Saturday, November 17, 2007

out. of. shape.

i've never been an athlete. i was not an AYSO kid, though as a child i did try a couple of seasons of softball, unsuccessfully. nevertheless, for the past five years or so, i've been making an effort to be more active.

i started to run, really run, at the beginning of 2003. i ran five days a week through a balmy south texas winter and an oppressively humid south texas summer. when i moved to santa barbara, running along the ocean, breathing in the cool, salty air felt like a gift. the next year, back in texas, my new running paths were the winding, tree-lined streets in my east austin neighborhood.

in austin, one of my girlfriends--a more hardcore runner than i ever was--encouraged me to register for races with her. we started with a 5K, which was very manageable for me; my 30-40 minute morning runs always covered three miles or more. by the end of 2005, she had me convinced to run a 10K with her. i trained for several weeks, and finished respectably. i didn't win any medals, but i felt good/strong afterward.

the following spring i trained for a triathlon. ultimately, i wasn't able to compete because of an injury, but i felt confident that i could have completed the swim/bike/run course.

a year and a half later, i find that i am utterly. out. of. shape.

a few weeks ago, i decided that i needed to start running--really running--again. i found a 5K scheduled for mid-november, and began to train, albeit half-heartedly and haphazardly. i don't think i ran more than two and a half miles at any one time. nevertheless, i showed up this morning bright and early (early, at least) to the race site, ready to run.

those 3.1 miles were a little bit excruciating, especially with the hills along the race course. i was trying to keep pace with a 60-year old woman, but she sprinted ahead of me. i decided to just keep running, even if it was at a snail's pace. thirty six minutes after i began, i mercifully crossed the finish line. i can't believe that just a year and a half ago, i was running three miles AFTER swimming half a mile and biking twelve!

something tells me it's going to be a long road back.


Friday, November 16, 2007

a genius moment

victor and joseph
Originally uploaded by lamusa
several years ago, joseph read the book, rain of gold, by victor villaseñor. it's a beautifully written book that tells the story of both sides of villaseñor's family, their travails in mexico, their migrations north, and, finally, how his father and mother come together. when joseph read this book, he was inspired to further explore chicano literature. this "exploration" led him to build a veritable library of chicano/a studies books.

we found out just the night before the victor villaseñor would be speaking at the chicano cultural center in riverside. it was a long day for me. i had to teach, meet with a student, write a postdoc application (yes, i procrastinated; it was due by 5PM). but we couldn't miss the opportunity to see victor villaseñor speak.

he was a great speaker, every bit the storyteller that i expected, but he was also very spiritual and motivational. by the end of the evening, he had also all yelling that we were "burro geniuses." burros, because we were tough; geniuses because we were intuitive and would listen to our hearts.

after a very long day of teaching and writing, too much trying to be smart, it was comforting to know that i might be able to rely on my burra genius.


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

on being a teacher

throughout the past eight years, i've taught several classes, hundreds of students. i probably wouldn't recognize some of those students if i passed them on the street, but some have made definite impressions on me. i've enjoyed talking to students about, not just course materials, but their life plans and hopes for their futures. i particularly appreciate my interactions with mexican american young women. i know how few chicana professors there are in academia, and am glad to be able to "role model" and mentor when those opportunities present themselves.

this past week, one of my students came to my office hours and reprimanded me for not taking a strong political stance on a particular issue that came up in class. she said something like, "as a chicana professor, students look up to you," and that i should be educating them about these particular political issues.

over the past few days, i've gone through feeling guilt for not measuring up to this student's expectations. did i make a major political misstep? have i alienated my students? i then began to feel indignant that this young woman would would tell me what my responsibilities are "as a chicana professor." i've thought about things that i could have said to her, ways that i could have perhaps better defended myself. but honestly, i'll probably never be able to make her understand where i've been and what it's actually like to be a chicana professor (one of four on campus). i am still annoyed at her self-righteousness.

today another mexican american young woman came into my office hours. she and i had a nice conversation about the novel that we are reading in class, her hopes for graduate school, some worries that she has about her family, and her dreams of traveling around the world with her husband. it was a nice moment.

i know that i'm not a perfect professor, but that moment reminded me what i love about teaching--those very simple connections with students in our conversations about books and culture and life. those connections make everything else--the research and writing, the university politics--worthwhile.


Friday, November 02, 2007

feliz día de los muertos

though we are already well into fall, this afternoon felt like early summer, the sun bright and beaming on the students and community members participating in the día de los muertos festivities. joseph and i stopped by to see the dancers and the altars that the students made for the event. the heat pushed us back to my office after only a short while.

this is the beginning of my second year as a professor here; the first was a blur of new classes and professional activity. the second promises to be less blur, more work and responsibility. our faculty has been busy developing a new Ph.D. program, which is exciting, but requires a lot of faculty meetings and also time apart to develop new graduate seminars. we're also conducting a search for a new faculty member, and, i volunteered to be on the committee (clearly, in some moment of delirium). also, this year i'm having my first review. fun times all around.

it feels like forever ago that i was a graduate student. in fact, it was two years ago today that i defended my dissertation. i thought that defending on día de los muertos might be some kind of omen. but really, i was just desperate to defend before my 30th birthday, which was just two days afterward. ultimately, it was good timing. those few days in 2005 between el día de los muertos and my birthday marked the end of one stage of my life and the beginning of another.

two years later, another day of the dead, another birthday, and i'm well into that other stage of life. it's not quite as i imagined it. after all those years i spent cultivating a life and an identity in graduate school, i'd forgotten what it meant to be in something new. i'd forgotten that new beginnings could be so difficult and so uncertain.