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The 'Public' Hard Way

I credit myself with reflecting and pressing towards my own healing with such fervor that I’m often actively recovering from episodes of stress or trauma that may seem relatively recent.

This is not achieved easily by any means. Typically I’m reading, searching or listening to something that speaks to tried-and-true approaches that can help me distance myself enough from an event in order to analyze it and make decisions that will release me from allowing my upcoming endeavors to be marred by my previous experiences. This process also characterizes my ongoing work in recovering from my doctoral program.

In a previous blog post I outlined some of that pain in reflecting on my decision to not walk in my own graduation. But something that is not as linear in terms of healing or recovery are the deep-rooted wounds that result from skill-based deprivation from that very era in my life. As if the affective, physiological and psychological tolls aren’t enough, the fact that the basic know-how of being an academic I often need to learn very publicly (and through failure, at that) tends to trigger me in ways that make healing harder.

One such event happened recently in my eagerness to publish an essay about some pedagogical reflections that inspired me to theorize cultural and linguistic surrogacy. In this piece I outline some of my experiences and learning while preparing teachers across disciplines to become attuned to linguistic and cultural diversity. In short, I share how important it is to recognize when we have been privileged to instruct in a language that we were not raised using and one that we chose to study (rather than being forced to due to political or economic forces). Inspired by the work of Natasha Barnes, I challenge readers to accept the responsibility of being somewhat of a cultural ambassador which heightens our responsibility to make space for those who grew up using languages we chose to engage with knowing that there is mutual impact between our ways of knowing/communicating and those we are participating in.

The opportunity to share this work was so special particularly because it was gleaned from work I was not acknowledged for during my doctoral studies and even more so because I could now share it widely in a public outlet rather than a journal. What I was not prepared for were the differences in processes for publishing in those spaces. For example, a peer reviewed journal may not reach publication for 18 months to 2 years and that is after various rounds of feedback, copy editing and more. Thus, what I thought was a draft being sent to the magazine went to print without any feedback and included errors on my behalf.

These types of public learning experiences are deeply triggering in that I’ve managed to gain my footing (post-graduation) with the love and support of so many generous and helpful scholars to the extent that it seems a ridiculous blunder that I wouldn’t know the magazine publishing process was starkly different from that of scholarly journals. Still, the article is now in the world misplacing an entire community of Swahili speakers/users in the southwestern area of the African continent rather than the southeastern*, and generalizing Egyptian deities for direct transpositions into Greek ones that in actuality were more generalized** than explicit copies.

I want to say I’m better for it and have moved on, but learning this publicly is more than hard - it induces time travel that brings me right back to the skills I was not apprenticed in. I know the learning is the benefit, but I think as I continue to be a reflexive and committed to self-healing and sharing that work for the betterment of those willing to learn with me, my truth is that the embarrassment of the blunder presents an ongoing wound that may not reach its curative end for years to come. Still, as I continue to reflect, my hope is that by sharing these lessons, the vulnerable nature of this journey will benefit many making the sting of shame dissipate over time.

So I’m buckling in for the long, public hard way to go. Join me?


*Geographically mapping Swahili is an imprecise endeavor, but can be characterized as in the southeastern African region

**While there are a range of generalized associations mapping the immense influence of Egyptian culture on Greek mythology, Osiris in particular is noted for having been given an amalgam of “equivalents” rather than a 1:1 representation in the Greek pantheon

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