Connecting to Self

April 29, 2024 – Making Sense of Place

On my journey of self-discovery, I am learning that a sense of place is part of our identity and need for belonging. Place can take on different meanings. It could be a town or city, a community, a home, etc. Where do you have a sense of place? Where do you feel like you belong? I think about BrenĂ© Brown’s “belonging to self” which I am learning how to and do not dispute her research. What is provoking my curiosity is figuring out where I belong. I look at some colleagues and they were born in raised in the same community where they work, live, and play as an adult. Belonging and place are so obvious (to me) when I observe these folks. They have a connection to the land, the people, and history of the place. It mesmerizes me and a bit envious.

This week, I am in the Lower Mainland before I head out to Banff for the Outdoor Learning Conference. I am presenting in Banff with a colleague and I am spending much of the spring/summer term going to conferences and developing my research program. Part of my research program is exploring AUTOETHNOGRAPHY as a research method, but also a self-study, a community-based action research project, and program evaluation of the courses I teach. I will also be continuing the work with Climate Education in Teacher Education and revising three manuscripts to submit (or resubmit) to a journal. Moreover, I’m looking into developing a micro-credential course in mathematics education and local Indigenous culture, which relates to my dissertation. Saying this out loud reminds me of the immense work ahead of me.

My time in the Lower Mainland was intended to be a respite for me to reflect on my practice, engage in some writing and research, and to reconnect myself to place. I just came back from Kelowna, BC from a couple of recent trips and Calgary, AB from a conference. I am paying attention to place in terms of h0w the place makes me feel, the people within that place, and understanding my sense of belonging. I needed to step away for a moment to gain some clarity. I took this last semester to heal by slowing down. I almost burned out at the beginning of the year and resting takes a lot of time and intentionality. I am also recognizing that I am a person of trauma and being cognizant of trauma responses are critical for me to understand and dismantle.

Even writing this blog post, I am waffling a bit in terms of what I want to writing and what I am actually writing. It’s a struggle. I find my trauma responses isolating and shameful. If anything, I need to pause, breathe deeply, and find moments of joy. Mental health issues are on the rise and aspects like job security, finances, and health conflate the feelings of stress, duress, and anxiety. I appreciate the blog as a means to reflect and to self-assess how I am doing. Coming to the Lower Mainland is an opportunity to ground myself into place. As mentioned, I’m staying at my brother’s place, I am visiting my sister, and I visited my mom (at her resting place). I tried to connect up with my dad, but that lends itself to another story (not one I am telling).

I can only create the path for myself. That’s it. One step at a time… with patience, kindness, and compassion… connecting to self and believing in myself are essential to my success and next steps. The fun part of it is, I am integrating this learning into my research program. I feel invigorated and excited. I don’t know what I will learn, but I am learning nonetheless. For this, I am happy. I share this image of my first dinner in Vancouver. I went to Neptune Noodle House in Burnaby to have a hot bowl of fish congee and a side plate of deep fried bread. It’s not really a dinner meal. Congee is more likely a breakfast or brunch meal. This soup was delicious and everything that I wanted it to be… hot, tasty, and comforting. It was filled with memories and food is my only gateway to my culture. I enjoyed people watching and the place was packed.

Being in this restaurant on a rainy day having a big bowl of congee felt like home. I can’t bring my mom back, nor can I be a part of the “double duck” dinners we used to have at the Chinese restaurant at the mall. I remember that my mom used to make congee at home when we lived in Prince Rupert. I loved these meals. They were so special to me. Now that the “cloud of trauma” is lifting, I look back at past experiences to see the joy and love that surrounded them. I miss my mom and know that her intentions were always good (even though I did not understand some of them). Food helps me to reconnect to my heritage, to my mom, and to myself. This meal was a grounding moment for me and anticipate having more Chinese food in the future.