the only promise i can make to you is that i will screw up.

if someone can be a mentor to you by just being in your life for a short moment and saying and doing a few things that effected you and your life a lot for the better, the title for this entry comes from a mentor of mine. her name is nanci lamusga and she did the anti-oppression training that a few of us on my americorps team in olympia organized. and for me, what i got most out of the training was her way of being– and that phrase at the top. which might not be the exact words, because memory is faulty.

when i was at new college, the topic of race came up as a big campuswide issue. it was in either my first or second year, and honestly, i think my response was to drink some alcohol, dance, and continue to live like it had absolutely nothing to do with me.

there was an anti-oppression workshop in my 3rd year that i went to, and that was when it actually started clicking that, um, i had a race, that i was part of these systems, and that my lack of accountability was harmful.

in my last two years of college, i started really getting into zines. somehow i had it in my head that i shouldn’t get zines from people of color who were writing about race because i would be spying on something personal, but i did start reading zines by queer people of color because of the queerness. and those personal stories really helped me understand more that this was all very important. shortly after college, i went to the zine symposium in portland and there was a workshop about zines and race. i finally let myself really listen (with my ears and not just reading about it) to people of color talk about racism and its effects, even in this bastion of radical anarchy.

that was when it became vitally important to me. except, when i say that, my taurean deliberation and codependent shyness kept me from doing a whole lot more than internal theorizing. especially, because i was at that moment dealing with my father’s death and my coming out as trans– and because i was white in seattle and it wasn’t in my face every day.

when i did my americorps term in olympia, i was excited because we were going to do an anti-oppression training. i wanted to learn more about oppression, race, & my place in oppressive structures, and i wanted my teammates to learn about trans and queer issues. except then our team leader changed jobs and we had a new team leader and she didn’t have anti-oppression explicitly on her agenda. we were going to have to make it happen ourselves. so a team of us formed and we invited nanci and we all learned a whole lot.

then i moved to san francisco, and the whole racial landscape was totally different. the whole queer landscape, the whole religious landscape. everything was just so different. i started going to quaker meeting, and i did poke at people about why there were so few people of color in meeting and things like that, but i was very aware that i had just moved here, and that in many ways i had no idea what i was talking about.

i can look at my life in two ways. i can say that i didn’t move fast enough. this is urgent. i can also say that i was preparing. this can’t be rushed. both are right. i think i have been able to talk and educate and learn before i actually started doing it, and i think that i have moved on the right path for me.

because suddenly i am in an incredible place. big things about race have been happening with people in my life, and i think i have learned how to hold the space for listening.

it has nothing to do with me. which i do have to keep reminding myself. “aren’t i a good ally?” “haven’t i done so much?” “other white people aren’t doing this.” these thoughts go through my head, but they are toxic. it is not me. it is all of the voices i have let into my heart, it is the work and writing and speaking done by so many amazing people, it is god opening up the space. when i congratulate myself and then fall down, i am bitter and ashamed. when i remind myself that i am just part of the exciting dynamic stream of life and change, and i fall down, i get up, i learn, i try to do better.

that’s only half of the way that phrase has been resonant for me today. the other half is about how i live in san francisco, but not everybody does. san francisco has a ton of flaws, but at least i can be weird here. at least i can be queer, peculiar, and weird, and i’m just one of the many queer, peculiar, weird people around.

i am currently going to school to be a special ed teacher, and i think i might actually be the only queer person in my program. that hasn’t happened to me in a really long time. not only that, but the people teaching us in our two week intensive right now aren’t from san francisco. they’re from neighboring areas where not everyone is weird.

i did a mock interview with them yesterday and was suddenly reminded that people care about things like normalcy and being referred to by their titles and boys not having any metal in their ears. and some of those people actually live in san francisco even though that’s easy to forget, but i’m also not just interviewing for jobs in san francisco.

i show my seams. i tell people about my learning process including the mistakes i’ve made. i forget to use people’s titles because i don’t think they matter. i try to be funny. i try to connect with every person i meet on a real, deep level.

and maybe in professional land, that’s a little tacky. maybe there will be people that won’t like it. that’s a little terrifying, but i just don’t know how i can work for someone who doesn’t hear the earnestness, honesty, and commitment to good work in that very phrase, “the only promise i can make to you is that i will screw up.” i don’t actually say that at interviews. but i let people know that i am a human being.

these things are related. i will make mistakes. i will keep trying. i will let you make mistakes. i will try and hear everyone’s voice. i will still like you even if you screw up.

these are my strengths. i feel grateful for all of them.

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Hi Cubbie,

    Love the title. It really is the only promise we can truly make.

    I also have a question about how the wonderful way this is formatted. Is this a wordpress template?

    Take care, Lori

  2. thanks! it is a wordpress theme, but i added my own picture on the side. the theme is called quentin. 🙂

  3. Cubbie,

    I truly hope we might meet each other one day. Great post: it’s working on me…

    Blessings,
    Liz Opp, The Good Raised Up


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