the founder of TLA, past poet laureate of Kansas, and author of two dozen books of poetry, fiction, memoir, and anthologies. Her life’s work now encompasses coaching and consulting with people and organizations on writing and creativity, teaching and facilitating community writing workshops, and immersing herself in many collaborative projects to make and keep community, and find and live our callings. carynmirriamgoldberg.com.

Laura Packer is an award-winning storyteller, coach, and writer, as well as founder of thinkstory llc, one of the nation’s foremost organizational storytelling consultancies. Her work is focused on the power of story to guide, shape, and define our whole lives in the workplace and beyond. Laura’s performances, coaching, and facilitation are all intended to empower and connect. laurapacker.com

Strengthening Our Ability to Facilitate for Community and Change, by Ada Cheng

Several months ago, I completed The Art of Facilitation advanced level class by Caryn Mirriam-
Goldberg and Joy Sawyer. The following consists of my reflections to this prompt: What will particularly help strengthen our ability to facilitate for community and change?

First, the importance of flexibility. As a former academic, I am inclined to be critical and aim for
perfection in my work. This drive for perfecting the craft can dampen other’s desires to experiment as they may not feel comfortable making mistakes. By flexibility, I mean I need to adjust my expectations. I need to recognize my weaknesses. I am learning to adapt my skill set to the context of the group and the demand of circumstances.

Second, the necessity for humility. Humility is the willingness to see strengths in one context as weaknesses in another. It is also the willingness to honor the gap in knowledge as the world evolves. This is particularly true in the way we use language and understand politics. We may sharpen our skills in facilitation. Yet without any substantive grasping of the changing world, these acquired skills will not be adequate. There is so much to unlearn as well as to learn. Humility goes a long way.

Third, I keep on going back to the basics these days. The basics provide a blueprint and a guidance for what we do. I constantly ask myself the following questions: What is the purpose of my work? Why do I do what I do? What are the values that undergird my work? What is my vision? What is my mission? The answers help me make informed decisions.

Fourth, the imperative of doing. We cannot “will” the world to change. Talking will not automatically lead to actions. It is in the doing that I see commitment. If I want to make the world a better place for everyone, then I need to commit myself to actions. If I want to contribute to the cause of social justice, then I need to ask myself: What is it that I need to do to make a difference and exert impact?

Fifth, the necessity to allow for accountability and to create an open space for critical feedback. This is particularly important for those of us who are in positions of power or have accumulated a certain amount of privileges. Power and privilege can easily blind us to the reality of how the world operates for others. We need to create and maintain a vulnerable space for critical feedback and work against any instincts for comfort and complacency.

Sixth, honesty, truthfulness, and boundaries. I am at a point where I no longer wish to hold my tongue and silence myself. Words I swallow will turn into poisons that easily rot my soul. Boundaries are not for others; boundaries are for myself, so I affirm and validate my worth and truth again and again.

Ada Cheng is a professor-turned-storyteller, solo performer, and storytelling show producer. Ada is the producer and the host of five storytelling shows, including Pour One Out, Am I Man Enough?, Talk Stories: An Asian American/Asian Diaspora Storytelling Show, Speaking Truths Series, and This Is America: Truths through My Body. She creates platforms for people to tell difficult and vulnerable stories as well as for communities who may not have opportunities otherwise. Her motto: Make your life the best story you tell.