One of the benefits of teaching undergraduates is that I have a direct connection to young thinkers who challenge me to consider evolved thought-processes. Just uttering those three words: "evolved thought-processes" feels wonderful to me. The words make me feel I can breathe easier, that I am not suffocating from dogma, calcifying from old habits, or begrudging change. That I have room to breathe and become.
Lily is one such student who has caused me to evolve by submitting an amazing paper during my class this last quarter where she explained that as much as she enjoys using the term I AM, she is now starting to embrace a slightly nuanced term from that which is, I DO.
So instead of saying I AM Jenny Doh or I AM caregiver or I AM artist or I AM teacher, Lily would suggest that I DO Jenny Doh or I DO caregiving or I DO art or I DO teaching. I DO these things the way I know how to do them or want to do them right now, but the term allows me to do all of those things differently in the future, based on new experiences, wisdom, and awareness.
It seems that our nation's polarization gets intensified when we tether ourselves to teams, dogmas, and identities that are rigidly defined. And once we bake ourselves into such identities, our "enemies" also become the vivid and unchanging "others" that we must not dare not hate, lest we lose membership into the assorted I AMs.
What my students teach me in terms of fluidity of identity (particularly related to gender and sexuality) is that like the great philosopher Heraclitus once said, "No man [sic] ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's [sic] not the same man [sic]."
In this spirit, I think it is more accurate to say that I DO heterosexual woman as opposed to saying I AM heterosexual woman.
Thank you to Lily and to all of my students for helping me arrive at I DO as my words for 2022.