In Motion: Lessons from a summer of transition.

Me and some of my favorite future PhDs. #Cubenation, hold it down.

Me and some of my favorite future PhDs. #Cubenation, hold it down.

I’m almost certain when I look back in a few years I’ll have some trendy name (e.g. “Bluppie Beginnings” or something like that) for this summer of transition. There have been many changes — endings, shifts, new beginnings — in less than 15 weeks. I finally completed grad school, left my doctoral internship of four years, and moved all the way to Texas to begin a new career. At this point, almost every day is a blur. However, it hasn’t been lost on me that this is, and has been, the goal. This very moment. This phase. It’s what I’ve been working for: I’m in motion.

There have been moments, several of them, where I’ve been overwhelmed by the emotions I feel. I loved my role with University Housing, and transitioning to my replacement was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I’m pretty sure I dropped a single thug tear on the day I grudgingly relinquished control of our social accounts (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Blogger, Pinterest, Instagram, Storify, Google+ — all of it!). I immediately had to unfollow each one so I would not begin obsessing over what I was letting go. I had to repeat to myself: Felicia, you cannot be a doctoral intern for the rest of your life. Continue reading

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Inspiration or Permission?

Weeks ago, I sat in on a brilliant master’s thesis defense by Jess Hennenfent. Jess’s thesis, “Socially Me,” was an auto-ethnography that uncovered some important intersections of identity(-ies), performance (dramaturgy), and social media. The discussion that ensued during the defense was as brilliant as her project sounds. At one point the committee was tackling the issue of taking risks online and in our writing when one member, Dr. Acosta-Alzuru, shared that she believed one text in particular gave Jess permission to take risks in her writing. She said, we often say that we are “inspired” by something we read or see to pursue our own hidden interests, but what we really mean (sometimes) is that what we observed somehow gave us permission to pursue an idea that we previously were on the fence about. At this point in the conversation, my brain began to spiral around the tangent of this incredible observation.

Inspiration or permission?

In my opinion, both concepts are powerful. I have been, and remain, adamant that social media’s greatest utility rests in how we use platforms to exchange information, ideas and stories. I previously wrote that it was a blog post that “inspired” me to pen my first piece for Chronicle Vitae. However, as soon as Dr. A made her remark I knew that the author’s courage had given me permission to publicly expose my vulnerabilities — just as she had done through her writing.

I have a hunch that this observation will continue to stick with me in the weeks ahead as I grapple with the role of social media in various cultural contexts and social movements. In the weeks that have passed since Jess’s successful defense I have often thought of an idea, “Are you waiting on inspiration or permission?” I often follow that question up with another: “Who out there needs you to hurry up and decide, so they can be inspired or gain permission to perform a courageous act of their own?”

How can we learn from the actions of others?

Here’s what I love about social media: its ability to connect people with others.

On the surface it seems so simple, but the power of those connections is anything but. I’m very particular about my language so I want to clarify: I don’t believe in the power of social media; that doesn’t exist. Social media is a tool. I believe in the power of people who use social media to perform meaningful actions – to spread the seeds of a new idea, to publicize little known facts, to share photos across the globe, or to simply connect with other people. These series of small, meaningful actions are the source of power that people often mistakenly attribute to social media. Continue reading

The Problem with Perfectionism

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how I often identify with and am inspired by women who share their lives via social media. Within a week, I found myself being forced to confront the flip side of this: how intimidating it can be to live in a socially mediated world. If you read  What is Movement?, you’ll recall that I often ask upon meeting other women: “How can I get there, too?” But there’s a fine line between being inspired by someone and being obsessed with their life – especially when you reach the point of measuring your accomplishments against the accomplishments (or shared-on-social accomplishments) of others.

In addition to my research and personal experiences with social media, I’ve had the opportunity to work as a content curator for going on four years now. Through my work and conversations with other curators I’ve learned one thing for sure: smiles behind filters and stories told in 140 characters or less are not real. I’ve used a filter and a few enhancements to turn gloomy weather into sunshine plenty of times. What we encounter online are productions, and our reactions to them are perceptions. And as a Roman poet and somebody’s mother would say: “Things are not always what they seem.”

Pacing the fine line between searching for inspiration and fending off obsession has been a part of my journey to overcome perfectionism. Continue reading

Remembering Maya: Where’s Your Mentor?

On the morning of May 28, 2014, I had just settled in at my office and powered up my Mac. Each morning, the first item on my to-do list is to check my department’s Twitter account on HootSuite and my personal account on Tweetdeck. So there I was, about two minutes after settling in, when I realized “RIP Maya Angelou” was the morning’s trending topic. My chest sank and I couldn’t find air.

maya-angelou-quotes-2I let out an “Oh My God!” loud enough to alarm my coworker as I stormed out the office, unable to finish my thought: “Maya Angelou is..” Before I made it out the double doors of our reception area my tears were in full view. Outside, I completely broke down. Maya. God, why Maya? I remember wondering how a morning could be so beautiful when the pain I felt was so excruciating.

Maya was my first mentor. Through her words, she wrapped arms around me and taught me life lessons that were otherwise not immediately accessible or palpable. Some time during undergrad, and as a young single mother, I read Singin’ and Swingin’ and Getting Merry Like Christmas and I felt my life changing. With each page, something in me transformed.  I loved Maya because of her realness. Her story was anything but glamorous, like mine was shaping up to be, and that was the story I needed to read. Continue reading